Sierra Leone peacekeepers staying

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to keep more than 16,600 peacekeepers in Sierra Leone for another six months and urged the rebels to let U.N. troops deploy throughout the country to help restore the government’s authority, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The council welcomed efforts by the government and the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to implement a cease-fire signed last November to end their 10-year war. It encouraged both sides to continue efforts to transform the RUF into a political party, AP reported.

Since November, about 18,000 combatants have disarmed, including about half the rebel force. The council expressed deep concern at continued human rights abuses and attacks on civilians by the RUF and other armed groups, and demanded an immediate end to sexual violence against women, the AP reported.

The resolution also urges Sierra Leone’s government and the United Nations to expedite the establishment of a court to prosecute those responsible for atrocities during West African nation’s civil war, as well as a truth and reconciliation commission, the AP reported.

Foday Sankoh, the imprisoned RUF leader whose rebels are estimated to have killed at least 50,000 people in their drive to gain control of Sierra Leone and its diamond fields, is expected to be among the first people tried by the court.

Meanwhile, rebels ended a brief boycott of a crucial U.N.-sponsored disarmament program Tuesday after a day of talks with government and U.N. officials, a rebel spokesman told the AP.

Disarmament stalled earlier this month when rebels protested a move by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to extend his term by another six months. The rebels had called for a transitional government instead.