Global Policy Forum

British Forces to Stay in Sierra Leone

January 1, 2001

British troops are to stay in Sierra Leone until the west African state's rebel army is defeated, according to a senior figure in the Armed Forces. Brigadier Jonathan Riley said British Forces could expect to remain in the country at their present levels until the end of 2001, before being scaled down to a much lower level. "We will leave when the war is either won or resolved on favourable terms," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Around 400 British soldiers have been deployed in Sierra Leone to train government troops, who have been fighting Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels for the past nine years.

Political row

His comments have revived the row over the extent of Britain's military involvement in the war-torn state. Conservative politicians have accused the government of allowing troops to become embroiled in a civil war.

Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "Throughout our engagement in Sierra Leone, Robin Cook's policy has meandered.

"Now it appears the Army is being deployed for the long term to save Robin Cook's face.

"Robin Cook and the government should come clean on their policy in Sierra Leone, otherwise they risk putting our forces into an untenable situation with no clarity of purpose."

But Brigadier Riley said the end of the war was in sight, as the RUF army was in an increasingly poor state. He said: "My reading of the situation of the rebels is that they are not in a good way and their situation is getting worse.

"The war is only going to end in one way and it is not going to end in their favour because the whole world's hand is against them."

Last month, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution extending until 31 March, the mission of the 12,000 UN peacekeepers currently in Sierra Leone. In November, the Sierra Leone government signed a new ceasefire with the RUF, under which the UN force in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) is to deploy troops in all rebel-held areas.

More Information on Sierra Leone


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