afrol News, 4 May - Although the warring parties in Sierra Leone have virtually stopped fighting in recent months, both sides have been slow to implement elements of their ceasefire agreement, according to a review of the country's peace process. The review was conducted in Abuja, Nigeria, and all sides said that progress was made.
The ceasefire agreement between the Sierra Leonean government and the RUF terrorists/rebels was signed half year ago, on 10 November 2000 in Abuja. Wednesday's review was attended by the chief of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Oluyemi Adeniji, and representatives from the country's Government, the RUF and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to statements issued by UNAMSIL and ECOWAS, the government negotiators and RUF representatives in Abuja made significant progress toward resolving a number of outstanding issues. Also the leader of the RUF's delegation noted the talks had been "cordial" and "constructive".
Among other concerns, Wednewsday's Abuja meeting touched on the violence in Sierra Leone's Kono district and Tongo, which UNAMSIL investigations determined had been provoked by forward movements of the Government's Civil Defence Force (CDF). The meeting urged the government to exert control over the Force to avert all future attacks that, if unchecked, would pose a serious threat to the ceasefire and could lead to increased hostilities.
According to UN sources, both parties renewed their pledges to remove all roadblocks in their zones of influence to ensure free movement of persons and goods, while the RUF pledged to fully return the weapons and equipment seized from international peacekeepers by 30 May. RUF had promised to return all weapons and equipment seized a year ago from UN peacekeepers already in the November 2000 Abuja Agreement, but has so far returned very little equipment to the UN.
The meeting reaffirmed the need to restart the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, saying that CDF and RUF combatants should be disarmed simultaneously. It also agreed that ex-combatants would be reintegrated into all identifiable activities in Sierra Leone - not only into the army.
The RUF delegation agreed to withdraw its combatants from Kambia District, the scene of recent cross-border attacks, and to allow the deployment of Sierra Leone Army troops in the area. UNAMSIL agreed to send a monitoring team to the area which would include unarmed RUF observers.
After extensive deliberations, decisions were also taken on the release of RUF detainees, the transformation of the RUF into a political party, the presence of foreign troops, and the return of refugees/abductees. Those matters are considered additional elements to the peace process that are outside the framework of the Abuja Agreement. The War Crimes Tribunal that awaits RUF leaders was not discussed.
The leader of the RUF's delegation, Political and Peace Council Chairman Omrie Golley, hailed Wednesday's talks as "cordial and held in a very constructive atmosphere." "This time round there seems to be a lot of good will," he told the Sierra Leone Web from Abuja. "And we hope that it would be translated into swift and positive and constructive actions in moving the peace process forward and enhancing it."
The government had agreed to facilitate the transformation of the RUF into a political party and, as a confidence-building measure, said it would consider the release of RUF officials who were detained last May following the breakdown in the peace process. RUF's Golley told the Sierra Leone Web the government had agreed to allocate "government buildings to us in Freetown and in the provinces," and that he himself "for the moment" would lead the RUF Party.