The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, Farid Zarif, says now that the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have kept the peace in the country and trained more security officers over the years, they are confident that Liberia can handle its security responsibilities.
Mr. Zarif made the statement at UNMIL headquarters on May 27 during a ceremony in observance of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.
“As we celebrate this day, we have to look at ourselves. We have to take a look at where we were yesterday and where we are today,” Mr. Zarif said.
“You know that Liberia today is not the Liberia of 2003…when almost everything in this country was in a state of disarray, UN stepped in to restore peace; and through UN peacekeepers interventions, there are trained police and officers of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN).”
Mr. Zarif also expressed excitement over the performance of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), who he described as a “reliable force that is full of professionalism.”
Predicated upon the prevailing fact, SRSG Zarif said UNMIL will turn over security responsibilities over to the Liberian government by June 30.
This means that activities and functions once assigned to UNMIL police and military in Liberia will now be solely controlled by Liberian security.
In late April, UNMIL security officers assigned to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai were recalled; and in their stead, the Liberian National Police (LNP) and Executive Protection Service (EPS) took over their respective functions.
SRSG Zarif, however, said turning over security responsibilities over to Liberia does not mean UNMIL is definitely leaving the country.
He said residual forces of 1,240 uniformed military officers and 606 police officers will remain on the ground to help government in “extreme cases” that it (government) will not be able to effectively handle.
Briefing on the role of UN Peacekeepers, SRSG Zarif said peacekeeping operations began in the world in 1948, and since then, thousands of peacekeepers have sacrificed their time and lives around the world.
For Liberia, the SRSG said 14 peacekeepers lost their lives last year, while 238 had lost their lives since UN peace operations began here 13 years ago.
Prior to pronouncement by the SRSG of the transfer of security responsibilities to the Liberian government by June 30, the United Nations Security Council had lifted an arms embargo it imposed on the country.
The arms embargo and sanctions on logs and diamonds were imposed in 2001 during the administration of convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
The Security Council believed that importation of arms to Liberia and exporting of diamonds and logs were fueling the war in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A message from the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, pointed out that heroes and heroines from 124 troop-contributing countries are under the blue flag risking their lives to maintain and restore peace around the world.
The Secretary General said this is happening because of the confidence the world has put in the United Nations.
According to Mr. Ban, 105,000 uniformed personnel and 18,000 international and national civilian and UN volunteer staff are deployed across the world serving humanity.
He said all these men and women share the principle of heroism with a consistent belief that the UN peacekeeping force should remain a force for good.
Commenting on unethical practices of peacekeepers in recent years, the UN Secretary General urged troop contributing countries to penalize their people engaged in sexual exploitation as such practice is not in conformity with the ethical standards of the UN.
Speaking during the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, who currently chairs the cabinet in the absence of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, alluded to SRSG Zarif’s statement that the security sector of Liberia is now reformed and the government can handle security.
Minister Samukai, whose statement at the ceremony centered more on commending the UN, indicated that UNMIL has done excellently well reforming the security sector and building institutions.
He said as a sign of confidence that Liberia can handle security the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has for the first time since the 1960s participated in a peacekeeping mission, in Timbuktu, Mali.
He, on behalf of President Sirleaf, extended gratitude to the United Nations Mission in Liberia for the long years of service, during which many lost their lives.