March 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2014
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AFRICA

Liberia

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council expects a briefing by Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on the Secretary-General’s report that will include an update on UNMIL’s ongoing reconfiguration. Ambassador Staffan Tillander (Sweden), chair of the Liberia configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), will also brief the Council following his recent visit to the country. The briefing will likely be followed by consultations.

The mandate of UNMIL expires on 30 September. No outcome is expected. 

Key Recent Developments

In resolution 2128, adopted on 10 December 2013, the Council took steps to scale back the Liberia sanctions while renewing the sanctions regime for another year. Changes were made to notification requirements on arms transfers and military assistance, and the resolution directed the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee to review designated individuals and entities over the next three months and delist those that do not pose a threat to the country anymore. The mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) was changed to no longer include monitoring of natural resources. It additionally specified that a review of the sanctions would occur in six months “with a view to further modifying or lifting all” the sanctions.

The Committee delisted Benoni Urey from the asset freeze and travel ban sanctions on 23 December. Urey had been commissioner of maritime affairs under former President Charles Taylor. On 26 December, Urey announced that he would run for president in 2017.

A survey measuring public perceptions of corruption, conducted by the National Integrity Forum, was released on December 19. It found that people believe corruption in Liberia remains widespread, particularly in government services, such as civil protection, health and education. The judiciary ranked as having the highest perceived levels of bribery.

Forty prisoners escaped from the Voinjama Prison in Lofa County on 18 December. Also in Lofa County, approximately 300 residents forcibly entered on 4 January a police station, beating a murder suspect and reportedly stealing four weapons.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations conducted a strategic review of UNMIL and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire from 7-19 February to assess their military and police components. The review intends to make recommendations for enhanced coordination and cooperation between the two peacekeeping operations, including the development of a UNOCI quick-reaction force that could support UNMIL if security issues arise during its ongoing drawdown. (Resolution 2116, adopted 18 September 2013, authorized UNMIL to reduce its military component by 1,129 personnel between October 2013 and September 2014 for the second phase of its three-year drawdown plan, which will leave the operation with approximately 5,550 soldiers and police by July 2015.)

The latest Liberia PoE report revealed that the Bureau of Operational Intelligence of the Ministry of the Interior of Côte d’Ivoire has been paying Liberian mercenaries to not launch attacks against Côte d’Ivoire (no new cross-border attacks have been reported since March 2013) (S/2013/683). It also described a lack of coordination between both countries as highlighted by the detention of a Côte d’Ivoire delegation and a UNOCI staff member in Liberia on 23 May 2013. The delegation and UNOCI individual had crossed into Liberia, without informing authorities, to raise awareness among Ivorian militia commanders about a resettlement program to return to Côte d’Ivoire. 

A trial in Monrovia of 18 Liberians accused of participating in cross-border attacks in western Côte d’Ivoire, including an attack that killed seven UN peacekeepers on 8 June 2012, was suspended by the judge in early January for security reasons.

The UN High Commission for Refugees accused Liberia of violating international law when it deported to Côte d’Ivoire 14 Ivorian registered refugees in the early morning of 17 February. The men, who had been arrested in southeast Liberia, were suspected of involvement in cross-border attacks.

Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission

From 2-7 February, Tillander visited Liberia and met with President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and other government officials and stakeholders to discuss ways to accelerate progress in national reconciliation, justice and security. Among other things, more dedicated financial resources from the government are required. Progress has also been slowed by its limited implementation capacity. Tillander also attended a workshop of the Gbarnga justice and security hub (created to increase access to justice and security services in the historically neglected interior). Achievements and difficulties with the hub were reviewed to provide lessons for the next two hubs, which are due to become operational over the next year.

Tillander also held discussions with the government, local community groups and business representatives following his communication with the Sanctions Committee on several of the PoE’s recommendations in its final report on natural resource management and land-related issues.

Key Issues

A key issue will be progress in the drawdown of UNMIL and efforts by Liberia to fill the gaps where peacekeepers have left, the latter of which is viewed as moving too slowly.

Another issue is the slow deployment of the regional justice hubs outside Monrovia.

Members will look forward to learning more about the strategic review conducted by DPKO.

Improving border security management is another issue, in particular with Côte d’Ivoire but also with Sierra Leone and Guinea, where mercenaries and ex-combatants reportedly cross and which are vulnerable to arms and drug trafficking.

Regarding sanctions, their upcoming review will be an important issue for the Council. Related to it are the plans Liberia has to strengthen safeguards for controlling arms if the sanctions are reduced further. The expectation that the US will soon provide the Sanctions Committee with recommendations for additional delistings is a further related issue.

Concerns about land rights, natural resource management, corruption and youth unemployment are ongoing issues.

Preparations for the October senatorial elections in which 15 of 30 Senate seats are up for election, will be a further issue of interest for the Council.

Options

The Council could receive the briefing and take no action or issue a press statement calling on the government to accelerate the assumption of security responsibilities, national reconciliation and completion of the justice hubs (this is a less likely option).

Council Dynamics

Council members are largely in agreement on Liberia and implementing UNMIL’s drawdown.

Differences exist among members over the winding down of the sanctions regime. For the forthcoming sanctions review, France, the UK and the US are keen to see the regime scaled back further or lifted entirely. Other members oppose this, a position they say is supported by findings and recommendations in the PoE reports.

The US is the penholder on Liberia.

 UN Documents on LIBERIA

Security Council Resolutions
10 December 2013 S/RES/2128 This resolution modified the Liberian sanctions regime.
18 September 2013 S/RES/2116 This resolution renewed the mandate of UNMIL until 30 September 2014.
Secretary-General’s Report
12 August 2013 S/2013/479 This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNMIL.
Sanctions Committee Document
19 November 2013 S/2013/683 This was the 2013 final report of the Panel of Experts on Liberia.