The United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) new Deputy SRSG for Peace Consolidation Mr. Yacoub EL Hillo, says although UNMIL is departing Liberia, it does not suggest that the United Nations is going to leave the country in isolation.
He made the statement when he paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara on Tuesdayat the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.
Deputy SRSG El Hillo said the UN will be in Liberia, not necessarily to restore peace, because peace is already here, but rather to help consolidate the gains that have already been made to set the development agenda on track so that Liberians can continue to enjoy lasting peace and stability.
“I am really honored to come to Liberia. I have been here before and have come back again. I came basically to listen, to hear and to get your advice,” he told Foreign Minister Kamara.
The DSRSG added that the country has come a long way since the 2005 elections. He said he has travelled across the country to acquaint himself with the actual situation in areas where he noticed the country has made some significant progress.
The Deputy SRSG, who worked in Liberia during the crisis era, stated, “The country has come a long way,” adding, “it is fantastic to come back to a Liberia that is not at war with itself.”
“You have already started the development drive of the country. As I travelled all the way to Gbarnga, I remembered how that road used to have many checkpoints and different territories all over the place. But now, it is not just the condition of the road that has changed, but there are fewer checkpoints in just one territory called Liberia, and that makes me feel good,” he said.
Deputy SRSG Hillo said the government now has a huge responsibility to ensure that there is a smooth and peaceful transition of power in order to avoid any potential conflict that could create a setback to the gains that the country has made over the last 13 years.
“Everywhere I go, I tell people that it is good to keep and sustain the peace. Peace is priceless. This thought is driven by the fact that I have just come from Syria, where the war still persists. We will do all we can to keep and sustain the peace in Liberia, which is so priceless,” he assured.
Mr. Hillo said since he arrived in the country, he has been busy going through what he called a learning curve, admitting that there are many challenges, but many achievements have also been made.
He hailed the government for paving some of the major highways across Liberia including the Monrovia-Ganta highway.
He told the Minister that the role of UN in Liberia will be to consolidate the peace after UNMIL leaves the country.
Foreign Minister Kamara thanked the DSRSG for travelling across the country since arriving back in Liberia, adding: “I think you chose the right approach to travel around Liberia and acquaint yourself with the current situation.”
She promised to work closely with Hillo in designing a strategy that will enable the DSRSG to play his role through a partnership between Liberia and the UN.
The Minister praised UNMIL’s efforts, noting that the UN has a wealth of experience in dealing with post-conflict nations. “Those experiences would be useful in the transitioning process of Liberia, especially after UNMIL departs from the country.”
“It is good to have you here. I am pleased to meet and work with an old friend whom I have worked with before. As we work together, we have to do all we can to keep our relationship intact,” Minister Kamara told Mr. Hillo.
She stressed that while on its peacekeeping duties here, UNMIL has helped to develop the expertise of Liberians in order to prepare them to fill in the gaps after it finally departs Liberia.
She indicated that UNMIL’s departure is very critical to the transitioning process, noting that the people’s expectations are very high and government needs to redouble its efforts in filling the gaps that would be created by that departure.
On the upcoming 2017 elections in the country, the Foreign Minister noted, “We are preparing for elections, which are a turning point in our national history. We need to tell the global community that we have reached a stage of maturity. We will do all we can to avoid violence in the upcoming elections.”