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January 2002 - End of the War

On 18 January 2002, the devastating 11-year civil conflict officially ended when all parties to the conflict issued a Declaration of the End of the War. The Government since asserted control over the whole country, backed by a large U.N. peacekeeping force. Revolutionary United Front (RUF) insurgents, who fought successive governments since 1991, completed disarmament and demobilization. The Civil Defense Force (CDF), a government-allied militia, also disarmed and demobilized, but many CDF members retained informal links to act in concert as a veterans' lobbying group and in their centuries-old role as members of traditional hunting societies. In May 2002 peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections were held; Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was re-elected President and his Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) won a large majority in Parliament. Many international monitors declared the elections free and fair; however, there were numerous reports of election irregularities and abuses. Since the resumption of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process in May 2001, an estimated 72,500 former combatants disarmed; on 31 January 2002, the disarmament and demobilization sections of the program were completed. The process of reintegration continued at year's end. The U.N. maintained a force of approximately 17,500 peacekeepers during most of the year. In September 2002 the U.N. Security Council decided to begin a gradual withdrawal of U.N. Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) troops, to be completed by 2005. The official independent judiciary began functioning in areas abandoned during the war, but there still were sections of the country where the judiciary had not yet returned. The judiciary demonstrated substantial independence in practice but at times was subject to corruption.

The security situation in Sierra Leone, which had steadily improved since August 2000, was bolstered by the May 2002 re-election of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. However, areas near the Liberian border remain unstable as a result of continued border incursions by both the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and LURD. According to UN OCHA, the humanitarian community operating in Sierra Leone had developed an alert system to inform agencies of security incidents near the border. On July 16, 2002, LURD militia abducted 20 people from the villages of Sanga, Kolu, and Manduvuluhun. The villagers were still reported missing at the end of August and were presumed to be in Liberia.

On September 5, 2002, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended a six-month extension for the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the gradual downsizing of the mission from the current level of 17,000 peacekeeping troops to 5,000 by 2004. The U.N. Security Council approved the renewal of UNAMSIL's mandate on September 18. President Kabbah requested the extension in August 2002, citing the threat posed to Sierra Leone's fragile peace by renewed insecurity in Liberia.

The Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) campaign in Sierra Leone officially ended on January 7, 2002. According to the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR), approximately 21,000 of the 54,000 ex-combatants were participating in reintegration programs; 10,509 former soldiers have completed the program.

According to the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN DPKO), less than 12,000 IDPs remained in Sierra Leone as of July 2002. The remaining IDPs were mainly in the Tonkolili District. UNHCR completed the resettlement of registered Sierra Leonean IDPs from camps in the Pujehun District in August 2002 leaving the camps occupied almost exclusively by Liberian refugees. The Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL) expects resettlement efforts to be completed by October 2002.

The number of refugees returning to Sierra Leone from Liberia continues to decline. As of September 2002, UNHCR reports indicated that approximately 30,000 Sierra Leoneans remained in Liberia. According to UN OCHA, the refugees were awaiting more favorable social and economic conditions to develop in Sierra Leone before returning. In September, repatriation vessels, with capacities of 300, transported between 50 and 100 returnees per trip. On September 10, UNHCR announced the temporary suspension of repatriation efforts until refugee demand increases. According to UNHCR, of the 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Nigeria, only 270 have registered for repatriation. UNHCR resumed overland repatriation of refugees from Guinea following a 42-day suspension resulting from logistical problems. As of August 2002, 42,000 Sierra Leonean refugees remained in Guinea.

Focus had since been on retraining a new Sierra Leone army, as well as further Ecomog reinforcement troops in Nigeria, by the UK and USA respectively. Meanwhile strategies have gradually been put in place to reduce illicit 'conflict' diamonds exports in order to reduce the RUF's source of funding. It was expected that an enlarged UN/Ecomog/Coordinated S L army possibly incorporating previous kamajors would eventually defeat the RUF and remaining AFRC now calling themselves the 'West Side Boys' illfamed for their capture of strayed British soldiers in Summer 2000; however a new RUF leadership under pressure seems more anxious to push for a negotiated settlement, as long as they can overcome their view that the UK's involvement was an extension of mercenary deployment that successfully crushed them years earlier.

High level visits demonstrate the world's readiness to alleviate the human tragedy and bring lasting peace to the subregion. Throughout the 10 year period, Sierra Leone had constantly improved its minerals legislation. For the time being a situation of force majeure exists, with the suspension of exploration work on Mano's licences. It was hoped that preliminary visits to permit areas in Sierra Leone will be possible in the near future.

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