Global Policy Forum

UN Keeps Sierra Leone Peacekeepers


By Edith M. Lederer

Associated Press
March 30, 2004

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to keep a scaled-down U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone at least until June 2005 to ensure the country's armed forces and police can handle security. The original mandate of the U.N. force, known as UNAMSIL, was set to end in December but West African leaders have been lobbying for an extension until former combatants in neighboring Liberia are fully disarmed and reintegrated into society.

Wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia have long been related, with fighters crossing little-guarded borders in both countries. Under the resolution adopted Tuesday, the 11,000 peacekeepers currently in Sierra Leone will be gradually reduced starting in June in line with a recommendation by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who called for U.N. troop strength to fall to 5,000 by December.

The Security Council authorized a scaled down U.N. force to remain in Sierra Leone "for an initial period of six months from Jan. 1, 2005." But it said the force should be reduced further by Feb. 28, 2005, to a new ceiling of 3,250 troops, 141 military observers and 80 international police.

A decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone pitting government troops against rebels who became notorious for severing the arms and legs of civilians ended in 2002 with the intervention of U.N. and British forces. The Security Council resolution adopted Tuesday extended the mandate of the U.N. mission in Sierra Leone until Sept. 30 but decided that a scaled-down UNAMSIL presence would remain in the country until at least mid-2005. The Security Council said it would confirm the precise tasks of the scaled down "UNAMSIL presence, and the benchmarks for its duration, no later than Sept. 30."

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Sierra Leone


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