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Sierra Leone

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many United Kingdom troops are deployed in Sierra Leone; what the number was at its peak; what the timetable is for reducing the UN peacekeeping force; and what assessment he has made of whether the timetable is likely to be met. [113657]

As at May 2003, there are 119 United Kingdom military personnel deployed to Sierra Leone. Of these, 21 personnel form the UK contribution to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), and 98 personnel form the core of the UK-led International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT). At the peak of the UK's military deployment in February 2001 there were around 907 personnel in Sierra Leone.The key objective for UNAMSIL is to assist the Government of Sierra Leone in the consolidation of peace and security. Progress is regularly reviewed against a range of benchmarks relating to the security situation in Sierra Leone, and wider governance, justice and human rights issues. These benchmarks are set down in the Fifteenth Report of the UN Secretary General on Sierra Leone of 5 September 2002. UNAMSIL drawdown is driven by achievement of these benchmarks rather than by a set timetable. As a consequence of progress made, UNAMSIL started a phased drawdown in September 2002. Phase One of the drawdown is now complete, with Phase Two to be completed shortly. This will see a reduction in troop strength to around 13,000.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contribution the United Kingdom is making (a) to training the Sierra Leone army and police and (b) to the reintegration of former combatants. [113658]

A United Kingdom-led International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT) continues to help build the Republic of Sierra Leone armed forces into an effective, professional and democratically accountable force and to improve the capacity of the Sierra Leone MOD. The IMATT currently involves 114 personnel, comprising 98 UK military personnel plus a number of internationals. In addition, there are two UK Ministry of Defence civil servants serving in the Sierra Leone MOD.The UK is also making a major contribution to the restructuring of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) through training and the provision and repair of police infrastructure. Training for the SLP is being provided under a scheme, managed by the Department for International Development, worth some £13 million over three years. In all, about 4,000 police officers, from senior management to new recruits, have received some form of training under the project.In preparation for the gradual withdrawal of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone(UNAMSIL), the Government of Sierra Leone plan to recruit some 3,000 additional officers. The refurbishment and extension of the SLP training school is being paid for by DFID to enable training of these additional officers. The UK has also nominated 10 civilian police officers to UNAMSIL to work on capacity building programmes.The UK's reconciliation and reconstruction projects in Sierra Leone are carried out through the Community Reintegration Programme (CRP) and the ReAct Programme. Both of these provide community reintegration activities in the form of job opportunities and short-term skills training and education for ex-combatants. The activities are community-based, with ex-combatants working alongside other war-affected people. The CRP, to which £14.4 million has been committed by DFID, operates in the northern region of Sierra Leone; ReAct operates in the eastern region of Sierra Leone and is co-funded by DFID and UNHCR. The DFID contribution to ReAct is £1.8 million.