11 Apr 2014
Silke von Brockhausen
Since the civil war, the UN flag has been a symbol of hope for the population in Sierra Leone. Wherever we pass, kids come waving and screaming towards our cars, which have huge UN logos, and adults casually give a thumbs up. (Photo: Silke v. Brockhausen/UNDP)
Our two white UN vehicles are carefully moving down the dusty and bumpy road between Kenema and Koindu in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. We pass dozens of burnt ruins of what were once sturdy brick and stone homes, some with hundreds of bullet holes in their walls – eerie remnants of Sierra Leone's brutal civil war.
About 1,200 of former warlord Charles Taylor's rebels launched their devastating campaign here, leading to years of fighting that killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 2 million people (about a third of the population), disrupting nearly every national institution.
After more than 15 years of successive peace operations, the last United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIPSIL), closed at the end of March. Since the civil war, the UN flag has been a symbol of hope for the population in this troubled region.
Many of the over 17,000 blue helmets that arrived with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) also helped to restore peace and bring back a sense of security in this district of Kailahun. Wherever we pass, kids come waving and screaming towards our cars with the huge UN logos, and adults …