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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 05:02 GMT 06:02 UK

World: Africa

UN approves Sierra Leone force

Some Nigerian troops may stay under UN command

The UN Security Council has agreed to send a force of 6,000 peacekeepers to Sierra Leone to help enforce a peace agreement aimed at ending eight years of civil war.

Sierra Leone
It will be the largest UN peacekeeping mission to Africa in more than two years.

The Council voted unanimously to back a resolution calling for a multinational force to be sent to Sierra Leone with a mandate to disarm and demobilise an estimated 45,000 ex-combatants.

The BBC's Jim Fish: "There is peace, of a kind"
The UN contingent - to be known as Unamsil - will initially be deployed for six months and will work alongside the existing Nigerian-led African peacekeeping force.

The head of peacekeeping operations said the force should be deployed in "30 to 60 days."

Presidential spokesman Septimus Kai-Kai: "An appropriate response"
It will operate under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, enabling it to use force if necessary to protect civilians.

A peace agreement ending the war was signed on 7 July in the Togolese capital Lome between President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and their allies, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).

Major development

The BBC's Mark Devenport: "Sierra Leone force granted extra powers to ensure it could defend itself"
The war has been marked by extreme brutality and led to the abduction and displacement of thousands of civilians.

The UN peacekeepers are to be deployed at key locations across the country to protect convoys supplying aid to the hungry and assist in the organisation of new elections.

The BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle says the new UN force is a major development in Africa because following the failure of UN missions to stop bloodshed in countries such as Rwanda, most states have been reluctant to commit peacekeepers to the continent.

He says it is vital that the composition of the force is resolved quickly because the situation on the ground remains very tense.

Diplomats close to the planning of the new UN force said troop offers from India and Kenya were already being considered.

Adriaan Verheul of the UN's Peacekeeping Department explains what the force will do
Britain and the United States are expected to pay for much of the deployment including vital logistics.

Nigeria currently has a military force of some 10,000 in Sierra Leone which has been backing the government's side in the war.

The Nigerian Government has announced that this force is to be withdrawn, but United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he would like the Nigerians to stay on, some under UN command.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, has highlighted the suffering of Sierra Leone's children

In a keynote address to the UN Security Council he said that the children of Sierra Leone had suffered beyond belief in this war.

The Sierra Leonean ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Kamara, welcomed the approval of the peacekeeping force, saying it would bring some relief to his people.

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Internet Links

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