posted on WED 21 MAR 2012 2:05 PM
Sierra Leone Briefing by Withdrawn Executive Representative

On Thursday (22 March), Council members will consider the Secretary-General’s midterm report (S/2012/160) on the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), which was submitted to the Council on 14 March. Michael von der Schulenburg (Germany), who was withdrawn from Sierra Leone on 6 February as the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for UNIPSIL following a request by the Sierra Leone government, will brief the Council and this will be followed by consultations. (DPA head B. Lynn Pascoe had originally been expected to brief the Council; it is unusual for a former representative to do so. For further information on Schulenburg’s withdrawal, see SCR’s March Forecast.) It appears that Joseph Bandabla Dauda, Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister, will also be briefing the Council. No formal outcome is expected following tomorrow’s meetings.

Schulenburg, who briefed the Council informally in early March on his premature recall from Sierra Leone, is likely to stress the importance of the free and fair conduct of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in the country on 17 November. It seems he will likely report a number of worrying recent developments in Sierra Leone. These include violent attacks on the opposition presidential candidate, Julius Maada Bio, and other opposition political figures; allegations relating to the mobilisation of ex-combatants from the country’s recent civil war; the arming of the paramilitary wing of the police, which is already implicated in violent attacks against opposition supporters; and the importance of dialogue between President Ernest Bai Koroma and the opposition leadership, especially Bio.

For his part, Foreign Minister Dauda will likely stress his government’s commitment to the peacebuilding process, including transparent elections in November. It is also likely that Dauda will report on election developments, including the ongoing voter registration process (which began on 23 January and will end on 26 March); his government’s commitment to a free and vocal press; and the absence of political prisoners in the country.

Though Schulenburg left the country in early February, his successor has still not been named. His deputy, Berhanemeskel Nega (Ethiopia), is currently acting in the role. The Secretary-General’s midterm report on UNIPSIL, covering the period from 1 September 2011 to 29 February 2012, seems to only lightly cover some of the more contentious issues facing Sierra Leone (which Schulenburg might address on Thursday) and delicately skirts over the issue of Schulenburg’s controversial recall from Sierra Leone. In its conclusion, however, it thanks Schulenburg for “his full commitment and excellent service in advancing the peacebuilding process and strengthening the presence of the United Nations in Sierra Leone.” The mandate of UNIPSIL expires on 15 September 2012.

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