Liberia – UNMIL, Toward the completion of the security transition

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Background:

The Liberian struggle started in 1989 and since then it has encompassed two civil wars. The first Liberian civil war took place between 1989 and 1996. During this civil war Charles Taylor entered the country with a hand-full of well-trained Libyan troops and fought to overthrow President  Samuel Doe who allegedly created divisions among Liberian by promoting his own ethnic group and encouraging the massacre of other groups.

For stability reasons, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to intervene and did so successfully, since it prevented Charles Taylor from seizing the capital Monrovia. Following this, an interim government with Dr. Amos Sawyer as president was set up in Gambia under the protection of ECOWAS and  the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), a Nigerian-led peacekeeping force. Despite all this, Charles Taylor refused to cooperate and continued the war.

In a country of approximately 3,5 million people today, about 1 million were displaced, 250, 000 were killed and 25,000 were raped. Taylor ended up being elected president in 1997 and two years later a second civil war started until 2003 when he was ousted.

Mandate:

UNMIL, which stands for United Nations Mission in Liberia was set up on september 19th, 2003. This mission was set up after the UNOL “the United Nations Peacebuilding support Office in Liberia” in force between 1997 and 2003. The inability of Liberia to build peace and the growing tensions between the government of Charles Taylor  and its opponent made the country a battleground and in 2003 after Taylor’s defeat, the UN sent in a  peacekeeping mission with the following mandate:

  • The protection of Civilian
  • Humanitarian Assistance support
  • Reform of Justice and security Institution
  • Human Rights Promotion and Protection
  • Protection of United Nations personnel

On september 19th, 2003 the UNSC Resolution 1509 authorised UNMIL. The  Mission was to be carried out by 15,000 military personnel, to which 250 would be military observers and 160 staff officers. An additional 1,115 police officers were to be deployed in Liberia. The first UNMIL drawdown took place between 2007 and 2010, the troops number was lower to 7,952 troops and the police was raised to 1,375 personnel. On september 17th, 2012, the UNSC decided in the resolution 2066 that between 2012 and 2015 the military component of UNMIL should be decreased by approximately 4,200 personnel.

Drawdown of UN Mission in Liberia:

On March 2015, the Liberian government approved a transition plan to assume full responsibility of Liberia’s security by 30 June 2016. Now, a year later, the deadline for the drawdown is nearing and recently UN officials came together to discuss the transition and the measures that are still in need of support.

Farid Zarif, the current Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) of UNMIL, spoke during the discussion and said “The expected completion of the security transition on 30 June will be one of the most significant milestones for Liberia and the international community since the end of the country’s civil war and the signing of the peace agreement in 2003.” (UN News Center)

During the transition period, which commenced last year, UNMIL was still present and active in its role of supporting the Liberian government in strengthening security capabilities and creating long-term peace and stability in the country. This also includes UNMIL personnel joining government-led town hall meetings. By 30 June, UNMIL would consolidate its field offices into 5 regional offices and reduce its civilian staffing over 30% in the next two years.  

The drawdown of the mission, which was decided by the UNSC, highlights the confidence that UNSC has in Liberia to continue the progress they have done since the deployment of UNMIL in 2003. Nevertheless, not all actors have the confidence in Liberia taking over all its security facets. Zarif recognizes this as he describes that “there is an increasing sense of unease and apprehension among Liberians across the board about UNMIL’s drawdown and the prospect of its departure” (UN News Center). Liberian President had also shown his concern in a joint letter with President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, where they urged the UN Secretary General to request that the UNSC keep a “Quick Reaction Force” in both Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire until after the 2017 elections in Liberia.

Liberia clearly still faces challenges which they must focus on in order to successfully achieve sustainable peace, including creating fair and equal justice, genuine national reconciliation and unity and a firm commitment to fight corruption. The SRSG noted that “Liberia and the international community must not lose sight of the still arduous path to a genuinely sustainable peace in Liberia and the region, which will require longer-term engagement and support of the international community.” (UN News Center).  

by Ingrid Silalahi & Bora Kamwanya

Sources:

“Future of Liberia and UN Presence in the Country Discussed at Security Council.”UN News Center. UN, 17 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

Flicking, David. “Q&A: Charles Taylor and Liberia’s civil wars.” The Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/apr/03/westafrica.qanda, 3 April 2006 Web.  24 Mar. 2014

Landgren, Karin. “The Drawdown of the UN Mission in Liberia Resumes.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 June 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

Sainworla, Frank, Jr. “Liberia: Unmil’s June 30 Decisive Draw Down Date.”AllAfrica.com. All Africa, 11 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

United Nations. “United Nations Mission in Liberia.” UN. http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/unmil/facts.shtml, web. 24. Mar. 2016

 

Picture:

Tobey, Emmanuel. “President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (left) with members of the all-female Indian Formed Police Unit serving with the UN Mission in Liberia” http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53218#.VvUIXPnhDIU, web. 24. Mar. 2016

 

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