Alarmed by the move, the United Nations on Thursday asked the insolvent West African nation to explain the purpose of its latest acquisitions. The international community's concern is based on the fact that presidential elections are due in November.
The UN demanded an explanation because Sierra Leone is still struggling to rebuild from the civil war and political tensions that plagued it from 1991-2002.
- The arms shipment was made in January but details were recently leaked to the UN Security Council.
- A shipping bill indicated that machine guns and grenade launchers were part of the imported arsenal.
- UN envoy to Sierra Leone, Michael von der Schulenburg, told the Security Council that the arms shipment was "of great concern" because the West African country's Foreign Minister Joseph Dauda did not mention the guns in his latest address to the council.
"Sierra Leone is under no arms embargo," von der Schulenburg told journalists. "However, given Sierra Leone's progress in establishing peace and security throughout the country and its relatively low crime rate, it is not clear why the police would need such weapons."
According to reports, political tensions have been rising in the run up to the November polls with supporters of rival parties clashing in recent months.
"I would urge the government to full clarify these reports and, if true, explain the intended use of these weapons," the envoy said. According to von der Schulenburg, the November 17 poll, in which President Ernest Koroma is seeking a new term, would be a "major challenge for the country's nascent democracy."
Some reports claim that the arms were meant for a recently enlarged police para-military wing, the Operational Services Division.
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