The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the longest serving UN country mission ever, over the weekend received its final (repeat: FINAL) mandate renewal from the United Nations Security Council – but not without a strong warning to Liberia. In an overwhelming vote in favor of the 15-month renewal, three ranking members of the Security Council withheld their votes in the matter on grounds that Liberia might be getting too dependent on international support.
A ranking source at UNMIL said this week that the three countries – France, Russian Federation and the United Kingdom – did not vote against the extension, but simply abstained from the decision. A dispatch from New York quotes the concerned countries as saying that Liberia was too much reliant on international support rather than carrying on its responsibilities to maintain peace and stability.
UNMIL’s new mandate, which ends March 2018, has no contingencies for further extension and comes with a series of pressing concerns and warnings about the state of affairs in the post-war country that must be adequately addressed to ensure a sustainable peace.
France’s representative, in comments echoed by the United Kingdom’s delegate, said he abstained because, after a long period of peacekeeping, Liberia had now entered a period of peacebuilding.
Citing a culture of dependence, the draft resolution however extended a military mission despite that there was no threat to international peace and stability posed by the country. If required for elections or other needs, the rapid reaction force stationed in Côte d’Ivoire could be deployed.
A representative of the Russian Federation said it was unacceptable to extend the mandate while “blue helmets” only had peacebuilding tasks. According to him, he did not understand why armed peacekeepers were necessary for carrying out peaceful duties. Stressing that the mandate extension would divert contingents and resources the Organization needed in other hot spots, he said the proposal to deploy the rapid reaction force from Mali had been ignored.
Despite the abstentions, majority members of the UN Security Council voted in favor of extension of UNMIL’s mandate for another one year.
The final period of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is March 30, 2018. The mandate also requested the United Nations Secretary-General to complete the withdrawal of all uniformed and civilian UNMIL components, other than those required to complete the Mission’s liquidation by April 30, 2018.
The decision was reached to adopt UN Security Council resolution 2333 (2016) with 12 votes in favor and three abstentions (France, Russia Federation, United Kingdom), acting under United Nations Chapter VII Charter.
UNMIL’s mandate now includes the protection of civilians, advising the Liberian Government on the reform of justice and security institutions, supporting the Liberian Government in carrying out the promotion, protection and monitoring of human rights, strengthening efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence, and to protect United Nations personnel, installations and equipment.
The UN Security Council also authorized UNMIL to assist the Liberian Government, as requested and within its capabilities, with logistical support, including aviation support, to meet urgent gaps in the country’s capabilities for the 2017 presidential and legislative electoral process, including voter registration, in particular to facilitate access to remote areas.
On the force structure, the UN Security Council further decided to reduce the Mission’s remaining 1,240 military personnel to a ceiling 434, and its police to 310 personnel. However, it requests the UN Secretary-General to ensure that the police component has the requisite professional skills and experience to develop the leadership, internal management, professionalization and accountability mechanisms of the Liberia National Police.
On the issues of governance and national reconciliation, the UN Security Council urged the Liberian Government to prioritize national reconciliation and economic recovery, to combat corruption and to promote efficiency and good governance in particular by continuing to strengthen transparency and accountability, including effective management of the country’s natural resources for the benefit of all the people of Liberia.
The Council emphasized the importance of pursuing a national reconciliation and social cohesion strategy through concrete measures to promote national healing, justice and reconciliation at all levels and involving all Liberian stakeholders. It further emphasized women’s important role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace building.
The Council also stressed the responsibility of and the need for the Liberian Government to prepare for 2017 elections, including through support for electoral institutions; and further called upon all parties to ensure that the elections are free, fair, peaceful and transparent, including through the full participation of women.
The Council emphasized the need for expanded efforts by Liberian authorities to address the root causes of conflict, reinvigorate national and local reconciliation processes, promote land reform, advance constitutional and institutional reforms, especially of the rule of law and security sectors, combat sexual and gender-based violence, and build the trust between Liberian citizens and state institutions and processes.
The UN Security Council urged the Liberian Government to prioritize resourcing for critical gaps to improve the capacity and capability of the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Immigration Service, as well as the justice sector, including courts and prisons, enabling the promotion of human rights and reconciliation, effective oversight, professionalism, transparency and accountability across all security institutions and strengthening democratic institutions and extension of state authority and services throughout the country for the benefit of all Liberians.
On regional and inter-mission cooperation, the Council called on the Governments of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire to continue their cooperation, particularly with respect to the border area, including through increased monitoring, information sharing, and coordinated actions in implementing the shared border strategy and to support the disarmament and repatriation of armed elements on both sides of the border and the voluntary return of refugees in safety and dignity.
The Council recalled the intention to transfer the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) quick reaction force to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), where it would continue to support UNMIL. It also recalled its authorization to the Secretary-
General to deploy that unit to Liberia in the event of serious deterioration of the security situation.
After the vote, the representative of the United States, acknowledging that Liberia had taken more responsibility for functions and assumed full responsibility for security tasks, said that despite more than 12 years of peace, institutions were still fragile, and impunity and corruption were all too common.
Recalling that there would be a peaceful transition of power in 2017 through free, fair and inclusive elections, she said the presence of UNMIL was necessary to assist the Government throughout those polls.
The representative of Liberia thanked the Council members, including those who had abstained. He had noted all the concerns expressed but recognized that the action would go a long way to consolidate the gains made by signaling the Council’s willingness to support success. “A grateful nation looked forward to its continued engagement, to working with UNMIL, and to bringing that Mission to an end in one year,” he said.
Representatives of Angola, China, Uruguay, New Zealand and Spain also made remarks.