Global Policy Forum

Indian Troops to Leave Sierra Leone


By Mark Devenport

BBC Online
September 21, 2000

India has announced that it is withdrawing its troops from the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone. India has been in command of the troubled peace-keeping mission and its contingent of 3,059 soldiers is the second largest in the force. Indian diplomats are presenting the decision as a routine rotation, following nearly two years of service by their military observers and peace keepers in Sierra Leone. But the timing of the withdrawal could hardly be worse for the UN.


It comes just as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is facing problems finding countries prepared to send extra soldiers to bolster the force. India says the decision is not connected to criticism of its force commander, Major General Vijay Jetley.

But it is no secret that General Jetley's relations with other troop contributors, most notably Nigeria, have been extremely fraught. General Jetley and other senior officers were expected to be replaced as part of a restructuring of the force. It is now clear that the new commander will not be an Indian.

The Indian units are expected to leave Sierra Leone in phases, giving the UN time to find replacements. A UN spokesman paid tribute to their military performance, which he described as outstanding.

Knock-on effect

The UN will be hoping that India's decision does not have any repercussions on other troop contributors. Diplomats say Jordan has been indicating that it does not want its troops to remain in Sierra Leone unless at least one Nato country can be persuaded to play a significant role in the force.

Problems securing the extra troops has held up a Security Council vote to increase the force by an extra 7,500 soldiers. Last month Mr Annan recommended that the UN's peacekeepers in Sierra Leone should be substantially increased to 20,500.

Chequered history

But this is proving difficult given the chequered history of the force, which has seen hundreds of soldiers taken hostage by rebels and some units criticised for their inadequate equipment or training. The United States argues that those battalions which have not performed well should be sent home as part of any restructuring.

The Council is sending a mission to Sierra Leone in early October to review all aspects of the UN's operations there, including: the effectiveness of the peacekeeping force the ban on the sale of conflict diamonds the preparations for a special court to try the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, and others accused of war crimes.

More Information on Sierra Leone


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