< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: United Nations Ends Mission in Sierra Leone

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

United Nations Ends Mission in Sierra Leone

From Reuters:

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, which at one time was the biggest in the world with 17,500 troops, is pulling out six years after the blue helmets were dispatched to the West African country to help end a brutal civil war.

The force got off to a disastrous start when it first deployed, with hundreds of ill-equipped troops taken hostage by rebels accused of hacking off civilians' hands and feet.

But with considerable help from Sierra Leone's former colonial power Britain, UNAMSIL became recognized as a model for peacekeeping and reconstruction of police, army and public institutions ruined by years of war.

The departing U.N. troops leave behind new or renovated bridges, hospitals, mosques and churches as monuments to the rebuilding of a shattered nation, but analysts said the country must overcome serious challenges in the years ahead.

"No. 1 is youth unemployment. This is one of the major causes of the war in 1991, and there are more unemployed people in Sierra Leone today," said Mike McGovern, West Africa project director for think tank International Crisis Group.
Economic inertia and corruption are blamed for fueling a Liberian-backed rebellion whose young, drug-taking fighters seized the eastern diamond fields, terrorized civilians and smuggled precious stones out through Liberia to buy more guns.

That was a trigger for the world diamond industry's Kimberley Process initiative to certify all rough stones as free of the taint of war to end trade in "blood diamonds."

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