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Vol 41 No 12

Published 9th June 2000

Sierra Leone

Moving the mandate

The credibility of the UN and British missions depends on the contest between around 25,000 Sierra Leonean fighters

The future of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government and of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (Unamsil) rests on a hastily constructed security pyramid. At its apex are Sierra Leone's 'teeth forces', a disparate grouping of serving and former government soldiers and their allies. At the base is the British military component, a taskforce of about 800 paratroopers, marines and special forces, most of whom are due to leave in mid-June but will be on standby if the government is threatened again. Sandwiched between the British and the Sierra Leonean forces is the UN military mission, whose strength has been bolstered from 11,000 to 13,000 troops; UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has now asked the UN Security Council to approve a further increase of the force to 16,500, making it the biggest UN peacekeeping mission since that in Cambodia. Total failure, in the sense of the Kabbah government being overthrown and the Revolutionary United Front invading Freetown, is unlikely now: both the UN and the British government are locked into preventing that. Equally, real success for Unamsil and sustainable peace look elusive. As Africa Confidential went to press, the pro-Kabbah forces were making steady progress against scattered RUF units north-east of Freetown. The Kabbah forces were set on moving into the RUF's northern stronghold of Makeni and then moving east towards the RUF's diamonds heartland in Kono district.

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