Tomorrow morning (23 August), Council members will hold consultations on the situation in Liberia. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane will brief on the preparations for the 10 October presidential and legislative elections in Liberia.
In December 2016, the Council adopted resolution 2333 which extended the mandate of UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for a final time until 30 March 2018. The resolution reduced the force structure to a ceiling of 434 military and 310 police personnel. The mandate remained unchanged, with a focus on the protection of civilians, reform of justice and security institutions, protection and promotion of human rights, public information, and protection of UN personnel.
The resolution further requested the Secretary-General to provide periodic reports to the Council on activities related to the drawdown of the mission, as well as the transition to a future UN presence. Considering the importance of the October presidential and legislative elections in Liberia, the resolution also requested two oral updates specifically on the elections, one before and one after the elections.
In tomorrow’s consultations, Wane will provide the first oral briefing on the activities related to the preparations for the elections. These preparations are well underway. On 4 June, the overwhelming majority of the political parties signed the Farmington River Declaration making a commitment to violence-free elections and the peaceful transition of power. On 31 July, the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia officially announced the start of the campaign process, which will run through 8 October. Chairman of the NEC Jerome Korkoya called on the political parties and candidates to refrain from using abusive rhetoric which could jeopardize the integrity of the elections process. In her remarks to the media following the start of the campaign, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also urged the political leaders running in the elections to act with dignity and responsibility and to ensure that there is no violence during the process.
The October presidential election will mark an important milestone for Liberia considering that they will provide the occasion for the first democratic transfer of power in the country. President Sirleaf, who was first elected president on 2005 and then reelected in 2011, is concluding her second term in office, the maximum permitted according to the Liberian constitution. According to the NEC, there are 20 candidates contesting the presidency in October. Among the notable candidates are the current Vice President Joseph Boakai, who will be the standard-bearer of Sirleaf’s Unity Party, and Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change. In the 2005 presidential elections, Weah lost to Sirleaf in a run-off.
It has been over a year since UNMIL transferred security responsibilities to Liberian authorities. When Farid Zarif, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMIL, briefed members in June, he said that no major incidents were anticipated during the elections beyond those of a sporadic and isolated nature. Zarif also noted that UNMIL is ready to respond should there be threats to peace and security, although the extent of this response will be limited due to the reduced capacity of the UN mission.
Council members are likely to be interested in hearing from Wane about the readiness and the capacities of the Liberian authorities to provide security during the elections. In particular, they may be interested in learning about the efforts that the Liberian government has made to develop its ‘elections security plan.’ Members may also be interested in information about the activities of UN entities in supporting the electoral preparations, including what role UNMIL is playing (and is expected to play).
Though the UN presence in Liberia has been drawing down, Council members have continued to emphasise their support for Liberia’s peacebuilding efforts. On 24 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement on the Liberia peacebuilding plan and the preparations for the 2017 presidential and legislative elections. The statement stressed the importance of holding credible elections in October and called on international partners to support the Liberian authorities in ensuring this credibility.