UNAMSIL and the Political Economy of War in Sierra Leone: What Is the Price of Peace?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was the largest peacekeeping mission of its time. Deployed in the latter stages of Sierra Leone’s civil war (1991–2002), it was initially derided as an embarrassing failure; plagued by internal rifts and logistical shortfalls, it was unable to prevent the abduction of its own peacekeepers. This chapter considers how UNAMSIL ultimately transformed its fortunes – becoming celebrated as a “model” mission – through a combination of internal reforms and use of a “carrot and stick” approach. Beyond targeting the infamous trade in so-called “blood diamonds”, addressing regional dynamics, and drawing on the use of force (in tandem with Guinean and British interventions), the mission undertook crucial trust-building efforts with rebels that facilitated disarmament. In this regard, the chapter argues against reductive views of Sierra Leone’s conflict as driven primarily by resource greed, showing how prospects for peace were linked to the UN’s capacity to provide basic security and welfare assurances to the war-weary rank-and-file. Acknowledging UNAMSIL’s success in learning this lesson, the chapter nevertheless highlights how initial failures stemmed from perennial challenges facing peace operations, including but not limited to lack of international political will and insufficient mobilisation of material support and personnel.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Political Economy of Civil War and UN Peace Operations
EditorsMats Berdal, Jake Sherman
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9781003248637
ISBN (Print)9781032164441, 9781032164526
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023


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