February 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 January 2011
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AFRICA

Liberia

Expected Council Action

A report of the Secretary-General on Liberia is due in mid-February. The head of UNMIL, Ellen Margrethe Løj, usually briefs the Council. In normal circumstances the Liberia report would be considered in March. However, in light of the situation in neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire and the risks of potential cross-border issues, Council members seem likely to be keen to absorb quickly any relevant observations in the Liberia report.

Key Recent Developments
On 15 September 2010, the Security Council adopted resolution 1938, extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) until 30 September 2011. The resolution authorises UNMIL to provide logistical support for the general presidential and legislative elections expected in October 2011.

Events in neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire have had a considerable impact on Liberia. On 24 November 2010, the Council authorised the Secretary-General to temporarily redeploy from UNMIL to the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) a maximum of three infantry companies and an aviation unit of two military utility helicopters. At press time the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that over 30,000 Ivorian refugees had fled to Liberia, with estimates of 600 people arriving daily. Liberian authorities have indicated they are bracing for 100,000 refugees to arrive over the next weeks and months. Early flows of refugees were predominantly women and children and purported to be supporters of both Gbagbo and Ouattara.

There have also been concerns about cross border movement in the opposite direction. On 8 December 2010, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged Liberians not to cross into Côte d’Ivoire as mercenaries, following indications that such movements were likely. On 26 December, she said, “We have information that some Liberians are joining the war in Ivory Coast as soldiers of fortune. We have called upon all those involved to desist.” She warned that Liberians involved in acts of violence in Côte d’Ivoire could be prosecuted under Liberian law.

Particular attention has focused on former combatants of the disbanded Liberian rebel group the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). During the last civil war, MODEL operated from Côte d’Ivoire against forces in Liberia loyal to Charles Taylor and was believed to have the support of Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo.

On 11 and 12 January, violent clashes occurred in Abidjan, resulting in the death of four civilians and five policemen. Witnesses identified the likely presence of Liberian mercenaries because they spoke English to each other rather than French.

On 20 December the Council extended the temporary redeployment of troops and helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI for a further four weeks and again on 19 January 2011 (in resolution 1967). Resolution 1967 also authorised the transfer, on a temporary basis, of an additional three armed helicopters and crew for a period of four weeks.

Key Issues
The key immediate issue for the Council is ensuring the situation in Côte d’Ivoire does not destabilise the fragile post-conflict security and political situation in Liberia.

A key issue for the security of both countries is determining how to prevent, or at least monitor, the movement of mercenaries from Liberia across the porous border to Côte d’Ivoire. And a related concern is that the redeployment of UN troops from UNMIL to UNOCI diminishes UN capacity in Liberia possibly leaving it vulnerable.

An urgent issue is ensuring sufficient support is offered to UNHCR and to Liberia to provide adequate conditions in western Liberia to accommodate the flow of refugees from Côte d’Ivoire.

Options
The Council could:

  • request the publication of the report from the Secretary-General on UNMIL to be accelerated;
  • request the briefing by the head of UNMIL to be brought forward from March to February; or
  • request a briefing from the head of the UN office in West Africa, Said Djinnit, on his assessment of the regional impact of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

Council Dynamics
The pace and nature of events in Côte d’Ivoire are occupying the full attention of Council experts who cover West Africa, including Liberia. Given the focus on Côte d’Ivoire, it seems difficult for many Council members to broaden their attention in February to the wider issues in Liberia. That said, many on the Council recognise the importance of taking a holistic, more integrated approach to the security situation in the region.

Council members are in general agreement that Liberia continues to make significant progress, due in great part to the willingness of the government to work with the UN and other international actors.

All Council members recognise that UNMIL must have sufficient resources to fulfil its mandate and have underscored that the transfer of troops and helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI is temporary.

The US is the lead country on Liberia in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1967 (19 January 2011) extended the temporary redeployment of troops and two utility helicopters and redeployed three armed helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI for a further four weeks.
  • S/RES/1962 (20 December 2010) extended the temporary redeployment of troops and helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI by four weeks.
  • S/RES/1961 (17 December 2010) renewed the sanctions regime in Liberia for a further 12 months and extended the mandate of the panel of experts until 16 December 2011.
  • S/RES/1951 (24 November 2010) authorised the Secretary-General to temporarily redeploy troops and two utility helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI for four weeks.
  • S/RES/1938 (15 September 2010) renewed UNMIL’s mandate for 12 months.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/429 (11 August 2010) was the latest report on UNMIL.
  • S/2007/479 (8 August 2007) was the initial drawdown plan for UNMIL.

Other

  • S/2010/609 (17 December 2010) was the final report of the panel of experts on Liberia.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark)

UNMIL Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Muhammad Khalid (Pakistan)

Size, Composition, Cost and Duration

  • Strength as of 30 November 2010: 9,387 personnel, including 7,937 troops, 1,319 police and 131 military observers
  • Key contributing countries: Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Ghana
  • Cost (1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011): $524.1 million
  • Duration: September 2003 to present; mandate expires 30 September 2011

Chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee

Nawaf Salam (Lebanon)

Panel of Experts on Liberia

To be announced

Full forecast