Preventing a conflict relapse in Sierra Leone


The United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone disarmed over 70,000 combatants, oversaw a peaceful election, and helped to strengthen the Sierra Leonean state, preventing a conflict relapse.

After being overwhelmed by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) stood in a precarious position once the war ended. To improve the Mission’s credibility, the Security Council greatly increased the number of peacekeepers from a wartime limit of 6,000 to over 17,000 in 2002.1 UNAMSIL was also fashioned with more robust capabilities, including helicopter gunships and much-improved intelligence capabilities.2 With this new strength and a mandate to respond ‘robustly’ to any threat of attack, the Mission’s commanders embarked on much more ambitious operations to improve the overall security situation and the Government of Sierra Leone’s control of the country.3

Following the December 2000 cease-fire, UNAMSIL played a key role in developing the “Kambia Formula.” This entailed disarming both RUF and pro-government militias in strategic locations across the country, such as the border region with Guinea after which the strategy was named.4 This step-by-step approach not only served to strengthen the ongoing peace process, but also greatly reduced the likelihood of the conflict resuming. By mid-2001, UNAMSIL contingents were (using their own resources) rebuilding infrastructure across the country in an organic development that ’Funmi Olonisakin argues helped to greatly strengthen the UN’s credibility in Sierra Leone, despite the criticisms such actions drew at the time.5 With UNAMSIL transformed, its efforts to build peace in post-war Sierra Leone were much more fruitful. Its first triumph was the successful disarmament of 72,490 combatants, paving the way for a highly successful Security Sector Reform process led by the UK.6 Elections were held peacefully in May 2002 (with the assistance and supervision of the UN and observed by the Commonwealth, EU, and the Carter Center), resulting in the incumbent government winning an overwhelming majority. UNAMSIL continued to work on police reform, military integration, election support, and a wide range of other activities until December 2005, when it was replaced with the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL).7 The ongoing UN and British effort helped to ensure that Sierra Leone did not experience a conflict relapse after December 2000.


2 Olonisakin. Peacekeeping in Sierra Leone. p.98-9

3 United Nations Security Council. Resolution 1313. (2000) Available at: (Accessed 22/10/2020)

4 Olonisakin. Peacekeeping in Sierra Leone. p.103

5 Ibid. p.108

6 United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel. “The SSR experience of Sierra Leone, a shining model in West Africa and beyond.” News. (2017) Available at: (Accessed 22/10/2020); Adrian Horn, Funmi Olonisakin, & Gordon Peake. “United Kingdom-led Security Sector Reform in Sierra Leone.” GSDRC. (2006) Available at: (Accessed 22/10/2020)

7 UN Peacekeeping. Sierra Leone – UNAMSIL – Mandate. (United Nations, 2005) Available at: (Accessed 15/12/2020)

Start Year


End Year



Sierra Leone

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Risk of a conflict relapse

Type of Initiative

Peacekeeping mission

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The UN




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