Sierra Leone 1991-2002


Between 1991 and 2002, the Revolutionary United Front fought the government of Sierra Leone in a bloody civil war. Military coups occurred in 1992 and 1997, and a peace accord signed in 1999 was unsuccessful in establishing a stable ceasefire. In 2002, with the help of military intervention by the United Kingdom, the civil war was declared over.


Basis of Conflict

This crisis arose from a state of instability due to corruption, conflict over resources including diamonds, and the influx of Liberian refugees.

Regime Type

The regime at the time was a constitutional republic.

Severity of Crisis

By the end of the crisis, nearly 70,000 people had been killed, 20,000 mutilated through amputation, and half the population had been displaced.


The UN initially placed an arms embargo on Sierra Leone in 1997, alongside targeted travel bans and petroleum sanctions; and the European Union placed an arms embargo as well in 1998. The UN peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone began in 1999 after the signing of the Lome Peace Accord, as troops entered the country to oversee the tentative ceasefire and democratic transition. But in May 2000, hundreds of peacekeepers were kidnapped by the RUF, who announced an end to the ceasefire. In response, the UN imposed new sanctions on both Sierra Leone and Liberia targeting Sierra Leone's illicit diamond trade, the main revenue source for the RUF. A small force sent by the United Kingdom helped to turn around the situation, working with the UN and local allies to disarm both sides of the conflict, train Sierra Leone's troops, and establish peace.


A new treaty called for a truth and reconciliation commission to address human rights violations. The United Kingdom also signed 10-year agreements with Sierra Leone's government to provide embedded support and aid in order to rebuild the country's institutions. The country has not since fallen back into conflict, but maintained relative peace and stability, with successful transitions of power.


The humanitarian intervention in Sierra Leone is considered one of the most successful in recent history, largely because of the urgency and timeliness of the response, the use of narrow sanctions, the broad and flexible UN mandate, and the focus on strengthening institutions and creating a foundation for economic development. The long-term nature of state and United Nations commitments to peace and rebuilding efforts also contributed to the stability of the peace process.