20 July 2012

Liberia: Debate Over Unmil's Drawdown Heats Up

Can this country maintain its own peace and security when the United Nations Mission In Liberia starts its drawdown of 15,000 troops in dry season? The nation's Defense Minister Brownie Samukai thinks so.

He said a small and efficient army and functional national police force beefed up by about 8,000 UNMIL officers is enough to keep Liberia safe, Minister Samukai told a security forum in Sinkor, Monrovia on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The forum was organized by the Governance Commission(GC).

"The 15,000 troops the UN brought here was due to the situation, the guns scattered in streets, but we do not have that kind of situation anymore," he said.

Senator John Ballout of Maryland County disagrees. "We still have problems at the borders," the Senator said. "Today none of us can proudly walk Gurley or Carey Streets at night with a phone. These are factors we should consider," he said.

Defense Minister Samukai said there are no more guns in the streets as there were during the 2003 civil crisis. However, he admitted that there are still problems with the new size and capacity of the Armed Forces of Liberia but said they are strong, efficient and capable of maintaining the current peace and security if UNMIL leaves.

Ballout, the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security, indicated that government cannot at this time overlook the border threat and internal security. The security gap is too big, he said. He recommended that the government commence an immediate independent investigation to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the country's security sector before taking further action on the issue of UNMIL's drawdown.

A findings and recommendations report submitted to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council on April 30, 2012 by a 23-member United Nations Technical Assessment Mission to Liberia triggered talks of the draw-down.

The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Liberia since 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a decade of war that killed nearly 150,000 people, mostly civilians. UNMIL's mandate includes helping to restore the rule of law and democratic processes as well as facilitating humanitarian assistance.

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