August 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 July 2009
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AFRICA

Liberia

Expected Council Action
In August the Council will receive a report from the Secretary-General on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). It is expected to include detailed recommendations on international assistance needed for the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 2011. These recommendations are based on the findings of a joint Department of Political Affairs/UN Development Programme electoral needs-assessment mission that visited Liberia in May.

UNMIL’s mandate expires on 30 September. No action is currently scheduled for August.

Key Recent Developments
On 25 June the Council met in closed consultations to discuss the Secretary-General’s special report on UNMIL of 10 June and heard a briefing by Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who had just visited Liberia. There was also a briefing by the chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee, Libyan Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham.

The Secretary-General’s June report was issued in response to a Council request for further recommendations on additional adjustments to the mission. The report noted that several security challenges remain and that progress in achieving key benchmarks had been uneven, notably in key security institutions like the Liberia National Police and the Armed Forces of Liberia, which still lacked the capacity to operate independently. UNMIL’s presence in Liberia was therefore seen as crucial at least until after the 2011 elections. For UNMIL’s third drawdown stage, which would run from October 2009 to May 2010, the Secretary-General recommended a reduction in military strength by 2,029 troops but no change in the police component. (For further details, please refer to our Update Report of 23 June.)

On 1 July the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) released its final report. As one of the elements of the 2003 peace agreement for Liberia, the Commission started its work in June 2006 with the mandate to foster truth, justice and reconciliation by identifying the root causes of the civil war and determining those responsible for crimes committed during the conflict (January 1979-October 2003). The final report concluded that all parties to the conflict committed violations of international criminal law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as well as domestic law. It stressed the importance of justice and accountability to foster reconciliation.

The report also recommended the establishment of an “extraordinary criminal tribunal for Liberia” to try all individuals recommended for prosecution by the Commission. The list of individuals, annexed to the report, contains almost 100 names, including that of former President Charles Taylor. The Commission noted that persons who had admitted wrongdoings and “spoke truthfully before or to the TRC as an expression of remorse” had avoided being placed on the list.

In addition, the report recommended lesser punitive measures, including a ban on holding public office, against fifty political leaders and others associated with the former warring factions, including against current President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for her support of Taylor’s rebellion against former President Samuel Doe before she went into exile in the 1980s. According to the recommendation, Johnson-Sirleaf would be allowed to finish her term, but not seek re-election.

Liberians appeared divided over the findings of the Commission. Some groups said the recommendations could have a negative impact on an already fragile peace process and could threaten the stability of Liberia. Two of the commissioners, Pearl Brown Bull and Sheikh Kafumba Konneh, did not sign the final report, stating that its recommendations put too much emphasis on prosecution as opposed to reconciliation and were not in line with Liberian amnesty legislation and principles. In a speech on 26 July President Johnson-Sirleaf said that she was committed to working with all branches of government, the Independent Human Rights Commission and others to implement the Commission’s recommendations as long as they were within its mission and mandate.

Meanwhile, the trial of Charles Taylor resumed on 13 July in The Hague with the opening of the defence case. The former Liberian president has been charged before the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from his alleged role in the civil war in Liberia’s neighbour, Sierra Leone. The defence started with the testimony of Taylor himself, who on 14 July spoke for the first time in public since arriving in The Hague in 2006. He denied all charges and said that the case against him was based on misinformation and lies. His testimony was expected to last some four weeks. The defence has said it has a list of 249 witnesses but may not call on all to testify. Currently, the trial is expected to continue until February with a ruling in July and possible verdict in August 2010.

Human Rights-Related Developments
Liberia in July submitted, in a single document, its first six periodic reports on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women for the consideration in July of the committee overseeing implementation. Liberia noted in its reports that despite the election of the country’s first democratic government in January 2006, the country was still recovering from 14 years of conflict. Although the security situation had stabilised, state institutions, law enforcement and the judiciary all required strengthening if human rights were to be promoted and protected in a sustained manner.

Key Issues
While Council members seem to agree 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. In addition to the elections, another key event is the expected verdict in the trial of Charles Taylor in 2010. It also remains to be seen what impact the final report of the TRC will have and whether it will lead to reconciliation or rancour. Commissioners were reported to have received death threats.

A related key issue is the pace of progress in developing Liberian security structures and security sector reform. So far, progress has been slower than Council members and others would have hoped.

Regional issues also remain important, and negative developments in neighbouring countries could have a spillover effect in Liberia. Destabilising factors including high youth unemployment, high numbers of underemployed and unemployed ex-combatants, drug trafficking and food insecurity are affecting the whole subregion of West Africa. This situation has been exacerbated by the global financial crisis. These issues were also pointed out in the latest report from the Secretary-General on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) of 19 June.

Options
In-depth discussions in the Council will most likely not take place until September, ahead of UNMIL’s mandate renewal at the end of that month. The conclusions of the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report are not expected to be significantly different from those in his June report.

Council Dynamics
While Council members seem to agree on the security threats still present in Liberia, views differ on the implications for UNMIL’s drawdown. France in particular argues that the threats are of a political rather than military nature and that a faster troop reduction therefore should be possible. But others, in particular the US, are opposed to an accelerated process, arguing that the situation remains very fragile and that what today can be described as a relative success story could easily become another repeated crisis in a very volatile region. Most Council members seem to prefer a balanced approach. There seems to be awareness that Liberia is an important test case for UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

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 UNMIL’s mandate for 12 months and endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the mission’s drawdown.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2009/332 (19 June 2009) was on UNOWA.
  • S/2009/299 (10 June 2009) was on UNMIL.
  • S/2009/86 (10 February 2009) was the latest regular UNMIL report.
  • S/2007/479 (8 August 2007) was the initial drawdown plan for UNMIL.

Other

  • S/2009/303 (11 June 2009) was the report of the Council mission to Africa from 14-21 May, which included a visit to Liberia.
  • S/2009/290 (5 June 2009) 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 Force Commander

Lieutenant-General A.T.M Zahirul Alam (Bangladesh)

UNMIL: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Strength as of 10 June 2009: 10,231 military and 1,375 police
  • Key contributing countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan
  • Cost: 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010: approx. $593 million

UNMIL: Duration

September 2003 to present; mandate expires 30 September 2009

Chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee

Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham (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)
  • Hervé Gonsolin (France, expert on arms)

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