Ending The Armed Conflict In Sierra Leone

Ending The Armed Conflict In Sierra Leone

Year(s): 1999 – 2001.

Location: Sierra Leone.

UN Regional Group: Africa.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict with Foreign Involvement.

Type of Initiative: Military intervention and a peacekeeping mission.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The Economic Community of West African States, the UN, and the British government.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The war in Sierra Leone was ended and constitutional rule was re-established by a British military intervention in support of a UN peacekeeping mission after over a decade of conflict and devastation.

Description of Case 

Sierra Leone endured over a decade of armed conflict after the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched an armed rebellion against the government in 1991. The conflict left the country deeply divided, and in 1997, armed rebel groups captured the capital, Freetown.[1] In response, regional leaders deployed the Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) to retake the city, however the intervention met with little progress elsewhere in the country.[2] The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) hosted negotiations between the belligerents in Togo in 1999, culminating with the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord.[3] Among many stipulations, the agreement invited the United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to deploy to Sierra Leone to keep the peace and disarm combatants.

UNAMSIL troops were confronted with major challenges in Sierra Leone, not least because RUF forces largely ignored the cease-fire. The position of the UN peacekeepers became untenable as disarmament locations were attacked and hundreds of personnel were taken prisoner by the RUF.[4] The situation worsened when, in May 2000, the RUF began another major push for Freetown. In response, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited the British government (as the former colonial power in Sierra Leone) to intervene in support UNAMSIL.[5] After initial reconnaissance teams completed their assessments, a force of over 1,200 British troops (supported by many more at sea) entered Sierra Leone, first securing the airport before helping UNAMSIL to rescue its imprisoned or besieged personnel.[6] In August 2000, the UN Security Council declared the RUF to be the cause of continuing conflict and issued UNAMSIL with a mandate to directly support the Sierra Leonean government in their campaign against the organisation rather than attempt to keep the peace.[7] Alongside British and UNAMSIL troops, newly trained units from the Sierra Leonean Army were soon able to force the RUF to the negotiating table.[8] A ceasefire between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF was signed in November 2000, with an additional agreement between the Civil Defence Force (a pro-government paramilitary group) and the RUF being signed in May 2001.[9] Following an extensive Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration process throughout 2001, the war was formally declared over by the Government of Sierra Leone in early 2002. Approximately 70,000 people were killed in the conflict and a further 20,000 were mutilated.

[1] UCDP. Sierra Leone: Government. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/382 (Accessed 14/12/2020)

[2] Cyril Obi. “Economic Community of West African States on the Ground: Comparing Peacekeeping in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, and Côte D’Ivoire.” African Security, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2009) p.125

[3] Peace Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF (Lomé Peace Agreement), 1997. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/sierraleone-lome-agreement99 (Accessed 22/10/2020)

[4] ’Funmi Olonisakin. Peacekeeping in Sierra Leone: The Story of UNAMSIL. (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2008) p.3

[5] Michael Ellison, Richard Norton-Taylor, & Ewen MacAskill. “UN see British forces as only hope.” The Guardian. (2000) Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/may/12/sierraleone.unitednations1 (Accessed 22/10/2020)

[6] Lucy Scott. “A Success Story? The British Intervention in Sierra Leone Revisited.” Oxford Research Group Blog. (2017) Available at: https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/blog/a-success-story-the-british-intervention-in-sierra-leone-revisited (Accessed 14/12/2020); Paul Williams. “Fighting For Freetown: British Military Intervention in Sierra Leone.” Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 22, No. 3. (2001)

[7] United Nations Security Council. Resolution 1313. (2000) Available at: http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/1313 (Accessed 22/10/2020)

[8] Janine di Giovanni. “Sierra Leone, 2000: A Case History in Successful Interventionism.” The New York Review. (2019) Available at: https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/06/07/sierra-leone-2000-a-case-history-in-successful-interventionism/ (Accessed 22/10/2020)

[9] Agreement of Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities between the Sierra Leone Government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), 2000. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/sierraleone-cessationhostilitiesruf2000 (Accessed 14/12/2020); Communiqué on the Cessation of Hostilities between the Civil Defense Force (CDF) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), 2001. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/sierraleone-cessation-hostilities2001 (Accessed 14/12/2020)