HC Deb 08 January 2002 vol 377 c585W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Sierra Leone and the progress of the British military mission. [24972]

Mr. Bradshaw

The Government's strategy towards Sierra Leone was set out in the Foreign Secretary's statement to the House on 6 June 2000. The effectiveness of that strategy has been demonstrated by the progress we have made towards peace and stability in Sierra Leone.

Since the beginning of 2001, over 40,000 former combatants have disarmed. They are now being reintegrated into society. A new, more effective and accountable Sierra Leone army, trained by UK forces, is deploying with civil administrators throughout the country. This has signalled the visible restoration of Government authority. Supported by the international community, the Government of Sierra Leone are preparing to hold elections in May 2002.

The situation in Sierra Leone will, however, continue to be fragile, at least until ordinary Sierra Leoneans are able to enjoy the benefits of peace. The Government of Sierra Leone need rapidly to mobilise substantial additional resources to rehabilitate the country's devastated communities, institutions and economy. As Sierra Leone's largest bilateral donor, the UK will continue to help the Government of Sierra Leone through a wide-ranging programme of assistance.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence indicated in a written statement to the House on 18 December, our military training and assistance programme continues to make good progress towards its goal of developing professional, accountable and effective Sierra Leone armed forces, better able to protect the security and integrity of Sierra Leone. The people of Sierra Leone are increasingly confident of the new Sierra Leone armed forces. We will, through the International Military Advisory and Training Team, continue to work to raise the standard and develop the capacity of the Sierra Leone armed forces.

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