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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 20:05 GMT
Peacekeeping in Sierra Leone: Was it a success?
Five Zambian soldiers serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone have been killed in a tragic accident.

The soldiers - who were working on the UN disarmament programme for Sierra Leone - were transporting weapons collected from former combatants in the east of the country when some mortar rounds exploded in their faces.

Several other Zambian peacekeepers were seriously wounded.

A UN spokeswomen said the incident showed how dangerous the disarmament process could be for those dealing with the weapons, which were sometimes old and unsafe.

Will their deaths be in vain? Or has the peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone been a rare success for the UN? What do you think of peacekeeping as a profession? Easy money, or very dangerous work?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The quality of leaders in Africa is depressing

Ian, England
The UN did their best, and its a great shame about the deaths. However, someone has to face the reality of Africa. As Kofi Annan so rightly said the quality of leaders in Africa is depressing. Sierra Leone and other cases will continue to occur until it is made clear to the leaders of African Nations that corrupt governments will not be supported. This can only happen if the development community stop being so politically correct and get tough with these regimes, instead of throwing money at them and creating a "super rich" group of African politicians.
Ian, England

Whether it has been a success or not, it has certainly been an example of a very courageous attempt by the Blair government to save our helpless people from our rulers.
UE, UK/Nigeria

Sierra Leone is not a "rare success for the UN". The UN's "successes" have been experienced by Somalia and Rwanda. The UN will want to claim any success in Sierra Leone for itself (and comments on this board make it clear that at least one person wants to claim it for Britain).It was a contingent of African soldiers, principally from Nigeria but also from Ghana and Guinea (and financed almost entirely by Nigeria) that was on the ground protecting people while the RUF were running around amputating limbs. It was ECOMOG that protected the safe areas where relief agencies could distribute assistance. ECOMOG had flaws. As a Nigerian, I will be the first to say that our leaders have been, and are generally woeful. This caused part of the flaws in ECOMOG. The rest of the flaws had to due with the nature of the Sierra Leone conflict itself. It was a madhouse of child soldiers, drugs, diamonds, cheap light weapons, multiple militias with shifting loyalties, amputations, and gross abuses of human rights. But while the UN (and Britain) were studiously ignoring Sierra Leone, ECOMOG was there. The deaths and other casualties suffered and the cost expended were great.

Today, Sierra Leone is not at peace. There are still weapons and militias ready to use them. But peace is possible if every faction can be accommodated. But in answer to your question, the UN and UNAMSIL can not claim credit for the chance at peace. The guns of ECOMOG (and their Sierra Leonian allies) forced the RUF to stop amputating and start talking. And in the final analysis, peace in Sierra Leone will be achieved only by Sierra Leonians and not by foreigners whether Nigerian, ECOMOG or the johnny-come-lately UN.
Ike Naijaman, Nigeria

As a Guinean. I'm sending my sympathy to the family and people of Zambia. May their soul rest in peace. I believe the people of the republic of sierra Leone will never forget these heroes, that came all the way from a different country to restore peace in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone will take a while to recover from their ugly war.
Chernoh, Sierra Leone

These soldiers are heroes.

Bashiru Daramy, Sierra Leonean in the USA
Peacekeeping is definitely not easy money. These soldiers are heroes. They are putting their lives on the line for foreigners because they believe in peace. There is no money value to the sacrifices these peacekeepers are making. Some came from other continents and unfortunately lost their lives in a jungle in Sierra Leone. However, people spent Christmas and the New Year in a relatively peaceful atmosphere. The last time Christmas was celebrated in peace was 1990 about 11 years ago. So the peacekeeping effort in Sierra Leone is a success. Thanks.
Bashiru Daramy, Sierra Leonean in the USA

Progressive developments in the Sierra Leone peace process are ultimately attributed to the commitments made by local communities in areas like Koidu, Kailhaun, and Kono. Despite UN peacekeeping failures in Angola, Rwanda and Somalia, UNAMSIL has played a tremendous role in diffusing tensions and de-escalating potentially violent situations in Sierra Leone. Their recent management of the disarmament process is highly commendable. The heroic deaths of our five Zambian brethren is testament to the selfless courage demonstrated by a UN contingent dedicated to the pursuit of sustainable peace.
Eddie Mandhry, Kenya

Let's be clear about this. The success (or failure) in Sierra Leone lies in the hands of the British army, who entered the country in the middle of a civil war and intervened on behalf of the elected government. The subsequent military support and training are widely acknowledged as the reason why a UN peace mission is even possible in the war-torn nation. The tragic deaths of the Zambian soldiers was at least an accident, whereas the deaths of British soldiers were the result of front line action against the rebels.
Sandy, UK

It is such a waste of human life in missions whose goals are far from being clearly defined.

Anthony Musonda, Zambian / Germany
The Sierra Leone case was not a peacekeeping mission in the true sense of the word but a peace-enforcement operation after the RUF rebels refused to disarm. Unfortunately, Zambian soldier's were committed to this operation without the backing of the Zambian people's representatives in Parliament and was meant to be an operation to enable Chiluba's government to make financial gain from it through the tax it imposes on monies so-called peacekeeping soldiers make from such operations. Monies which even take years for soldiers to receive after the operations are over and to benefit from with their families. It is very doubtful most of these so-called peacekeeping soldiers have the necessary good training they need to minimise the risks of their operations. It is such a waste of human life in missions whose goals are far from being clearly defined.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany

As a Sierra Leonean I want to expressed my condolences to the people of Zambia, particularly the families of those fallen heroes in their quest for peace for their fellow Africans. No, their death will not be in vain, Sierra Leone will see peace and those who fought for it will always be remembered for their work.

Peacekeeping like any other profession is a dangerous job, but without them the world will have no peace. The success of this largest UN mission ever is not going to be measured by the number of weapons the opposing factions surrender to them but by what happens after that. Are they going to abandon Sierra Leone? But then it is going to be Sierra Leoneans who will abandon themselves first. If we do that the souls of those who have died to bring peace to us will ever remain to hunt us. May their blessed souls rest in eternal peace.
Cillaty Daboh, USA/ Sierra Leone

The job is dangerous but it has to be done to restore law and order and prevent anarchy. There is nothing like easy money. These Zambian soldiers have not died in vain but with hope that Sierra Leoneans can live in a peaceful environment. Future generations will learn how hard freedom came into being so that they can jealously protect it.
Namara, Canada

The peacekeeping operation is almost a success story for UN in Sierra Leone ;but my only fear is that the UN has again decided to set up a war crimes tribunal for those who committed crimes against humanity, when in fact they have not yet completed the collection of all the weapons in circulation in that country. In my mind, this makes the peacekeeping job a very risky and tedious one, and this will in fact lead to less confidence amongst the belligerents with the peacekeepers. They will start to fear that as soon as they hand in their weapons, they will be tried. Hence this will lead to recourse to war thus creating very new tasks for the UN. I suggest that we forget about the setting up of the tribunal for now, and complete the disarmament and demobilization of combatants, before picking on those who committed those atrocious acts in the civil strife.
Ishmael Bash Kamara, Accra, Ghana

Sierra Leone: Struggle for peace



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