(Rapaport…October 6, 2005) The countdown to United Nations peacekeeping withdrawal from Sierra Leone is moving fast, but peacekeepers said the six-year-long mission is hardly complete.
Sierra Leone faces extensive poverty, illiteracy, and finding employment for the vast majority of unemployed young men, most of whom are former child soldiers, said United Nations representative Daudi Mwakawago.
“We have kept the peace, but the country is fragile. We can’t continue with the peacekeeping. We need peace building,” Mwakawago said.
The United Nations estimates that Sierra Leone requires about $1.7 billion in investments to end corruption and build good government institutions. A two-day donors conference is scheduled in London on November 29, 2005.
Mwakawago calls the current state of Sierra Leone “very explosive,” and that the former soldiers know only those skills trained from war, “and we don’t want them to go into that trade” again.
War broke out in Sierra Leone in part to control the country’s diamonds and natural resources. Since year 2000 diamond exports have risen from $10 million to $130 million. Mwakawago said half of diamond exports and diamond mining is still not under control.
The United Nations Security Council voted to withdraw peacekeepers from Sierra Leone on December 31, 2005. Mwakawago contends that it is unlikely the country will revert to war because most of the nation’s 5 million are “tired of fighting” and the scars of war live as daily reminders across the country.