Sierra Leone 2000
The former British colony of Sierra Leone in West Africa became independent in 1961.
By 1999, a vicious civil war between the elected government of President Kabbah and the brutal rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) had devastated the country. In that year, foreign countries put pressure on both sides to sign a peace agreement and share power.
The United Nations sent 6,000 peacekeepers from various countries
to support the agreement. However, fighting soon broke out again in Sierra Leone and the UN force was unable to stop it. Although the UN agreed to increase the number of peacekeepers to 11,000 in February 2000 that May the RUF managed to take 500 UN soldiers hostage.
The British government sent in a contingent of several hundred
British troops with orders to evacuate foreign nationals. Then, buoyed up by the success of NATO bombing in Kosovo to halt ethnic cleansing the previous year, it decided to use the deployment of British troops in Sierra Leone to test out what Britain could achieve. Troops were backed up by helicopters, aircraft and by a group of Royal Navy ships
off the coast carrying 800 Royal Marines.
British soldiers secured the airport in the capital, Freetown. They went on to confront the RUF in battle leaving some twenty rebels dead,
they cleared the Okra hills of rebels and secured an important route from the capital to the provinces. On August 25th , eleven British soldiers were captured and held hostage by a rebel group but released later by British paratroopers in a daring raid that left one British soldier and twenty-five rebels dead. After this the British deployment was scaled down and most British troops left in July 2002, leaving a training force behind.
The British government was pleased with the operation and praised for its success, especially by the United States. It helped to give Tony Blair the confidence to support the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 with a large deployment of British forces.