Global Policy Forum

'UN Mandate Change in Sierra Leone Not Needed'

Asia Intelligence Wire / The Hindu
July 26, 2000

Anticipating a long haul in Sierra Leone, the force commander of peacekeeping troops here, Major General V.K. Jetley is looking for a U.N. nod for beefing up peacekeeping forces in this strife- torn west African state.

In a conversation with visiting Indian journalists, Major General Jetley ruled out the need for a change in the U.N. mandate that would more easily permit the forces of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to undertake offensive missions. "Chapter 6 of the U.N. Charter under which we are operating gives a lot of latitude to us to accomplish the necessary tasks, General Jetley said, asked whether U.N. forces should now be authorised to undertake a more muscular "peace enforcement role under a changed mandate.

Elaborating further, General Jetley pointed out that the ongoing peacekeeping mandate had not hampered the UNAMSIL from undertaking the stunning operation to extricate the Indian troops encircled by Sierra Leone's RUF in the country's east 10 days ago. The UNAMSIL later has trained helicopter gun ships as well as artillery guns on the "west side boys, a motley of dropouts from the Sierra Leone army. We have just successfully concluded Operation Thunderbolt within the framework of the peacekeeping mandate where all this was done," he said.

According to General Jetley, the Russians were bringing in their attack helicopters to reinforce the U.N. forces here that now stand at 12,500. But according to the force commander, the strength of the U.N. peacekeepers should be raised to around 16,500 so that the U.N. mission's aim of implementing the Lome power sharing accord between the government forces and the RUF can be successfully fulfilled.

General Jetley pointed out that the prestige of the U.N. was at stake in Sierra Leone and key countries in the U.N. system were fully aware of it. "Sierra Leone is a test case for U.N. peacekeeping and it is already the largest existing operation adopted by the world body, he said.

General Jetley who heads for New York for consultations with U.N. authorities today said that he was keen that the world body adopts a pragmatic line on troop expansion under UNAMSIL. "There is an ongoing debate within the U.N. whether or not to reinforce the UNAMSIL immediately," General Jetley said, adding that there were questions related to funding involved. Indicating that there was a long haul ahead, the U.N. force commander pointed out that no timeframe for the UNAMSIL's presence could be fixed.

Discussions in New York with the U.N. Secretary General, representatives of key countries and the department of peacekeeping could also revolve around the role of diamonds in fuelling the Sierra Leone conflict as well as the influence of neighboring countries including Liberia on the ongoing civil war.

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