GOL Wants ‘UNMIL Presence on the Ground’ During Elections

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As the discussions on the drawdown plans of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) continue unabated, especially as Liberia prepares for Presidential and Legislative Elections in 2017, Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara has weighed in on the discussions suggesting that some form of UNMIL presence remain in the country until after the 2017 elections.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Minister Kamara made the assertion when a two-member delegation of the US Foreign Relations Senate Committee paid her a courtesy visit recently at her office. The delegation, comprising Senior Advisor for International Economics and Trade, Mr. Andy Olson and Policy Analyst, Ms. Morgan Lorraine Viña, were accompanied on the visit by the US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, Ambassador Mark Boulware.

Minister Kamara told them that Liberians have a little bit of paranoia about UNMIL’s drawdown. In her view, she said, there should be no fear; however, “We have to continuously explain to our people that on June 30th, 2016, UNMIL is not going to disappear, especially as we approach 2017 elections. It’s going to be a transition of security from UNMIL to the Liberian government.”

Speaking further, the nation’s top diplomat stated that UNMIL should still be around because Liberia’s security apparatuses have not inspired confidence in the people in terms of the way they have carried themselves. “So, all these factors come together to making a situation where we foresee some difficulties because of perception. Because of that, the government would like to still see some form of UNMIL presence on the ground during the elections. We see that as kind of psychological and a deterrent,” she added.

However, she maintained that in reality Liberian security apparatuses are the “first responders” at the moment, not UNMIL, as is the perception from ordinary Liberians.

She noted that some Liberians are not aware that in most areas across the country, UNMIL has already withdrawn. “UNMIL is nowhere in Grand Cape Mount, all along the borders and in many other places; but government doesn’t just want to take the risk. We are saying, let them just be there if it is going to contribute to good behavior, fair elections and no problems in order for us to have a smooth transition,” she reasoned.

The Foreign Minister told the US delegation that she was glad to share with them what she knows even though the UNMIL drawdown process falls under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. IT was there Minister Kamara referred her visitors for further details on the matter, including how prepared the national security forces are to take over the security of the country when UNMIL hands it over to the Liberian government on June 30th, 2016.

Minister Kamara highlighted, however, a serious challenge to the process – donor funding – which she indicated is not forthcoming.

The visitors had stated that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate is paying keen attention to developments in Liberia as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) prepares to scale down its operations here.

UNMIL was deployed in October 2003 in accordance with Security Council resolution 1509 (2003), after the signing of the August 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement on Liberia. The mission had initial troop strength of up to 15,000, including 250 military observers, 160 staff officers, up to 875 UN police officers and an additional five armed formed units each comprising 120 officers, and a significant civilian component and necessary support staff.

The mission is currently implementing a phased drawdown of troops and gradual handover of security responsibilities to the government. The Liberian government will assume full security responsibilities no later than June 30th.

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