As the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) comes to a close at the end of this year, it may serve as a model for successful peacekeeping, as well as a prototype for the UN’s new emphasis on peacebuilding.
In the summer of 2000 things just couldn’t have been much worse for the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Since February, 1998, nearly 650 persons – peacekeepers, relief workers, priests, nuns, diplomats, and normal people whose luck had run out – had been kidnapped, and 19 of them had been murdered. 575 of those taken were Blue Berets, the equivalent of a whole battalion. By late summer of 2000, about 600 persons had been released, including all of the UN peacekeepers. But about 50 were still captive and, when 11 British soldiers were seized on 25 August, things were getting pretty serious. Yet, less than two years later, the civil war had ended (and seems to have stayed that way), and in 2003 the Kimberly Process virtually ended traffic in the “blood diamonds”, which had been used to finance the rebels. In 2004 the disarmament of the rebel factions was completed and a war crimes tribunal was convened. At the end of 2005, just five years after that nadir of 2000, the peacekeeping mission was being phased out to a peacebuilding mission, and the close-out briefings in New York were presenting this as the poster child of a successful mission.