BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
African peacekeeping: Success or failure?

UN peacekeepers in Liberia

Saturday 29 May is UN peacekeeping day, paying tribute to the work of "blue helmets" around the world.

Africa currently has the highest number of UN peacekeeping operations, with its mission in Liberia, Unmil, being the largest in the world.

A new mission is already taking shape in the Ivory Coast and missions to Sudan and Burundi are about to be set up.

Peacekeeping is viewed by the UN as an essential tool to upholding peace and security, but how durable a solution is it?

The BBC's Africa Live asks: What have been your experiences with peacekeepers? If you are one, what is it like? Does peacekeeping benefit economies and communities?

This debate is now closed. Find your comments below:

The UN has become a talking shop where big and powerful nations show their might. I strongly believe that the UN's success or failure really depends on the goodwill of powerful nations like the US, UK, France and Russia. Peace in Sierra Leone came because the British thought it was in their interest to send their forces there. The stand the UK took in Sierra Leone, has now prompted America to become active and supportive of the peacekeeping mission in Liberia and France to move into Ivory Coast. Thus, UN success depends on the goodwill of the most powerful nations without which, it will fail everytime.
Musa Kamara, USA

The UN continues to do a great job throughout the world. However early intervention in many countries like Liberia and Rwanda would have saved thousands of lives.
Raymond S. Jallah Sr., Liberia/USA

I think peacekeeping will be successful only if the UN is allowed to function independently
Gaolaolwe Ralotsia, Botswana/ Malaysia

There seems to be no peacekeeping at all in Africa. The UN has become a puppet. I think peacekeeping will be successful only if the UN is allowed to function independently by providing it with its own resources, including an army that answers to no one else.
Gaolaolwe Ralotsia, Botswana/ Malaysia

Failure! Failure and more failure! There is nothing to celebrate. They should hold their heads in shame. Where is the peace?
Daps, Hampshire

The UN should be thanked for peace building, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Continue protecting us from ourselves!
Simon Mugudde, Uganda

I want to cease this opportunity to thank the peacekeeping troops for the contribution they made not only to attaining peace but also in helping to rebuild my country. Initially we misunderstood their mandate. We called them names like 'Unasty'. Now, even though all is cool and quite they are still around, helping work on projects to improve our education system, transport, communication infrastructure and employment opportunities. Congratulations UN and bravo to the peacekeeping forces.
Philip Byrne, Sierra Leone

Peacekeeping is indeed a better option than full scale armed conflict. However, a word of caution to the planners of such missions, the primary responsibility of securing peace and maintaining it lies with the respective national authorities and peacekeepers should not be a seen as a quick fix solution.
Sanjeev Raina, Sierra Leone

The UN Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) seems to be sliding down the "Beasts in Blue Berets" path
Yohannes, Eritrea

The UN Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) seems to be sliding down the "Beasts in Blue Berets" path. Lack of sensitivity to local customs, condescending behaviour and outright illegal activities by some of their staff are becoming the hallmarks of this mission. No wonder they say, the bottleneck of a bottle is at its top.
Yohannes, Eritrea

The success of UN peacekeeping strongly depends on the mandate. Lets remember the UNAMIR case. This mission was never intended to deal with the genocide. It was deployed in order to help the implementation of the peace agreement. But when the genocide began, the mission just "let it happen".
Ana Alves, Brazil

Why can't the UN go after industries and their owners producing weapons if they're really serious about keeping the world safe?
Ibrahim Sawaneh, Liberia

No peacekeeping effort from anybody will succeed if the citizens of the host country do not want peace. It is only a political tool to force warring factions to embrace peace and the UN to force it's relevance down our throats.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Nigeria

Since 1958 I have been a missionary in Liberia. My present work is at Phebe Hospital in central Liberia. Because of the security offered by about 30 UN peacekeepers from Bangladesh who live on the hospital compound, Phebe Hospital is now being rebuilt. The Bangladeshis are professional, dedicated, and well trained. After 15 years of warfare, the UN troops are offering real hope!
E. Christopher Cone, USA

The deployment of UN peacekeepers in a war zone helps to limit the method and means by which gun-totting madmen go about with the destruction of lives and properties. It also creates the conditions necessary for the operations of humanitarian relief organisations. The exploitation of both natural and human resources as mentioned by others is not an official UN Peacekeeping policy; but if carried out by some elements within the system, we should not forget that such negative acts breed partly on existing norms as such acts cannot be carried out without the involvement of local partners.
Daniel G. Herbert, Kosovo

In Mozambique we had a great and fine experience with the "blue helmets", ONUMOZ, that were deployed after the end of the civil war.
Leonel Muchano, Mozambique

UN peacekeeping is less effective in comparison with ECOMOG that once kept the peace here
Yahaya E. Jalingo

UN peacekeeping in Africa is big business that gives little or nothing to the continent in terms of benefit. Here in Liberia, the big money being spent only goes into the UN and their cronies. Moreover, UN peacekeeping is less effective in comparison with ECOMOG that once kept the peace here.
Yahaya E. Jalingo

I am from Eritrea and in my opinion the troops are not contributing to our growth and maintaining stability in the region. They have fuelled the market for prostitution and are completely disrespectful to the local population.
Sinit Mehtsun, USA

Africa needs peacemakers NOT peacekeepers! By the time the peacekeepers arrive the damage is done and thousands have lost their lives. Unfortunately, you can not make peace without going in there and taking casualties - something that UN troops are not prepared to do. That's where the whole irony lies.
Zarou, Eritrea

The question of whether UN peacekeepers have been successful in Africa is really irrelevant, because there is no viable or realistic peacekeeping alternative to the UN. More often than not, Western governments are selective and self-serving in the African peacekeeping missions that they will facilitate or support, while African governments either lack the resources or the will to mount effective peacekeeping operations. Successful or not, UN sponsored peacekeeping missions are the only option available to Africa.
Dana, United States

Just the physical presence of peacekeepers does help to maintain the peace between opposing sides. The local economy benefits in many ways. However, some markets are priced out of the hands of most locals. The housing market is one example. In Asmara, Eritrea, housing is scarce, and peacekeepers are willing and able to pay over-inflated rents.
Habtemariam Tekle, Eritrea

The UN peacekeeping forces have worked hard in Sierra Leone, but they would not have succeeded without the efforts of the Nigerians (under Ecomog) and the British troops that came in later.
Daniel Aiah John, Sierra Leonean in Seoul

My experience with peacekeepers is excellent. As a Liberian, ECOMOG saved my life in Monrovia during our war. However, I would like the UN to stop the crises as soon as they start.
Trokon Smith, United States

As an African, I am absolutely proud of the efforts of the UN peacekeepers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because of the "blue helmets" hope has been restored to Liberia and Sierra Leone. It's time for us Africans to stop the needless slaughter and abuse of our own people before tying up the meagre economic and human resources of the UN.
Ousman, USA

Peacekeeping benefits economies as it increases the number of potential buyers in a given country thus assuring the flow of capital. It brings with it foreign capital. Moreover it creates jobs for local people. On the contrary, peacekeepers can sometimes be detrimental when they get involved with the youth, especially deprived and destitute youngsters who just want anything and everything to keep surviving.
Melvin Nahwo Nye, Liberia

I will only believe in their effectiveness when I see them in the jungles of southern Sudan and in Western Sudan.
Joseph Bol Deng, Egypt

Peacekeepers do not ensure peace and security, they only give war perpetrators the opportunity to regroup
Ibrahim Koleosho, Nigeria

Peacekeepers do not ensure peace and security, they only give war perpetrators the opportunity to regroup and fine-tune their strategies for another war.
Ibrahim Koleosho, Nigeria

UN peacekeeping initiatives are very successful indeed. One cannot but thank Unamsil for bringing lasting peace to Sierra Leone. My brother now serves in the UNMIL Nigerian contingent and he speaks of the tremendous goodwill from Liberians towards their mission. The main reason UN peacekeepers are successful is because warring factions don't perceive them as biased intermediaries.
Muhammad A. Y, Nigeria/USA

Peacekeeping in Africa is a failure. The UN has failed to prevent genocide in several African countries such as Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra-Leone and so fourth.
Dan Katuala

For those Africans who criticise the UN, ask yourself one simple question: What has the AU done for Africa lately? Let us keep in mind that the UN cannot be everywhere at the same time. They don't have an army that is readily available for peacekeeping missions. Without the UN and its peace keeping missions, three quarters of the African continent would have been annihilated.
Jaiah, Sierra Leone/USA

The UN is very essential as an effective tool in peacekeeping in Liberia and rest of the world. It would be much more effective and respected if backed by some Western powers with some feet on the ground too.
James Horace, Liberian/USA

UN peacekeepers would be essential to bringing peace to Africa if they were accountable to the UN as an organisation not to one or more permanent security council members who approve peacekeeping missions with individual interest(s).
John Musema, Rwanda

African peacekeeping by the UN has been nothing but a success. My home land (Sierra Leone) is a good example. Thanks to all the men and women of the 'blue helmets' for your sacrifice and dedication to the people of Africa and the world.
Alimamy Kheiyo-Sesay, USA/Sierra Leone

It is hard for me to believe what UN stands for, I think the successful benefits and effectiveness of peacekeeping in Africa is quite unremarkable in contrast to the view that it is an essential tool of UN for upholding peace and security. How could an organisation viewed with such a responsibility and obligation stand human starvation and conflicts sweeping the whole country like Sudan?
Alex Taban Donato, Sudanese in Australia

I find it heart-warming that these people can risk their lives to restore sanity in my country after a decade and a half of senseless egoistic war
Samuel M. Sondah Sr., Liberia/USA

The work of the 'blue helmets' has brought renewed hope and smiles on the faces of many hopeless war victims in African. As a Liberian I find it heart-warming that these people can risk their lives to restore sanity in my country after a decade and a half of senseless egoistic war. Congratulations to them.
Samuel M. Sondah Sr., Liberia/USA

Of course peacekeeping is beneficial to economies and communities. War displaces people and resources that business or government could have used to generate prosperity.
J. Fields, USA

Yes it is a success as long as the UN troops stay. The tribal, warlike nature of Africans will prevent peace from ever being achieved.
Charles, Montreal, Canada

I think it is a welcome development to have UN peacekeepers in countries where there is Wars. But at the same time the UN must increase the number of troops being sent to countries affected in order to make meaningful progress. Secondly, I am of the opinion that the African Union must take these as a challenge by building an intervention force to be known as African Rapid Response Keeping Force "ARRKF" to stem the ugly trend of war in any Country of Africa.
Desmond Abiodun Oji, Nigeria

No peace keeping effort should be tagged a failure. It is failure when no effort is made to keeping peace in any region like during the genocide in Rwanda. The UN peacekeeping should rather be encouraged to enhance efficiency in their operations.
Christian Merenini, Nigeria

The whole process of peacekeeping is most beneficial to the peacekeeper than to those who they are keeping peace for. The delay in the process, the exploitation of both nature and human resource. Thus leaving our economies stagnant. The international community should start their peacekeeping process by stopping the cause or root of war. Discourage the buying of arms by any person or group that are not legal or in authority.
Musah HB. Sheriff, Liberia

During the early days of civil war in my country, peacekeepers especially the Ghanaians performed very well. But the Nigerians did very badly because they were under strict orders to arrest one of the war lords. They compromised the ethics of peacekeeping and became perceived enemies. On the whole peace keeping itself brings about prosperity as NGOs flourish bringing job opportunities in the communities.
Darlington Poka, Accra Ghana

This time the UN has succeeded in maintaining peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone. South African soldiers are already in Burundi guarding the precarious ceasefire. This success is due to the determination of the international community to get tough on warring parties.
Apollo M, Zambia

The UN must have a clear vision and mission
Teshome Habte, Canada

The credibility of the UN is very shady and most African countries see them as helpless as the people themselves. In most cases the UN peacekeeping missions are a temporary band aid to most African problems. Instead of getting involved at the beginning of a conflict, they always arrive when its too late when hundreds of innocent lives have been lost. The UN must have a clear vision and mission. Here is a very good example, the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia: Both of this Countries went to war and several thousands of solders and innocent civilians died. Finally when both had enough of it, they decided to give peace a chance. Both Countries were to accept the outcome of the border ruling. The ruling was out and the UN was to start demarcation process based on the ruling which was final and binding. Its been almost over a year and the UN has done nothing about it, because Ethiopia did not agree with the ruling. This is where the weakness.
Teshome Habte, Canada

UN peacekeeping is a success thus far. However they could be more successful, if they're giving the all necessary assistance, especially from war Lords!
Thomas C. Brownell, USA

UN peacekeeping is a waste of money and time. In Rwanda they did nothing. In Sierra Leone they went to make babies instead of peace. In Congo they never disarmed the Interahamwes. So I don't appreciate what they do.
Gasana samuel, Rwanda

My heartfelt thanks to them for their effort in Sierra Leone. I would give special commendation to the Nigerians who held the fort before the main UN contingent came in. Apart from separating and disarming the warring factions, they held the economy up for 3 to 4 years while the Sierra Leone government gets its act together. Without the UN spending close to a million dollars a day, just after the war, Sierra Leone would have virtually collapsed economically.
Victor Blell, Sierra Leone

I guess it is best to applaud UN's efforts in Africa. However, I am of the view that it is time Africa learned to resolve its own problems rather than depend solely on the UN. A great lesson should be learned from what happened in Rwanda. Leaders in Africa should desist from their selfish ways and commit to improving their countries and the continent as a whole. Let's wean ourselves from babysitters.
Assem Bisa, USA

There is no doubt, the UN peacekeeping in Africa is a success. To be specific, Liberia. Look at Liberia today and the role of Jacques Klein and the UN Peace Keepers. They have done extremely well to restore order since President Charles Taylor left. Without the UN presence in Liberia after Taylor's departure, Liberia would have been another Rwanda. Kofi Annan should be applauded for bringing stability to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Charles, Florida, USA

I recommended the UN Mission in Africa, particularly my own country Sierra Leone. The UN had played a great role to end the ten years of war and also helped rebuild our country. I thank them very much.
Allen Mohamed Koroma, Sierra Leone

The UN troops to Africa are what a piece of wood on the ocean is to a drowning man. Specifically, the UN troops are deployed in Africa to maintain peace where there is an outbreak of civil unrest. They have so far been successful in various parts of Africa, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to name just a few. In addition to peace keeping, I understand UN troops help select and train local military, police and other security forces. They also engage in projects such as building schools, clinics and even feeder roads. Another area the UN troops must engage now is agricultural extension projects, especially for local farmers. Peace with hunger prevailing is tantamount to anger and eventually breads frustration and hostilities. It's time for UN to diversify its mission to Africa. Thanks to every member of the UN troops who have so tirelessly served in Africa to help keep the peace and to protect our people. Well done.
Moses S Wilson, USA

I think the UN peace keeping are doing a good job, but the question should be is the Secretary General, Kofi Annan doing a good job for African peace? The situation in Sudan is getting worse and Kofi himself is not taking it seriously.
Wani, Sudan/USA

Africa has to wake up; the rest of the world is getting tired of the wars, poverty, and AIDS
Carlos Crockett, US

I think the peacekeepers in Africa have been successful. Africa has to wake up; the rest of the world is getting tired of the wars, poverty, and AIDS.
Carlos Crockett, US

In light of the recent Eritrean allegation of paedophilia, prostitution and porn by UN troops, I differ from the assertion that UN missions are successful.
Ammanuel, US

I'm a journalist student in the US. I think the UN peacekeepers by far have changed the lives of many people in every community they have been to in Africa. I am from a country that has been torn apart by civil war for a long time. Part of the reason Sudan or black Africans in Sudan are still suffering is lack of UN intervention.
Miyong Kuon, Sudan

I have watched the UN come and go in various countries (Angola, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, the Balkans) and I've also observed other missions such as NATO etc as well as the NGO sector. Virtually all of them appear almost completely out of their depth. I have worked alongside them both as a journalist and as an aid worker and can quote numerous surreal experiences. I was in Sierra Leone during the height of the crisis and the Jordanian contingent were pulling out as things were getting a little too complicated and they were upset that the British tried to blame them when our troops were captured by the child combatants of the West Side Boys. The Jordanian commander called me up to the top of his AFV and we peered over the barrel of his heavy machine gun at a group of kids coming down the road. "You're British. You tell me. Am I here to protect these kids or to shoot them?" It's never simple
Peter Moszynski, UK/Africa

No!! The African peacekeepers are not a success. Why? Because they have not stopped the killings or the wars. Besides, why would you send in a group of soldiers from South America to the Congo when they do not speak French or any of the tribal languages nor are they familiar with the culture or the traditions. Look at the history of the "blue helmets" in Rwanda. Did they stop what was happening there? No!!
Delor Adams, USA

I first got in direct contact with peacekeepers (Nigerians) when I was given a slap in the face for walking with a female student whilst on our way for studies at IPAM. That not withstanding they must be commended for the sacrifice they made in laying their lives when the people of Sierra Leone needed them most.
Edward Paye, Sierra Leone

With the exception of Rwanda and Somalia, UN Peacekeeping in Africa has been a success. The UN Peacekeepers have saved many lives and properties in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Angola and so on. Though, I worked for the UN Mission in East Timor, my experience was no different from how other UN workers have made positive impact on dying souls in Africa. One cannot even imagine how Africa would look now if the UN Peacekeeping department was non-existent.
Kehleboe Gongloe, Liberian/ USA

Why is there no peacekeeping presence in Zimbabwe? Have the British government considered compensation for Zimbabwe farmers. These people are not safe in Zimbabwe. If Zimbabwe had oil, do you think the UK and US would have got involved?
Len Nel, New Zealand

One must honour peacekeepers' intentions: Not only do they save lives every day but they risk their own lives in the name of peace.
Cat, UK

In my view, I don't think peace keeping missions are cost effective. What UN should address is the root cause of persistent conflicts in Africa. In all instances, wars in Africa can be sensed or felt in the horizon, why not prevent them instead of waiting for the after thought curative stage?
Jacob Agola, U.S.A.

The UN peacekeeping effort is of real significance in Africa. But where is its involvement in hot spots such as Darfur in western Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic and other countries in Africa. The UN must strike a balance in its presence in countries that need help as we speak now.
Mubarak Salah, UK

I am a Sierra Leonean and I now live in Cairo, Egypt. I experienced the most interesting and bitter parts of life in Sierra Leone of my time. The role of UN Missions in conflict resolutions should never be underestimated and if you look at what would have happened had there not being the presence of UN troops in West African states in particular, I would say the world would record the worst disaster of today's generation. They improve both the economy and social life. Another secret success to their missions in African States is the perplexed fact that they are foreign troops and well equipped. When 300 Indian Peacekeeping troops were arrested at one go, the view in Sierra Leone was that they just like those actors in an Indian films that we see and not trained fighters. They however developed local communities. The Work of the Jordanian and Pakistani troops worked to improve the educational sectors of their local habitats in Sierra Leone! Thanks UN.
Mohamed Berray, Egypt

It is a success. But the UN is not experienced in creating an environment where the people themselves can keep their own peace.
Larry Chea, USA

As goes to show in Rwanda 1994, Peacekeepers without an effective mandate are often witnesses to crimes committed before their own eyes. Again, the UN-authorised French peacekeepers in the Congo until recently were only allowed to protect themselves from hostile fire. The dependence on developing countries for the bulk of the 'blue helmets' is a great shame. Those in the West who claim to represent freedom and rights should increase their participation in this highly controversial issue.
Namir Shabibi, London, UK


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific