Global Policy Forum

Threat to Sierra Leone Ceasefire


By Mark Doyle

April 4, 2001

A critical United Nations peace-keeping deployment into rebel-held Sierra Leone has been delayed, in what is seen by most Sierra Leoneans as yet another example of UN disorganisation. The largest UN peace-keeping force in the world, with over 10,000 troops, had been due to deploy on Wednesday to the strategically crucial rebel-held town of Makeni, following earlier delays last month.

The rebels signed a ceasefire last year with the Sierra Leone army which is now effectively run by British military advisers, supporting the internationally recognised government of Sierra Leone. But British and Sierra Leonean sources say the UN is being too slow in deploying to guarantee the ceasefire.

Dangerous standoff

UN troops from Bangladesh have been due to move out of the government held town of Mile 91 and into rebel held territory for several weeks now, but UN military officers admit that logistical mix-ups have delayed the move.

Senior military sources here say the UN High Command signed an order for the Bangladeshis to move, while apparently not knowing the order could not be followed, because much of the Bangladeshi equipment had yet to arrive here by ship.

The delays in UN deployment have left a dangerous standoff in parts of the country, with government and rebel forces just a few miles apart, with no peacekeepers between them. Senior Sierra Leonean military sources say the UN delays could potentially threaten a ceasefire signed last year.

Despite the ceasefire, the rebels are still a formidable force and the new Sierra Leone government army, trained and advised by the British, is building up its military capacity. It's a volatile situation, crying out for a robust UN response, which has yet to be delivered.

More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia
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