Sierra Leone: UN Report - Diamonds and Weapons
Date distributed (ymd): 010111
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains excerpts from the executive summary of the
unofficial text of the report of the UN panel of experts on
conflict in Sierra Leone, presented to the Security Council in
December 2000.  The full unofficial text is available on two sites: and

Given the prior coverage received by the section of the report on
diamonds, this excerpt concentrates on the section on weapons.

Another posting today contains a summary of the report also
released in December on sanctions against UNITA in Angola.
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December 2000


A. Diamonds

1. Diamonds have become an important resource for Sierra Leone's
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in sustaining and advancing its
military ambitions. Estimates of the volume of RUF diamonds vary
widely, from as little as $25 million per annum to as much as
$125 million. Whatever the total, it represents a major and
primary source of income for the RUF, and is more than enough to
sustain its military activities.

2. A certain volume of RUF diamonds are traded in Kenema and
elsewhere in Sierra Leone. These are most likely smuggled out of
the country. Some RUF diamonds have also been traded informally
in Guinea. But the bulk of the RUF diamonds leave Sierra Leone
through Liberia. The diamonds are carried by RUF commanders and
trusted Liberian couriers to Foya-Kama or Voinjama, and then to
Monrovia. Such trade cannot be conducted without the permission
and the involvement of Liberian government officials at the
highest level. Very little Liberian trade, in fact, whether
formal or informal, takes place without the knowledge and
involvement of key government officials. This is true of all
imports, and where exports are concerned, it is especially true
of diamonds. ...

17. Throughout its work, the Panel was struck by the widespread
breaking of UN Security Council sanctions on both weapons and
diamonds. If existing and future sanctions are to be effective,
the Security Council will require an on-going capacity to monitor
their observance and conduct research. Where diamonds are
concerned, there have been three Expert Panels examining many of
the same issues concurrently. There has been useful
collaboration, but there has also been overlap and duplication.
Considering the complexity and the changing nature of the
conflict diamond issue the Panel recommends that in future, it
would serve the Security Council better to have an on-going focal
point within the UN to monitor adherence to sanctions, as well as
progress towards the goals stated in the December 1, 2000 General
Assembly resolution on conflict diamonds.

18. The attention of the Security Council, the Government of
Sierra Leone, donor agencies and other interested parties is
drawn to observations contained in the report about the need for
probity and transparency. Without serious reform and due
diligence within government and government agencies in Sierra
Leone, international efforts to assist will be wasted.

C. Weapons and Air Traffic Control

19. Despite an ECOWAS-Moratorium on arms shipments to West
Africa, the region is awash in small arms. Guerrilla armies
receive weapons through interlinked networks of traders,
criminals and insurgents moving across borders. Systematic
information on weapons smuggling in the region is non-existent,
and information that could be used to combat the problem on a
regional scale - through ECOWAS or through bilateral exchanges -
is generally not available. Few states in the region have the
resources or the infrastructure to tackle smuggling.

20. In Sierra Leone, the RUF depends almost exclusively on light
weaponry, although it does have access to more sophisticated
equipment. It has captured many weapons during confrontations
with the Sierra Leone Army, ECOMOG and UNAMSIL forces. The Panel,
however, found unequivocal and overwhelming evidence that Liberia
has been actively supporting the RUF at all levels, in providing
training, weapons and related mat,riel, logistical support, a
staging ground for attacks and a safe haven for retreat and
recuperation, and for public relations activities.

21. There is also conclusive evidence of supply lines to Liberia
through Burkina Faso. Weapons supplied to Burkina Faso by
governments or private arms merchants have been systematically
diverted for use in the conflict in Sierra Leone. For example, a
shipment of 68 tons of weapons arrived at Ouagadougou on 13 March
1999. They were temporarily off-loaded in Ouagadougou and some
were trucked to Bobo Dioulasso. The bulk of them were then
trans-shipped within a matter of days to Liberia. Most were flown
aboard a BAC- 111 owned by an Israeli businessman of Ukrainian
origin, Leonid Minin. Details of the flights and dates are
included in the report.

22. The role of aircraft in the RUF's supply chain is vital,
especially over the past two years as their sphere of influence
in Sierra Leone has widened. It is known that the RUF were
supplied by helicopter on a sporadic basis before 1997, and on a
regular basis since then. Helicopters originating in Liberia land
at Buedu, Kailahun, Makeni, Yengema, Tumbudu and elsewhere in
Kono District.

23. President Charles Taylor is actively involved in fuelling the
violence in Sierra Leone, and many businessmen close to his
inner- circle operate on an international scale, sourcing their
weaponry mainly in eastern Europe. One key individual is a
wealthy Lebanese businessman named Talal El-Ndine. El-Ndine is
the inner-circle's paymaster. Liberians fighting in Sierra Leone
alongside the RUF, and those bringing diamonds out of Sierra
Leone are paid by him personally. The pilots and crew of the
aircraft used for clandestine shipments into or out of Liberia
are also paid by El- Ndine.

24. Regional air surveillance capacities are weak or totally
inadequate in detecting, or in acting as a deterrent to the arms
merchants supplying Liberia and the RUF. Weak airspace
surveillance in the region in general, and abusive practices with
regard to aircraft registration, create a climate in which arms
traffickers operate with impunity.

25. Because of its lax licence and tax laws, Liberia has for many
years been a flag of convenience for the fringe air cargo
industry. Liberia also has lax maritime and aviation laws that
provide the owners of ships and aircraft with maximum discretion
and cover, and with minimal regulatory interference. A schedule
of Liberian-registered aircraft provided to the Panel by the
government listed only 7 planes. No documentation was available
on more than 15 other aircraft identified by the Panel. Many
aircraft flying under the Liberian flag, therefore, are
apparently unknown to Liberian authorities, and are never
inspected or seen in the country.

26. In November 1999, a Kenyan national named Sanjivan Ruprah was
authorized by the Liberian Minister of Transport to act as the
'Global Civil Aviation agent worldwide' for the Liberian Civil
Aviation Regulatory Authority, and to 'investigate and regularise
the ... Liberian Civil Aviation register'. During its visit to
Liberia the Panel asked the Transport Ministry, the Ministry of
Justice and police authorities about Ruprah and his work, but was
told that he was not known to them. Ruprah is, in fact, a well-
known weapons dealer. He travels using a Liberian diplomatic
passport in the name of Samir M. Nasr, and carries additional
authorization from the Liberian International Ship and Corporate

27. Victor Bout is a well-known supplier of embargoed non-state
actors - in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and
elsewhere. He oversees a complex network of over 50 planes and
multiple cargo charter and freight-forwarding companies, many of
which are involved in shipping illicit cargo. Bout has used the
Liberian aviation register extensively, operating mainly out of
the United Arab Emirates. Sharjah Airport is used as an 'airport
of convenience' for planes registered in many other countries.
One of Bout's aircraft, an Ilyushin 76, was used in July and
August 2000 for arms deliveries from eastern Europe to Liberia.
This aircraft and an Antonov made four deliveries, on July 4 and
27, and August 1 and 23, 2000. The cargo included military
helicopters, spare rotors, anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems,
missiles, armoured vehicles, machine guns and ammunition.

28. It is difficult to conceal something the size of an Mi-17
military helicopter, and the supply of such items to Liberia
cannot go undetected by customs authorities in originating
countries unless there are false flight plans and end-user
certificates, or unless customs officials at points of exit are
paid to look the other way. The constant involvement of Bout's
aircraft in arms shipments from eastern Europe into African war
zones suggests the latter.

29. In addition, there have been few significant cases of
aircraft with weapons being grounded at important fuelling points
such as Cairo, Nairobi or Entebbe, or anywhere in West Africa.
Although some countries have temporarily or permanently stopped
aircraft registered in Liberia from entering their airspace, the
Liberian register continues to be used fraudulently. The practice
has clearly been organised from Liberia in cooperation with
shrewd businessmen abroad, and Liberian-registered planes remain
prominent in many African countries, particularly in countries at

30. In short, Liberia is actively breaking Security Council
embargoes regarding weapons imports into its own territory and
into Sierra Leone. It is being actively assisted by Burkina Faso.
It is being tacitly assisted by countries allowing weapons to
pass through or over their territory without question, and by
those countries that provide a base for the aircraft used in such

31. The report concludes with a full technical report on the
adequacy of air traffic control and surveillance systems within
the region.

D. Recommendations on Weapons and Air Traffic Control

32. The Panel strongly recommends that all aircraft operating
with an EL-registration number and based at airports other than
in Liberia, should be grounded immediately and until the
provisions in the following recommendation are met. This includes
planes based in Sharjah and other airports in the United Arab
Emirates, in Congo Brazzaville, in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Gabon, Angola, Rwanda and Kenya. Airport authorities and
operators of planes registered in Liberia over the past five
years should be advised to keep all their documentation, log
books, operating licences, way bills and cargo manifests for

33. It is further recommended that all operators of aircraft on
the Liberian register, wherever they are based, be required to
file their airworthiness and operating licences and their
insurance documents with the International Civil Aviation
Organisation's headquarters in Montreal, Canada, including
documentation on inspections carried out during the past five
years. The aircraft of all operators failing to do so should be
grounded permanently. Aircraft that do not meet ICAO standards
should be grounded permanently.

34. The Security Council, through ICAO, IATA and the WCO should
create a centralized information bulletin, making the list of
grounded Liberian aircraft known to all airports in the world.

35. Burkina Faso has recently recommended that the UN Security
Council supervise a proposed mechanism that would monitor all
arms imports into its territory, and their use, for a period of
three years. The Panel endorses this proposal. The Panel also
recommends that under such a mechanism, all imports of weapons
and related mat,riel into Burkina Faso over the past five years
be investigated. The Panel further recommends that any state
having exported weapons during this period to Burkina Faso should
investigate the actual end-use of these weapons, and report their
findings to the Security Council and to the Program for
Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED)
established under the ECOWAS Moratorium.

36. In view of the sanctions-breaking cases investigated by the
Panel and the information gathered in the region, it is
recommended that the Security Council encourage the reinforcement
of the ECOWAS Programme for Coordination and Assistance for
Security and Development (PCASED) with support from Interpol and
the World Customs Organisation. PCASED should have an active
capacity to monitor compliance with arms embargoes and the
circulation of illicit weapons in the region.

37. The Security Council should encourage ECOWAS member states to
enter into binding bilateral arrangements between states with
common frontier zones, to initiate an effective, common and
internationally agreed system of control that includes the
recording, licensing, collection and destruction of small arms
and light weapons. These bilateral arrangements can be promoted
and facilitated through ECOWAS and through the Programme for
Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development. A
common standard and the management of a database on significant
cases of smuggling and sanctions busting in the region could be
developed by Interpol. The IWETS (International Weapons and
Explosives Tracking System) programme of Interpol could be used
by all states and the United Nations for the purpose of tracking
the origin of the weaponry.

38. In this report, the Panel has identified certain arms brokers
and intermediaries responsible for supplying weapons to the RUF.
A project should be developed to profile these arms brokers with
the cooperation of Interpol. Similarly, considering the
importance of air transport in the sanctions busting, profiles of
major cargo companies involved in such practices should be
developed, with a view to exploring ways and means of further
strengthening the implementation of sanctions.

39. Responsibility for the flood of weapons into West Africa lies
with producing countries as well as those that trans-ship and use
them. The Security Council must find ways of restricting the
export of weapons, especially from eastern Europe, into conflict
areas under regional or UN embargoes. 'Naming and shaming' is a
first step, but consideration could be given to placing an
embargo on weapons exports from specific producer countries, just
as diamonds have been embargoed from producer countries, until
internationally acceptable certification schemes have been

40. An analysis of the firearms recovered from rebels should be
undertaken in cooperation with Interpol, and its International
Weapons and Explosives Tracking System. This would help in
further identifying those involved in the RUF supply line.

41. The World Customs Organization should be asked to share with
the Security Council its views on creating adequate measures for
better monitoring and detection of weapons or related mat,riel to
non-state actors or countries under an arms embargo.

42. Current Security Council arms embargoes should be amended to
include a clear ban on the provision of military and paramilitary

43. Countries in West Africa that have not signed the 1989 UN
Convention on the Recruitment, Use, Training and Financing of
Mercenaries should be encouraged to do so.

44. Consideration should be given to the development of special
training programs on sanctions monitoring for national law
enforcement and security agencies, as well as airport and customs
personnel in West Africa, and the development of a manual or
manuals on the monitoring of sanctions at airports for worldwide
use by airport authorities and law enforcement services.

45. Consideration should be given to placing specialised United
Nations monitors at major airports in the region (and perhaps
further afield), focussing on sensitive areas and coordinating
their findings with other airports. This would enable better
identification of suspect aircraft. It would also create a
deterrent against illicit trafficking, and would generate the
information needed to identify planes, owners and operators
violating UN sanctions and arms embargoes.

46. The Security Council should consider ways in which air
traffic control and surveillance in West Africa can be improved,
with a view to curtailing the illicit movement of weapons.
Possibilities include:

* encouraging the installation of primary radar at all major
West African airports, and finding the financial support to do
so. Only primary radar can independently detect the movement  of
aircraft; ...

Other Recommendations

47. In this report, the Panel makes a variety of specific
recommendations that deal with diamonds, weapons and the use of
aircraft for sanctions-busting and the movement of illicit
weapons. Many of these recommendations and the problems they
address are related to the primary supporter of the RUF, Liberia
- its President, its government and the individuals and companies
it does business with. The Panel notes with concern that Security
Council resolutions on diamonds and weapons are being broken with
impunity. In addition to the foregoing, the Panel offers the
following recommendations with a view to making the message of
this report more clear, and to ensuring that there is better
follow-up to Security Council decisions in future:

48. A travel ban similar to that already imposed on senior
Liberian officials and diplomats by the United States should be
considered for application by all UN member nations until such
time as Liberia's support to the RUF and its breaking of other UN
sanctions ends conclusively.

49. The principals in Liberia's timber industry are involved in a
variety of illicit activities, and large amounts of the proceeds
are used to pay for extra-budgetary activities, including the
acquisition of weapons. Consideration should be given to placing
a temporary embargo on Liberian timber exports, until Liberia
demonstrates convincingly that it is no longer involved in the
trafficking of arms to, or diamonds from, Sierra Leone.

50. Consideration should be given to creating capacity within the
UN Secretariat for on-going monitoring of Security Council
sanctions and embargoes. This is imperative to the building of an
in-house knowledge base on current issues such as conflict
diamonds, as noted in paragraph 17 above, but it is even more
important to creating greater awareness of, and capacity to deal
with problems, which are not likely to be solved in the near
future, such as the illicit trade in weapons and related

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