UN Envoy Recommends Peacekeeper Reduction in Libera

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RAPAPORT… Citing progress made by once war-torn Liberia, a top United Nations envoy recommended a drawdown of peacekeepers that have been overseeing the West African country’s transition into democracy.

United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative Alan Doss told reporters in New York that Liberia has “remained generally stable and calm,” pointing out that sanctions have been lifted on diamonds and timber, the state budget has doubled in recent years, and major investments are flowing into the country.

At the same time, Liberia faces significant challenges, said Doss, who also heads the UN mission in the country (UNMIL) particularly in the area of security and the rule of law.

Within its borders, Liberia sees “periodic flare-ups,” while crime in the capital city Monrovia is troubling to local citizens he said. Also, despite economic growth estimated to be 8 percent for 2007, the issue of job creation and the re-integration of ex-combatants remains a problem. Meanwhile, UNMIL intends to continue monitoring the situation in neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire.

A three-year plan, set to start in October, entails reducing UNMIL’s military component by approximately 5,000 and the police component by 500. UNMIL was established in 2003 to support Liberia’s ceasefire and peace process, and currently has more than 14,000 troops and nearly 1,200 police officers, along with around 500 international civilian personnel, almost 1,000 local staff and 220 volunteers.

Core benchmarks of success will measure progress made on bolstering national security institutions –such as the army and the police– and the creation of a quick-reaction police force.

“At each level, we would look how we’re making progress against those benchmarks and if we are and if there is a confirmed agreement, we will move on to the next stage,” Doss said.

The presence of a “robust” UNMIL gives Liberia “the time and the space to push ahead with the reform program, rebuild the national security institutions and also to ensure that the situation in the broader sub-region remains positive.”

Doss acknowledged that it may seem as if a substantial investment is being made in a small country, “but it really is an investment in the whole of West Africa because Liberia was  the epicentre of instability that progressively spread out and engulfed must of the sub-region.”

 

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