ONUCA mission deemed a success; Nicaraguan resistance demobilizes, surrenders weapons

ONUCA mission deemed a success; Nicaraguan resistance demobilizes, surrenders weapons – United Nations Observer Group in Central America

ONUCA mission deemed a success

Demobilization of 21,863 members of the Nicaraguan Resistance forces ended on 29 June, within the deadline set by the UN Security Council. The massive, complex and politically delicate operation was successfully carried out in 14 locations throughout Honduras and Nicaragua by the United Nations Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA). Its 1,060 members are under the command of Major-General Agustin Quesada Gomez, a national of Spain.

“I am happy to be able to inform the Security Council that, as 1900 hours local time on 28 June 1990, demobilization had been completed at all locations, except for one …”, Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar reported (S21379). Some remaining Resistance members were demobilized the following day and the last location closed.

Senior commanders of the Nicaraguan Resistance and their staff were demobilized on 27 June in the village of San Pedro de Lovago. The country’s President, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, other top government officials, the Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Pedro Obando y Bravo, and Major-General Quesada Gomez attended the ceremony.

Demobilization had begun in Honduras on 16 April, when 260 members of the Atlantic Front (Yatama) of the Resistance handed over their weapons and other military equipment to ONUCA officers at La Kiatara, in a remote Honduran part of Miskitia. The region, standing Honduras and Nicaragua, is mostly populated by the Miskito, an indigenous people.

Some 30 members of ONUCA’s Venezuelan battalion used soldering torches, explosives and sledge-hammers to destroy or diable on the spot all surrendered weapons, as Major-General Quesada Gomez, senior ONUCA oficers, some unarmed observers, a medical team and civilian support personnel stood by.

Over the next few weeks, 2,607 Resistance members were demobilized in La Kiatara and three other Honduran locations–Danli, Yamales and Zacatal.

A slow start

In Nicaragua, the process had begun on 8 May, but moved slowly until the signing of the Managua Protocol on 30 May, Mr. Perez de Cuellar reported (S/21341). The Protocol, signed by President Chamorro and Israel Galeano (Commander Franklin of the Resistance), committed the Nicaraguan Government to resettle demobilized Resistance members in especially created “development areas”, to give them economic aid and allow them to join a police force to be set up in those areas.

Resistance members totalling 19,614–16,361 of them armed–were demobilized in eight security zones and two temporary posts set up in Nicaragua by ONUCA.

Among the weapons of demobilized Resistance members in Honduras and Nicragua which were destroyed were: 15,144 small arms (including AK 47s, other assault rifles, rifles and light machine-guns), 1,333 grenades, 1,282 grenade launchers, 146 mines, 137 light and medium mortars, 119 “Redeye” and SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles and four heavy machine guns.

“ONUCA was informed both by senior officers of the Nicaraguan Army and by the leaders of the Nicaraguan Resistance themselves that the Resistance had always been a lightly armed and mobile force that hardly ever deployed heavy weapons inside Nicaragua”, the Secretary-General stated.

Nevertheless, he added, ONUCA paid special attention to two categories of heavy weapons reportedly in the hands of the Resistance: heavy machine-guns and surface-to-air missiles.

Explaining why only four heavy machine-guns had been handed in to ONUCA, Mr. Perez de Cuellar said that, according to the leader of the Resistance’s Northern Front, all weapons had been returned to the original supplier before members of the Front returned to Nicaragua during April and May 1990.

“I have been given reason to believe that some of these weapons were disposed of in this way but that the bulk of them were known to have become unserviceable”, Mr. Perez de Cuellar added.

As regards the 119 surface-to-air missiles handed over to ONUCA, “these figures approximate closely to what was expected”, the Secretary-General assured the Security Council.

The commanders of the four Nicaraguan Resistance fronts–Northern, Central, Southern and Atlantic–had “solemnly assured ONUCA, both orally and in writing” that no arms or military equipment remained under their command or had been hidden, and that all combatants under their command had been demobilized, he added. In a letter to Major-General Quesada, the Nicaraguan Government had declared itself “fully satisfied” with the demobilization process.

Withdrawal of ONUCA’s 800-strong Venezuelan battalion, which the Secretary-General said had served “with great distinction”, was completed on 4 July, bringing to an end ONUCA’s role in the demobilization process in Central America.

A long, arduous road

The road to demobilization had been long and arduous. Clearing the last hurdles required intensive consultations among UN representatives, the outgoing Sandinista Government, the Nicaraguan Resistance and then President-elect Barrios de Chamorro. She took office on 25 April after winning a UN-supervised election in February.

The process started on a positive note. At a 3 April meeting in Montelimar, Nicaragua, the five Central American Presidents accepted the Secretary-General’s proposal for destruction of weapons received by ONUCA.

But in late April, Mr. Perez de Cuellar expressed concern that ONUCA might be placed in a position “where members of the resistance not only would not hand over their weapons at the time of arrival to assembly points, but would retain possession of them with no deadline for handing them over”.

In a 16 April aide-memoire, Mr. Perez de Cuellar stated that guarding or monitoring indefinitely a large number of armed members of the resistance in “security zones” within Nicaraguan territory would be “a highly dangerous assignment, given the current political situation in Nicaragua”, and one that would be difficult to perform in practice within the parameters under which the UN operates.

He would find it “difficult, if not impossiblec, to recommend acceptance by the Security Council of such a proposal. But there was a breakthrough in Managua: after all-night negotiations, a series of agreements were signed in the early hours of 19 April by the Nicaraguan Government, the Resistance and Cardinal Obando y Bravo. These called for a cease-fire starting at 12 noon that day, security zones and a timetable for demobilization.

On 20 April, the Security Council expanded ONUCA’s mandate so that it could monitor the cease-fire. Resolution 653 (1990) also authorized ONUCA to monitor the separation of forces resulting, in Mr. Perez de Cuellar’s words, “from withdrawal of Nicaraguan Government forces from security zones and surrounding areas” (S/21259).

The Group’s mandate had already been widened on 27 March to include taking delivery of and destroying weapons, materiel and military equipment, including military uniforms, of the Nicaraguan resistance. By resolution 650 (1990), the Security Council authorized the addition of the Venezuelan battalion to the Observer Group. The original mandate had been to verify “cessation of aid to irregular forces and insurrectionist movements operating in the region and the non-use of the territory of one State for attacks on other States” (S/21274).

Back on track

On 4 May, the Security Council extended the ONUCA mandate for another six months, through 7 November 1990, and set 10 June as the target date for concluding the demobilization process. The Council unanimously adopted resolution 654 (1990) on the understanding that ONUCA’s involvement in the cease-fire, separation of forces and demobilzation process would lapse before that date.

In a 10-page progress report to the Council (S/21274), the Secretary-General listed various complaints and incidents in Nicaragua and Honduras that had been investigated by the Observer Group.

In an updated report (S/21274/Add.1), also before the Council, he expressed grave concern that demobilization in Nicaragua had not started on 25 April, as agreed, since certain Resistance members inside Nicaragua had refused to lay down their weapons. The need to get the process “quickly back on track” was stressed.

But difficulties continued. By 20 May, only 1,220 Resistance members had been demobilized. Security Council members expressed concern on 23 May at the slow pace and called on the Resistance to “meet fully and urgently the commitments it made in agreeing to demobilize”.

Mr. Perez de Cuellar told the Council that the average number being demobilized daily was about 100, whereas an average of 500 to 600 was required to complete demobilziation by 10 June. The attitude of the leadership of the Nicaraguan Resistance to the demobilization process “had remained ambiguous”, he added.

In further reports in June (S/21341 and S/21349), Mr. Perez de Cuellar kept the Council informed about the slowly unfolding situation. There had been “no serious violations” of the cease-fire by the Nicaraguan Army, he stated. While there had been some breaches of the agreement on separation of forces in certain areas, almost all had been quickly resolved.

The delay also provoked concern in the region. In a letter to the Secretary-General (A/44/950-S/21316) on 29 May, Guatemala warned that if demobilization was not completed by 10 June, the stability of democratic progress in Nicaragua “could be seriously affected”. It would be “hazardous if the members of the Nicaraguan resistance were to remain, armed, in the security zones in violation of what was agreed”, it stressed.

Although the demobilization rate showed a marked increase at the end of May and the beginning of June, three days before the 10 June deadline, only 6,834 Resistance members had been demobilized. The Council decided on 8 June to extend the deadline to 29 June. That final deadline was met.

Guatemala reconciliation:

a first step

An agreement between the Guatemalan political parties and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) was signed on 1 June in Madrid, Spain, before representatives of the National Reconciliation Commission of Guatemala (CNR) and Francesc Vendrell, Deputy to Alvaro de Soto, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Central America. Mr. Vendrell attended the six-day meeting as an observer.

The El Escorial Agreement (A/44/959) ratifies the Basic Agreement for the Search for Peace by Political Means, signed in Oslo, Norway, on 30 March by URNG and CNR.

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