Peacekeeping as we know it grew up as a compromise, using minimal force and generally only being employed with the consent of the warring parties. Military observers, usually unarmed, might monitor a ceasefire or peace agreement. Later came peace enforcement operations, in which armed peacekeepers were authorised to use force to prevent further bloodshed. Today more complex peacekeeping operations use a great variety of specialist skills to give societies, shattered by war, an essential space in which to rebuild themselves. To research and understand the goings on within a United Nations peace keeping mission is an emotion-laden task.
A critique of such missions necessitates interpretation of the implications of loss of life, ill-treatment of civilians and peace keeping personnel; such an undertaking is emotively challenging and deeply affecting. Having said that, it serves only to strengthen and reaffirm the increasing necessity of an organisation such as the United Nations to exist and operate with conscience and cause in our globalised world. The factors contributing to the success and failure of the United Nations peacekeeping operations are examined in this essay with the support of four specific examples.
These examples are all post-cold war era so as to reflect a more recent and up to date idea of how the operations might function and to give a more contemporary view of the ongoing influence that these missions have had, especially in a post-‘9/11′ climate. The four operations to be examined are classified by country, rather than mission. Accordingly, this essay focuses on those operations deployed in Somalia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. As recent history, balanced resources in the form of published assessment of these operations are both limited and scarce.
Therefore the critique is, in large part, my own and ased upon the weight of facts which dictate the history of these operations. As will become apparent, the history of these peace keeping operations is one of perseverance and endurance for all involved. Although this essay may well appear critical in parts a strong respect remains at all times for the operations and all which is involved in them. Their efforts, successful or not, continue to make a positive difference as an international moral stand against operations and violation of humanity.
Somalia can be seen as one of the first examples of post-cold war peace eeping and marked a new era for the United Nations. It was a chance for the United Nations to exercise its effectiveness and to demonstrate the necessity and effectiveness of peace keeping in what had become a new, progressive, political climate. It became an experiment to see whether or not it was possible. Of course it was thought that an international organization of such size and international support would easily be effective in the Somalia conflict, but like the checkered history preceding the peace keepers this would prove to be untrue.
The deployment of United Nations Peace Corps was slow and nefficient. This was linked not only to their concurrent involvement in various operations in Iraq but also to the fact that United Nations representatives and infrastructure had already been withdrawn from Somalia which made it even more difficult to set up in a dysfunctional collapsed state. A minor success was the agreement, in New York, of a cease-fire which allowed for further action to take place with little resistance. Throughout 1992 the United Nations Security Council made a number of resolutions that would help the establishment of a peace keeping operation.
This was to be seen as a “bottom up” strategy within the various tribal elements which made up Somalia’s political landscape . UNOSOM I (United Nations operations in Somalia I) was deployed with some difficulty, including a two month wait to establish an agreement to have unarmed observers in the country. This highlighted a frustrating element of bureaucracy within the administration of the United Nations. It appeared to many to be detrimental to the United Nations idea of dealing with situations in a timely fashion before they worsen.
The main functions of he operation were to monitor the agreed upon cease fire and secure harbours and airports thus ensuring the delivery of aid to areas in need. It was access to these crucial areas which caused the most problematic elements for the operation. Furthermore, security of routes was severely undermined by opposition forces. The US-led UNITAF (United task force) intervened and had to use Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to deploy “all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations”.
UNOSOM II was implemented as the UNITAF operation but seemed to make little headway. There had been adverse action against the very people they were trying to protect from various warlord-led factions that they had been trying to disarm. It had become obvious that the planning of the operations had not been as clear as the initial statement of the charter had suggested. UNOSOM II served as an amalgamation of UNOSOM I and UNITAF into one coherent force with the added mandate from the Security Council to create conditions conducive to a political settlement thereby ensuring that the situation did not spiral into further disarray.
The factor that made the involvement in Somalia a failure was that these perations were plagued with heavy attacks and well organised insurgence and caused casualties beyond expectation, including the famous “black hawk down” incident in which two gunship helicopters were shot down and soldiers’ bodies dragged through the streets. International reaction resulted in the operation being shut down and troops withdrawn. It seemed that many within the international community were not willing to risk further heavy losses in what was intended as a “peaceful” mission.
Airports and harbours were kept secured and all forces withdrawn by 1995. It became apparent that the presence of war-hardened troops using state-of- the-art war hardware, fresh from the Iraqi conflict, was more antagonistic to, than supportive of, peace. The intended mandate had been to facilitate peaceful political development initiated by the Somali people themselves. RWANDA Rwanda presented an increasingly tense international situation to United Nations as an anti Tutsi propaganda campaign gained momentum at the hands of Hutu rebels.
The president of Rwanda was assassinated in his plane following his attempts to forge alliances with neighboring countries to void an ethnic genocide occurring in his country. The massacre of thousands of Tutsis prompted surviving Tutsis to flee in terror as township populations were almost halved. Refugee camps, with little accessibility to aid, housed 2 million Tutsi refugees in surrounding countries. At first an observation team, UNOMUR (United Nations observer mission Uganda Rwanda), was sent in to monitor the situation on the Rwandan-Uganda border.
As the enormity of the genocide became apparent, it became clear that the role of the United Nations Peace Corps was necessary to intensify into a more active operation. This was put into effect under the title of UNAMIR (United Nations assistance mission for Rwanda) and the mission given four main objectives: to enable French troops, who had intervened, to be able to withdraw peacefully; to set up a transitional government for a period of three months; to ensure all armed forces were neutralised; and to oversee a peaceful election and subsequent establishment of a new, ethnically balanced, government.
Initially the peace keepers were to assist in ensuring the security of the capital city, in the wake of the presidential assassination, to monitor the ceasefire agreement which ncluded clearing of mines and to implement aid to those who required it. As the situation continued to deteriorate their role changed to that of protection of aid, setting up safe zones for civilians and provision of safety for relief operations. There was criticism that not enough was done by the United Nations peace keeping efforts in their intelligence or foresight of the impending genocide that resulted.
Many beleived that the United Nations did not take a sufficiently active role until the after the damage was done. It was interpreted as a re-active operation rather than one of preventative action 11]. This, which coincided with the failure of Somalia, did little to convene international support for the Rwandan efforts. Logistically, armaments to deal with the problem were inadequate. Only 400 Belgium troops were equipped well enough for the mission; many involved cited a lack of coordination.
However, the United Nations peace keeping mission in Rwanda was not without its success. An international criminal tribunal was initiated to bring to justice those responsible for their actions in the genocide. The prosecution continues to be led by a successful team formed from New Zealand. In addition, the goal of setting up a new government for Rwanda was achieved. The degree of success in regard to this United Nations mission is variable, but it did seem to achieve a more meaningful conclusion than the mission in Somalia.
To many international analysts Kosovo seemed something of a failure even before intervention. Not unlike Rwanda a lack of initiative in deploying preventative measures allowed the events of Kosovo to gradually worsen. Despite NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ultimatums and subsequent resolutions in the form of agreed-upon cease fires, conflict ontinued. They seemed only to provide Serbia with a smoke screen which effectively prevented international intervention. Requests made by NATO of Serbia went unheeded.
Air strikes intended to force Serbian compliance merely intensified their determination to play out what would come to be known as “the greatest ethnic cleansing in Europe since WWII”. Some 10,000 people were killed in eleven weeks. A “Military-Technical Agreement” was drawn up which outlined the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and allowed the return of refugees to their homes. It also requested he establishment of a relatively autonomous form of government within Kosovo. A deployment of more than 45,000 troops from 30 NATO and non-NATO countries formed the KFOR (Kosovo Force).
It anticipated establishing and maintaining a secure environment in Kosovo, including public safety and order, monitoring, verifying and, when necessary, enforcing compliance with agreements to end the conflict and providing assistance to the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). This mission was charged with the task of not only securing a reasonable standard of safety for the people of Kosovo but also reinstating a decent form of government and social system by which Kosovo could continue to operate in some form of normality.
At the time this was the most ambitious United Nations peace keeping mission ever undertaken. It was successful in as much as it did manage to establish a judiciary system and assist in the establishment of police forces throughout the country. It faced criticism for what was perceived by some to be racial favouritism toward Albanians in government positions. There were also numerous security threats in retaliation to some of these United Nations force initiatives. Delegates of the World Bank, police officers, United Nations representatives and ethnic attacks have continued to scar Kosovo’s social landscape.
The election of October 2004 looms, for the people of Kosovo, as a determinant of how successful United Nations involvement in their country has really been. Were it not for the intervention of the United Nations it could be critically construed that Kosovo would have had neither the means nor the infrastructure to even hold an election. The United Nations was successful, also, in helping bring the plight of Kosovons to the western orld; many charitable endeavours were launched in conjunction with the United Nations to help raise funds for humanitarian relief for victims and refugees.
It would seem that the Kosovo situation is not yet fully resolved. The true value and worth of the United Nations involvement will, doubtlessly, continue to unfold be played out for some years to come. SIERRA LEONE The United Nations began its involvement with Sierra Leone in 1995 as a service of mediation between militant factions which continued to hold serious sway in preventing the establishment and continuation of stable government in the country.
This included the use of natural resources to be used to strengthen the country’s economy rather than exploitative individuals’ personal fortunes. Thus, an embargo observer team was sent into the country under the United Nations flag as the UNOMSIL mission (United Nations observer mission in Sierra Leone). The directives and goals of the mission, commissioned in 1998, were to disarm the militant groups which threatened the security of the nation and to establish a security force to maintain peace.
The mission also stated that any human rights violations and atrocities should be documented. This enraged such militant forces as the RUF (Rev’ry united front) and culminated in the RUF’s January 1999 attack on the coastal capital Freetown. Effectively the RUF now controlled half the country. The mission had been dealt a devastating blow and collapsed; its ultimate reality being failure to meet its mandate. The downfall of the mission may be attributed to the minimal numbers of armed United Nations personnel – only 60 to 70 at most.
Poor leadership was also cited as a factor leading to its demise but the situation was not seen as one the United Nations would give up on or withdraw from completely. Success was hoped for in the form of the UN armed mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Diminishing support from ECOMOG signalled the necessity for the United Nations to form a winning mission capable of achieving its goal. Between October 1999 and March 2001 authorised military personnel numbers were increased from an original 60,000 to 17,500 together with over 300 civilian staff for administration.
The numbers, although impressive in comparison to earlier attempts, fell flat because of the way in which they were deployed. Here, we see the initial failure of the mission: personnel ispatched in often less than appropriate numbers and, later, deployed in small groups. This removed any advantage to the mission in terms of its ability to establish a real presence in opposition to the RUF. Also, the personnel deployed were sourced mainly from third world countries and had little training; the adequacy of what training they had been given was questionable.
The mission was clear in its intention to assist in strengthening the power of the Sierra Leone government to extend over the entire country and disarm and disband the RUF. In May 2000 tragedy struck: almost 500 mission personnel were taken captive y the RUF. It would seem that despite force being authorised, many had been unwilling to use it. Koffi Annan called for immediate support and fortification for the mission but found little answer to his call in Europe or the United States. However, Britain was ready to rise to the challenge to achieve the mission’s directives.
One thousand troops were deployed in May 2000 and were instrumental in securing the capital and its airport, freeing captured nationals and training the standing army in skill as well as generally boosting the morale of all involved with the mission. This timely answer to a desperate situation saw the mission become a success for the United Nations peace keeping operations as the RUF was overthrown and disarmed. It highlighted the necessity for support of the United Nations at key times and when it asked for it.
It also heightened an awareness that professionally trained personnel were the key to any chance of success; this became a critical component of future missions. The mission to Sierra Leone has endured to witness not only the growing strength of the Sierra Leone government but also leaders within the RUF eing brought to justice. The conflict of Sierra Leone was a political rather than a racial one which, coupled with the general unpopularity of the RUF and its ideals, helped garner public support for the United Nations presence and operations within the country.
The RUF has now become a political party. The continuing presence of UNAMSIL thereby ensures that the only conflict will remain in the election process. The failures and lessons learnt from past missions aided the United Nations in knowing what moves to make when to avoid a yet another failure to their list. Although he mission in Sierra Leone remains ongoing, its rebuilding of the country has been such that future missions have benefited from lessons learnt and points of success noted.
This combination has established the United Nations peace keeping force as a positive solution to threatening and internationally disturbing situations the world over. In conclusion, the failures and success of the operations discussed bring to light those factors which persist when trying to accomplish a peace keeping mission within a country in an international level of turmoil. It would seem that conflicts which arise from racial or religious origins are ore difficult to diffuse as human passion for a cause can far outweigh sanity and reason.
The expression ‘blood is thicker than water’ emerges as a truly realised euphemism for peace keepers. However, Kosovo stands as an example where attempts to build bridges of understanding between two cultures can find a level of success. Conflicts based on militant political reform seem to be ones with which Peace Corps can find more success. Through the use of well trained personnel and adequate armament the United Nations forces are truly able to fight fire with fire, using force to prevent violence.
Therefore, the factors which make a United Nations peace keeping mission a success are: adequate understanding of the existing situation in which a mission is to be deployed; professionally trained personnel to control and oversee the major part of an operation; more accurate estimation of the amount of force that may be necessary to achieve a goal; and well balanced, well researched attainable goals constituting the parameters of any mission. Overall, the principal factor is to act upon situations in a timely manner. In a time of crisis there is no room for bureaucracy; actions will always speak louder than words.