Thank you Mr. President.
Let me begin by welcoming the honorable Zainab Hawa Bangura, Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone to the Council and by expressing appreciation for her comments. I would also like to thank Executive Representative van der Schulenburg for his report and PBC Chair for Sierra Leone Ambassador McNee for his briefing.
Mr. President, UNIPSIL was launched last October as a pilot program that reflected evolving international community thinking about how best to facilitate the transition from a successful peacekeeping operation -- UNAMSIL in this case -- to peacebuilding.
UNIPSIL, and Sierra Leone, have faced serious challenges. Political intolerance, youth unemployment, and drug trafficking have combined in an explosive mix in Sierra Leone. But the country is weathering those challenges and continuing to consolidate the peace that has endured these seven years since the end of the conflict.
UNIPSIL is proving to be an important facilitator of Sierra Leone's democratic transition, most recently in its support of national authorities working to end political violence and in its mediation between the two major parties that led to the Joint Communiqué. The United States congratulates Mr. von der Schulenburg for the contribution he and his team are making in Sierra Leone and for the value that contribution will have in informing the larger international community’s effort to develop best practices along the peacekeeping-peacebuilding continuum.
We also wish to express our strong support for Ambasador McNee and the PBC’s efforts in Sierra Leone.
Mr. President, I’d like to make a few further points regarding the situation in Sierra Leone and the UN’s role there:
First, even as we commend all parties for achieving the April 2nd Joint Communiqué and endorse UNIPSIL's ongoing facilitation of the dialogue envisioned, we remind the two major political parties involved -- the APC and the LSPP -- that the entire international community looks to them to implement the communiqué. We are encouraged by the response of Sierra Leone’s political leaders, and we welcome the goodwill gestures of President Koroma and opposition leader John Benjamin; such measures are important to achieving long-term reconciliation. We are also encouraged by the comprehensive vision for Sierra Leone's future contained in President Koroma's "Agenda For Change" poverty reduction strategy.
Second, we would like to acknowledge the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. As the court looks to the conclusion of the Charles Taylor trial and to the final disposition of appeals for all cases, the United States fully supports the court's efforts to transfer its institutional knowledge to Sierra Leone authorities as described in the Secretary-General's report. We believe it important to Sierra Leone's ongoing democratic maturation that all the lessons of the past be fully absorbed and the Special Court has much to offer in this regard.
Third, I would like to refer to one aspect of UNIPSIL's mandate, as laid out in Security Council resolution 1829, that “emphasizes the need for the United Nations system to support and cooperate fully with UNIPSIL.” We welcome in this regard the finalization of the UNIPSIL and UN Country Team's “Joint Vision” strategy as a proposed blueprint for the UN family's future involvement in peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. We look forward to its careful consideration by the Peacebuilding Commission on June 10th.
We are well aware the many risks that face Sierra Leone as it works towards lasting peace. In conclusion, I wish to touch on one in particular -- drug trafficking. We note with concern the increasing reports of West Africa being used as a transshipment avenue for illegal narcotics trade. In this regard, we welcome the important steps the government of Sierra Leone has made to combat drug trafficking in its territory. The recent convictions of 18 people for smuggling more than 700 kilograms of cocaine into the country send a strong message to drug traffickers: Sierra Leoneans will not permit their country to be a haven for drug criminals. We also welcome UNIPSIL’s work to strengthen the Joint Drug Interdiction Task Force.
Thank you Mr. President.
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