Establishing the credibility of a
regional peacekeeping capability
Recent events have again highlighted the difficulties the United Nations experiences in establishing “peacekeeping” missions where there is no true peace to keep. The insertion of a force under a Chapter VI selfdefence mandate in such circumstances has been acknowledged as both unsuccessful and damaging to the credibility of the United Nations. Despite this it is sometimes hoped that providing more soldiers or “toughening” the mandate for the troops already in theatre will rescue a mission perceptibly failing in circumstances such as Sierra Leone. Neither is viable in an environment where there is less than total commitment by some factions to a peace agreement. An increase in UN forces merely offers a wider range of potential hostages; a change in mandate without the commensurate upgrading of weaponry, training, and command and control to act upon it raises false expectations and heightens the likelihood of a humiliation akin to Srebrenica or Rwanda.
In response to the events in Sierra Leone and the impact of the arrival of a small British contingent, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reportedly noted the need to rethink how troops are equipped and prepared for such operations, which also drawing a comparison with the UN deployment to eastern Slavonia in 1997. A UN assessment team was charged with the task to come to Freetown and uncover what had gone wrong with the peacekeeping mission.
The keyword that explains British success and UN difficulties in Sierra Leone is “credibility”. The British force was trained, equipped, com-