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Humanitarian Assistance And Sierra Leone Essay

2672 words - 11 pages

Humanitarian Assistance and Sierra Leone


When a country fails to provide the basic needs of survival for its people, the international community is faced with the issue of intervention. However, there exists no clearly defined doctrine to guide governments or humanitarian organizations in these matters. Some people believe that the protection of sovereignty is more important than the possible benefits of intervention, preferring that governments focus on domestic concerns. Opposing this are those who believe that humanitarian intervention is necessary to resolve many conflicts and that the preservation of life trumps all else. Still another mentality suggests that these two goals are not mutually exclusive—that the members of the international community are capable of controlling their own countries while still being able to intervene in some countries. One good example of such intervention is Sierra Leone . Daniel Bergner in the book In the Land of Magic Soldiers says that this country has “been named by the United Nations, for the third year in a row, as the worst on earth. . . . Sierra Leone was . . . ravaged by what was perhaps the most horrific civil war in a land [ Africa ] of civil wars” (10). What follows is an exploration of these three arguments, with specific examples taken from the conflict in Sierra Leone .


Some brief background information on the conflict in Sierra Leone and Britain ’s involvement is needed to understand the points that will be made next. The civil war in Sierra Leone revolved around two main parties: the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the government of Sierra Leone . Both sides of this bloody civil war were fighting for control—over both the government and the country's diamond mines. The RUF, a group of rebel fighters, controlled many of the diamond mines, which partly funded the war. The RUF forces led attacks that left many dead and maimed civilians in their wake. They employed brutal tactics, involving cutting off hands, arms, and legs, while leaving many of these amputees alive. The other especially troubling aspect of the RUF’s fighting tactics was its use of child militants. These children were abducted and forced to commit some of the worst atrocities of the war. Britain chose to intervene and put a stop to this cycle of violence. While it may have had ulterior motives for its intervention, as will be discussed below, it also felt a certain obligation to help Sierra Leone , which once was Britain 's colony.

Sovereignty and Non-Intervention

With the preservation of sovereignty a major issue to them, some people believe that the concept of non-intervention, or staying out of another country’s affairs, is the proper course of action for the world. According to Adam Roberts in his article “Humanitarian Intervention Is Not Effective,” the policy of non-intervention “provides a clear rule for limiting the uses of force by...

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