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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
British rescue in Sierra Leone: Was it right?

British forces have carried out a daring and dramatic operation in Sierra Leone to rescue the seven hostages - including six British troops - held in captivity by the West Side Boys militia.

News and Information for Africa
The Sierra Leonean Government praised the British operation and said it sent a message to other rebel groups to give up their weapons.

But that still leaves the larger Revolutionary United Front rebels who control a large chunk of Sierra Leone - especially the mineral-rich provinces of the east.

So what impact will the British rescue operation have on the situation in Sierra Leone? Were the British special forces right in the action they carried out?

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


Your reaction


Britain's intervention in Sierra Leone could mark the turning point for Africa

David Mann, UK/ USA
The arrival and action of British troops in Sierra Leone has undoubtedly prevented another African genocide and lies in stark contrast to the actions of the French and Belgians in Rwanda. While Rwanda served only to reinforce colonial stereotypes, Britain's intervention in Sierra Leone could mark the turning point for Africa.
David Mann, UK/ USA

What the British soldiers did in Sierra Leone is brave and commendable but the war has just started. The peace keeping mission is proving more dangerous each day and the UN must move to encourage fast and effective ways of bringing peace to conflict points in the world. Britain should not bask in past glory as it may be short-lived.
John Cheboi, Kenya

Thanks to PM Tony Blair and his military boys who were involved in the operation. However, I think it is time that the British government committed itself more to the affairs of African countries like Nigeria. They should support and help ECOMOG soldiers with more military weapons and finances and let Nigeria lead the eradication of merciless killings, exploitation and extortion brought to Africa by slavery and colonialism.
Joel Obia, Nigeria/ USA

I would like to congratulate the British army for a job well done. This will surely diminish the morale among the West Side Boys. They are nothing but mere thugs who prey on their own brothers and sisters.
Charles Merab, USA

I want to unequivocally cast my vote for Sierra Leone to voluntarily go back under British rule. The so-called elected government which controls only 10% of the country is unable and unwilling to protect the people.
Morsal O. Collier, Sierra Leonean in USA

We have been losing lives to the white man ever since he came to Africa hundreds of years ago. The action that the UK Government took was a criminal act and it is a shame that our leaders in Africa did not respond.
Koshin Mohamud, USA/ Somalia


You cannot negotiate with thugs and deranged criminals

Tonny Ssemakula, UK/ Uganda
The British Government was totally justified in mounting this daring operation, after all they had a moral obligation to bring their Boys out of this mess. You cannot negotiate with thugs and deranged criminals, the only language they understand is violence, so why not deliver the same in overwhelming doses. Maybe they'll think twice in future before bringing misery to their brothers and sisters and shame to the African people.
Tonny Ssemakula, UK/ Uganda

I commend the British paratroopers for being successful in their operation without causing harm to the hostages. However, it is too early to say whether they were right or wrong because we don't know how the RUF is going interpret this signal.
Alimamy Fakulie Kamara, Minnesota, USA

The rescue was a good job despite the dead left behind. It is also high time Africans understood that if people really cared about our situation, such operations could help save countries such as Congo and Ethiopia from trouble.
Kongolo Rapha, Congo (DR)


What kind of rescue leaves a total of 26 dead and claims it's successful?

Mr M. Karanja, UK
The act was murder and not rescue! What kind of rescue leaves a total of 26 dead and claims it's successful? Not one of the African leaders has condemned such an act! The so-called West Side boys are the nationals of Sierra Leone and they deserve to be listened to, not sprayed with bullets. It is the high time these colonialists leave Africa alone as we don't need them to kill our people!
Mr M. Karanja, UK

The action taken by the British Government sends a very loud message not only to the thugs in Sierra Leone but to all terrorists around the world that this kind of behaviour has no place in a civilised world. The so-called West Side boys are nothing more than a group of common criminals with no legitimate agenda, that have brought unthinkable pain and shame to their countrymen. Many thanks to PM Tony Blair and his Government for this very just rescue mission.
Ato K, Ethiopia

I lament at the loss of your military officer, may his soul rest in perfect peace. Your action against those senseless creatures deserves praise. May my prayer for all your soldiers be that, no matter how rough the road of life becomes for them sometime, may they always find that the Lord's hand is there to guide them. Please do not withdraw your forces.
Hassan S. Tarawali, USA (Maryland)

Another splendid effort by the world's most professional army. How strange that not a word was mentioned in either the German press or the radio/ TV news on that date.
Jan Grootenboer, Germany

I think that what the British paratroopers did over the weekend in Sierra Leone was the right and appropriate thing to do. The West Side Boys cannot and should not hold innocent people as hostages. I believe the action of the British forces will send the right message to terrorists that the world is sick and tired of those who do not value their own lives and want to make other people's lives miserable. Those captured West Side Boys should be executed by firing squad.
Joseph K. Blay, Ghana

I totally support the British action but the whole operation was conducted in order to save British lives. Britain in general seems unwilling to commit any of its armed forces in international disputes unless its own nationals are in danger. In Kosovo we ruled out a ground war, and in Sierra Leone Robin Cook has been reluctant to leave troops out there for any extended period, except to train soldiers. It seems the politicians are worried by casualties but in Britain I don't think that we suffer from the 'body bag syndrome' like the US. Our society is well educated and accepts that what is happening in Sierra Leone is disgraceful and that as a world power and with historic links to the country, Britain should be doing much more.
J. Keates, St. Albans, England


I think the real praise should go to the Blair Government

Beatus, Nigeria
I think the real praise should go to the Blair Government. I am not sure where British public opinion lies with regard to British troops on African soil, but if anything had gone wrong during the operation, people would be calling for his head. In a situation like that in Sierra Leone where military involvement doesn't provide political nor economic capital as that in Kuwait, the only reward is knowing that what you've done is right.
Beatus, Nigeria

The rescue was successful and the hostages are free. Sadly one British soldier lost his life but now what? What force is going to ensure that the principal rebel group - the RUF - is defeated in detail and the foundations for long-term peace are laid in Sierra Leone? Right now the professional forces in SL - both the UN and the UK - are not prepared to take the fight to the RUF and destroy their capability once and for all. Until this happens, peace in Sierra Leone will be an unattainable dream for the long-suffering people of that country.
Mark Green, London, UK

Congratulations to all the British forces who participated and congratulations to the British Government for deciding to act.
Gysel Peter, Belgium

I have a brother currently serving with the Royal Irish Regiment in Sierra Leone and so of course I'm delighted that the hostages have been freed (albeit at the expense of the life of a paratrooper). However the essential question is: What is the British army doing training Africans anyway? The continent has suffered terribly at the hands of unscrupulous and incompetent leaders but the greatest tragedy of all is that there is no end in sight. Despite this, these are African problems that must be sorted out one way or another by African people. The Western powers should back off and stop trying to relive their days of empire and African leaders need to stop complaining about the injustice of the colonial years and start to govern their countries instead of just plundering them.
Simon O´Hara, Mexico

The operation itself shows us that a small professional force can make breakfast of a lot of the cowards that roam our country whose claims to militarism lie in according themselves unearned titles (General, Colonel, etc) and in unleashing bestial brutality on their compatriots. I never thought I would say this to my former colonial master, but thanks Britain for a job well done.
Kelfala M. Kallon, Sierra Leone/ USA


Sometimes in our lives, there are things worth fighting for

James R. Davis, Canada
I have been to Sierra Leone and seen the tragedy first hand. I have also been a soldier and a UN peacekeeper, including Rwanda during the genocide in 1994. Sometimes in our lives, there are things worth fighting for. The average citizen of Sierra Leone is a good person who has had to live under the constant threat of murder, rape, mutilation and torture by thugs who publicly brag about their activities. If this isn't one of those times that the cause is worth the risk of a fight, then it is a sad statement on our "civilised" world.
James R. Davis, Canada

Well done to the British. They were exactly right in what they did this weekend.
Rhoda, Sierra Leone

I am glad that the hostages were rescued and I suppose that British action was justified. But I wonder what people would be saying had more British soldiers or SAS men been killed?
Sanyu, London, UK

The rescue operation by the Paras and the SAS was the best thing that has happened on this continent this year. The time has long been due to teach thugs, warlords, tyrants and dictators that violence begets greater violence. This is the only lesson they will learn. It's a great pity that the UN lacks the conviction of the British.
A. Fletcher, South Africa


These missions in Africa, while well intentioned, are extremely dangerous and thankless

Kevin, USA
Thank God these men were saved. Sierra Leone has Somalia written all over it. I hope that British soldiers are not slaughtered and pulled dead and naked through the streets as our men were in Mogadishu in 1993. These missions in Africa, while well intentioned, are extremely dangerous and thankless.
Kevin, USA

The rescue operation came in two long weeks late. The sting is that the government commends it. Such decisive action is what the south is asking for. For the remaining RUF rebels, there should be waiting for them to talk hostages before acting. Go in now, and do your work. The mighty Britain should be more active even in other areas like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Burma, etc. You are abdicating you role and will surely pay.
Getheyo Chege, Kenya

I hope this British Operation is not sending the wrong signal. Everything is at stake here. Can I say that again: Rights don`t always win. My best wishes to the people of Sierra-Leone. MAY PEACE REIGN SUPREME!
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria


It is clear that the blitz in that country is everybody's business

Claudia Anthony, Germany
It appears that the nationality of the bulk of the hostages flagged the British to their senses. At the hands of rebels and sobels, uncountable lives and property perished and continue to, over the past nine years. This is the underlying factor why Sierra Leoneans called for a military intervention during the AFRC reign, but Westminster was concerned about Sandline.
The world has witnessed the impact of the British operation and could never again falter in making decisions on using the language (of force) preferred by warmongers.
Should the RUF had been spoken to in the language that it knows best, the United Nations would not have been disrobed, disarmed and disgraced in the first place. Probably now, it is clear that the blitz in that country is everybody's business.
Claudia Anthony, Germany

It was not only just but timely and robust. The West Side Boys like their counterparts all over the world are not gods but fools who will never change. It was also an affront to the might of the British.
The only snag is that people will be wondering if the almost ten years of incursion should have been stopped if the British troops took such an action many years ago thereby saving the lives, limbs and the degradation of women among the countless human rights abuses. Sierra Leoneans are now looking up to them to save the entire nation in the midst of a divided and demoralised UN force.
Henry Williams, New York/Sierra Leone


The actions taken show the various militias that they cannot continue to terrorise the Sierra Leonean people

James, UK
The British were exactly right in what they did this weekend, in fact it is one of the only actions where I have agreed whole-heartedly with this government. The actions taken show the various militias that they cannot continue to terrorise the Sierra Leonean people and thumb their noses at international peacekeeping.
The rich Western nations (and Russia), and most importantly the world's remaining super power have a duty to help the African peoples after years of using them as play things in the Cold War or mistreating them as colonial subjects. It is very easy to dismiss current African troubles as the fault of the peoples involved but to do so is a gross simplification of the true causes of the problems.
The UN needs to be given the powers and support it needs in order for it to take such actions as we saw this weekend and begin finally to fulfil its mandate and bring peace to the people of the world.
James, UK

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31 Aug 00 | Africa
Who are the West Side Boys?
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