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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
UN force to stay in Sierra Leone
Burning weapons in Sierra Leone
The flames of war could reignite
The UN military mission in Sierra Leone will continue for at least another eight months.

The Security Council has agreed unanimously to extend the mandate for the forces by six months and has said that measures to reduce the size of the 17,300 member force will begin after eight months.

A UN statement said that the force would stay "in a bid to support the government of Sierra Leone's efforts to continue building on the peace process".

The mandate for the force in Sierra Leone - the largest UN deployment anywhere in the world - was due to expire on 30 September.

UN vehicle in Freetown
The UN helps maintain order in Sierra Leone

The UN troops, along with British forces, played a major role in ending the 10-year civil war and bringing stability, which enabled elections to be held in May.

On 9 September, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah wrote to the UN secretary general asking him to extend the mandate of the force because of the danger posed to the peace process by fighting in neighbouring Liberia.

The war in Sierra Leone developed from the country's involvement in the Liberian civil war.

Downsize

The UN's announcement of the extension emphasised the need for the UN force (UNAMSIL) to prepare for a "gradual handover of security and other responsibilities" to the Sierra Leone Government.

The assumption of these functions by the government would then enable the UN to "downsize the operation", reducing the force by 4,500.

The UN Security Council emphasised that the development of the "administrative capacities of the Government of Sierra Leone, particularly an effective and sustainable police force, army, penal system and independent judiciary, was essential to long-term peace and development".

The UN is to send an extra 170 police officers from member states to train Sierra Leone¿s security forces.

The council also noted the concerns over fighting in Liberia and its likely effect on regional stability.

In his letter to the UN urging that the force stay, President Kabbah had said Sierra Leone was "at a critical juncture" because of the threat of destabilisation in the border areas.

Kidnapped

The threat to security has been demonstrated by a number of attacks across the border from Liberia, the most recent about a month ago. They have resulted in looting by both Liberian army and rebel units of Sierra Leonean villages, according to UN personnel in Sierra Leone.

President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah
President Kabbah says Sierra Leone is at a critical point

A number of Sierra Leoneans have been kidnapped in these attacks to act as porters for the Liberians, and 16 were still unaccounted for, the UN told the BBC on 10 September.

In addition, 32,000 Liberians refugees had entered Sierra Leone in recent months to escape the fighting in Liberia.

This is putting pressure on the ability of the Sierra Leone Government and the aid agencies to cope with the refugees.

As well as the 17,000 UN troops in Sierra Leone, Britain still has 380 soldiers in the country assisting the government, mainly in a training capacity.


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10 Sep 02 | Africa
14 Aug 02 | Africa
04 Sep 02 | Africa
06 Jul 02 | Africa
20 May 02 | Africa
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