Wednesday, December 21, 2005

UN peacekeepers to leave Sierra Leone

The IRIN news service reports that the UN peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone is winding down.. Once the largest peacekeeping mission in the world, UNAMSIL has disarmed and demobilised over 72,000 combatants and collected and destroyed over 30,000 arms, explained head of mission, [Daudi Ngelautwa] Mwakawago.

During the 1990s, Sierra Leone was destroyed by arguably the most savage civil war in modern times.

Mwakawago warns that the peacekeepers' departure is just the first step in a long road to recovery. “If you imagine that UNAMSIL was spread over the country like a beautiful carpet, well now the time has come to roll that carpet back, and what you might find underneath may not be very good,” he explains.

The UN mission has trained over 9000 new national police officers and helped the central government reestablish authority throughout the country. These will be critical in helping the country return a stability necessary for the ruined economy and obscene rate of unemployment to improve.

However, there is certainly precedent for hope. In the early 90s, Mozambique had just seen the definitive end of a long civil war that left the country in ruins. But thanks to a lot of help from the UN and international non-governmental organizations as well as the willingness of the former warring factions to buy into the basic tenets of electoral politics, Mozambique is now a stable, if imperfect, democracy experiencing excellent economic growth. Sierra Leone has the same potential if its political class is willing to accept the same norms and to fight corruption.

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