Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will review the Liberia sanctions regime as renewed by resolution 2128 of 10 December 2013. The resolution called for a review six months after its adoption, “with a view to modifying or lifting all or parts” of the sanctions. The chair of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan), is due to brief the Council in consultations. No outcome is expected.
Key Recent Developments
Council members received the midterm report of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the Sanctions Committee in late April (S/2014/363). It highlights continued failure by Liberia to adopt national firearms legislation, shortcomings to mark arms as mandated in resolution 1903 (2009) and weak state capacity to control the borders. While the report said that militia and former combatants do not threaten state security, they can create localised instability, in particular along the Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire border, with cross-border attacks likely to increase before the 2015 elections in Côte d’Ivoire. Additionally, a rise in drug trafficking in Liberia, with the involvement of some security personnel, was highlighted as a concern that can facilitate illegal arms trafficking. Also troubling to the PoE is the absence of any drug legislation in Liberia to combat drug trafficking.
The PoE report detailed its investigation of the 23 February attack in the towns of Fete and Grabo in Côte d’Ivoire near the border with Liberia, in which four soldiers were killed and two peacekeepers from the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) were injured. The PoE concluded that nationals from both Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia were involved, making these the first cross-border attacks since March 2013. A new, apparent cross-border attack on Fete, occurred on 15 May, which reportedly left three soldiers and 10 civilians dead.
The PoE briefed the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee on the mid-term report on 16 May. Discussing the 23 February attack the PoE said that it had been politically motivated and organised locally without the funding previously provided from abroad by loyalists of former President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire. The PoE had yet to investigate the most recent attacks. The upcoming sanctions review was also discussed as was the importance of an international mechanism or technical assistance to monitor arms supply and financing of combatant networks in Liberia if sanctions are lifted and the PoE disbanded.
When the Council last considered Liberia in March, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet delivered a harsh assessment during consultations of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration. In addition to critiquing its slow progress in taking over security responsibilities from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Mulet noted that latent threats risked undermining peace if the political elite did not demonstrate greater will to improve governance, combat corruption and address long-standing socio-economic problems that were root causes of the civil war in Liberia. He suggested that a speedier UNMIL drawdown might be appropriate to put more pressure on the government.
The key issue for the Council is whether and when to further scale back the remaining sanctions or lift them entirely.
Another key issue is for the Committee to decide whether to delist individuals and entities still facing travel bans or asset freezes. Most are thought to no longer pose a threat to Liberia.
A related issue for the Council is identifying an international mechanism that could continue to monitor arms movements in Liberia if the sanctions regime is ended.
Ending the arms embargo is complicated by Liberia’s failure to adopt the Firearms Control Act. In its recommendations, the PoE has said lifting the embargo would be premature until such legislation is in place.
The Council could:
- request the Secretariat to present options for continued international monitoring of arms or technical assistance for Liberia to do so, including through UNMIL, before the sanctions expire in December; and
- direct the Sanctions Committee to accelerate the delisting of designated individuals and entities.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The UK, France and the US are keen to roll back sanctions further or lift them entirely. The measures have been in place for 11 years, and they want to demonstrate to members that are often sceptical of sanctions—China and Russia—that such regimes will not last indefinitely. At the last Sanctions Committee meeting, it seems all of the P5 appeared to support the idea of ending the sanctions regime in December. The push by France last April to roll back the sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire, along with a UK and US initiative to partially lift the arms embargo on Somalia, is in line with this trend by P3 members to scale back long-standing sanctions regimes.
During negotiations on resolution 2128, proposals to reduce the sanctions met with scepticism from several elected members, including Australia and Luxembourg, which still serve on the Council. This reluctance was in large part due to concerns raised by the PoE regarding Liberia’s poor management of natural resources and failure to adopt the Firearms Control Act. Despite initial resistance to ending PoE monitoring of natural resources, this aspect of its mandate was removed. For many members, the problems that the PoE has identified are considered less issues of security than of governance, for which sanctions are not viewed as an appropriate tool.
The US, the penholder on Liberia, has been working for the past six months to identify individuals and entities for delisting. (It seems that one permanent member has held up this process.)
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.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|23 May 2014 S/2014/363||This was the mid-term report of the Panel of Experts.|