Ban Ki-moon arrives in Freetown

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IOL pic mar3 united nations ban ki-moon Associated Press United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon. File picture: Lars Krabbe

Freetown - United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Sierra Leone on Tuesday to oversee the closure of the organisation's peace mission, with the nation in recovery after a brutal civil war.

The secretary-general is due to attend a ceremony on Wednesday to formally shut down the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIPSIL) which marks the end of 15 years of peace operations in the country.

He was greeted at Freetown's international airport by Foreign Minister Samura Kamara before being flown by helicopter across the bay to the mainland, where he is due to hold talks with President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Between 1991 and 2002, a ruinous conflict raged in the West African nation which became known for child soldiers, the sale of “blood diamonds” and widespread rape and murder, with thousands having their limbs hacked off by rebels.

Now firmly on the path of recovery, Sierra Leone has attracted a slew of investments in its rich resources, although campaigners have voiced fears that its economic boom is coming at the expense of workers' rights.

UNIPSIL took over in 2006 from peacekeeping mission UNAMSIL, which numbered 17 368 at its height.

The new, scaled-down administrative operation was charged with consolidating peace and helping the government prevent fresh conflict and fight corruption, drug-trafficking and organised crime.

The office is set to close down and transfer its responsibilities to the UN country team by March 31. - Sapa-AFP


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