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Published:December 22nd, 2006 12:06 EST
Security Council extends term of UN office in Sierra Leone as elections approach

Security Council extends term of UN office in Sierra Leone as elections approach

By SOP newswire

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) by another year and agreed to temporarily increase its staff numbers to help with presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for next July. In a unanimous resolution, Council members said the “elections and the wide acceptance of their outcome will be a major milestone indicating the sustainability of peace and security in Sierra Leone” and will help shape plans for the eventual winding down of UNIOSIL.

Following the recommendation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his most recent report, the resolution extended the Office’s mandate through 31 December next year and endorsed a staff increase from 1 January to 31 October next year to help with the organization of the elections. Council members called on Sierra Leone’s parties to play their part to ensure that the polls are peaceful, transparent, free and fair, and asked the Secretary-General to conduct a full assessment of the role of UNIOSIL closer to the election date to help decide when to withdraw the Office. UNIOSIL was established on 1 January this year, succeeding a UN peacekeeping force known as UNAMSIL that from 1999 to 2005 helped stabilize the country, which had suffered from years of brutal civil war.

In his farewell address today to the Council, Mr. Annan, who finishes his term at the end of this month, described Sierra Leone as one of the UN’s success stories and an example of what can be achieved when the UN and Member States work together. “The country is stable but still fragile,” he said.

“It needs our continued help in building effective State institutions, especially those dealing with security, human rights, justice, and the preparation of next year’s elections, which will be a critical moment in the consolidation of peace.” Today’s Council resolution also called on the Sierra Leonean Government to work closely with the Peacebuilding Commission, which has designated the West African country – along with Burundi – as one of the first two nations it is helping avoid a relapse back into conflict.

In a separate resolution today, the Council authorized an extension, until 15 February next year, of the temporary redeployment of troops, military observers and a military hospital from the UN Operation in Burundi (known by its French acronym, ONUB) to support the work of the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).