oa ACCORD Occasional Paper - The United Nations in Sierra Leone : tracing steps to a stumbling peace

Volume 2000, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1608-3954



During May 2000, the international community watched in dismay and horror as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) captured more than 500 United Nations (UN) military peacekeepers and observers. This action was the final blow to the Lomé Peace Agreement, which had been signed less than a year before. The conflict flared on 1 May 1999, when RUF excombatants went to the Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration Centre in Makeni, and demanded that the UN hand over to them several recently disarmed RUF combatants, as well as their weapons. When UN troops prevented them from entering the facility, the RUF combatants detained three military observers and four peacekeepers from a Kenyan Battalion. More confrontations ensued in the northern and western parts of the country, such as Magburaka, Kailahun, Port Loko and Mile 91. Unfortunately, this action took place at a time when the West African intervention force, ECOMOG, was withdrawing its troops. A week later, rebels opened fire and killed numerous civilians who were protesting outside the house of Foday Sankoh, leader of the RUF. For several weeks there were regular accounts of rebels destroying and looting property, killing and mutilating civilians, and abducting and re-recruiting disarmed ex-combatants. UN personnel were also captured. Consequently, the fragile peace process was shattered. This article will attempt to ascertain how and why the peace process failed? In order to do this, one must first look at the events that occurred between the time the Lomé Agreement was signed in July 1999, and the UN troops were taken hostage in May 2000.

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