Sierra Leone and the UN: Troubleshooting for peace

For once, British involvement in the latest Sierra Leone crisis looks deceptively straightforward: dangerous and virtuous to be sure, but not genuinely controversial or tactically confused. Critics of the government are queasy about the consequences for the thousand or so troops if this military operation goes wrong. But what else would they have done? Stood by while a warlord army that represents little but its control of the diamond fields brings even more misery to a country that has suffered dreadfully over the last decade?

The World Today
4 minute READ

Michael Clarke

Director General, Royal United Service Institute

Turned away from the democratically elected government that Britain, the US and others pressurised into the deeply-flawed Lome Agreement – an agreement that forced President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to share power with Foday Sankoh and the Revolutionary United Front, who showed no interest in the real business of government? Should Britain have left another UN operation to be defeated and humiliated and yet continue to trumpet its right to be one of the permanent five on the UN Security Council?

Of course, there are undercurrents to Britain’s actions in Sierra Leone. The present government has been a consistent supporter of President Kabbah, but it also needs to live down the embarrassments of the Sandline Affair of 1998 when the Foreign Office seemed to have backed Kabbah by conniving with Sandline mercenaries to break the UN arms embargo.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.