The Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh, has reaffirmed government’s commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the wake of United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) drawdown by next year, adding, “We are ready to take over the mantle of the security sector as UNMIL operations come to an end by June, 2016.”
Minister Sannoh made the statement recently at the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism regular press briefing, held in Monrovia.
He said as part of government’s preparations, the security sector is being stepped up through the institution of some “relatively independent and vibrant” activities.
He meanwhile frowned on those who over the past months have harbored the sentiment that the departure of UNMIL will leave a security vacuum in the country, believing that the government will not secure peace and stability in the absence of international peacekeepers.
“This thinking on the parts of some the citizens,’’ he said, “is unfortunate and can be characterized as perceptions and speculations.’’
He spoke of his own disappointment in some Liberians, especially those in positions of influence that have also joined people with the sentiments that the country lacks the capacity to maintain its own national peace and security.
According to Minister Sannoh, maintaining Liberia’s stability is now the responsibility of every citizen, and not the exclusive domain of the police and security forces.
“If Liberians want peace and stability, they can have it. The achievement of national security goals does not rest exclusively on the police, the immigration, and the drug enforcement agency that provide physical security or on members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) that provides military security. It rests on all of us as a people, a community, leaders, and not only in the Executive, but also in the Legislature and in the Judiciary,’’ he said.
Cllr. Sannoh used the occasion and reaffirmed Liberia’s potential to maintain internal peace and security when UNMIL leaves the country’s security sector by June next year.
He, however, admitted that the country is faced with threats such as local, national, regional and global security concerns which pose internal threat to the country’s security.
Amongst the internal threats, the Justice Minister named existing land disputes, ethnic divisions, pervasive poverty, and high levels of unemployment, exacerbated by the legacies of civil wars, as factors that make the country vulnerable to internal conflicts. These security concerns, Minister Sannoh said, were further exacerbated by the Ebola virus crisis.
Apart of the Ebola threat, he named threats, including terrorism and transnational organized crime, “because the West African region has increasingly become the route for illicit drug transshipment from Latin America and Asia to major western countries.”
“As you are quite aware, drug trafficking brings with it the threats of drug cartel related corruption, violence and instability as witnessed elsewhere in the world. The continuous flow of small arms and light weapons in the sub region also pose a threat to the security of Liberia,” he said.
For his part, UNMIL Deputy SRSG for Rule of Law, Waldemar Very, said Liberia’s job, with support from UNMIL and partners, is to deliver on the priorities, in the days ahead, for UNMIL’s departure. “This will require sustained commitment until the finish line. And the good news is that government, at the highest levels and across ministries, is fully committed to the comprehensive security transition plan.’’
The plan, he said, is closely aligned with the phased drawdown of UNMIL. But the government’s transition plan covers far more than the transfer of residual tasks still performed by the Mission. More importantly for the long term stability of Liberia, the plan addresses remaining security sector needs and establishes the foundations for a professional and accountable security sector that is responsive to the communities it serves.