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USIS Washington File

22 October 1999

UNSC to Establish Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone

(UNAMSIL mandate is for six months) (480)
By William Kramer
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously resolved
October 22 to establish a United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone
(UNAMSIL) and approved a new mandate for regional efforts to implement
a shaky peace agreement.
Security Council Resolution 1270 will send a peacekeeping force to
Sierra Leone for an initial period of six months. The peacekeepers
will supplement the 105-member U.N. Observer Mission (UNOMSIL) already
in the country. The U.N. forces will also assist the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) peacekeeping arm, ECOMOG
(ECOWAS Monitoring Group) in its efforts to demobilize and disarm
combatants, increase the delivery of humanitarian aid, and bring a
lasting peace to Sierra Leone.
In July 1999, the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)
of Sierra Leone signed a peace agreement ending the nine-year
conflict. Mandated by the U.N. in August and led by Nigeria, ECOMOG
was designated to implement the terms of the agreement and bring peace
and security to the country.
U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke, speaking
in support of the resolution, praised the efforts by Nigeria and
ECOMOG as a model of regional peacekeeping.
Holbrooke noted, however, that peace in Sierra Leone has been fragile
and marked by skirmishes. Resolution 1270 condemned recent kidnappings
of UNOMSIL and ECOMOG personnel.
"Peace could be lost without prompt, strong international action right
now," Holbrooke said.
The U.N. peacekeeping force, to be composed of up to 6,000
international troops, will have robust rules of engagement to provide
armed protection for its members, U.N. personnel, aid workers, and
civilians within its areas of deployment. U.N. officials now need to
work out the details of the force's composition and its deployment
Holbrooke, speaking to the Council before the vote, emphasized U.S.
efforts to help victims of a war in which the limbs of children and
teenagers have been amputated as a conscious military strategy and
half the population has been internally displaced. Holbrooke said the
United States has provided $100 million in humanitarian aid over the
last two years and has provided ECOMOG with $16 million in logistical
Holbrooke also said that he had recently consulted with members of the
U.S. Congress and stressed that there must be no appearance of double
standards between supporting peacekeeping missions in Africa and
elsewhere in the world. Holbrooke said that none of the legislators he
spoke with objected to raising the profile of international
peacekeepers in Africa.
In addition to endorsing the UNAMSIL mission, Holbrooke said the
United States strongly supports efforts by the United Nations and
ECOMOG to establish fact-finding groups and truth and reconciliation
commissions in Sierra Leone.
"By supporting this resolution and African peacekeeping," said
Holbrooke, "we will be supporting this process of renewal."

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