September 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 August 2008
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Expected Council Action

The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) which is due to expire on 30 September. The Council is also expected to consider the August report from the Secretary-General regarding progress on benchmarks for the drawdown of UNMIL.

Recent Developments
On 15 August, the Secretary-General submitted his latest report on UNMIL to the Council. It noted that the overall situation in the country remained fragile, despite general political stability and improvement in key economic and social indicators. The Secretary-General highlighted progress made on benchmarks for the mission drawdown and included recommendations on possible reductions in UNMIL’s military and police components—a reduction of the mission’s military strength by 1460 troops and an increase in UN-formed police units from five to seven (i.e. from 605 to 845 personnel) starting from September 2008 and some internal adjustments to the police component to accommodate eight additional correction officers. He explained that the decision to bolster the UNMIL police component was necessitated by the inability to meet certain core benchmarks. The Secretary-General also recommended the extension of UNMIL’s mandate for another year.

On 14 July, Stephen Rapp, the prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) which is currently trying former Liberian President Charles Taylor on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from his role in Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war, said that the legal proceedings demonstrated that “the trial of a former chief of State can be conducted openly and fairly” and expressed his satisfaction with progress made. Taylor has been charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. He has denied all charges. (The Special Court, which was jointly established by the Sierra Leonean government and the UN, is tasked with trying those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious infringement of Sierra Leonean law and international humanitarian law carried out on the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996). The trial of Taylor by the Special Court, which went into recess on 21 July after hearing testimonies from 35 prosecution witnesses, resumed on 18 August. The actual trial was considered to have commenced when Taylor made an appearance in the court on 20 June.

On 11 and 12 August, Alhaji G.V. Kromah, former head of the disbanded United Liberation Movement (ULIMO), appeared before the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The ULIMO fought against Charles Taylor’s rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia in the early days of the country’s civil war. Kromah’s appearance before the TRC is the first by the head of a defunct warring faction. It is thought that this latest development could contribute to assuaging apprehension amongst Liberians about the ability or willingness of the TRC to summon and exercise subpoena powers over warlords, legislators, the presidency and other individuals who gained notoriety during the country’s protracted civil war. (The decision to establish the TRC formed part of the August 2003 peace agreement. It was set up in 2005 to “promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation,” and provide opportunity to hold culprits accountable for violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations which took place in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.)

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is renewing the mandate of UNMIL before its expiration on 30 September. A related issue is striking the right balance between the previous drawdown timetable and ongoing concerns about a premature reduction of UNMIL.

The issue of a transition from a peacekeeping to peacebuilding focus is another key concern.

Options before the Council include:

  • extending UNMIL’s current mandate only for six months thereby allowing for more in-depth discussion of downsizing the mission to be deferred until early 2009;
  • renewing the mandate UNMIL with or without some modifications for another year; and
  • initiating a higher focus on Liberia’s post conflict needs in a more holistic sense than the narrow security focus applied in the past.

Council Dynamics
The Council’s dynamics remain unchanged. The US and African members reportedly prefer a cautious drawdown of UNMIL in tune with the security situation, while European members are likely to want to explore a faster redistribution of the mission’s peacekeeping resources to conflict zones elsewhere. In effect, there is Council consensus in principle that the drawdown should continue, albeit with differences of opinion as to how fast it should be carried out.

Although the Liberian government has not asked for the country to be placed on the Peacebuilding Commission’s agenda, Liberia is increasingly recognised as a country whose peacebuilding needs require better coordination and oversight. While it may be a candidate for inclusion on the Commission’s agenda in the future, in the short term it is likely to remain on the Security Council agenda in view of the continuing fragility. But at present there is concern that there is no apparent strategy for collective transitional oversight and coordination. The Council therefore has an opportunity to advance its focus from peacekeeping to peacebuilding.

Underlying Problem
High youth unemployment remains a major problem, as employment generation continues to pose a key challenge in the country. The Secretary-General’s latest report also highlights the issues of arms and drug trafficking, together with the activities of ex-combatants, including illegal mining in inaccessible areas all over the country. This presents an ominous brew of potentially destabilising factors, especially when viewed against the backdrop of how those forces fuelled the country’s civil war.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1819 (18 June 2008) requested the Secretary-General to extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts on Liberia until 20 December 2008.
  • S/RES/1792 (19 December 2007) renewed the arms and travel sanctions as well as the mandate of the Panel of Experts.
  • S/RES/1777 (20 September 2007) renewed the mandate of UNMIL for one year and endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the mission’s drawdown.
  • S/RES/1753 (27 April 2007) lifted the diamonds embargo.
  • 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/2008/553 (15 August 2008) was the latest UNMIL report.
  • S/2007/479 (8 August 2007) was the Secretary-General’s drawdown plan for UNMIL.


  • SC/9354 (13 June 2008) was the press release on the delisting of Montgomery Dolo from the Liberia Sanctions Committee travel ban list.
  • S/2008/371 (12 June 2008) was the latest report of the Panel of Experts on Liberia.
  • SC/9336 (21 May 2008) was the press release on the delisting of Gabriel Doe, Khalid Eldine, Wesseh Dennis and Zarr Koffi from the Liberia Sanctions Committee travel ban list.
  • SC/9290 (31 March 2008) was the press release on the delisting of Gerald Cooper from the Liberia Sanctions Committee travel ban list.
  • S/2008/85 (8 February 2008) was the letter from the Secretary-General appointing the Panel of Experts on Liberia.
  • SC/9183 (29 November 2007) was the press release on the delisting of Grace Minor from the Liberia Sanctions Committee assets freeze and travel ban list.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark)

UNMIL: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Strength as of 31 July 2008: 12,815 uniformed personnel and 1,086 police
  • Key contributing countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan
  • Cost: 1 July 2008–30 June 2009: $631.69 million

UNMIL: Duration

September 2003 to present; mandate expires 30 September 2008

Chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee

Giadalla Azuz Ettalhi (Libya)

Panel of Experts on Liberia

  • Guy Lamb (South Africa, expert on arms and security)
  • Thomas R. Creal (US, expert on finance)
  • Wynet V. Smith (Canada, expert on natural resources and coordinator of the Panel)

Full forecast


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