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The BBC's UN correspondent Mark Devenport reports:
"Mr Annan says the rebel leaders should prove they're committed to the peace process"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 09:17 GMT
UN warning to Sierra Leone
unamsil troops The 6,000-strong Unamsil force will monitor the ceasefire


The United Nations has expressed serious concern about continuing ceasefire violations and human rights abuses in Sierra Leone, despite the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force there.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a report to the UN Security Council, described the overall situation in the country as precarious, with a marked deterioration in atmosphere in October and November.

Kofi Annan "The obstruction of humanitarian assistance must stop"
"The continued violence against the people of Sierra Leone and international personnel is unacceptable and perpetrators should expect to be held accountable for their actions" he wrote.

He said the recent violations of the ceasefire were cause for serious concern and he urged rebel leaders to "prove by their actions that they are indeed committed to the peace process".

Thousands still armed

The peace agreement was signed in the Togolese capital of Lome last July, and gave senior rebel leaders positions in government in return for a promise to disarm fighters and end the country's civil war.

So far however only 4,000 out of an estimated 45,000 fighters have disarmed or registered as ex-combatants.

Over 500 of these are children, and in recent fighting a number of 15-year old boys were injured, Mr Annan wrote.

More than 2,000 children are still missing since a rebel incursion in January in the west of the country, according to his report.

The secretary general said that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Fodoy Sankoh, and other rebel groups were continuing to move troops and weapons around Sierra Leone, and were attacking aid workers as well as their own countrymen.

Reports suggest civilians in some rebel-held areas have been subjected to a harsh system of control with severe punishment, including execution for those accused of offences. People were also subjected to rape, abduction and harassment.

Progress

Mr Annan acknowledged however that some progess had been made since the peace agreement.

He cited the return of the rebel RUF leader Fodoy Sankoh to the capital, Freetown, the establishment of a government of national unity and the registration of Mr Sankoh's group as a political party.


Rebel leaders must prove by their actions they are committed to peace
Kofi Annan
But he warned that the ceasefire violations were unacceptable, and said the rebel leaders must take responsibility for the advance of the peace process.

He urged them to work within the new government towards a lasting peace, saying the period ahead was crucial.

Peacekeeping force

The grim reports comes as the United Nations continues to build up its 6,000-strong peacekeeping force in the country.

Indian commander General Vijay Jetley flew in on Tuesday with a contingent of Indian army Gurkha troops who will form a key element in the peacekeeping operation.

Kenyan soldiers Kenyan peacekeepers were the first to arrive
Once the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, or Unamsil, force is assembled, it will have about 1,000 Indians and a similar number of soldiers from Kenya.

The rest of the force will be supplied from West African countries, led by Nigeria.

The West African soldiers have already been fighting in Sierra Leone for a number of years with the broad support of the international community and many Sierra Leonean civilians.

Rebel commanders however have questioned their neutrality as part of the UN force.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the country's civil war, which has lasted almost a decade and left up to 2m people homeless.

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