4 August 2005

Liberia: Doss Takes Klein's 'Hot Seat'


By May 2003 it was clear amongst Liberian stakeholders, interest and pressure groups, and key members of the international community that Liberia was well on the way to self-annihilation. But the world will not allow that to happen in an era of globalization and obsession with collective security.

The world therefore rallied and before the last blood spilled, Liberians who had gathered in Ghana were successfully lured into reaching a negotiated settlement on those things that held them from turning their country into killing fields next to what was obtaining in Eastern Africa. Since then the document signed, the CPA, has come to be the central document to watch in returning normalcy to Liberia. But it is no secret that so many things went wrong during the first half of the implementation of the process and many blame those who undertook to implement what had been agreed in Ghana. This might have also been the understanding within UN corridors as the man many blamed for the shocks in the peace process is being replaced. But the question many are asking is, "Is the coming of another man to take over from Jacques Paul Klein recognition of policy failure, administrative failure, or routine change of personnel? The Analyst's Staff Writer looks at the advent of Alan Doss, the 60-year-old British diplomat that is taking over from tough-talking but much-blamed Jacques Paul Klein.

Alan Doss, the 60-year-old career diplomat appointed by UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has arrived in Liberia to head the finance-starved UN mission in Liberia.

Appointed to the post on July 21, 2005, Mr. Doss takes over from fellow American Jacques Paul Klein who critics say ran the peace process aground after raising the hopes of war-weary Liberians.

Mr. Klein, a retired general of the U.S. Air Force who came to the post with credits from Bosnia and Herzegovina left more to be desired by the time he left the scene last April.

Observers of Klein's approach to the Liberian peace process say his undoing was his failure to carefully study the nature, magnitude, dynamics, and flow of the Liberian conflicts prior to engaging it head on with studied arrogance.

For instance in December 2003, barely three months after taking over the security of the country from the ECOWAS vanguard force, ECOMIL, on October 1, 2003, pockets of fighting were still going on in the Liberian countryside.

Rather than engaging faction leaders to obtain troops strength, weapon types, and other important information necessary for systematic disarmament as outlined in the CPA section on disarmament, Mr. Klein simply described the perpetrators as "ragtag criminals" and threatened to charge and prosecute them for war crimes.

He saw the militias groups that tore Liberia apart and threatened to wipe out its population from the perspective of military commands in the West. And when he did not see what he was acclimatized with in terms of military organizational structure and military hardware, he concluded that it would take very little to rid the countryside of the marauding gangs.

On this basis, UNMIL under Klein rejected all suggestions calling for the enlistment of the assistance of former rebel commanders in the disarmament and demobilization process.

The CPA provided for a National Commission for Demobilization, Disarmament, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCDDRR), which in collaboration with Joint Implementation Unit, would design plan for the DDRR programme. The NCDDRR was to be headed by the Chairman of NTGL to give the process a Liberian ownership.

But to the surprise of many watchers of the peace process, Jacques Klein's UNMIL announced unilateral plans to jumpstart the process. Under the hijacked plan, UNMIL offered a $75.00 initial payment for anyone presenting weapons at designated "disarmament sights" and an additional $75-resettlement package following a month's stay at cantonment sites that were nowhere constructed by December 7, 2003.

The Klein team ignored, with confidence, suggestions that starting the DDRR process before UNMIL was fully deployed throughout the country and taken up strategic positions at border crossings would be a dangerous leap into chaos.

It was not long before those observations were proven right but it was also after several ex-combatant riots over incentives rocked the Paynesville suburb of Monrovia and resulted to five dead and several thousands dollars' worth of properties damaged.

Following that violent shocks that took the peacekeeper off balance and sent many of them tactically retreating to safety, Klein halted the process with the hope of putting into place mechanisms that will ensure that the process did not degenerate into violence.

On April 15, 2004, NTGL Chairman Gyude Bryant giving the DDRR programme a legitimate face teamed up with Klein to announce the systematic resume of the process.

But what resulted was a no lesser shaky start as the Klein teams and its new Liberian counterpart did not still see the need to incorporate former frontline commanders who, feeling part of the process, would have simply rallied the actual fighters disarmed them.

Many say such approach would have reduced the DDRR time by half, cut cost and candidates by 40% and increase success rate by 80%. They did not say how, though.

Besides failing to involve those who armed the combatants in the first place, the adjusted DDRR program did not see the need to simultaneously disarm all sectors of the country to avoid the possibility of faction leaders moving heavy weapons across the borders into hotbeds of Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire.

As the results, according to reports, elements of LURD and MODEL shipped arms into Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire while elements of the former Government of Liberia (GOL) reportedly hid their arms in arm caches in the forests of Lofa and Bong counties and in places around the capital.

Seven months after running what many prefer to call arms trade in which ex-combatants and their relatives traded arms for money, UNMIL in early November 2004 declared the DD component of the DDRR Programme formally closed and "successful."

"The DD component of the DDRR programme is officially over. The command structures of LURD, MODEL, and GOL are dismantled and the former factions have pledged to follow the path of peace. They will now transform their weapons and military strategies into political strategies. Those who are interested in politics will now form political parties," said an UNMIL spokesman during the ceremony formally announcing the dissolution of the warring factions few days following similar ceremony at the Executive Mansion.

Notwithstanding that pronouncement and the formal ceremony at the James Sprigg Payne Airport, factional executive committees did not cease to hold sway over the direction of the security.

At the instigation of the LURD Executive Committee that splintered into the Aicha Conneh and Sekou Conneh camps, the ECOWAS mediating committee was compelled to hold extraordinary sessions to avert the replacement of Chairman Bryant and the probable reversal of the peace process.

Not only were former factions leaders influencing communal violence amongst their followers in Lofa and Bomi counties, but also former MODEL frontline commanders in the east of the country were holding on to their fiefdoms and subjecting the local population to suppressive and oppressive servitude.

Meanwhile, the Klein team that unilaterally declared Monrovia "gun free" as a political declaration simply let things happened as long as they do not take on the character of open confrontation between any two factions. The citizens' outcry for UNMIL to extend its patrols in remote areas fell on deaf ears with Klein resorting to the sterile argument that his men did not have the mandate to take over civil matters that were between civilians and ex-combatants - his ragtag criminals - even while he knew that NTGL has no armed security forces that will take on hardened former fighters.

Many thought the process had failed in spite of official insistence that things were still on course until early this year when Klein let the cat out of the bag, announcing that UNMIL needed some $39 million to commence the RR component of the DDRR Programme.

Things had since been left to hang by the tail until recently when the US and Sweden agreed to remit a combined total of $15 million to help offset the deficit.

It cannot be readily said how UNMIL stands with regards to the RR process, but it is in this shaky situation that Mr. Alan Doss has moved to take over Jacques Klein's "hot seat".

Doss's brief profile available to the media did not say how much he knows about military administration, but it appears his strength is in the area of relief.

With the UN food and refugee agencies, WFP and UNHCR in that order, seeming to be hitting their lows in many months, observers say Doss may be able to wield the necessary influence to raise the budget profiles of both agencies.

They believe that such achievement would jumpstart the repatriation process that analysts say is crucial to the October 2005 elections.

Even though they find the silence about Doss's military background troubling given that an important part of his job is to plan for a 15,000-strong military force that recent unofficial statistics claims consumes $1,000,000 a day, many say Doss is more likely than not to introduce a mechanism that will unraveling the stalemate in the successful collection of arms from ex-fighters.

Graduate of the London School of Economics, the former Border Relief Operation officer at the Thai-Cambodia border and resident and humanitarian coordinator of UN operations in Sierra Leone is bound to make amends where Jacques Klein failed, analysts said.

"Unless he comes here with the intention of reviewing all of what Jacques Klein did and working with relevant agencies of NTGL and other authorities in country, Doss's coming may have no impact on the peace process. In that case, it would be better if Klein would be brought back to clean the mess he had created," said former LURD battle group commander Sarnoh Jabateh who is currently shining shoes on Broad Street.

Jabateh said had the DD component of the DDRR process gone properly, he would have been amongst the deserving beneficiaries. "But the commanders took our guns and gave them to some people who are not fighters and UNMIL looked at these kinds of people and gave them money. Now you can see that some of us still have our beats. If anything starts in this town, UNMIL will be surprise to see what we can do." How people like Jabateh who had not received any form of processing can be reintegrated into the DDRR process that is now cash-starved is amongst the problems Doss may have to address if he is to leave proud marks of achievement on the sand of the Liberian peace process, said one observer.

"Secretary General Annan changed Klein alright, but that gesture which we appreciate will have meaning only if it means that the UN has recognize that it failed in Liberia administratively and in policy designation and is prepared to give him the free hand to put things in their proper places," said former MODEL fighter Jimmy Harrison who, claims to be currently attending the University of Liberia.

DDRR programme aside, said one observer, Doss will also have to deal with the issue of what to do with the trade sanctions imposed on Liberian diamonds and timber.

"Specifically, he will have to seek a robust mandate to deal with sanction violators many of whom are Europeans and Asians who are taking advantage of the indifference of UNMIL to loot the Liberian diamonds and timber while the UN continues to blame the security-deprived NTGL for doing nothing to prevent violation," said FDA ranger Jacob Z. Thomas.

If the change is not in recognition of policy errors but is part of routine personnel transfer and regulation, says another analyst, then it needs no saying that the UN through UNMIL is not ready to solve Liberia's problems and end the imbroglio in the MRU enclave and ECOWAS subregion.

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