‘Significant Progress Made by Liberia’

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The United Nations Security Council Wednesday, May 25, voted to lift the last remaining international sanctions against Liberia. Speaking after removing the sanctions, the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Today’s lifting by the Security Council of the remaining arms embargo on non-state actors further signals the significant progress made by Liberia and the sub-region in maintaining stability.”

The Security Council’s move is seen as further demonstration of support and confidence in the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led government, which has done all to keep the peace following years of civil conflict. Liberia has now gone more than 10 years of peace and stability.

Before Wednesday’s action, the Council had been steadily removing the targeted actions that it levied on the country at the end of its 15-year bloody civil war in 2003, when former President Charles Taylor stepped down and went into exile.

The resolution adopted by the 15-member UNSC, which is the most powerful body within the UN System, terminated an arms embargo on armed groups and dissolved its committee and panel of experts, who monitored the sanctions it had imposed on Liberia.

Few years after the country’s civil war had ended, the UN lifted the ban on timber exports, which along with diamonds, according to the UN, had helped finance the conflict.

The Security Council imposed the arms and diamond embargoes on Liberia in 2001 to stop government’s revenues from those industries from being used to fuel the war; and in 2003, it added a ban on a major export, timber. The timber sanctions were lifted in 2006; the diamond sanctions in 2007.

Gradually terminating its targeted sanctions, the Council last September ended a travel ban and asset freeze on designated individuals and entities. Prominent on that asset freeze and travel ban list were close associates of Mr. Charles Taylor.

Removing the sanctions, the Council encouraged Liberia to adopt laws to control its arms and ammunition and take other measures to combat illicit weapons trafficking.

Calls placed to Liberia’s Permanent Mission at the UN headquarters Wednesday went unanswered. However, Mr. Jeremiah Sulunteh, Liberia’s Ambassador to Washington, told this newspaper that Wednesday was a good day for all Liberians to celebrate.

“This is a strong indication that Liberia is back among the comity of nations. I believe that all Liberians wherever they are, should celebrate this news,” Ambassador Sulunteh added.

Speaking Thursday, May 26, to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Defense Minister Brownie Samukai welcomed the move and assured that Liberia will do all it can to maintain the peace.

Minister Samukai further stated that Liberia has gone through an extensive security sector reform and that the nation now has an excellent relationship with its neighbors – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry issued a release in which the Charge d’Affaires, a. i. of the Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations commended the UNSC for lifting the remaining sanctions on Liberia.

Mr. George Patten acknowledged that the targeted sanctions on key individuals, the arms embargo and a ban on the export of Liberian timber and rough diamonds were well placed.

Mr. Patten referred to the sanctions regime as having contributed, in large measure, to the stabilization of the country and also stimulated post-conflict economic recovery.

The Charge d’Affaires informed the UNSC that the Liberian government, despite capacity constraints, cooperated very effectively with them and remained constructively engaged with the panel of experts in meeting their expectations, which according to him, provided the government the opportunity to make the country a safe and stable place for all Liberians as well as foreign residents.

On some of the specific concerns previously raised by the Security Council including the enactment of relevant laws to regulate fire arms, Mr. Patten pointed out that the 53rd National Legislature recently passed the Fire Arms and Ammunition Control Act of 2015 which provides the legal framework for the management of arms in the country. In addition, he further informed the Council of the passage of the Police and Immigration Acts, as compliments to the Fire Arms and Ammunition Control Act.

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