Senate chair on Defense, Intelligence, Security and Veterans Affairs has called for a national security dialogue as UNMIL drawdown advances.
Lofa County Senator Stephen Zargo’s call comes as a result of fears that many Liberians are harboring over the security implications of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown on the country.
He said in regards to national security, it is glaring that there is a high level of mistrust and distrust in the country, especially among former security officers and those who are now at the helm of power as well as among the public and the current security apparatuses.
He made the recommendations when he served as the keynote speaker at the 43rd graduation exercise of the Liberia National Police Training Academy (LNPTA) in Paynesville.
Senator Zargo said before UNMIL departs by the end of next year, government should organize a national security dialogue for internal examination of the concerns.
“Prior to the departure of UNMIL, we should organize a national security dialogue to address the mistrust between and among current and past national security actors on the one hand, and the general populace on the other so as to identify and settle the loopholes growing out of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the Security Sector Reform (SSR),” he advised.
Senator Zargo formerly served in the Liberian National Police (LNP) with specific assignment to the criminal investigation department (CID) for over 25 years.
Speaking on the theme, Law Enforcement and Rule of Engagement in the Face of UNMIL Drawdown, Senator Zargo said that prior to the departure of UNMIL and consistent with UN resolution 7525 of September 17, 2015, a clear, precise and concise rule of engagement be drawn out, specifically for law enforcement units specialized in the usage of arms, among others.
To avoid the perception of Regime Law Enforcement /Regime Police, Senator Zargo said, proven specialized and professional civil society organizations be made to short list at least three names for one to be appointed by the Chief Executive as head of national security agencies, especially the LNP, he said.
The Senator also wants the contributions made by UNMIL in structuring the security apparatuses to be well documented and the achievements well noted.
“Therefore UNMIL should not and cannot allow this to go in vain. As a result, we call on the world body to help in fulfilling the Government of Liberia UNMIL security transition plan especially between now and 2017of our election year,” he said
“The definition of rule of engagement varies from country to country and from one law enforcement institution to another. However, prevailing national security imperative necessitates the need for a clear cut rule of engagement which cannot be overly emphasized,” said Senator Zarga.
He hopes that as UNMIL is here, there is a need for a partnership in the drafting of the suggested rule of engagement for the national security agencies to ensure confidence and trust.
After providing many examples of rule of engagement in other countries including US, India, Great Britain, Sen. Zargo noted, “Liberia needs those examples so that the public would know the role of the police.”
The 43rd graduation is the largest single class that has come out of the training center since it was established.
Also graduating was the first class of the Liberia Drug Enforcement agency (DEA). A total of 101 recruits graduated with the LNP graduating 312.
Of the number of LNP graduates, females comprised 99, while DEA put out 17 of them.
To the graduates, Senator Zargo admonished that enforcing law and order, which is their core function, is an uphill task, and therefore they must strive to keep their integrity at all times.
For his part, UNMIL SRSG, Farid Zarif told the graduates that they have now entered social contracts with their leaders and the Liberian people, and therefore they should exhibit a high level of professionalism in carrying out their duties.
He said officers should not see the force as an opportunity for employment, but as an opportunity to serve the people. “This authority comes with a lot of responsibilities and you must be willing to live up to the task.
“Though the police must be respected, respect does not come from the shinning shoes and well pressed uniforms that you wear but from your commitment to service and doing what is right,” he said, adding that prevention of crimes is the best way to guarantee the safety of the society.