The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has held a public lecture on the topic: ‘Sierra Leone in peacekeeping operations: prospects and challenges.’
In her welcome remarks, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mrs. Ebun Jusu, referred to the topic as very appropriate for Sierra Leone in the light of the huge interest the country has invested in peacekeeping, noting that the country has gone through eleven years of devastating civil war in which it benefited from peacekeeping operations by ECOWAS and the United Nations.
“Sierra Leone is happy to pay back as there are Sierra Leonean troops currently serving in Sudan and Somalia, among others,” she recalled.
The Guest Speaker at the lecture session, Defence Minister Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh, said the aim of the lecture was to update participants on Sierra Leone’s involvement in peace keeping operations with a view to making recommendations, keeping in mind the fact that the maintenance of international peace and security is a collective responsibility, pointing out that the United Nations was established to bring hope for peaceful co-existence amongst nations.
He further noted that differences among nations particularly the five permanent member states of the United Nations had widened and the world ushered in an era of a cold war. He also stated that new conflicts have emerged as a result of the polarization of nations that characterized the cold war, observing that many of these conflicts could not be resolved by peaceful means but needed to be stopped so that they do not degenerate into broader violence and destruction.
The Minister outlined a range of peacekeeping activities undertaken by the United Nations to maintain international peace and security, noting that peacekeeping is a flexible exercise. He stressed that over the past two decades peacekeeping has been successfully employed in many situations around the world.
He disclosed that currently there are seventeen UN peace keeping operations deployed on the four continents of Africa, America, Asia and Europe. These, he went on, are deployed generally to act as neutral buffers between conflicting parties.
Citing Africa generally, the Guest Speaker said many peace keeping missions have been deployed to resolve civil conflicts emanating from ethnic or religious tensions, extreme poverty, uneven distribution of natural resources and mal-administration by Governments which are often more difficult to resolve than conflicts between states.
He highlighted some of the challenges involved in peacekeeping, among them being funding. He said he was however very optimistic about prospects for Sierra Leone’s involvement in international peacekeeping, which he said were very high.