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Security Council Delegation Finds Uneasy Peace in West Africa - 2004-06-29

The U.N. Security Council delegation touring West Africa is finding greater stability in the region and wants the international community to help restore prosperity.

Members of the U.N. delegation say they were encouraged to see stability returning to West Africa but caution peace in parts of the region is fragile.

U.N. spokesman Jean-Victor Nkolo, who traveled with the delegation, says Guinea Bissau showed the greatest progress in returning to peace after a bloodless coup in September removed former president Kumba Yala from power.

"I think the most optimistic aspect of the Security Council visit was Guinea Bissau. This is a new government recently elected just a few months ago, and within 45 days they have already managed to pay from their own resources, which are very, very limited, managed to pay some of the outstanding salaries which is a big problem in that country," said Mr. Nkolo. "And, Liberia and Sierra Leone all show that important progress has been made with regard to the work of the peacekeeping operations there."

The U.N. delegation appealed to international donors to honor their financial pledges to Liberia to assist with the reintegration of former combatants who have been disarmed. They also visited the recently opened special court in Sierra Leone, which has indicted 11 people, including former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Members of the delegation stressed that the greatest concern in the region remained Ivory Coast where the power-sharing government fell apart and the peace process ground to a halt. Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leaders are meeting in Abidjan to revive the peace process, but the rebels are not attending the talks.

Mr. Nkolo says the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are working together to broaden regional cooperation.

"As called by the Security Council, the heads of the political and peacekeeping missions in West Africa have now started taking important steps to enhance inter-mission cooperation and they are now holding regular coordination meetings in order to ensure the greater security and joint cross border operations," he said. "Also, the United Nations operation for West Africa has initiated the framework and an enlarged program of operation with ECOWAS."

On its mission to West Africa, the U.N. Security Council delegation visited Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal.