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Peacekeeping lessons for NZ in Sierra Leone

Wayne Mapp

Opposition Defence Spokesperson

Monday 8 May 2000

Peacekeeping lessons for NZ in Sierra Leone

National Defence spokesperson Wayne Mapp today called on the Government to heed the lessons of the UN peace-keeping mission in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL.

"Since 1 May, 300 to 500 UNAMSIL personnel were taken hostage by Revolutionary Union Front rebels. This action by the RUF has been condemned by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as by African leaders.

"Britain has responded by sending a frigate, HMS Chatham, a helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, and a battalion of 700-800 paratroopers to Sierra Leone.

"What this demonstrates is that UN peace-keeping is serious and dangerous work that requires air and sea power to support infantry on the ground. Peace-keeping isn't police-work, or even Armed Defenders' Squad work.

"Reports suggest that a solitary helicopter gunship was instrumental in warding off RUF forces on a crucial junction to the capital Freetown on Saturday.

"Imagine the impact the helicopter gunship fleet on board HMS Ocean would've had when a Zambian contingent ran into trouble last week and was captured along with their 13 armoured personnel carriers.

"The lesson is that peace-keeping requires full support of the Army, Navy and Air Force to be effective and to prevent troops being killed or falling hostage.

"New Zealand needs to take up its full share of defence responsibilities in the South West Pacific, to ensure that Australia and New Zealand and other states in our region, can deploy our troops in safety, in any of the region's trouble-spots," Dr Mapp said.

Ends


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