UN Security General's Report: Mission In Liberia
United Nations Mission in Liberia March 19, 2008 I. Introduction
1. By its resolution 1777 (2007) of 20 September 2007, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) until 30 September 2008 and requested me to monitor and report on the core benchmarks outlined in my report of 8 August 2007 (S/2007/479) by 20 March 2008. The present report provides an update on major developments in Liberia, including progress made in meeting the benchmarks for the drawdown phase of the UNMIL consolidation, drawdown and withdrawal plan.
II. Major developments since September 2007 A. Political situation
2. The overall political situation in Liberia remained stable during the reporting period. On 28 January, in her State of the Republic annual address to the legislature, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf stated that the country had an economic growth rate of 9 per cent and that revenue collection for the first 11 months of 2007 amounted to $163.3 million, which surpassed the projected annual target of $152.5. The President also advised that the World Bank and the African Development Bank had cleared over $671 million of the $4.8 billion debt arrears of Liberia and that the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund had agreed to a financing arrangement that would forgive some $920 million of Liberia’s debts. In addition, the President stated that considerable progress had been made in rebuilding infrastructure and delivering basic services. She underscored the need for a comprehensive constitutional review, which would address, inter alia, decentralization, land reform and term limits for the President and legislators. She also stressed the importance of creating a new Liberia, which would replace the divisions, marginalization and exclusions of the past with inclusiveness, equitable opportunities and the empowerment of all Liberians.
3. In further efforts to foster political and ethnic reconciliation, President Johnson-Sirleaf attended a national peace festival in Monrovia on 2 January, where, together with George Weah, former presidential candidate for the Congress for Democratic Change, she lit a torch for peace and highlighted the need for national
reconciliation. On 28 January, the President announced her intention to pardon George Koukou, former Speaker of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly, who was on trial for treason. However, she stated that the trial of two other individuals accused of treason should continue.
4. On 7 October 2007, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, visited Liberia, where she pledged an additional €4 million towards Liberia’s development programme and promised the continued support of Germany for Liberia’s efforts to obtain multilateral debt relief. On 21 February, the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, visited Liberia, where he held discussions with President Johnson-Sirleaf on the progress being made in the areas of health care, education, social services and infrastructural development in the country. This was the first visit by a United States President to the country in 30 years. President Bush pledged the continued support of his Government for peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts in Liberia, as well as for the security sector reform programme of the country. He also announced that his Government would provide one million textbooks for schoolchildren, as well as desks and chairs for 10,000 students for the next academic year.
5. In September 2007, the draft asset freeze act, which was submitted to the legislature in July 2007, was rejected by the House of Representatives on the grounds that its provisions violated the Liberian Constitution. In response, the President reiterated her commitment to the principles of the proposed act, and affirmed that she would pursue other options in conformity with the laws of the country to implement resolution 1532 (2004), by which the Council requested States to freeze the assets of senior officials of the regime of the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor. The draft act had sought to provide for the freezing, seizure or confiscation of assets owned by those individuals listed by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003) concerning Liberia, as well as those individuals who had derived illegal benefits from public positions or services.
6. The trial of Charles Gyude Bryant, former Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, who was charged with economic sabotage for misappropriating $1.3 million, continued during the reporting period. On 3 March, the Minister of Justice announced on national radio that the Government had failed to reach an out-of-court settlement with Mr. Bryant to discontinue his trial in exchange for the return of the misappropriated funds. The trial of Edwin Snowe, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who was indicted for the theft of some $1 million of public funds from the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company during his tenure as Managing Director, also continued during the reporting period.
7. Relations between the executive branch of the Government and the legislature continued to improve. During the reporting period, the legislature passed several important bills, including the Governance Commission Act. The legislature is currently reviewing the Anti-corruption Commission Act, the Code of Conduct Act, an act amending the Investment Incentives and Revenues Codes, and an act to amend the Penal Law. During the period under review, the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives began public hearings to investigate allegations made in January 2007 by the former House Speaker, Mr. Snowe, that members of the House had received $5,000 inducements from the executive branch of Government to sign a resolution calling for his removal. At the hearing on 3 March, Mr. Snowe
provided audio recordings in which four legislators allegedly admitted receiving $5,000 each to remove him as Speaker.
8. UNMIL continued to support Government efforts to restructure the political party system. In this regard, on 18 and 19 March, in collaboration with the Governance Commission, the National Elections Commission, the International Republican Institute and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNMIL facilitated a two-day workshop on political party system reform for representatives of political parties and members of the legislature.
B. Security situation
9. The overall security situation in Liberia remained calm and stable. However, during the reporting period, several violent civil disturbances took place on rubber plantations. On 17 November 2007, a Belgian manager of the Liberia Agricultural Company rubber plantation in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, was shot dead. The shooting occurred following the signing of an agreement between the Government and the Company for the latter to acquire land surrounding the plantation. On 24 January, five unidentified men burned three houses and killed one resident in Zinakpah village on the plantation.
10. On 22 November 2007, during a student march to protest inadequate facilities and education materials at the main school on Guthrie rubber plantation, protestors destroyed rubber-tapping equipment and damaged two houses owned by the plantation management. On 16 January, the plantation workers staged a demonstration to protest delays in the payment of salaries and the non-provision of social services by the interim management team. On 24 January, the interim management team, which was constituted by the Rubber Planters’ Association of Liberia, was suspended as a result of continued tensions on the plantation.
11. On 5 December 2007, workers at the Firestone Rubber Plantation went on strike to protest the non-payment of promised salary increases by the Company management and the alleged unwillingness of the Government to recognize the elected members of the workers’ union. The strike action turned violent on 6 December 2007, when 150 workers, armed with cutlasses, axes and single barrel shotguns, blocked access to roads on the plantation, looted the health centre, burned down offices and destroyed company property. UNMIL and the Liberian National Police responded to restore calm. However, tensions ceased only after the Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding the validity of the workers’ union elections.
12. Other significant security-related developments during the reporting period included violent protests by various groups. On 17 September 2007, some 150 servicemen of the former Armed Forces of Liberia, the Special Security Service and the Liberian National Police demonstrated in Monrovia over the non-payment of outstanding benefits. They obstructed traffic and threw stones at an UNMIL police vehicle, damaging its windshield. Also on 16 and 17 January 2008, a group of former personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia staged a violent protest against the demolition of illegal structures in the area surrounding the Barclay Training Centre in Monrovia. Five Liberian National Police officers were injured by stones thrown by the protesters.
13. On 16 October 2007, a crowd, which had gathered at the Buchanan police station in Grand Bassa County to demand the release of three murder suspects, turned violent. On 13 February, a police station in Tappita, Nimba County, was burned by a mob demanding the release of a murder suspect. These incidents were effectively managed by the Liberian National Police assisted by UNMIL.
14. Continued criminal activities, including armed robbery and rape, particularly in Monrovia and its environs, generated a lack of public confidence in the ability of the Liberian National Police to effectively perform its duties. To address the situation, UNMIL increased the number of mobile and foot patrols in the high crime areas of Monrovia. In addition, in December 2007, the Mission temporarily deployed 37 United Nations police advisers and staff officers to reinforce UNMIL/ Liberian National Police patrols in Monrovia.
15. During the reporting period, UNMIL assisted the National Security Council with the development of a national security strategy and operational plan. The strategy focuses on coordinating information among law enforcement and security agencies, as well as strengthening community and police cooperation through information-sharing. The Minister of Justice is also leading efforts to improve police community relations. In this regard, the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian National Police provided cell phones to several residents in Monrovia to enhance their ability to provide timely information on criminal activities in their communities.
16. The security situation along the borders with Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea remained stable during the reporting period. UNMIL continued to conduct several operations to deter possible cross-border movement of weapons and recruitment of mercenaries, as well as to reassure the local population and foster better coordination among security agencies deployed in the border areas. The Mission conducted regular concurrent patrols with the Guinean armed forces along the Liberian-Guinean border in “Operation Seskin”. Similar concurrent patrols were conducted along the Liberian-Sierra Leonean border with the Sierra Leone armed forces in “Operation Loko”. In addition, special operations were conducted along the Sierra Leone-Liberia border during the August 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone. UNMIL also continued to conduct coordinated patrols with the United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) to monitor the security situation along the Liberian-Ivorian border.
III. Mission deployment A. Military component
17. As of 1 March, the UNMIL troop strength stood at 12,948, out of an authorized strength of 15,125. During the period under review, UNMIL continued to provide security throughout Liberia. The Mission undertook several cordon and search operations to retrieve weapons, extended support to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) community arms collection for development programme, carried out air and ground patrols, especially along Liberia’s borders and assisted in the rehabilitation of roads and bridges. In addition, the Mission embarked on a number of humanitarian activities, including the rehabilitation and
building of schools, the construction of parks and the provision of free medical services.
18. UNMIL also continued to provide security to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The quick reaction force of the Mission conducted “Exercise Blue Fish” from 8 to 12 October 2007 and “Exercise Green Horizon”, with the support of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the Sierra Leone Police, from 3 to 7 December 2007, in order to reinforce security at the Special Court. Given that the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) is expected to expire on 30 September 2008, UNMIL is taking steps to ensure that its military guard force assigned to the Special Court for Sierra Leone is provided with adequate administrative and logistical support for its operations after the departure of UNIOSIL.
B. Police component
19. As at 1 March, the police strength of the Mission stood at 1,194 officers, out of an authorized ceiling of 1,240 officers, which includes 564 United Nations police advisers, 603 officers in five formed police units, 21 corrections officers and 6 immigration officers. On 18 September 2007, the United States deployed four police specialists to the Liberian National Police headquarters. It also deployed on 7 December 2007 a project manager to oversee the development of the Emergency Response Unit.
IV. Status of implementation of the mandate of the Mission A. Rebuilding the Liberian National Police
20. As indicated in my last report (S/2007/479), UNMIL achieved its initial target of providing basic training for 3,500 police officers by 30 June 2007. To date, 3,662 officers have graduated from the National Police Academy. The first all-female class, comprising 110 police recruits, graduated in December 2007, bringing the total number of women in the police force to 361 (10 per cent). On 14 January, the thirty-third class of 150 recruits, including 115 women, some of whom have completed the special Ministry of Education/Liberian National Police/United Nations Police educational support programme, commenced training. In addition, several advanced programmes designed to strengthen the supervisory and specialized capacities of personnel of the Liberian National Police and Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization were completed. The Federal Republic of Germany has donated €1 million to the Liberian National Police to support its further training.
21. The first class of 90 officers, including one woman, of the Emergency Response Unit has commenced training. A second class is expected to begin training in July. It is envisaged that the first 200 officers of the 500-strong Emergency Response Unit will become operational by July 2009. The United States and Ireland are providing $5 million and $1.4 million respectively to the Government of Liberia for the development of the Emergency Response Unit.
22. Some 90 per cent of Liberian National Police officers authorized to be deployed to the counties have been deployed. Nevertheless, county operations
continue to be hampered by the lack of basic infrastructure and police equipment, including vehicles and communications; a lack of funds to procure fuel for electric generators and vehicles, where available; and the persistent absence of officers from their posts. In order to address the high rate of absenteeism and other disciplinary matters within the police force, four experienced United Nations police specialists have been deployed to UNMIL to serve as professional standards advisers. In addition, steps are being taken to revise the police duty manual, streamline the operational framework for the Police Standards and Practices Unit and verify the numbers and locations of Liberian National Police personnel in order to correct the payroll.
23. The Government is receiving support from its international partners to address the logistical challenges facing the Liberian National Police. As a result of this assistance, police stations in Harper in Maryland County, Kakata in Margibi County and Gbarnga in Bong County have been renovated and equipped. The construction of the county police headquarters in Zwedru in Grand Gedeh County, Barclayville in Grand Kru County and Harper in Maryland County, as well as a rural police station in Sanniquellie in Nimba County, have been completed and handed over to the Liberian National Police, while county police headquarters in River Gee and River Cess counties are in the process of being constructed. The renovation of the female dormitory and offices and the construction of a new male dormitory and classrooms at the National Police Training Academy have also been completed.
24. With assistance from UNMIL quick-impact projects, the reconstruction and rehabilitation of police stations in Gbah in Bomi County, Bopolu in Gbarpolu County, Toe Town in Grand Gedeh County, Foya and Kolahun in Lofa County, Ganta in Nimba County and Webbo in River Gee have been completed. In addition, the construction and rehabilitation of police stations in Sinje in Grand Cape Mount County, Morweh and Neuzen in River Cess County and AFC-Khan Town in Sinoe County are under way. Belgium and Germany are also providing funds for the construction of police barracks in nine counties, including Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, Bong, River Cess and Grand Kru. Notwithstanding these efforts, many police stations still require urgent rehabilitation.
25. In February, a newly constructed immigration office funded by UNMIL quickimpact projects was handed over to the Government in Ganta, Nimba County. Work will soon commence on two other immigration stations located at Bolongodou Port in Lofa County and Geplaken Border Port in River Gee County. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has agreed to construct immigration border posts in Yekepa Port in Nimba County, Bo Waterside Port in Grand Cape Mount County, Harper in Maryland County and Voinjama in Lofa County. Some 28 immigration border posts still require infrastructure and equipment support.
26. The Netherlands Immigration Service, the Ghana Immigration Service and UNMIL are providing training to personnel of the Bureau for Immigration and Naturalization. Currently, four immigration officers are undergoing basic training at the Ghana Immigration Service Academy. In addition, the Government of France has donated two vehicles, five motorcycles, computers and uniforms to strengthen the capacity of the Bureau along the Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire border, while the International Organization for Migration has donated equipment to assist with
immigration services at the Roberts International Airport. The Bureau has estimated that it will need $2.7 million for the deactivation of its officers. Currently, only 727 of the 1,228 Bureau for Immigration and Naturalization officers meet the basic eligibility requirements for enlistment in the Liberian security services.
B. Training, restructuring and reform of the Armed Forces of Liberia
27. The United States continued to lead international support for the training and restructuring of the 2,000-strong Armed Forces of Liberia. During the period under review, it made significant headway in training new recruits. On 7 September 2007, a second batch of 502 recruits graduated from the Barclay Training Centre in Monrovia, while a third batch consisting of 485 recruits graduated from Camp Ware on 11 January, bringing the total number of trained recruits to 1,124. On 14 January 2008, graduates began attending an advanced infantry individual training course at Camp Ware. Training of the fourth batch of 525 recruits, including 25 women, commenced on 8 March at Camp Ware.
28. On 10 December, three rifle companies of the First Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of Liberia were activated at a ceremony presided over by President Johnson-Sirleaf. Three officers from Benin, Ghana and Nigeria were seconded to the Liberian Ministry of Defence to assist in the command and control of those units. Meanwhile, some 15 Armed Forces of Liberia personnel are undergoing officer and specialist training at Nigerian military institutions. Several officers have already benefited from specialist training in China, Germany and the United States.
C. Development of a national security strategy and architecture
29. During the reporting period, a national security strategy containing proposals for an accountable security architecture and a regulatory framework was developed. The strategy focuses on improving the coordination and oversight of multiagency security activities, outlining the statutory instruments that govern these activities, and providing for the accountability, sustainability, financing and operational efficacy of these agencies. A draft implementation strategy is also being developed.
D. Reintegration of ex-combatants
30. In December 2007, UNDP and the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Rehabilitation, in collaboration with UNMIL, began implementing a one-year reintegration and rehabilitation programme for a final group of some 8,700 ex-combatants registered under the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration programme, who have not yet benefited from any reintegration and rehabilitation programme. The Government of Norway has provided $7 million to implement the programme, which is expected to enhance the employability of beneficiaries through market-relevant training, apprenticeships or job placement.
31. UNMIL continued to collect and destroy residual weapons and ammunition voluntarily surrendered or discovered through search operations. Since the end of the disarmament and demobilization programme in 2005, a total of 884 weapons,
1,754 pieces of unexploded ordnance, 108,838 rounds of ammunition and 12,002 assorted spares and miscellaneous parts have been collected and destroyed by UNMIL. The UNDP community arms collection programme has collected 354 rifles, 40,141 rounds of ammunition, 967 spare parts and 872 pieces of unexploded ordnance since its launch in January 2006.
E. Consolidation of State authority
32. Progress in restoring and consolidating State authority throughout the country continued at a slow pace. The county support teams, which were established to ensure a coherent and consolidated United Nations approach to supporting the Government of Liberia at the county level, continued to meet on a monthly basis in all 15 counties to develop action plans to address the needs of each county.
33. During the period under review, the Government, with the support of the United Nations and other international partners, organized a series of consultations at the district and county levels to determine priorities for incorporation into the poverty reduction strategy of the country. This Strategy is expected to shape the national recovery and development agenda over the next three years. During the consultations, all counties highlighted roads and basic infrastructure as their top priority needs. Education, water and local economic development issues were also identified as major priorities.
34. During the reporting period, delays were experienced in rehabilitating county administrative buildings owing to the logistical and capacity constraints of implementing partners. Of the 11 buildings identified for rehabilitation, only four structures in Montserrado, Margibi, River Cess and River Gee Counties were completed and handed over to the Government. The rehabilitation of the administrative building in Grand Bassa County was also completed with funds provided by USAID. The rehabilitation and construction of three administrative buildings in Gbarpolu, Bomi and Grand Kru Counties are currently ongoing. Notwithstanding the progress being made in rehabilitating these structures, the work of the county officials and government line ministry representatives continues to be seriously hampered by the lack of communications and office equipment, as well as accommodation, vehicles and good roads.
35. Between March and October 2007, some 1,200 local government officials representing all 15 counties benefited from civic education training, which was jointly conducted by the Government, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and donors. The training focused on leadership, national identity, transparency, accountability, human rights, the Millennium Development Goals, peacebuilding and reconciliation.
36. The United Nations country team and UNMIL are assisting the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services with its preparations to conduct a national census from 21 to 27 March. It will be the first census to be conducted by the Government of Liberia since 1984. UNMIL has trained 156 field officers on the use of the global positioning system and has provided topographic and satellite maps to the Institute. UNMIL will also provide logistical support to facilitate the census process.
F. Promoting efficient management of natural resources
37. As part of the Government efforts to regain control over and efficiently manage the natural resources of the country, the Forestry Development Authority has signed a management contract with a Swiss firm aimed at discouraging the illegal production of timber and ensuring that exported forest products meet international standards. The process of submitting the 10 core regulations of the Authority for public review has also been completed. To date, some 85 local and foreign firms have indicated interest in participating in commercial logging. In the meantime, the Government has set up an inter-ministerial forestry concessions committee to, inter alia, review concession agreements, approve reports of the concessions bid evaluation panel and prepare an annual concessions plan for its approval.
38. Liberia resumed exporting rough diamonds in September 2007. In November 2007, Liberia attended its first Kimberley Process Certification Scheme plenary in Brussels. Meanwhile, the Government continued its efforts to reorganize the diamond sector by converting the Government Diamonds Office into the Office of Precious Minerals, and the Presidential Task Force on Diamonds into the Liberian Diamond Board. It also completed a draft mineral policy and is working towards the establishment of a mining cadastre system.
39. UNMIL continued to support the efforts of the Government to re-establish its control and provide social services on Liberia’s rubber plantations, as recommended by the joint Government of Liberia/UNMIL Rubber Plantation Task Force. In this regard, emergency repairs have been undertaken on the access roads leading to the Sinoe Rubber Plantation, which has been illegally operated by ex-combatants for several years. These repairs are expected to facilitate the deployment of UNMIL troops on the plantation and enable the establishment of an interim management team. On 1 December 2007, the Cavalla Rubber Plantation was handed over to its legally recognized owners, bringing an end to the tenure of the interim management team established in May 2006.
40. During the reporting period, the Mission’s Environment and Natural Resources Unit provided technical support to the Environmental Protection Agency for the review of the national environmental policy and legislative framework, as well as environmental impact assessment regulations. In addition, as part of its efforts to strengthen the capacity of the Environmental Protection Agency, UNMIL trained 30 personnel of the Agency as environmental inspectors. The trained personnel will soon be assigned to the counties.
Tags: Liberia , United Nations
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