December 2011 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action
In December the Council is expected to renew both the sanctions regime on Liberia and the mandate of the panel of experts monitoring the implementation of the sanctions for a period of four to six months. The mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) expires on 30 September 2012.

Key Recent Developments
On 16 September, the Council adopted resolution 2008 extending UNMIL’s mandate until 30 September 2012. Resolution 2008 also noted that the conduct of “free, fair and peaceful elections” would be a “core benchmark for UNMIL’s future drawdown.” On 13 September, Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Liberia, had briefed the Council on the latest developments in Liberia. Løj reported significant socioeconomic development but noted that though the security situation remained stable, it was still fragile.

Liberia held presidential elections on 11 October. Sixteen candidates ran and none got the necessary 50 percent-plus-one of the total vote to avoid a run-off. Incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led with 43.9 percent of the vote. On 26 October the Council issued a press statement praising the peaceful and orderly conduct of the first round, but the main opposition leader, Winston A. Tubman, who won 32.7 percent of the vote, announced that he was withdrawing from the run-off contest slated for 8 November, citing irregularities in the conduct of the vote. A day before the election, Tubman’s supporters clashed with the Liberian National Police (LNP), who opened fire, killing at least one protester. The run-off polls were conducted on schedule, but turnout was predictably low due to the opposition boycott and the pre-election violence. Also, some of Sirleaf’s supporters saw no need to go to the polls since their candidate was bound to win anyway. In the event, Sirleaf received 607,618 votes (or 90.7 percent of the total cast) and was declared re-elected for another six-year term.

On 18 November, the Council issued a statement praising the election as “free, fair and transparent”. The statement, however, deplored the electoral violence of 7 November and welcomed the creation of a Special Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incident. The statement called on Liberian leaders to “promote meaningful reconciliation and inclusive dialogue in order to consolidate peace and advance Liberia’s democratic development.”

The violent police reaction to opposition protesters came as a reminder of the serious gap in Liberian national capacity in matters of security. The UN police had to intervene in force to stop further bloodshed.

Regarding sanctions, resolution 1961 in December 2010 demanded greater compliance from the Liberian authorities, particularly in respect to their obligations concerning the freezing of assets belonging to former President Charles Taylor as well as those of his family and other individuals who were associated with his regime. The resolution also urged the Liberian government to implement the recommendations of the 2009 review team on the Kimberley Process, the international certification regime for rough diamonds meant for export. The review team had identified serious loopholes with respect to Liberia’s compliance with the process’ requirements.

The panel of experts’  last report, submitted to the Council in June, reported “attempted violations” of the arms embargo by individuals and groups from Liberia, mainly an estimated 4,500 mercenaries “hired and deployed” by former Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo during the conflict in that country. The report noted the seizure of weapons by UN officials from mercenaries returning from the Ivorian conflict. (The Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire reported in October that large quantities of arms and ammunition believed to have been acquired by Gbagbo remain unaccounted for.)

The panel’s report noted difficulties in monitoring the travel ban because of the lack of “more comprehensive and standardised methodology for listing individuals and adding identifying” passport information about those on the list. It reported obtaining passport information on only two of the 45 individuals on the travel-ban list, one of whose passport expired in 2008. The report noted that Liberian customs and immigration officials did not appear to have the travel-ban list, and the passport details, not to mention the current location, of the non-Liberians on the list are murky. The report recommended the use of Interpol to alert law enforcement agencies worldwide to the individuals on the list but noted that relevant details to make this practicable are available on only 31 of the 45 individuals on the list. The report says very little about the 22 individuals and 30 entities whose assets are frozen, noting that it had begun to “follow up on information” in the panel’s archives on “possible assets linked” to these individuals and entities. In fact, some prominent Liberians on the sanctions list have been apparently co-opted by President Sirleaf’s government. They include Benoni Urey, who was a close associate of Taylor and was appointed mayor of the town of Careysburg by the government in October 2009, who is on the UN assets-freeze and travel-ban list.

Key Issues
The immediate key issue for the Council is how to ensure effective implementation of the sanctions regime as Liberia stabilises following largely peaceful but not problem-free elections in November. 

A related issue is the fact that some of the individuals listed under the assets freeze have since joined the government and the question whether their continuing presence on the list enhances or diminishes the effectiveness and credibility of the sanctions regime.

Underlying Problems
Nearly eight years after UNMIL was deployed, Liberian police capacity is still problematic. Police presence in rural Liberia is negligible, and the UN still performs important policing duties. Nearly 100 Liberian police personnel have been summarily dismissed for alleged collusion in crimes, including armed robbery. The picture is just as bleak for the 2,000-strong national army, which has been put together by an American private security company, Dyncorp, with funding from the US State Department. Lacking experienced officers, the army is led by personnel from Nigeria’s armed forces. In the past two years, violent clashes were reported between the army and the police. Where national reconciliation is concerned, the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, issued in 2009, were largely shelved, and the Human Rights Commission remains dysfunctional due to internal problems.

One option for the Council is a technical roll-over of resolution 1961, which on 17 December 2010 renewed for 12 months an arms embargo on Liberia and assets freezes and travel bans on persons deemed threatening to the country’s peace process as well as the mandate of the panel.

A less likely option would be adopting a resolution modifying some elements of the sanctions regime, in particular those relating to the criteria for listing.

Council Dynamics
Liberia recently became a mildly contentious item on the Council’s agenda after European Council members—France, the UK, Germany and Portugal—in September raised issues relating to financing and competing demands for peacekeeping resources, citing UNMIL’s prolonged stay in Liberia. As a result, there were unexpectedly prolonged Council discussions before the adoption of a resolution renewing UNMIL’s mandate. All Council members, however, seem to agree about the need for the sanctions regime and the panel of experts, in part because of the salience of the issues involved, in particular the illicit movement of arms across the border between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.

The US is leading on Liberia in the Council.

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2008 (16 September 2011) extended the mandate of UNMIL until 30 September 2012.
  • S/RES/1961 (17 December 2010) renewed for 12 months an arms embargo on Liberia, assets freezes, and travel bans on selected individuals.
  • S/RES/1521 (22 December 2003) called for establishing the panel of experts as part of a sanctions regime.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6619 (16 September 2011) was the transcript of the Council’s discussions on UNMIL.

Other Relevant Facts

UNMIL Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark)

UNMIL Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Muhammad Khalid (Pakistan)

Chairman of the Sanctions Committee

Nawaf Salam (Lebanon)

Panel of Experts on Liberia

Christian Dietrich (US), finance and coordinator; Caspar Fithen (UK), natural resources; and Augusta Muchai (Kenya), arms

Full Forecast