Gen MacKenzie slams UN's nine-to-fivers

THE United Nations is an incompetent organisation, which has succeeded only in endangering the lives of its troops in Bosnia, according to the former head of UN forces in Sarajevo, Major-General Lewis MacKenzie.

Most countries are dissatisfied with the way UN military missions are run, and would like the arrangements reorganised, Gen MacKenzie told the Independent on Sunday yesterday.

The Canadian commander, who has often criticised Western intervention in the Balkans, told a defence conference in Ottawa on Friday: 'Countries don't give their troops to the UN in trust to be killed trying to implement a really lousy ceasefire agreement arranged by a bunch of diplomats and politicians . . . That's what's happening in Yugoslavia.'

The plan that was put into place 'never had a chance of working', the general said, and 'now people are dying'.

Gen MacKenzie, 52, won international praise for his command of the UN forces which were sent to Sarajevo last year and secured the airport to allow delivery of humanitarian aid to the besieged city.

He contemptuously dismissed the bureaucrats at the UN's New York headquarters as 'a nine-to-five civilian operation', and offered this advice to future commanders: 'Do not get into trouble as a commander in the field after 5pm New York time, or Saturday and Sunday. There is no one to answer the phone.'

Yesterday, the general was unrepentant. 'The UN has admitted it doesn't have a 24-hour capability - phone calls to New York get dealt with the next day. Most countries want an operation centre run by people familiar with the mission, which can respond to your request immediately. It's standard military procedure.'

General Satish Nambiar, commander of the UN forces in the former Yugoslavia (Unprofor) rejected the accusations, saying the only problems were 'administrative'. But Cedric Thornberry, Gen Nambiar's deputy, admitted that the UN did not have all its 'support machinery' in place. 'Like many splendid peace-keepers, (Gen MacKenzie) fails to get to the heart of the problem,' he said. 'The UN is the sum total of what governments want us to be.

'There are a lot of questions on the future of UN peace-keeping. In Cambodia, in Angola, in Somalia and, by God, Yugoslavia, we are put in on the basis of an agreement between parties to renounce the use of force and behave like little gentlemen. We have resources appropriate to policing the agreement, but not to enforcing it.

'To do this, we would need five or 10 times the resources, and governments which are prepared to face their parliaments and explain why the bodybags are coming back.

'For the United Kingdom, this would mean, pro rata, committing perhaps 20,000 troops to Yugoslavia, and accepting a very high rate of casualties.'

Gen MacKenzie, who retires from his post in the Canadian armed forces on 8 March, is thought to be planning to enter politics.

He is an enormously popular and high-profile figure in Canada, and Brian Mulroney's ruling Conservatives and Jean Chretien's Liberals are believed to be courting him to run as an MP in the next election.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before