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President Koroma asked for UN’s envoy withdrawal

President Koroma asked for UN’s envoy withdrawal

A small West African country with a violent history browbeats the mighty UN – Sierra Leone is regarded as model of post conflict reconstruction. An 11-year civil war that left some 50,000 dead by 2002 was overcome with the help of blue-hatted UN peacekeepers. In 2007 power changed hands in fair elections for only the second time in the country’s history and this November citizens will once again go the polls.

But all is not well. Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma, has forced the UN mission chief out of his job in order to improve his re-election chances, diplomats say. Michael Von Schulenburg was abruptly moved on the orders of the UN bosses in New York on February 6thfollowing appeals from the President.

On December 22nd Mr. Von der Schulenburg had warned a senior UN official, Lynn Pascoe, against a situation in which I would have to tell everybody that the president wants me out of the country and the UN has readily complied. That is indeed what happened.

Foreign diplomats confirm that in September the UN asked the UN to have Mr. Von der Schulenburg removed possibly questioning impartiality. Two months later he repeated the request in writing, though he now denies this.

Mr. Von der Schulenburg is deemed to have done a good job. He vastly reduced the UN presence in Sierra Leone, a rare achievement in an organization often unwilling to put itself out of business. He also acted as a valued mediator between political parties in an environment where disputes can still easily turn violent. He met opposition leaders but did not follow them. Yet his even –handedness alone seems to have been enough to incur the wrath of the president that the UN agreed to move Mr. von der Schulenburg establishes a bad precedent. Given how much blood and treasure it has expanded in Sierra Leone, the episode damages its credibility. It also bodes ill for the coming election.

By The Economist

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