March 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2008
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AFRICA

Liberia

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to receive the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which is due by late March. Resolution 1777 of September 2007 requested the Secretary-General to report on plans to draw down the level of peacekeepers. UNIMIL’s mandate expires on 30 September.

Recent Developments
On 19 December, the Council renewed arms and travel embargoes on Liberia for another year and also extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 20 June. It left in force its assets freeze on former President Charles Taylor, his family and associates. The Council, which last year lifted the ban on Liberian diamond exports, encouraged the Liberian government to ask the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) to review the country’s implementation. The KPCS, set up to keep “blood diamonds” from reaching world markets, was invited to report to the Council.

On 7 January, the Special Court for Sierra Leone resumed the trial of Taylor at The Hague after a six-month delay to allow him to prepare his defence.

Public hearings commenced on 8 January at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established to inquire into human rights violations during the country’s 14-year civil war, which ended in 2003 and left the nation in ruins. The seven-member Commission, patterned along the South African TRC, is meant to investigate crimes and provide a forum for victims, witnesses and alleged perpetrators to relate their version of events.

The new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia, Ellen Margrethe Løj, arrived in the country to take up her post on 17 January. “There is a lot of peacebuilding work to be done to ensure that Liberia does not slide back into conflict and chaos,” she told UNMIL. Following a violent mob attack on a police station 20 February, in which UNMIL intervened to rescue detained suspected murderers, she urged Liberians not to resort to vigilantism but rather to allow the country’s justice system work. Løj was chair of the Council’s Liberia Sanctions Committee in 2005 and 2006 when she was Denmark’s UN ambassador.

On 1 February, a French military vessel intercepted and seized 2.5 tonnes of cocaine from a ship reportedly outside Liberian waters, and towed it into port because the ship was flying the Liberian flag. The drug seizure was the largest in the country’s history.

Related Developments in the Sanctions Committee
On 5 December, the Panel of Experts monitoring the sanctions on the country submitted its report to the Sanctions Committee. The report said Liberia began exporting rough diamonds in early September. The Kimberley Process found five parcels that did not meet its standards, but cleared four other shipments. The Panel found no evidence of significant movements of arms or ex-combatants across Liberia’s borders although it noted an increase in armed robbery, with firearms involved in about a third of the cases. It said that little headway had been made in freezing the assets of Taylor, his family and associates in Liberia or in Nigeria. The Liberian House of Representatives has defeated a government bill to freeze the assets. (Two legislators, Taylor’s estranged wife Jewel Howard Taylor and his former son-in-law Edwin Snowe, are on the assets freeze list.)

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Key Issues
The key issue for the Council involves ensuring a successful drawdown of UNMIL and effective peace and development. In the light of the recent cocaine seizure and similar incidents in West Africa, another issue is how to prevent Liberia from becoming a major transit point for drug trafficking to Europe.

Options
Options before the Council include:

  • issuing a statement supporting the Secretary-General’s report on the reduction of peacekeepers; and
  • issuing a statement of concern about the potential for Liberia to become a hub for drug trafficking, and appealing for international support to help the country patrol its coastal waters.

Council Dynamics
Some members would like to see an early troop drawdown in the country to release scarce resources for pressing peacekeeping engagements elsewhere, but others are awaiting the Secretary-General’s evaluation.

The United States (whose president visited Liberia on 21 February), and African members of the Council are in the lead on this issue.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1793 (21 December 2007) granted exemption from the Council’s travel ban for witnesses who might need to appear before the Special Court for Sierra Leone dealing with the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
  • S/RES/1792 (19 December 2007) renewed the arms and travel sanctions and as well as the mandate of the Panel of Experts.
  • S/RES/1777 (20 September 2007) renewed the mandate of UNMIL for a one year and endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the mission’s draw-down.
  • S/RES/1753 (27 April 2007) lifted the diamonds embargo and decided to review this decision after receiving reports from the Panel of Experts and KPCS.
  • S/RES/1731 (20 December 2006) renewed sanctions.
  • S/RES/1532 (12 March 2004) imposed an assets freeze against former President Charles Taylor and associates.
  • S/RES/1521 (22 December 2003) imposed sanctions.
  • S/RES/1509 (19 September 2003) established UNMIL.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2007/479 (8 August 2007) was the latest UNMIL report.
  • S/2007/143 (13 March 2007) was a report on cross-border issues in West Africa.

Other

  • S/2007/689 (5 December 2007) was the latest report of the Panel of Experts.
  • SC/9183 (29 November 2007) was about the delisting of Grace Beatrice Minor from the Liberia Sanctions Committee assets freeze and travel ban list.
  • S/2007/547 (14 September 2007) was the letter from the chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee conveying the two letters constituting the report of the KPCS to the Council.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark)

UNMIL: Size, Composition and Cost

• Strength as of 30 November 2007: 13,534 military and 1,183 police
• Key contributing countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan
• Cost: 1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008: $721.72 million

 

UNMIL: Duration

September 2003 to present; mandate expires 30 September 2008.

Chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee

Giadalla Azuz Ettalhi (Libya)

 

Full forecast