March 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2011
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Expected Council Action
The head of the UNMIL, Ellen Margrethe Løj, and the chair of the Liberia configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the Permanent Representative of Jordan, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, are expected to brief on the situation in Liberia.

It is also possible that some decision formalising the withdrawal of UNMIL’s military guard force from the Special Court of Sierra Leone’s premises in Freetown, Sierra Leone will be considered.

The mandate of UNMIL expires 30 September.

Key Recent Developments
On 7 December 2010, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf reconstituted her cabinet. She reappointed 14 of the 22 ministers—appointing new ministers for foreign affairs; lands, mines and energy; posts and telecommunications; and transport.

On 24 January, Johnson-Sirleaf delivered her annual message to the nation under the theme “our nation is heading in the right direction.” She said the elections of 2011 would be a crucial test of democracy and, referring to the standoff in Côte d’Ivoire said, “We are at a crossroads in our country’s history; we only have to look across the border to know we could go backwards as easily as we could go forward.” (For more details about the implication for Liberia of the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, please see our February Monthly Forecast.)

Voter registration for the October elections was conducted from 10 January to 6 February. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) provided support, including transport of registration materials to remote areas.

On 10 February the foreign minister of Liberia, Togo McIntosh, said in an interview in Washington DC that the worsening situation in Côte d’Ivoire threatened Liberian security, particularly given the upcoming elections. He said holding a second successful election was “a critical test” that should not be impeded by “trouble in the neighbourhood.”

McIntosh commended Liberians who had opened their homes to Ivorian refugees, but said the problem of refugee flows from Côte d’Ivoire was growing beyond Liberia’s capacity to respond. McIntosh said he had sought assistance from the UN to transport aid to the camps because roads to the eastern counties were in poor condition. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has agreed to repair, possibly by April, a 78-kilometre stretch of a dilapidated major road in north-eastern Liberia, which is a crucial transportation route to get people and goods into the area. Since December 2010, UNHCR has airlifted 108 tonnes of emergency relief supplies (blankets, plastic mats, jerrycans, kitchen sets and tarpaulins) to the border area. McIntosh said that Liberia also needed assistance with security in the camps and along the border. UNICEF has predicted the number of Ivorian refugees will reach 50,000 in February and could reach 100,000 across the region by April.

On 4 and 7 February, a joint meeting in New York of the executive boards of the UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, UNICEF, UN-Women and the World Food Programme discussed “efficiency of emergency response and the transition to recovery and long-term development: lessons learned,” looking at the case of Liberia. The boards discussed joint programmes between the UN agencies and UNMIL and the concept of UN integration in Liberia under the concept of “delivering as one.” Liberia was the first country with a peacekeeping mission to implement the concept.

On 11 February the Secretary-General informed the president of the Security Council that the withdrawal of the UNMIL guard force at the premises of the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) in Freetown, Sierra Leone, would be completed by early March. This followed advice from the registrar of the special court on 13 October 2010 that following relocation of sensitive archives to The Hague and reduction in international staff, the UNMIL guard force would no longer be required in Freetown.

On 16 February the Council extended the redeployment of troops, two utility helicopters and three armed helicopters from UNMIL to the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) for a further three months.

Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)
The chair of the PBC Liberia configuration, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, conducted the first official visit of the PBC configuration to Liberia from 7 to 15 November 2010. Prince Zeid informally briefed Council members on this visit in an “interactive dialogue”, in which Løj and a representative of Liberia also participated. The goals of the visit were to familiarise the chair with the situation in the country, to meet key national stakeholders and to introduce the work of the PBC. A key outcome was endorsement by the president of Liberia of a statement of mutual commitments that articulates the peacebuilding priorities identified by the government: strengthening the rule of law; supporting security sector reform; and promoting national reconciliation. Prince Zeid made a further visit to Liberia from 18 to 22 February, during which he also visited UNHCR camps in Nimba county, northeast Liberia.

Key Issues
The key immediate issue for the Council remains ensuring the situation in Côte d’Ivoire does not destabilise the fragile post-conflict security and political situation in Liberia. A related concern is that the redeployment of UN troops from UNMIL to UNOCI does not permanently diminish UN capacity in Liberia, possibly leaving it vulnerable.

An urgent issue remains 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.

A key issue for Liberia is strengthening the security sector, in particular the national police, to gradually reduce reliance on the uniformed elements of UNMIL for security and stability. A related issue is developing mechanisms to extend state authority throughout the country.

A further issue is ensuring that Liberian authorities have sufficient technical support to conduct the referendum to change the electoral laws in August, particularly as these will coincide with the rainy season, and the national elections in November.

Given the key emerging role of the PBC in coordinating donor support for security sector reform and other key priorities, a key issue for the Council will be maintaining appropriate formats along the lines of the November “Interactive Dialogue” to ensure continuing close involvement of the chair of the Liberia configuration with Council members.

Underlying Problems
Three civil wars in West Africa in the past decades with major cross-border dimensions have left a very complicated legacy, particularly with regard to the movement of different ethnic groups between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. Pressure from the situation in Côte d’Ivoire could stoke ethnic tensions in Liberia.

Youth unemployment in Liberia is 25 percent.

A 2008 survey by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified land and property disputes as one of the main threats to peace, which is exacerbated by a weak judicial system.

The ending of the UNMIL guard force from the SCSL in Sierra Leone gives the Council a possible peg on which to express some useful messages at this time:

  • at one end of the spectrum it could adopt a very concise technical resolution formalising the withdrawal of UNMIL guard forces from Sierra Leone or accomplish the same in either a brief statement or letter to the Secretary-General; or
  • alternatively it could use such a resolution or statement to also highlight key aspects of the situation in Liberia, including the current subregional situation and the risks for Liberia, the refugee situation and the need for support for UNHCR and the importance of peacebuilding efforts.

In discussions with special representative Løj, the Council could:

  • seek her views on the impact of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire on the situation in Liberia;
  • seek her views on the impact of the continued lending of UNMIL capacities to UNOCI; and
  • discuss UNMIL assistance to the August referendum and October elections.

Council Dynamics
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 efforts.

As for a future drawdown of UNMIL, many Council members feel that at this point in time the progress made in Liberia could be compromised unless there is a gradual and carefully executed exit strategy based on Liberia’s needs rather than a set timeline.

Some members have expressed concern that Liberia could become overly dependent on UNMIL and bilateral assistance from a too narrow donor base. Others would like to see greater emphasis on the eventual transfer of ownership to the government, particularly with respect to security sector reform.

The involvement of the PBC, particularly under the high-profile leadership of Prince Zeid of Jordan, has been seen as a positive development with regard to planning for an eventual withdrawal given the emphasis on assistance to security sector reform in the statement of mutual commitments.

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

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1968 (16 February 2011) extended the temporary redeployment of troops and helicopters from UNMIL to UNOCI for a further three months.
  • 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/2011/72 (14 February 2011) was the latest report on UNMIL, including an annex with revised transition benchmarks to guide the eventual withdrawal of UNMIL.
  • S/2007/479 (8 August 2007) was the initial drawdown plan for UNMIL.


  • S/2011/78 (17 February 2011) was a letter from the Secretary-General informing the Council of the appointment of the new panel of experts of the Liberia sanctions committee.
  • S/2011/74 (11 February 2011) was a letter from the Secretary-General recommending the withdrawal of UNMIL guard forces from the SCSL premises in Sierra Leone.

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

  • Maximum Authorised strength: up to 15,000 troops, up to 1,115 police
  • Strength as of 31 December 2010: 7,938 troops, 1,323 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

  • Wynet V. Smith (Canada), natural resources and coordinator of panel
  • Christian Dietrich (US), finance
  • Augusta Muchai (Kenya), arms

Full forecast


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