Kofi Annan inspects Sierra Leone after withdrawal of peacekeeping forces

Annan, who flew in late Sunday from an African Union summit in Gambia, was expected to meet Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.

A U.N. military force of 17,000 left at the end of 2005, having overseen elections and helped impose peace in Sierra Leone after a 1991-2003 civil war. But its work could be undone by widespread poverty in a country with one of the world's lowest life expectancy rates. Irritation with poor government services like fitful electricity and dirty drinking water is on the rise.

Annan is also expected to visit the U.N.-backed Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal that has indicted nearly a dozen rebel leaders, government officials and their allied militia on charges linked to atrocities allegedly committed during the war.

Ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor is the court's highest-profile defendant, accused of financing and directing a brutal rebel movement known for terrorizing civilians by amputating lips, ears and limbs with machetes.

Taylor was flown last month to the Netherlands amid fears his continued presence in West Africa could further destabilize the region. While he will be tried at the Hague, the proceedings will remain under the auspices of the Sierra Leone court.