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 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,...