April 1996, Monrovia, capital of the West African state Liberia, was engulfed in the worst round of terror in six years. After three days of heavy shooting, the first U.S. MH-53 helicopter finally appeared over the horizon. Aid workers, foreign businessmen and U.N. staff breathed a collective sigh of relief. By weeks end U.S. helicopters had evacuated more than 1,600 foreigners.
Monrovia, where civil order has log been a relative term, has fallen into total chaos. In the district of Mamba Point, gunmen battered down the gates of the U.N. headquarters, then attempted to invade the American embassy, only to be repelled by U.S. special forces. Far from quelling the chaos, members of the Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping force, which has been in the country since 1990, have themselves begun looting, according to several U.N. officials.
The year before a peace accord was signed in August. Under the terms of that agreement, leaders of the country, from seven warring factions, left their bases in the countryside and took up office as members of a ruling council in Monrovia. U.N. officials and members of Economic Community of West African States, which brokered last year\'s peace accord, fear that the country is once again slipping into a civil war.
In this case the U.N. was able to let the leaders of civil war sign a peace treaty, but not of keeping up peace. Maybe the U.N. had not enough armed troops in Liberia. At least the troops should have been disbanded to give them no chance of rebuilding.