March 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 24 February 2006
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AFRICA

Liberia

Expected Council Action
The Council will renew the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which expires on 31 March.

Council members will also consider the Secretary-General’s report on UNMIL. Contrary to early expectations, the report will say that it is premature to present a drawdown plan. Instead it will focus on outstanding tasks for UNMIL in the post-transitional period.

The Council is also likely to discuss the status of UNMIL troops deployed in Côte d’Ivoire and in Sierra Leone, as well as possibly some changes to the mandate for UNMIL to reflect the new situation in the post-transitional period.

Key Facts
The inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the new president of Liberia in January marked the end of the transitional period. 

First established in 2003, UNMIL’s mandate is to:

  • support the transitional government;
  • support the elections;
  • develop an action plan for disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation (DDRR), and carry out voluntary disarmament;
  • support the reform of the security sector, particularly by training the police;
  • monitor Liberia’s borders and the flow of arms; and
  • arrest and hand former Liberian President Charles Taylor over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

Many of these tasks have now been completed.

UNMIL troops are deployed in four sectors, each with a brigade-strength unit, covering (i) Monrovia and its environs; (ii) north-western provinces bordering Sierra Leone and Guinea; (iii) central provinces bordering Guinea and north-western Côte d’Ivoire; and (iv) eastern provinces bordering Côte d’Ivoire.

With the final withdrawal of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), the Council authorised in September 2005 the deployment of 250 UNMIL troops to provide security for the SCSL.

The Council also authorised the redeployment of 200 troops and 125 police officers from UNMIL to assist the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in February 2006. This was a compromise decision at a much lower level than recommended by the Secretary-General to offset the lack of support in Côte d’Ivoire.

Those decisions heralded a trend in inter-mission cooperation in West Africa. The idea was originally envisaged by the Secretary-General to contain costs and increase performance with improvements such as coordinated operations. But it has increasingly meant redeployments between missions to offset troop shortages.

In view of outstanding tasks in Liberia, it is perceived within the Secretariat that drawdown planning is premature at this stage. The report will instead present priority tasks, which could become the core of a new UNMIL mandate in the post-transitional period. They include:

  • reintegration programmes and security sector reform;
  • extending state authority;
  • assisting with improvements in the control over natural resources; and
  • rule of law and human rights.

Key Issues
The key issue before the Council is the adjustment of UNMIL’s mandate now that the transition is over, bearing in mind:

  • the outstanding tasks above, especially considering that Liberia does not have standing armed forces;
  • the situation in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire; and
  • the potential need of support for UNOCI and the SCSL.

But drawdown will continue to be an issue in the minds of some Council members as it relates to containing peacekeeping costs and diverting resources, particularly to Côte d’Ivoire.

Council Dynamics
The completion of the peace process is seen as an opportunity to assess the ongoing needs and the drawdown options.

However, there is recognition (particularly from the US and African members) that complete withdrawal should not be contemplated for at least two to three years. Those members will welcome the Secretary-General’s support for maintaining the status quo at this time.

Other members, France and Japan in particular, will want to highlight the need to release UNMIL resources to meet other priorities and may be anxious to start discussing a plan. The issue could be quite contentious and it seems feasible that a compromise on the new UNMIL resolution will have at least some reference to eventual drawdown.

A related issue is the debate over increases in UNOCI through the deployment to Côte d’Ivoire of more UNMIL troops. France is likely to promote the idea, at least on a temporary basis, as a solution to difficulties in getting additional support for UNOCI. This will be attractive to many Council members.

Options
One option is to maintain UNMIL forces at existing levels but request a plan from the Secretary-General by mid-year.  Another option would be to take a decision on a specific date when drawdown is to begin, perhaps January 2007.

Furthermore, given the possible future difficulties in balancing withdrawal and threats to stability in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, the Council may start discussing other options.

  • The Secretary-General has recommended the establishment of a sub-regional reserve force as a means of offsetting troop shortages. Linked with the intention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to form a standby force, this may offer a lower-cost option for ensuring support for UNMIL and allowing a larger drawdown from Liberia to Côte d’Ivoire.
  • An early decision referring Liberia to the new Peacebuilding Commission could help enhance the level of confidence in that country, also facilitating earlier withdrawal.
  • Individual members may consider working to increase funding for reintegration and security sector reform also as a means of creating conditions for earlier withdrawal.

Underlying Problems
Considerable security challenges still remain ahead.

  • Liberia still does not have a standing army. Training of the new forces is underway, but the first batch was cut to half the originally expected 4,000 due to budgetary constraints.
  • Significant difficulties with DDRR programmes remain, particularly funding for the reintegration or retirement pays of former soldiers and police.
  • Thousands of former combatants have not been included either in the new army, the police or reintegration programmes.
  • 190,000 Liberian refugees scattered across West Africa await return.
  • The violence in Côte d’Ivoire has increased the opportunities for cross-border recruitment and flows of refugees, and there is great potential for instability in Guinea if President Lansana Conté dies.
  • The linkages between conflict and natural resources remain, highlighting the lack of public control over diamond and timber production.
  • Basic services and infrastructure still need to be put in place, and corruption plagues the Liberian government.
  • The political landscape in Liberia still includes former allies of Charles Taylor and could be destabilised with the disruption of existing power structures by the new government.

The Council mandated UNMIL to arrest Taylor if he returns to Liberia and hand him over to the SCSL, which has indicted him for his role in the Sierra Leonean war. Taylor is currently in exile in Nigeria, and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has indicated that he would consider surrendering Taylor upon request from the new Liberian government. President Johnson-Sirleaf has signalled that a request is possible, but not at this point. The SCSL expects to conclude its activities by early to mid-2007.

UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1657 (6 February 2006) authorised the deployment of UNMIL troops in Côte d’Ivoire.
  • S/RES/1647 (20 December 2005) renewed the sanctions regime and the Panel of Experts.
  • 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 redeployment in Sierra Leone of UNMIL troops.
  • S/RES/1609 (24 June 2005) authorised troop-sharing among UNMIL, UNAMSIL and UNOCI.
  • 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.
  • S/RES/1509 (19 September 2003) established UNMIL.
 Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2006/2 (3 January 2006) requested additional troops for UNOCI.
  • S/2005/764 (7 December 2005) was the latest UNMIL report.
  • S/2005/135 (2 March 2005) was the report on inter-mission cooperation.
  • S/2003/1175 (15 December 2003) detailed the DDRR program.
  • S/2003/875 (11 September 2003) detailed the establishment of UNMIL.
 Selected Letter
  • S/2006/71 (2 February 2006) contained the Secretary-General’s request for troop-sharing between UNMIL and UNOCI.

Historical Background

 6 February 2006  The Council authorised the deployment of UNMIL troops in Côte d’Ivoire.
 16 January 2006  Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as Liberia’s new president.
 October 2005  Presidential and legislative elections were held; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George Weah qualified for a second presidential ballot.
 September 2005  The Council increased 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. UNMIL announced the launching of a countrywide DDRR programme.
 October 2003  The National Transitional Government of Liberia was inaugurated.
 September 2003  UNMIL was established.
 August 2003  ECOWAS and US troops arrived, Taylor fled to Nigeria and a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed.

Other Relevant Facts

 Special Representative of the Secretary-General
 Alan Doss (United Kingdom)
 Size and Composition of Mission
  • Total authorised strength: up to 15,250 military personnel and 1,115 police
  • Strength as of 31 December 2005:15,021 military personnel and 1,091 police
  • Key troop contributors: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria
 Cost
 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $760.57 million
 Duration
 September 2003 to present

Useful Additional Sources