|THE PERILS OF PEACEKEEPING|
May 9, 2000
SUAREZ: For more on U.N. peacekeeping, we turn to John Bolton, former assistant
secretary of state for international organization affairs during the Bush administration.
He is senior vice president of American Enterprise Institute. Chris Fomunyoh is
regional director for the National Democratic Institute's West, Central, and East
Africa programs. He is a citizen of Cameroon. Alec Morrison is president of the
Lester Pearson International Peacekeeping Center. He is a former official at Canada's
mission to the U.N. and a retired Canadian army colonel, and Sir Brian Urquhart
is former undersecretary general of the United Nations responsible for peacekeeping.
|The U.N mission and the Sierra Leone crisis|
BRIAN URQUHART, Former U.N. Undersecretary General: Well, I think a number of things have gone wrong. In the first place we're using old-fashioned peace-keeping techniques which were very good in maintaining the peace between different countries but don't work so well when you're dealing with a complete breakdown in one country with rebels, warlords, thugs and so on. And I don't know why the U.N. hasn't learned that lesson yet. Secondly, I think that it is absolutely essential for the U.N., if it's going to intervene in these internal disorders, to have a small properly trained, motivated, really tough core group of spearheads to go in and establish the U.N.'s position before the rest of the peace-keeping force arrives. If that isn't done, I think we shall see more disasters of the kind we're now witnessing in Sierra Leone.
RAY SUAREZ: Alex Morrison, in your view, how did the Sierra Leone mission come to this?
ALEX MORRISON, Pearson International Peacekeeping Center: I think the Sierra Leone mission came to this because the United Nation's peacekeeping forces are not as professional as they should be, they're not as well trained as they should, don't have the proper rules of engagement, and most of all, member states of the United Nations do not back up the resolutions passed by the Security Council. They are legally bound to do so but they don't do it. The Security Council passes a resolution and then it's up to the secretary general to go cap in hand to member states. What I think we have to do in Sierra Leone is we have to stabilize the situation now by military and diplomatic means, we then have to look to the future in Sierra Leone, but we have to look to the whole future of peacekeeping and be determined and resolve that every military peace-keeper we deploy in the future is going to be professional, is going to be well trained, and is going to be able to respond to crisis situations.
RAY SUAREZ: John Bolton?
JOHN BOLTON, Former State Department Official: Well, in the first place, the United Nations should not be in Sierra Leone at all. This is fundamentally a civil war. It does have international aspects where the parties get their weapons, but it's fundamentally a civil war. And the jurisdictional limit for the U.N. Security Council is threats and breeches to international peace and security. However bad the situation in Sierra Leone is, this is not a threat to international peace and security. Second, the conditions for traditional peacekeeping success simply don't exist. And those are the consent of the parties to the UN mission and the U.N.'s ability to function neutrally. The deal that was supposedly signed here is obviously not a deal. There's no grounds to believe that's going to change any time soon, which is why I would pull the peacekeepers out. Finally, the idea that the United Nations is going to enforce peace here in Sierra Leone is contrary to what the Security Council originally envisaged and I think fundamentally contrary to what members of the Council are really willing to undertake. That may be too bad but it's a fact of life.
RAY SUAREZ: Chris Fomunyoh, how do you respond to that?
CHRIS FOMUNYOH, National Democratic Institute: I have to say first of all that I believe there's a political component to the Lome Accord that was thin at the beginning.
RAY SUAREZ: The deal that was signed to bring the civil war to a close?
CHRIS FOMUNYOH: Exactly. That was the accord that was signed in July of 1999. At that point the political will... did not exist among the Sierra Leone parties to be able to move the country from a civil war situation into a peacetime situation. And in the last nine months I don't think we've seen an effort to develop and build even more political will on the ground in Freetown. Unfortunately, while everybody tends to look at the technicalities of having a peacekeeping force on the ground, people have tended to ignore the political institutions that should have been put in place to sustain whatever peace came up during the accord. With that said, I would disagree with john that having sent in the peacekeeping forces in the first case, it would be a very wrong signal at this time to pull the plug. I think the stakes are much higher now for Sierra Leone, for the United Nations and for peacekeeping missions all over the world.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, you gentlemen have been talking about a flawed mission, a bad design, not necessarily an optimal force. How does this leave the table set for any possible peacekeeping in the Congo? Sir Brian?
BRIAN URQUHART: I think that John Bolton has made a very persuasive argument about what has gone wrong. Unfortunately, I think that the political situation in the world today is such that the UN cannot refuse to intervene in situations like Sierra Leone or indeed the Congo, a little further South. I don't know... it seems to me, this is a matter for government to discuss very seriously. If they task the United Nations to do very, very difficult tasks within the boundaries of a single state, I think they've got to give it the means, the resources, the people, the training, infrastructure to make sure that it can actually do what it sets out to do. If that doesn't happen then I think there's no question, the UN and indeed the unfortunate people in the country concerned are going to suffer.
|Africa's other troubled country: Congo|
RAY SUAREZ: John Bolton, where does this leave us when we look toward the Congo?
JOHN BOLTON: I think it's very troubling. In the case of the Congo, I do think that's a matter involving national peace and security. National boundaries are affected. There are fighting forces from different countries involved. I think it does pass that important jurisdiction and political test.
RAY SUAREZ: How do you design a mission....
JOHN BOLTON: I must tell you I'm extremely worried that the political conditions in the Congo don't exist either. I think this is fundamentally not a matter of technique or operational details. This really is fundamentally a matter of whether the parties to the dispute agree that they want to achieve a resolution and agree that the UN role is useful in obtaining that. Unless that agreement is reached, this is not the fault of the UN or the secretary general or the secretary. It's the fault of the member governments of the Security Council that give these peacekeepers a mission they cannot possibly achieve.
RAY SUAREZ: Alex Morrison, in the case of the Congo, you've got several armies in the field, very few shared agendas, a vast land area. Could you design a mission that's going to work better than the one that is currently unraveling in Sierra Leone?
ALEX MORRISON: You certainly could design a mission. However, I think, first of all, that what's happening in Sierra Leone is going to have the great influence on those governments who will be asked to provide forces to the Congo. Second, of course, the Security Council has no professional military advice organized in any way. There is a military staff committee, but that's composed only of military representatives of five countries. I think there has to be greater heed paid by the Security Council members to military advice. We know darned well that in Bosnia, certain governments and the secretary had said tens of thousands are needed in Srebrenica and those people were never provided. We can no longer stand for the Security Council passing resolutions and then in effect heaving alongside and taking a vacation. We cannot leave it to the secretary general to go cap in hand. I think the Congo force is in danger of not being enacted if we don't clean up the act in Sierra Leone and indeed in all peace-keeping of the future.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Chris Fomunyoh, you talked about political will and how it's been lacking. Is there political will to do a better job in Congo?
CHRIS FOMUNYOH: I worry about that. We have to keep it in the broader context of how Africa is perceived or how Africans view the interest of the political community in Africa. I mean it's of the sense that if the UN peacekeeping force cannot work in a country as small as Sierra Leone, it's going to be even more difficult in a country as large as the Congo with a lot of other players both domestic and regional. I think it's important that Africans feel that the crisis that has taken place on the continent also will draw the same level of attention and interest and desire to resolve them as happens in other parts of the world. Or else we're going to have cynicism that the world doesn't care about Africa and we can have good public declarations without backing them up with the material and financial resources required.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, is it significant to you that national armies from the largest, richest and most developed nations are not involved in these forces that are being proposed for Africa?
CHRIS FOMUNYOH: My sense is that, you know, African countries can even provide the forces but there are many ways in which established democracies with help because after all in the case of Sierra Leone we're talking about a government that was democratically elected that is being threatened by a group of armed rebels. If that precedent is allowed to be established in Sierra Leone then we jeopardize the Nigerias and the South Africas that have gone through difficult transitions and that are working so hard to try to institutionalize democratic government. It's very important that we deal with this very seriously in Sierra Leone.
|United Nations: mission's and money|
RAY SUAREZ: Brian Urquhart, you earlier talked of how countries that need help shouldn't be turned away by the United Nations but Kofi Annan certainly has more will than wallet. He's had a hard time funding some of these operations, 15 currently going around the world. Can the UN do much more in the way of missions in the field than it's doing right now?
BRIAN URQUHART: Well, there is, I think, very often the path has been a strong contrast between the number and size of missions and tasks given to the UN and the resources that are made available to carry those missions out. That's certainly the case today. I think it is also true that it's extremely difficult in the current climate of opinion all over the world to turn down countries, which are demonstrably on the television in terrible agony for their people, and this is a problem which I don't think the governments or the UN has been really able so far to face up to. There is obviously a limit to the number of peacekeeping operations that the UN can do and as John Bolton has pointed out there should be a very serious limit on the conditions in which those operations are undertaken. There are some conditions that make UN peacekeeping operations completely impossible. In Sierra Leone I think that a huge effort will have to be made now to reinstate the peacekeeping operations and see if they can go from there to some kind of peaceful settlement. It's going to be very difficult.
RAY SUAREZ: John Bolton, what would you like to see before the next soldier from anywhere in the world is committed to a mission anywhere?
JOHN BOLTON: I think that the UN needs to relearn the lessons of peacekeeping that made it successful in years past and that did provide some really important successes -- in addition to those mentioned that got it the Nobel Prize, the election in Namibia, in 1989, that led to full independence from South Africa, the role that the UN played in Central America at the end of the cold war and in Mozambique in conducting a successful end to the civil conflict there. But the key to that is that the parties to the conflict truly agree to a resolution and truly agree to a UN role. There is a tendency among diplomats particularly from western countries to go to the UN and say, "let's give this problem to the Security Council," which is a convenient way of getting it off their domestic, political agendas. The United States is particularly guilty of this kind of offense. It is a mistake for us to believe that we're really solving a problem by giving it to the United Nations, by deploying peacekeepers into a context where they have no realistic hope of achieving their mission. These are not war-fighting forces. They are not able to impose their will. They're there with the consent of the parties and to act in a neutral fashion. That consent disappears when neutrality becomes impossible. Parties ought to understand that the UN's next step is to withdraw.
RAY SUAREZ: Alex Morrison, does that mean that the UN should be more exacting in its standards about where to intervene, have a peace to keep, for instance, before it makes a commitment?
ALEX MORRISON: Well, you have to remember that the true aim of peace keeping is the saving of lives and the alleviation of human suffering. As Brian Urquhart has said quite correctly, I don't think that individual countries in the international community can stand aside and let all of these slaughters continue without doing anything. I do believe that the United Nations needs to have more exacting, more enhanced professional standards for the military peacekeepers that are deployed. I also believe that member states of the United Nations should live up their obligations to pay their dues. They are legally required to do so, and I think at this time there may well be as many as a third or close to a half of United Nations member states, which will not paid their regular assessment or their peace keeping assessments. I think what's happening in Sierra Leone is a crisis for that country, of course, but it's also a crisis for peacekeeping for the United Nations. And unless we do insist on more professionalism, unless we do insist on a well trained vanguard going in first to set up the theater, then I think peacekeeping will flounder into the future.
RAY SUAREZ: But they've got to get it right in Sierra Leone first before anything else happens?
ALEX MORRISON: I think they do have to get it right in Sierra Leone. There has to be something in there now to establish confidence, to stabilize the situation, and then to move to some sort of political negotiations. I would think that many countries would be hesitant to commit to Africa unless Sierra Leone is stabilized. And I think that's a shame because there are many places in Africa that can use the service of the United Nations' peacekeepers, civilian and military. I would hate to see operations in the Congo held hostage to Sierra Leone but I really think that's the way it's got to be. At one point we've got to decide to get it right and we've got to be professional.
RAY SUAREZ: Gentlemen, thank you all.
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