Global Policy Forum

Largest UN Force but Still No Peace


By Mark Doyle

BBC World News
September 7, 2000

The world's largest UN peacekeeping force is in Sierra Leone. It has almost 13,000 soldiers, but that still hasn't been enough to bring peace.

As soon as the UN mandate began in May, hundreds of UN personnel were taken hostage by rebels. That drama is now over, but the UN has still not been able to deploy in rebel-held areas.

The Security Council is considering increasing the number of peacekeepers here to over 20,000, but increasing the number of troops may make little difference unless the quality of those troops is improved.

Poorly-equipped armies

Many of the national UN contingents here are from poor countries with poorly-equipped armies. When the hostage crisis almost caused the collapse of the mission in May, it was a military intervention from Sierra Leone's former colonial power, Britain - with well-equipped, highly-trained soldiers - that stabilised the situation.

But the British are not part of the UN force and don't want to be. This has caused tension: some UN officials resent the fact that Britain is running a separate operation.

For their part, senior British officers and, indeed, senior UN peacekeepers privately criticise the fractious and, at times, ineffective UN force. Many observers here say that what is required is for the UN in Sierra Leone to be led and managed, at all levels, by a major first world country with a powerful army.

But no such country has expressed an interest in committing itself in this way.

More Information on Sierra Leone


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