Global Policy Forum

White House Backs Request by Annan


By Colum Lynch

Washington Post
August 5, 2000

After weeks of resisting appeals by Secretary General Kofi Annan for more U.N. troops for Sierra Leone, the Clinton administration said today that it would ask Congress for funding to send thousands of additional peacekeepers to the troubled West African country.

U.S. and U.N. officials said they expect Annan to request early next month that the U.N. mission in Sierra Leone, or UNAMSIL--already the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world--grow from 13,000 to as many as 25,000 troops. The additional peacekeepers would help Sierra Leone's elected government take control of rebel-held territory, including the country's lucrative diamond mines.

Nancy Soderberg, the U.S. representative to the U.N. for political affairs, told the Security Council today that the Clinton administration has begun consultations with Congress on beefing up the mission. "It is our expectation and intention to support, after close examination of the! details, the request for strengthening UNAMSIL that we expect to receive from the Secretary General," Soderberg said.

The announcement was made immediately after the Security Council voted unanimously to strengthen the mission's mandate, giving the peacekeepers greater authority to use force.

The resolution places UNAMSIL squarely behind the government in its civil war against the rebel Revolutionary United Front. The peacekeepers will have greater responsibility for protecting civilians, and will have authority to "deter, and, where necessary, decisively counter the threat of RUF attack by responding robustly to any hostile actions or threat of imminent and direct use of force," the resolution says.

While U.N. officials and diplomats welcomed Washington's decision, they expressed skepticism about U.S. ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke's ability to bring Congress along. Republican leaders have rebuffed every new request for additional peacekeeping funds, even ! for operations in Kosovo.

The resolution acknowledged the flimsiness of the U.N.'s response to a rebel offensive in early May that captured more than 500 U.N. troops and brought the peacekeeping mission to its knees for several weeks. It also said the success of the reinforced mission will depend on the willingness of governments to provide fully equipped, well-trained peacekeepers.

In recent months, UNAMSIL has received significant reinforcements, including a heavily armed Indian helicopter unit. Russia is also expected to send a helicopter gunship team. And the U.N. has received an offer of 3,000 troops from Nigeria, Ghana and other West African countries.

The United States has pledged to help transport the West Africans to Sierra Leone and to provide training and logistical support, but no ground troops.

Last October, the Security Council originally voted to send 6,000 peacekeepers to Sierra Leone to help carry out a July 1999 peace accord between th! e government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the RUF. After the rebels broke the agreement and began an offensive against U.N. and government forces in May, Annan said he would need a total of 16,500 troops to carry out the U.N.'s mandate.

The call for reinforcements set off months of acrimony. Britain, India and other countries providing troops opposed giving them a tougher "peace-enforcement" mandate, fearing it would lead the United Nations into war with the rebels. But Holbrooke, backed by Nigeria and other key West African countries, argued for granting the U.N. peacekeepers a free hand.

U.S. and British officials say they hope the new mandate, combined with a recent decision by the Security Council to impose a diamond embargo on the rebels and to establish a war crimes tribunal to prosecute rebel leader Foday Sankoh, will persuade congressional leaders to foot part of the bill for an expanded military force.

More Articles on Sierra Leone
US Policy on UN Peacekeeping


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.