At the outset, let me express my thanks to the organizers of this event, in particular the Permanent Missions of Australia, Finland and Greece for inviting us to share our perspective the role of sanctions in conflict resolution.
Security Council sanctions imposed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter have become an important instrument for the maintenance of international peace and security. The use of targeted sanctions have not only increased, but the range and purposes for which they are imposed have widened. Sanctions have been applied by the Council to resist aggression, restore democracy and human rights as it happened in the case of Sierra Leone and pressure regimes supporting terrorist activities and others charged with international crimes.
Owing to the continuous threat to international peace and security, the imposition of sanctions have gone beyond traditional actors including non-State actors.
As a result of the continued violence that followed the military coup of 25th May, 1997 which was considered as a threat to international peace and security in the region, the UN Security Council, by its Resolution 1132 of 8 October 1997, imposed a regime of mandatory sanctions against Sierra Leone. This Resolution put a ban the sale and supply of petroleum and petroleum products, arms and related materials of all types as well as imposed a travel ban on members of the military junta and adult members of their families.
The adoption and enforcement of sanctions regime invariably assisted in containing the security situation at the time, thereby ensuring the restoration and sustenance of our democratic growth.
Illicit trade in diamonds was the major source of income for the RUF and this contributed greatly to fuelling the conflict in Sierra Leone. To reverse this negative trend, the Security Council decided that not only was imposing sanctions on both Sierra Leone and Liberia needed, but considering the flow of natural resources, established the creation of international process, like the Kimberly Certification to regulate the trade in diamonds and further strengthened the arms embargo to provide more teeth to the arms proliferation process. Consequently, the Government of Sierra Leone instituted stringent measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Certification scheme.
The Certification system marked the success of the UN sanctions regime against Sierra Leone. The scheme led to a dramatic increase in revenue generation accrued to the Government.
Although some breaches were reported by the Special Panel, the Certification scheme limited the financial resources available to the AFRC/RUF for further illegal arms shipments.
Our success story for the implementation of the sanctions regime can largely be attributed to the cooperation from various stakeholders including national and international players. Besides the multilateral support from the UN, AU and ECOWAS, individual member states in our region and beyond played a major role in the sanction process.
The local support was overwhelming as grassroots information sharing was crucial. The local media was very supportive in creating public awareness about the need to support the enforcement mechanisms.
The prescription on asset freeze and travel embargo seems to be more effective. Movement of the affected members was only allowed after a de-listing certification.
It is a common knowledge that the successful implementation of the sanctions in Sierra Leone, were not without difficulties.
In the first place, the sanctions came into existence at the height of the civil war when the borders were not properly secured to stop incoming arms and ammunitions. Consequently, one predominant prerequisite - local enforcement capabilities was inefficient. In addition, neighboring states were either fraught with an impending conflict situation or lack the required infrastructure to effectively monitor the implementation.
Secondly, despite the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium on arms shipments to West Africa, the region was already proliferated with small arms.
The role of neighboring countries in sanction implement is very crucial. The neighbors can either contribute to the success or failure of sanctions. In the case of Sierra Leone, it was evident that the RUF/AFRC was receiving support from the Charles Taylor led Government in Liberia. As a result of this support, the United Nations Security Council applied Resolution 1343 to stop Liberia from supporting the armed rebel groups. The application of this sanction against Liberia gave a unique characteristics to the Sierra Leone sanctions regime as this was the first time the Security Council imposed sanctions on a country for its refusal to comply with sanctions in another.
In conclusion, sanctions tools and procedures certainly deserved to be further developed as pressure for swift and adequate response to international crises. Sanctions must be targeted to specific goods, assets and transactions that will optimize the impact on the leadership, including states and non-state actors of targeted countries, while minimizing the humanitarian consequences on the civilian population. This approach will no doubt change the practical and ethical narrative that often overwhelmed the political turn- around.
Furthermore, the need for instruments such as financial resources, political and enforcement capability in the implementation of the sanctions is of great importance. Enforcement must be holistic and everyone should be a willing partner. The success of the Sierra Leone sanction regimes could therefore be attributed to the overwhelming international and national support.