June 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2012
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AFRICA

Liberia

Expected Council Action 
In June, the Council is likely to discuss the special report of the Secretary-General on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), submitted in April. The Council will likely be briefed in closed consultations by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Council will also likely consider the midterm report of the Panel of Experts (PoE) monitoring the implementation of the Liberia sanctions regime, due by end of May.  A key consideration in this respect could be a review of the list of individuals banned from travel and subject to asset freezes. There may also be consideration with respect to the eventual drawdown of UNMIL’s military component and the beefing up of the police component.

UNMIL’s mandate expires on 30 September.

Key Recent Developments
On 30 May, Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former President, was sentenced to 50 years in prison by the UN-mandated Special Court for Sierra Leone for aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes by Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels during that country’s civil war.

On 19 and 20 May, Council members, co-led by Ambassador Susan Rice (US) and Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki (Morocco), visited Liberia to assess the overall security challenges in the country, especially the capability of Liberia’s internal defence mechanisms. Of particular interest to Council members are the security-capability gaps along the Ivorian border, including the need for continued attention to illicit weapons flows in the region and exploring methods to strengthen regional cooperation. The mission was also intended to review progress made so far in implementing UNMIL’s mandate as set out in resolution 2008.

Council members met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her cabinet, as well as with representatives of civil society organisations, to discuss national reconciliation and governance issues. The meetings gave Council members a better understanding of issues of concern in Liberia, including participation of women, the conviction of former President Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, reconciliation and corruption. Among other activities, Council members also met with UNMIL and the UN country team in Liberia and participated in a meeting with the heads of the Justice Ministry, Liberian National Police, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalisation and the UN Police (UNPOL). The Council’s last visit to Liberia was in 2009.

Just before the Council visit, from 13 to 18 May, the chair of the sanctions committee and the PoE visited Liberia. The delegation also met with government and UNMIL officials, civil society, representatives of regional organisations, and law-enforcement officials.

Resolution 2008, which was adopted on 16 September 2011, called on the government of Liberia to continue work on developing “national security and rule of law institutions that are fully and independently operational.” It also encouraged “coordinated progress on the implementation of all Security and Justice Development Plans.” The resolution also called on the government of Liberia and UNMIL to “continue to make progress in the transition planning process, particularly in addressing critical gaps that need to be filled in order to facilitate a successful transition,” and requested the Secretary-General to deploy a technical assessment mission to Liberia after the inauguration of the new president. The technical mission was to focus on “the security transition, and also develop detailed proposals for the next stages of UNMIL’s drawdown, based on a thorough review of progress made towards the transition benchmarks, with a view to providing timelines and recommendations for the further reduction of UNMIL’s military component.”

On 16 January, Johnson-Sirleaf, who was re-elected to a second term in largely peaceful, free and fair elections in November 2011, was inaugurated. On 20 February, the Secretary-General deployed the assessment mission, led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The mission stayed until 2 March and submitted a detailed report (S/2012/230) to Council members on 16 April. The report noted that the peace in Liberia is fragile and the significant economic and political gains made so far are “vulnerable to disruption.” (For more details, please refer to our May 2012 Forecast.)

Among key recommendations of the report are: a very careful adjustment of UNMIL’s security presence over the next three years (UNMIL’s total troop strength at present is 7,952; the report recommends the repatriation of 4,200 troops in three phases between August and July 2015, leaving the mission’s military strength at approximately 3,750 troops for the foreseeable future); and adding three formed police units to UNMIL’s police component over the next three years (its current strength is 498 advisers and 845 officers in seven formed units).

Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)
In March, the PBC published its first review of progress in implementing the Statement of Mutual Commitment, which was adopted on 15 November 2010. Covering the period 1 November 2010 to 31 July 2011, the review reported that “while the professional capacity of the justice and security systems are being developed, greater attention will need to be paid to ensuring that underlying these efforts is a vibrant political society to better guarantee the legitimacy of these institutions.”

Ambassador Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan), stepped down as chair of the PBC’s Liberia country-specific configuration in March and on 17 April, the configuration elected Ambassador Staffan Tillander (Sweden) as the new chair. Sweden has a significant field presence in Liberia.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council continues to be how best to assist Liberia in consolidating its peace, with the goal that its national institutions are able to maintain order and stability independently of UNMIL.

A related issue is to ensure an eventual smooth transition of UNMIL from a large peacekeeping mission to a possible successor presence, probably a small political office similar to the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). Striking a balance between the need to wind down the mission and doing it at a time when the gains from UNMIL’s work have taken root, will be particularly important.

Options

  • Regarding sanctions, an option would be significantly revising the list of individuals sanctioned with travel ban and asset freezes, in view of progress in peace-consolidation made so far, as well as the recent Taylor conviction by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
  • Regarding UNMIL, starting discussions on reducing the number of troops for the mission and increasing the police component would be an option.

Council Dynamics
Council members generally appear to be impressed by the significant economic gains made by the country since 2006, but concerns remain about the lack of movement on issues relating to national reconciliation. There seems to be a growing concern among some Council members about entrenching a feeling of dependency in Liberia as a result of UNMIL’s prolonged existence, but also fear that the timeline set for UNMIL’s military drawdown may be unrealistic. Council members are concerned about the slow pace of development of Liberia’s internal security mechanisms and by extension UNMIL’s transition. Council members are keenly aware of the salience of the issues relating to the mission in Liberia for regional peace and security, in particular the illicit movement of arms across the border between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. In this respect, Council members appeared impressed during the visit to West Africa about the inter-mission cooperation between UNMIL and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire..

The US leads on Liberia in the Council.

 UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2025 (14 December 2011) renewed the sanctions regime and the mandate of the PoE monitoring the sanctions for 12 months.
  • S/RES/2008 (16 September 2011) extended the mandate of UNMIL until 30 September 2012.
  • S/RES/1521 (22 December 2003) established the PoE as part of a sanctions regime.

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2012/230 (16 April 2012) was the special report on UNMIL requested by Resolution 2008.
  • S/2011/497 (5 August 2011) was a regular report, covering developments in Liberia since 14 February 2011.

Latest Report of the Panel of Experts

Other Relevant Facts

UNMIL Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Karin Landgren (Sweden)

UNMIL Force Commander

Major General Muhammad Khalid (Pakistan) 

Chairman of the Sanctions Committee

Abdullah Hussain Haroon (Pakistan)

Panel of Experts on Liberia

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

Useful Additional Source

Security Council Visit to Liberia: Terms of Reference (15 May 2012)

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