The Chief of Public Information of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Russell Geekie, has clarified that the military group is not leaving Liberia until 2017.
A force of 606 UNMIL police officers and 1,240 military personnel will remain in Liberia, despite the current drawdown, and will stay here until the conclusion of the country’s 2017 presidential elections, assured Mr. Geekie.
During an exclusive interview in the Stanley Peabody Memorial Library at the Daily Observer in Paynesville yesterday Mr. Geekie reminded the public that UNMIL’s drawdown was not a new development, recalling that the process started in 2006.
UNMIL has worked with the Liberia National Police and the Armed Forces of Liberia over the past 12 years, and has turned over to AFL and LNP security responsibilities that they were not able to undertake 12 years ago but are now capable of today, he said.
Providing security for the President and Vice President, disposal of explosive devices left by the war and making security’s presence felt were areas run by UNMIL officers that have now been turned over to Liberian security agencies.
UNMIL is now confident that the Liberian security sector can handle most of the responsibilities UNMIL has been handling, according to Mr. Geekie,
The UNMIL officers staying behind in Liberia will intervene only in extreme cases which will require additional support to the Liberian military and police, he assured.
The UNMIL officers remaining will be stationed in five counties – Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Rivercess, Bong and Maryland, Mr. Geekie stated.
The June 30 date set for UNMIL’s final drawdown does not mean that its mission is ending on that date, he added, noting that after that date the United Nations Security Council will decide what to do next.
Mr. Geekie also disclosed that the UN Security Council will be allotting a budget for UNMIL’s operations between July 2016 and June 2017.
With respect to the presence of security everywhere in the country, Mr. Geekie noted, “Even in a relatively small country like Liberia, it is not possible for the police to be everywhere. It does not work that way. You need the people to believe in the police, and the police need to do more.”
Unlike years ago when Liberia did not have security, he said it is evidently clear today that officers of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) are patrolling the borders, while police officers are in most parts of the country.
UNMIL will continue to provide the technical support the security sector needs to build its capacity, said Geekie, noting that the fragility of Liberia’s peace is known to the United Nations, because of the country’s recent civil crisis.
Security is everyone’s responsibility, he emphasized, urging Liberians to maintain the peace and security of the country.
The UNMIL Public Information Chief’s comments come amid lingering fears that the mission will be ending on June 30 and Liberia’s security agencies will take over the still fragile state of the country’s security in view of the approaching 2017 presidential and general elections.