Liberia: Unmil Drawdown Sparks Debate - As International Alert Encourages Deeper Scrutiny

The International Alert under its 2012 challenge fund project hosting the Monrovia Colloquium on UNMIL's withdrawal has opened up a discussion to encourage a deeper scrutiny of findings and reports compiled from initial research on the risk analysis and mitigation strategy (RAMS) group report.

Commenting on the drawdown plan, International Alert Head of Office Jackson Speare said though the colloquium is important it covers sensitive issue that is of concern to all.

"It is no doubt that UNMIL is not withdrawing or transitioning; we are not ignorant to the fact that UNMIL is withdrawing predicated by that we must seek to discuss the future of the country", the Head of Office indicated.

Commenting on specific objective, Mr. Speare in a presentation pointed out that findings from the RAMS group working session and the county-level colloquium will be reviewed and critical analyzed, enriching the group findings with information and inputs from other stakeholders working on the national level.

"As part of our objective the colloquium will seek to raise the stake of the UNMIL withdrawal discussions at the national level in order to attach the level of focus on the on-going transition process between the government and UNMIL and to gather information for the draft of the synthesized paper of the initiative", the Head of Office said.

He added that statistics indicates that the initial strength of UNMIL after the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in Ghana in 2003 was 17,000 as compared to 8,000 in 2012.

"When we discussed with UNMIL recently, we were briefed that its exit strategy or exit plan as at the end of 2012 will stand at 6,000", Mr. Speare noted.

In a presentation, International Alert Senior Program Officer Dax P. Sua furthered that after nine months research, the advocacy group captured in its report capital flight and economic decline, overreaction of officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU), professional and technical gap, some combatants still have control over some communities, unemployment, all of which pose serious challenges that need to be mitigated.

In a comment, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Anthony Suorh noted that with a weak drug law more needs to be done especially on the passage of the new drug laws to effectively fight against the illicit trade.

He said of the over 400 ghettos in Monrovia and its environs it a challenge to the DEA to ensure that the country is rid of drugs and other dangerous substances.

"This awareness will go a long way in mitigating the issue of drugs because security is of paramount concern to all", the DEA Director noted.

For his part, Deputy Minister of Defense for Public Affairs David Dahn said in the wake of UNMIL drawdown plan the Ministry of Defense has received US$2 million to reconstruct the Camp Todee Military Barracks.

"The government has setup a core team to foster the work of the UN; the transitional team or the core group will work alongside international partners in promulgating strategies of intervention.

The various speakers representing the security agencies at the forum briefed participants on latest preparations been made in the wake of UNMIL departure from the country.

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