UN mission folds up in Sierra Leone
By Aminata Phidelia Allie
The United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) has officially ended its operations in the country after more than 15 years of “successive peace and political operations that all played critical roles in supporting Sierra Leone’s remarkable transition from war to peace”.
At a colourful ceremony at Bintumani yesterday following a joint State House press briefing, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon presented a UN blue helmet to President Ernest Bai Koroma to mark the occasion.
He said “Sierra Leone represents one of the world’s most successful cases of post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping and peace building”.
He said the transition from UNIPSIL, which was a political mission, to a more development-focused UN presence was testament to the determination of Sierra Leoneans to put war behind them, adding that “here, we have seen great strides towards peace, stability and long-term development”.
The UN boss who leaves the country this morning, expressed delight in the fact that the police and the army were serving in the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, describing the move as “a powerful example of the country’s progress, and growing professionalism and institutional development of its security forces”.
Ban advised other countries now at war to “draw hope from Sierra Leone’s inspiring example of the power of international solidarity and national resolve to overcome even the most brutal conflicts”.
President Ernest Bai Koroma lauded the peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts of the UN but cautioned that there were still challenges including “a huge youth unemployment and empowerment challenge”.
So far, he said, it had been a success story for the country “where war erupted 23 years ago, governance and other structures collapsed. But with the UN support we have witnessed the end of the war, built institutions and addressed internal conflicts with the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, held peaceful elections and restructured and trained security personnel”.
Koroma said he was particularly glad that there was as much a UN military presence in Sierra Leone at the time as there was now a Sierra Leonean military presence in other countries ensuring peace and stability. He added that the country had moved from a collapsed economy to the “second fastest growing economy in the world” adding, “We are a reservoir of success”.
He explained that the closure of UNIPSIL was not the end of the UN in the country because “your presence here is very important”. He also acknowledged the “pivotal role” of the UN in the transition of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, adding however, “There are still technical and financial challenges. But the SLBC has however been very diverse in the area of information and coverage and reach, far more than any other time in the history of this country”, the president said.
He promised the country’s commitment to sustainable peace and development because “the war has brought out the worst in Sierra Leone”.
UNIPSIL is a follow-on mission from UNIPSIL, which at the height of the civil war was the largest peacekeeping force in the world.
(C) Politico 06/03/14