5 March 2014

Sierra Leone: UN Peacekeeping Shutting Down in Sierra Leone After 15 Years

Freetown — At the end of this month, more than 15 years of United Nations peacekeeping operations will end in Sierra Leone. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in the country's capital for two days to mark the occasion.

Peace Muhammad Duada Kamara was just a child when a civil war broke out in his country of Sierra Leone.

"Because when the war break out and we see what is happening, we lost women, children," he said.

He also lost his father during the war, which lasted 11 years, from 1991 to 2002. The war resulted in the deaths of 50,000 people and displaced some two million from their homes.

UNIPSIL, the United Nations Integrated Peacekeeping Office in Sierra Leone, was created in 2008 and took over a previous peacekeeping mission that opened in 1999.

The main objectives were to give political advice, to maintain peace and the promotion and protection of human rights.

At a joint press conference in Freetown on Wednesday with Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the withdrawal of UNIPSIL was a sign of how far the country has come.

"Sierra Leone represents one of the world's most successful cases of post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping and peace building," he said. "Here we have seen great strides towards peace, stability and long-term development."

Ban also noted that a U.N. presence would remain in Sierra Leone, specifically with regards to human rights.

He also spoke of the determination of Sierra Leone's people to put the war behind them.

That is exactly what people like Kamara are trying to do. He started a peace organization last year that aimed to promote peace among youth.

"We visit ghettos, okada [commercial bike] stations, schools and give advice to people and see how we can maintain peace, security and stability," he said.

Not everything is looking up in Sierra Leone. The country still suffers a youth unemployment rate of 60 percent, according to the World Bank.

President Koroma said at the press conference that he was committed to his "agenda for change" and that youth was a priority.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission is slated to close for good on March 31.

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