The United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) Security Sector Reform (SSR) advisor, Michael Page, has admonished Liberians to sustain every effort during the upcoming presidential and legislative elections in October to prevent the country from going back to civil conflict.
“The month of October 2017 will be the most important moment for your country since the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed to end the 14 years of civil conflict,” he said at a recent dialogue session between state security sector and civil society organizations (CSOs).
“It is extremely important, because it is the first democratic election that one government will transition to another government, and it is Liberians that can make this peaceful transition and not the international community.”
The forum created an opportunity for the participants to discuss issues relating to the National Security Reform and Intelligence Act, the National Defense Act, the Liberia Immigration Service Act and the Liberia National Police Act, all of which have been passed into law.
“UNMIL has already turned over all responsibilities for security to your government. The most important transition was in 2009, and since then your government has been running its own security,” the SSR advisor explained, adding “in 2016, full security was turned over to your government by UNMIL; and from next year, you are going to see less UNMIL uniformed officers – at which time, we will certainly pull out of the country.”
Page said it is now time for state security actors and civil society organizations to work together to help build trust and confidence in the population about the operations of state security agents.
“It is absolutely vital that women’s groups, youth, the community, the media and universities get involved in the exercise,” the SSR advisor noted.
“You have come a very long way from 2003, and you have made some tremendous changes in your country. Your people are no longer afraid of the security like the police and the army, but, rather they are now looking upon them as guarantors of their rights.”
He, however, said there “is still a lack of trust” between the population and the security sector, which they have to work on.
“You have to address the lack of trust, transparency and accountability which still exists. You have gone a long way with them and still have a long way to go. Therefore, you have to work with the legal framework developed in the last ten years,” Page indicated.
For his part, Cecil Griffith, a CSO representative, said the authority of the Liberia National Police violated the act, using the title of Inspector General which, he said, did not exist at the time.
According to Griffith, there was a lot of concern about the National Defense Strategy, which he said “needs enough discussion.”
He did not explain the issue about the Strategy.