March 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 February 2009
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Expected Council Action
In March, the Council is expected to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on Liberia of 10 February and hear a briefing by Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. Progress in meeting key security benchmarks and possible adjustments of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) will be considered. Resolution 1836 renewed the UNMIL mandate until September 2009.

Key Recent Developments
On 19 December resolution 1854 renewed the arms embargo and travel ban for a further 12 months and extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts monitoring implementation of the sanctions regime until 20 December.

In December the Liberia Sanctions Committee removed two further individuals from the travel ban and assets freeze lists: Jenkins Dunbar (former Liberian minister of lands, mines and energy) and Gus Kouwenhoven (arms dealer and purveyor of funds to the Charles Taylor regime and close associate of Taylor). It also updated information on others.

On 30 January in the trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, the prosecution concluded testimony, having called 91 witnesses. Defence testimony is expected to start in April. A verdict is expected in early 2010. The UK has offered to imprison Taylor if he is convicted.

On 9 January, Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, Taylor’s son, was sentenced by a US court to 97 years in prison for torture committed when he was head of a notorious anti-terrorist unit in Liberia during his father’s presidency. It was the first application of a US law known as the extraterritorial torture statute, which allows for the prosecution of US citizens who commit torture overseas.

On 30 November the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) published a list of 198 individuals suspected of having committed war crimes and other human rights violations between 1979 and 2003 and called on them to appear before the Commission to respond to the allegations. Public hearings were extended from December to 15 February to allow more witnesses to testify. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf testified before the Commission on 12 February, apologising for having supported Taylor’s rebellion against President Samuel Doe before she went into exile

On 19 December the TRC presented the first of several volumes of its final report, containing findings and determinations made to date. It recommended that individuals and groups found by the TRC responsible for serious crimes, including violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, should be prosecuted in a special criminal court. More detailed recommendations on this court would be included in the final consolidated report to be presented to the Liberian government on 22 June.

The overall security situation in Liberia remained stable but fragile. UNMIL was reconfigured into two sectors, following the withdrawal of one infantry battalion and two sector headquarters in accordance with resolution 1836 which approved a reduction of 1,460 UNMIL troops.

Focus continued on justice sector reform. On 3 December UNMIL released its biannual report on the human rights situation in Liberia. It addressed challenges in the criminal justice system, in particular the lack of key personnel and inadequate funding for essential rule of law institutions including courts, police and the prison system. It expressed concern about the prevalence of gender-based violence and called on the government to make appointments to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights so it could become operational.

Challenges in security sector reform were also reported by the International Crisis Group in January, which highlighted concerns about ineffectiveness and corruption among the police.

The Secretary General’s report of 10 February, which will be before the Council in March, also noted significant challenges in meeting core security and rule of law benchmarks. It recommended that UNMIL’s strength should be maintained for the remainder of the current mandate. However, the report suggested a further military drawdown of 2,000 by the end of 2010 (i.e. phase three of the drawdown plan) subject to a more detailed assessment on the ground. No significant police reduction was envisaged at this stage.

Key Issues
Security sector reform remains a key issue. While there seems to be agreement that UNMIL’s presence remains crucial in maintaining security, particularly for the presidential and legislative elections in 2011, a key question is how large UNMIL needs to be for this purpose.

Regional issues also remain important. Liberia’s security situation could be cross infected from negative developments in neighbouring countries. The further postponement of elections in Côte d’Ivoire and the recent coup in Guinea are worrying issues in this regard. In addition, destabilising factors such as high youth unemployment, drug trafficking and food insecurity are affecting the whole subregion of West Africa.

The Council could push for a faster drawdown of UNMIL to alleviate pressures from elsewhere on limited peacekeeping resources, but this seems less likely now that the Secretary-General has given his clear recommendation to maintain UNMIL’s strength until September.

Another option would be to endorse his recommendation but also signal that it hopes to see a more aggressive approach to phase three of the drawdown than suggested by the Secretary-General.

Council Dynamics
At press time, Council members were still studying the Secretary-General’s report. In-depth discussions on the recommendations had yet to start. It is unclear whether any members will press for an immediate drawdown. In the past, France has argued for a quicker drawdown but has faced resistance, notably from the US.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1854 (19 December 2008) renewed the arms and travel sanctions for a further 12 months and extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts that monitors implementation of the sanctions regime until 20 December.
  • S/RES/1836 (29 September 2008) renewed the UNMIL mandate for 12 months and endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the mission’s drawdown.
  • 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.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2009/86 (10 February 2009) was the latest UNMIL report.
  • S/2007/479 (8 August 2007) was the Secretary-General’s drawdown plan for UNMIL.


  • S/2009/47 (22 January 2009) was a letter from the Secretary-General appointing two of the members of the Panel of Experts on Liberia.
  • S/2008/785 (30 November 2008) was the latest report of the Panel of Experts on Liberia.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark)

UNMIL: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Strength as of February 2009: 10,764 military and 1,226 police
  • Key contributing countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan
  • Cost: 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009: $631.69 million

UNMIL: Duration

September 2003 to present; mandate expires 30 September 2009

Chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee

Giadalla Azuz Ettalhi (Libya)

Panel of Experts on Liberia

  • Thomas R. Creal (US, expert on finance)
  • Wynet V. Smith (Canada, expert on natural resources and coordinator of the Panel)
  • A third expert is yet to be appointed.

Useful Additional Sources

Full forecast




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