By Prue Clarke, Rodney Sieh
In June, the U.N. Mission in Liberia, known by its acronym UNMIL, wound up 13 years of peacekeeping. The mission played a crucial role in ending a 14-year civil war that destroyed this West African nation, spilled into neighboring Sierra Leone, and left as many as 300,000 people dead in the two countries between 1989 and 2003. UNMIL helped guarantee the 2003 peace agreement that saw the three main factions lay down their arms and sent warlord-turned-President Charles Taylor into exile in Nigeria.
But in the years since the 2003 peace deal, UNMIL has left its own trail of destruction. The second-biggest mission in the world at the time it was deployed, UNMIL was a massive force responsible for all aspects of security in Liberia. Its budget dwarfed the spending of the Liberian government for its first five years. (For the 2004-2005 fiscal year, for example, UNMIL’s budget was roughly $760 million compared with the Liberian government’s budget of $61 million.) Not surprisingly, the U.N. mission distorted the economy, crowded out the private sector, and in some cases hampered the recovery of whole industries after the war.