UN Calls for Increased Military Presence in Sierra Leone

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(Rapaport…January 17, 2002) United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an increase in the number of UN peacekeeping troops present in Sierra Leone from the current 13,000 to 20,000. Annan said the threat from Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels should not be underestimated, and that the presence of the international community is essential for the foreseeable future.

Annan said that at some point, peacekeepers may have to be deployed in key diamond-mining areas of the country that are presently in rebel hands. The BBC reports that even after the civil war and the disarmament process have both formally ended in Sierra Leone, illegal diamond mining still occurs.

Armed British military advisers have already joined Sierra Leonean troops on the country’s borders with Liberia and Guinea in an attempt to secure the region ahead of Sierra Leone’s elections in May. The British advisers are not part of the official UN mission, though they will work closely with it.

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