Expected Council Action
In September, the Council is expected to receive a briefing on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Resolutions are anticipated regarding Liberia sanctions (the arms embargo and travel ban expire 9 September and the mandate of the Panel of Experts expires 9 October) and UNMIL (the mandate expires 30 September).
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s report on UNMIL released on 13 August chronicles security incidents in urban Monrovia and rural Sinoe County. In the former case, on 16 April eight police officers were injured and six police stations were damaged during a confrontation between the police and more than 1,000 community members and commercial motorcyclists. The catalyst for the violence was the death of a commercial motorcyclist while being apprehended by the police after having attempted to evade arrest for a traffic violation. In the latter case, on 26 May, 200 youths protested at a Golden Veroleum Liberia palm oil plantation, alleging inadequate prior consultation with the local community regarding concession agreements. After the youths were denied access to company officials, the situation became violent, resulting in the destruction of property and injuries to government and company officials. UNMIL military and police were deployed to support the Liberia National Police (LNP) in restoring order. The Secretary-General’s report concludes that these two incidents highlight the weakness of the LNP regarding “operational preparedness and response capability for addressing public disorder or crisis situations, as well as weak command and control structures”.
Progress has been uneven with respect to the Liberian government’s preparations for assuming full responsibility for security as of 1 July 2016. On 22 July, the House of Representatives endorsed the national budget, which includes a $20 million allocation for the security transition (a $5 million increase over the $15 million allocated in the draft national budget); on 6 August, the Senate concurred. However, the Ministry of Justice estimates $37 million is required for the period 2015/2016. Meanwhile, components of a security sector legal framework—including laws on firearms and ammunition control, a uniform code of military justice and a revised law for the national police—have been under consideration but have yet to be passed in the legislature.
When the Council last discussed UNMIL on 5 May, Karin Landgren, then Special Representative and head of UNMIL, briefed the Council. Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and its country-specific configuration on Liberia, and Liberia’s Minister for Justice Benedict Sannoh also addressed the Council. Landgren identified several potential underlying and proximate threats to stability in Liberia: incomplete national reconciliation and transitional justice processes, tensions regarding land and the extractive industries, porous and insecure borders and upcoming elections in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, which could potentially result in political violence and cross-border forced migration. Landgren echoed some of these themes in Monrovia on 30 June—as well as the need for greater transparency and accountability in governance—during her farewell address as Special Representative. On 12 August, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced his decision to appoint Farid Zarif as Landgren’s successor.
On 13 August, the Council was briefed on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa by representatives of the AU, Peacebuilding Commission, UN Secretary-General, World Health Organization and a Liberian NGO. Dr. Mosoka Fallah, coordinator of the Montserrado Community Based Initiative Project, explained that widespread distrust in government institutions necessitated a change in approach to the outbreak in the West Point slum of Monrovia, “We realised that, if we were going to win the fight against Ebola, we needed to involve the community.”
On 12 August, Council members were briefed in consultations by Ambassador Dina Kawar (Jordan), chair of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee. The briefing mainly concerned the final report of the Panel of Experts and an update from the Secretary-General that had been requested by the Council in resolution 2188 regarding progress made by the government of Liberia toward regulation of arms and ammunition and management of the border with Côte d’Ivoire. More generally, the chair summarised the work of the Committee, noting that informal consultations were held on 3 February, 4 May and 21 July. Several Council members stated they were looking forward to receiving the draft resolution on sanctions from the penholder, the US, which was subsequently circulated on 20 August.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Human Rights Council considered the report on Liberia of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, during its 30th session. Recommendations in the report include: ratification of the optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, amongst other international conventions; the abolition of the death penalty; and the decriminalisation of same-sex consensual relations between adults (A/HRC/30/4).
Risk factors for insecurity in Liberia include: inadequate government regulation of arms and ammunition, a lack of control over insecure border areas, potentially contentious upcoming national elections in neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, incomplete national reconciliation and transitional justice processes, widespread corruption and a lack of public sector transparency and accountability, and economic dependence on natural resource exports (large-scale agriculture and the extractive industries are recurring sources of social unrest over labour and land issues).
Within this context, the principal challenge continues to be maintaining stability in Liberia during UNMIL’s drawdown and a potential modification or termination of sanctions.
Regarding sanctions, the Council could choose to renew the partial arms embargo and targeted travel ban and reaffirm the asset freeze (which is not time-limited). Alternatively, the Council could choose to terminate the Liberia sanctions regime. However, the most likely option—representing a middle ground between maintaining the status quo and terminating the regime—would be modification of the sanctions regime. In particular, this could entail terminating the asset freeze and travel ban but renewing the partial arms embargo.
With respect to UNMIL, one option would be to renew the mandate for one year and proceed with a drawdown to 1,240 military personnel and 606 police personnel by 1 July 2016, as recommended by the Secretary-General in his latest report. Other options include proceeding with the drawdown at a pace other than recommended by the Secretary-General or renewing UNMIL’s mandate for a shorter period of time, such as up to 30 June 2016, thus allowing for a re-evaluation of UNMIL’s mandate for the period after the government of Liberia will assume full responsibility for security.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council stated its intention in resolution 2188 to keep sanctions measures under review with a view toward their modification or termination, contingent upon sufficient progress toward meeting the conditions outlined in resolution 1521 (i.e., maintain the ceasefire; disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation; security sector reform; implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; and stability in Liberia and the sub-region), while also taking into consideration the threat posed by Ebola. The final report by the Panel of Experts transmitted 21 July identified underlying threats to stability in Liberia, while the update by the Secretary-General transmitted 31 July assessed the government of Liberia’s progress toward regulating arms and ammunition and managing borders. How Council members interpret this information in relation to the criteria for termination in resolution 1521 should establish the parameters for their decision-making with regard to Liberia sanctions. It seems that most Council members currently support modifying the regime.
With the receding of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which the Council had declared a threat to international peace and security in resolution 2177, the momentum has shifted back toward the drawdown of UNMIL. In April, the Council adopted resolution 2215, authorising a drawdown of UNMIL to 3,590 troops and 1,515 police (from 4,811 troops and 1,795 police). The resolution reaffirmed the Council’s expectation that the government of Liberia will assume full responsibility for security no later than 30 June 2016 and also reaffirmed its intention to consider the reconfiguration of UNMIL accordingly. Given concerns regarding peacekeeping budgets and the need for UN peacekeeping resources in other conflicts, Council members are likely to support UNMIL’s continued drawdown when its mandate renewal is considered in September. However, at press time it remained unclear to what extent the probable next phase of drawdown will reflect the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his latest report, including with regard to the size and configuration of UNMIL for the period after the government of Liberia has assumed full responsibility for security.
The US is the penholder on Liberia, and Jordan is the chair of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|2 April 2015 S/RES/2215||This resolution authorised a drawdown of UNMIL to 3,590 military personnel and 1,515 police by September 2015.|
|15 December 2014 S/RES/2190||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNMIL until 30 September 2015 and adding a good offices role for the Special Representative and a mandate for UNMIL to provide electoral assistance.|
|9 December 2014 S/RES/2188||This was a resolution on Liberia that renewed the arms embargo on non-state actors, targeted travel ban, mandate of the Panel of Experts and the asset freeze on Charles Taylor, his family and associates.|
|18 September 2014 S/RES/2177||In this resolution, the Council determined that the unprecedented extent of the ebola outbreak in Africa constituted a threat to international peace and security.|
|22 December 2003 S/RES/1521||This resolution imposed sanctions.|
|Security Council Letters|
|31 July 2015 S/2015/590||This was an update by the Secretary-General on arms, ammunition and border issues.|
|21 July 2015 S/2015/558||This letter transmitted the final report of the Panel of Experts.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 August 2015 S/PV.7502||This was a briefing on the global response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.|
|5 May 2015 S/PV.7438||This was a briefing by the Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Liberia, Karin Landgren, presenting the latest UNMIL report.|
|13 August 2015 S/2015/620||This was Secretary-General’s report on UNMIL.|