December 2005 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 November 2005
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Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to continue the sanctions regime for Liberia, but it may also want to signal a flexible approach to some relaxation relatively soon. It will have for consideration the report of the Panel of Experts on sanctions and the regular report of the Secretary-General.

Key Facts
Starting in 1989 with the first attacks from Mano and Gio insurgents under Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) against largely Krahn and Mandingo forces, the most recent war in Liberia resulted in the inauguration of Taylor as president in 1997. It also led to the destabilisation of neighbouring Sierra Leone and eventually spilled over into Côte d’Ivoire in 2002.

The insurgency ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2003 and Taylor’s asylum in Nigeria. The CPA mandated the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) and elections in 2005.

The Council created the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2003 and imposed an arms embargo and a travel ban on Taylor and individuals linked to him, as well as embargos on diamond and timber exports fuelling the conflict. It established a Sanctions Committee and a Panel of Experts, as well as an assets freeze against Taylor and his associates.

The current mandate of the Panel and the sanctions regime will expire on 21 December 2005. The benchmarks pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003) for lifting the sanctions are:

  • Arms embargo and travel ban: when the Council considers that the ceasefire is fully respected, the security sector reform and the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation of combatants (DDRR) programs have been completed, the CPA has been fully implemented, and that progress has been made towards stability in Liberia and in the sub-region.
  • Diamonds: when the Sanctions Committee considers that the Government of Liberia has established a “transparent, effective and internationally verifiable” Certificate of Origin regime. The existing certification scheme is the Kimberley Process, which Liberia has been trying to join.
  • Timber: when the Council determines that the Government of Liberia has established full control over producing areas, and has ensured that revenues from that industry are not used for fuelling conflict.

The June 2005 assessments from the Panel of Experts and the Secretary-General concluded that the NTGL had been unable to meet the benchmarks, since:

  • No evidence of arms imports had been found, but concerns remained about hidden arms in Liberia and the completion of DDRR programs.
  • There were reports of travel-ban violations, especially a trip Taylor allegedly had taken to Burkina Faso. Nigeria denied the allegations.
  • The assets freeze had not overall been very effective.
  • The diamond sector lacked transparency and control systems, and violations of the embargo were expected to increase.
  • The NTGL had been unable to exercise control over timber producing areas, or to develop oversight of the sector’s financial management.

Key Issues
The key issue facing the Council is whether to renew the sanctions regime in light of the limited progress made by the NTGL towards the benchmarks and the inauguration of the newly elected government in January 2006.

Council Dynamics
Some Council members may argue that the sanctions regime is having an adverse impact on humanitarian and economic conditions in Liberia and that it is now safe to lift or relax the regime, despite the Panel’s conclusion that lifting sanctions at this stage still presents unacceptable dangers due to corruption and lack of effective NTGL authority. 

Other members are likely to argue in favour of maintaining the sanctions regime on the basis that the Council’s own set of benchmarks for the lifting of the sanctions contained in resolution 1521 have not been met.  Lifting the sanctions before these benchmarks are met would make the Council inconsistent with its own decisions.

Some Council members may be willing to agree to signal a degree of relaxation in the future rather than any lifting of the sanctions now.

The views of the newly elected president will be an important element in the discussion.

The options may include:

  • Lifting some or all of the sanctions;
  • Relaxing at least one of the sanctions measures (e.g. perhaps the arms embargo, but limited to allowing the sale of arms to the new government);
  • Signalling a willingness to review the sanctions or a particular measure at the request of the incoming president;
  • Deciding to maintain the status quo, but to review the sanctions after three months rather than six.

Underlying Problems
There are concerns that the security situation will remain fragile in the aftermath of the presidential election. The victory of economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf over soccer star George Weah (whose base included former military commanders and politicians once close to Charles Taylor) is contested. At the time of writing, a complaint of fraud filed by Weah is under investigation.

Following the presidential elections, the Council mandated UNMIL to arrest Taylor if he returns to Liberia. The resolution aims at preventing the country’s destabilisation should Taylor decide to return. UNMIL is also mandated to hand him over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where an indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone is pending against Taylor for his role in the civil war that plagued that country until 2002.

A new government will be inaugurated in January 2006, marking the end of the transitional process. Nonetheless, challenges from corruption, lack of authority, former combatants and Charles Taylor’s supporters are likely to continue. The picture is compounded by cross-border tribal allegiances, mutual intervention in domestic affairs by regional players, and the volatile situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

As part of the effort to curb corruption, the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) was signed between the NTGL and major international donors. Over time it is likely to be helpful in addressing donors concerns regarding corruption to some extent. Nonetheless, Liberia’s natural resources remain vulnerable to predators and there are current funding shortfalls in DDRR programs, suggesting that incentives to loot resources will remain high if market openings arise from the lifting of sanctions.

UN Documents

 Security Council Resolutions
  • S/Res/1638 (11 November 2005) mandated UNMIL to apprehend Charles Taylor should he return to Liberia.
  • S/Res/1626 (19 September 2005) authorised a temporary increase in UNMIL and requested a downsizing plan by March 2006.
  • S/Res/1579 (21 December 2004) and S/Res/1607 (21 June 2005) renewed sanctions and the Panel’s mandate until 21 December 2005. 
  • S/Res/1532 (12 March 2004) imposed an assets freeze against Taylor and his associates.
  • S/Res/1521 (22 December 2003) imposed the current sanctions regime and called for the appointment of a Panel of Experts. 
  • S/Res/1509 (19 September 2003) established UNMIL.
  • S/Res/1497 (1 August 2003) authorised the deployment of a Multinational Force.
 Reports of Council Missions to West Africa
Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2005/560 (1 September 2005) is the latest report.
  • S/2005/376 (7 June 2005) noted not enough progress towards benchmarks.
  • S/2003/1175 (15 December 2003) detailed the DDRR program.
  • S/2003/875 (11 September 2003) detailed the establishment of UNMIL.
 Reports of the Sanctions Committee and Final Reports of the Panel of Experts

Historical Background

 November 2005

 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won after second ballot in presidential elections.

 11 October 2005  First ballot in presidential elections.
 19 September 2005  The Council enlarged UNMIL to provide security for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
 March 2004  The Council imposed sanctions on Charles Taylor and his associates.
 December 2003  The Council imposed the current sanctions regime.
 October 2003

 NTGL inaugurated.

 September 2003

 UNMIL established.

 August 2003

 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and US troops arrived; Taylor exiled in Nigeria and CPA signed.

 July 2003

 Insurgents intensified fighting.

 June 2003

 Taylor indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.


 Arms embargo re-imposed to pressure Taylor.


 Insurgents invaded Liberia from Guinea.


 ECOWAS’ Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) left Liberia.

 1997  Taylor elected President.
 1992  The Council imposed an arms embargo on Liberia.

 Fighters entered Sierra Leone with Taylor’s support.

 1990  ECOWAS established ECOMOG.

 Taylor entered Liberia with NPFL forces.

Other Relevant Facts

 Special Representative of the Secretary-General
 Alan Doss (United Kingdom)
 Size and Composition of Mission

 Total authorized strength: up to 15,250 military personnel and 1,115 police.
 Strength as of 30 September 2005: 14,881 military personnel and 1,093 police.
 Key troop contributors: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $760.57 million
 September 2003 to present

Full forecast