Full-length backgrounds will be posted on each topic
Topic 1: Sierra Leone
The conflict in Sierra Leone dates from March 1991 when
fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched a war from
the east of the country near the border with Liberia to overthrow the
government. With the support of the Military Observer Group (ECOMOG)
of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Sierra Leones
army tried at first to defend the government but the following year,
the army itself overthrew the government.
Despite the change of power, the RUF continued its attacks. Parliamentary
and presidential elections were held in February 1996, and the army
relinquished power to the winner, Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. The
RUF, however, did not participate in the elections and would not recognize
the results. The conflict continued. A peace agreement between the Government
and RUF known as the Abidjan Accord from November 1996 was derailed
by another military coup détat in May 1997. This time the
army joined forces with the RUF and formed a ruling junta. President
Kabbah and his government went into exile in neighboring Guinea.
The Security Council imposed an oil and arms embargo on 8 October 1997
and authorized ECOWAS to ensure its implementation using ECOMOG troops.
In February 1998, ECOMOG, responding to an attack by rebel/army junta
forces, launched a military attack that led to the collapse of the junta
and its expulsion from Freetown. On 10 March, President Kabbah was returned
to office. The Security Council terminated the oil and arms embargo
and strengthened the office of the Special Envoy to include UN military
liaison officers and security advisory personnel.
On June 1998, the Security Council established the United Nations Observer
Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL)
for an initial period of six months. The mission monitored and advised
efforts to disarm combatants and restructure the nations security
forces. Unarmed UNOMSIL teams, under the protection of ECOMOG, documented
reports of on-going atrocities and human rights abuses committed against
civilians. Fighting continued with the rebel alliance gaining control
of more than half the country. In December 1998 the alliance began an
offensive to retake Freetown and in January overran most of the city.
All UNOMSIL personnel were evacuated. Later the same month, ECOMOG troops
retook the capital and again installed the civilian government, although
thousands of rebels were still reportedly hiding out in the surrounding
countryside. In the aftermath of the rebel attack, the Special Representative,
in consultation with West African states, initiated a series of diplomatic
efforts aimed at opening up dialogue with the rebels. Negotiations between
the Government and the rebels began in May 1999 and on 7 July all parties
to the conflict signed an agreement in Lome to end hostilities and form
a government of national unity. The parties to the conflict also requested
an expanded role for UNOMSIL.
On 22 October 1999, the Security Council authorized the establishment
of UNAMSIL, a new, and much larger mission, to assist the Government
and the parties in carrying out provisions of the Lome peace agreement.
At the same time, the Council decided to terminate UNOMSIL.
Topic 2: The Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Head of state: Laurent-Désiré Kabila
Population: 46.7 million
Official languages: French, Kikongo, Kiswahili, Lingala, Tshiluba
Since 1994 the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly called Zaire)
has been embroiled in ethnic strife and civil war. The civil war was
touched off by a massive inflow of refugees from the fighting in Rwanda
and Burundi. Troops from Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia
have intervened in this devastating conflict. A cease-fire was signed
on 10 July 1999, but skirmishing continues. Killings of civilians continue
to be perpetrated by all parties involved in the DRC conflict. Torture
by Congolese and foreign government forces opposed to President Kabila
has been systematic and widespread. Reports of detainees "disappearing"
in the custody of DRC government forces and of their armed opponents
continued. Some of the "disappeared" were detained by Rwandan
troops in eastern DRC and were reportedly moved to Rwanda. Most people
in the DRC were victims of either direct attacks by combatants or of
hunger and disease. Services such as education and health collapsed.
Most ordinary Congolese lost their livelihoods and most government employees
were rarely paid, if at all. Whereas foreign forces on both sides of
the conflict were reportedly paid, Congolese combatants were generally
not paid, and became increasingly undisciplined, living on extortion
and looting from already impoverished civilians and humanitarian organizations.
Although they resisted pressure from the DRC government to condemn the
invasion of its territory by neighboring countries, the UN, the Organization
of African Unity and the European Union called for an end to the armed
conflict in the DRC. In April the UN Security Council passed a resolution
demanding an end to the conflict and an inquiry into violations of human
rights and international humanitarian law as soon as the security situation
permitted. These organizations supported mediation between the main
parties to the conflict by Zambian President Frederic Chiluba. The mediation
culminated in the signing of a cease-fire agreement by the governments
of Angola, the DRC, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe in July, and
by the armed opposition groups in August. However, fighting continued
as the opposing forces accused each other of violating the cease-fire.
In August the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of military
liaison officers to prepare for the deployment of a peacekeeping force.
The liaison officers visited the countries involved in the conflict,
but the peacekeepers required by the cease-fire agreement had not been
deployed by the end of the year. A threat by the European Union to suspend
aid to countries continuing the fighting was only implemented to any
significant degree against the DRC and Zimbabwe.
Within the past month the Democratic Republic of Congo said it would
allow United Nations peacekeepers to deploy freely with immediate effect,
following its earlier rejection. The UN Security Council approved the
deployment of 500 military observers and 5,000 support troops but have
been unable to deploy them throughout the country, in part because Kabila
had refused to allow them to operate in areas under government control.
Until now, the United Nations has needed prior authorization for all
flights, and UN planes taking off from rebel areas have been required
to land at a "neutral" airport outside Congo before continuing
to Kinshasa. That requirement is now waived.
The present situation of internal displacement in the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC) is a result of events which started in the early 1990s
when political instability accompanied by inter-ethnic rivalry in the
central and eastern regions caused several hundreds of thousands of
people to become displaced and/or forced to resettle (USCR 1995, p.82).
In October 1996, several factors, including general resentment against
the Mobutu regime, discrimination against local ethnic Tutsi, and the
presence of militant Hutu militias who had fled Rwanda after participating
in the 1994 genocide, caused an uprising against Mobutu. A full-scale
civil war and substantial displacement of the population in conflict
zones followed. In early 1997 opposition forces under Laurent Kabila
took the capital Kinshasa and Kabila became President in May 1997.
Displaced Congolese were only allowed about a year to start the process
of return and reintegration when a major rebellion against Kabila materialized
into a new civil war and renewed displacement. Since August 1998 continued
war involving Kabila's forces, armed contingents from several African
nations and three rebel factions plus various internal conflicts among
allies made the number of IDPs reach 1,5 million by June 2000 (OCHA
11 July 2000).
Under the auspices of Zambia, President Kabila's Government signed a
cease-fire agreement on 10 July 1999 with Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe,
Angola and Namibia. On 31 August 1999 the major rebel groups also became
parties to the cease-fire agreement. Although the agreement called for
an immediate cessation of hostilities, the security situation continued
to deteriorate during the first half of 2000, including offensives both
by rebel groups and Government forces and it's allies (UN SC 18 April
2000). However, the main cause for increased displacement during the
first half of 2000 has been fighting between different ethnic groups
and fighting within the Eastern DRC involving the three main rebel forces,
their Rwandan and Ugandan allies, and several militia groups (IRIN 9
February 2000, OCHA 17 April 2000). An attempt made in April 2000 to
make the parties to the conflict respect a new cease-fire appeared initially
to have had some success (IRIN 19 May 2000). But, major violations of
the agreement have continued, e.g. when clashes between troops from
Uganda and Rwanda in Kisangani displaced more than 60 000 in June (UN
SC 12 June 2000, OCHA 11 July 2000).
There have been widespread reports of violations of humanitarian law
by armed groups on both sides, causing tremendous suffering by the civilian
population, especially in the central and eastern regions (AI 31 May
2000, HRW May 2000). Although there has been a frontline stretching
across the country, various armed factions, including local militia
known as "Mai-Mai" and members of the former Rwandan Armed
Forces (i.e. ex-FAR) or Rwandan militia (the "Interhamwe"),
as well as the rebel RCD forces, have been accused of continuously attacking
civilians within opposition-held zones of eastern DRC (HRW May 2000).
Ethnic clashes have continued, especially in the Oriental province where
the number of IDPs has increased continuously since mid-1999 (UN OCHA
17 April 2000), and in the Ituri district between the Hema and Lendu
ethnic groups (IRIN 3 March 2000).
The lack of access to IDPs during hostilities has meant there was limited
information on the subsistence needs of IDPs prior to the stabilization
of the military situation in August 1999. Several recent reports now
suggest that the IDPs and the general war-affected population share
the same needs, as most IDPs have not sought shelter in camps but have
integrated into host communities (UN July 1999). Coping mechanisms of
communities hosting the displaced are seriously over-stretched (IRIN-CEA
2 April 1999 and 20 August 1999). The health care system, already in
a weak state when the present conflict started in August 1998, has been
degraded by looting, fleeing staff and lack of other resources and has
been unable to cope with a sharp increase of epidemic diseases (MSF
25 January 2000). Malnutrition rates among IDPs have been reported to
be alarmingly high in several areas (OCHA 15 February 2000). The health
and nutrition situation were during the first half of 2000 particular
precarious in the Ituri district and the Kivus (IRIN 24 March 2000,
ACC/SCN 31 March 2000) There are high numbers of abandoned children
in need of protection and humanitarian assistance (MSF 25 January 2000).
Although accessibility to vulnerable populations on both sides of the
front-line improved during limited periods in 1999, the capacity of
the UN system to accelerate assistance towards the displaced and the
general war-affected population was curtailed by a lack of resources.
WFP, for example, had by September 1999 secured less than 20 percent
of the resources needed to assist its target group (WFP 17 September
1999). It was reported in July 2000 that administrative procedures for
humanitarian access in Government held areas had improved but access
was still hampered by Kinshasa's highly centralized decision making
procedures. Humanitarian access appears to have worsening in eastern
DRC, especially in South Kivu by mid-2000, reflecting the escalated
violence in that area (OCHA 11 July 2000). Donor contributions of food
aid improved during the first half of 2000, but it was widely acknowledged
that the ongoing support covers only a small proportion of the needs
(OCHA 17 April 2000). However, there have been reports of improved delivery
of aid and the establishment of a wider humanitarian network throughout
the DRC since March 2000, and a more systematic response to the internally
displaced persons (UN July 2000) - as, for example, demonstrated by
an effective humanitarian response to the Kisangani crisis in June.
The last Security topic will be a dynamic one in the spirit of last
year's Executive Committee. It
will come to light sometime during the conference and the flexible nature
of the Security Council's
agenda will allow it to adopt as it sees fit. This topic is IN ADDITION
to the Crisis topic; the Security Council is unique in that it will
have two fluid crisis-style topics.