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Sierra Leone, at UN, calls for international assistance for next year’s polls

Sierra Leone, at UN, calls for international assistance for next year’s polls

Sierra Leone, often cited as a success story in United Nations efforts to consolidate peace in countries that have been ravaged by conflict, today appealed for international help to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections next year.

“As we prepare for our 2012 presidential parliamentary and local councils elections, we are cognizant of the fact that it is our primary responsibility to organize and provide the necessary logistical requirements of this democratic process,” President Ernest Bai Koroma told the General Assembly on the third day of its annual general debate.

“However, we need all necessary international assistance in support of our commitment to ensure, free, fair and peaceful elections,” he said of his small West African country, which has witnessed recent clashes between supporters of the two main political parties.

“We remain committed to peace, security and development, but the need to continue with national capacity building programmes in priority peacebuilding thematic areas beyond the 2012 elections remains.”

Sierra Leone, once known more for a vicious civil war in which massacres, the mutilation of victims and recruitment of child soldiers were commonplace, was the first country, together with Burundi, to be put on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission when it was set up in 2006 to prevent post-conflict countries from relapsing back into bloodshed.

The upcoming elections will be its third since the end of the decade-long war in 2002, and the second since the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in December 2005. That mission was replaced by various other UN offices, most recently the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), which focuses on political and development activities.

Earlier this month UNIPSIL head and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Executive Representative for Sierra Leone, Michael von der Schulenburg, told the Security Council the country remained on track to become a stable democracy with a viable economy, but the recent violent incidents between rival political groups highlighted the potential for unrest.

He urged Sierra Leonean politicians not to forget what the country has achieved, build on those accomplishments and conduct their affairs responsibly by agreeing on the polls’ legal framework and an electoral code of conduct.

In his role as chair of the African Union’s Committee of Ten Heads of State on Security Council reform, Mr. Koroma called for enlargement of the 15-member UN body to advance the purposes and primary objectives of maintaining international peace and security.

“There is an increasing need for the Security Council to be more representative, inclusive, and democratic as well as the need for an improvement on its working methods and its relations with the General Assembly,” he said, terming the present status quo increasingly unacceptable and calling for two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats in an expanded body that would correct “the historical injustice” to the continent.

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