The NEWS (Monrovia)

12 December 2012

Liberia: UN Security Council December 2012 Monthly Forecast On Liberia

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Expected Council Action

In December, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from the chair of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee on the final report of the Panel of Experts (PoE) monitoring the implementation of the sanctions.

The Council will likely adopt a resolution dropping some of the sanctions, including those relating to travel bans and asset freezes on selected individuals, and maintaining the measures on arms purchases. The resolution will also likely renew the mandate of the PoE, which expires on 15 December. (Resolution 2025 of 14 December 2011 directed the PoE to "assess the impact, effectiveness, and continued need for the measures" and to conduct a final review with a view "to possibly modifying or lifting all or part of the measures" of the sanctions regime.)

The mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) expires on 30 September 2013.

Key Recent Developments

Resolution 2066 of 17 September, in addition to extending UNMIL's mandate, authorized the reduction of its military strength in three phases, with a first reduction of 1,990 personnel to begin in October and end in September 2013.

The phased reduction in UNMIL's military strength both recognized the considerable progress in Liberia over the years and signaled some caution and anxiety. The resolution also mandated an increase in the number of UNMIL's authorized police units by three additional units, totaling 420 personnel and bringing the mission's police force to 1,795 personnel. The resolution emphasized that the additional units "shall be deployed to Liberia as soon as available, with the first unit deploying no later than January 2013."

On 14 September the Sanctions Committee delisted one individual, Mohamed Ahmad Salame, from the travel ban list and the assets freeze list. The Committee has progressively delisted individuals: on 20 July it removed 17 individuals from both the travel ban and asset freeze lists, including senator Jewel Taylor, the former wife of former President Charles Taylor (who is serving a 50-year sentence in The Hague). Also delisted was Edwin Snowe, a member of the House of Representatives and Taylor's son-in-law. Several prominent Liberians, however, remain on both lists. They include businessman Benoni Urey, former security chief to Taylor, Benjamin Yeaten (who is believed to be in Togo), Taylor himself and his son Chuckie Taylor (both in prison), and a host of foreign nationals who are said to have dealt in illicit diamonds and arms in support of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone.

Of particular relevance to the measures relating to arms in Liberia may be recent events in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire. On 16 October, the Council received a letter from the Secretary-General (S/2012/772) noting that in light of the "deterioration in the security situation in Côte d'Ivoire as well as evolving threats," he recommended that the Council defer the reduction in the military strength of the UN Office in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), mandated by resolution 2062 of 26 July, until after an assessment in early 2013. The letter referred to "attacks targeting national security forces in and around Abidjan and along the borders with Ghana and Liberia."

Ambassador Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala), chair of the 1572 Côte d'Ivoire Sanctions Committee, informed the Council of developments during a 25 October briefing on the midterm report (S/2012/766) of the PoE that assists the Committee, published on 15 October. The report highlighted worrying recent security developments in Côte d'Ivoire and neighboring countries, including the establishment of a command-centre infrastructure in Accra, Ghana, set up by rebels loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo and of training camps in the dense rainforests of eastern Liberia. The report also cites military actions that have been conducted since early 2012 in Côte d'Ivoire from Ghana and the transfer of funds from Ghana to Liberia, which the report identified as a recruitment platform and rear operating base for the pro-Gbagbo fighters.

The midterm Liberia PoE report from June (S/2012/448) noted "ongoing ties and interlinked command structures" between Liberian mercenaries and Ivorian militia residing in Liberia, and that these are in constant communication. In its report, the PoE expressed concern that these Liberian mercenaries and Ivorian militia could be a threat to the peace and stability in the border region. It also stated its concerns that the Liberian government has made no progress on national small-arms control measures.

Meanwhile, politics in Liberia have remained somewhat fractious. In October, Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, resigned as head of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, a group set up by Johnson Sirleaf a year ago to promote dialogue among Liberians of different political leanings, as well as peace and security. Gbowee cited "differences in opinion on the pathway for national healing and reconciliation" and criticised Johnson Sirleaf for condoning corruption and nepotism. (Two months earlier, in August, Johnson Sirleaf suspended her son, Charles, as central bank deputy governor for failing to declare his assets. Another son, Fumba, is head of the National Security Agency, while a third, Robert, is Senior Adviser to the President and chairman of the state-owned National Oil Company of Liberia. The Secretary-General's 16 April special report (S/2012/230) had previously stated that Johnson Sirleaf had failed to take action on anti-corruption cases and that her administration remained unresponsive to audit reports that highlight corruption in public institutions.)

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 18 September, the Committee on the Rights of the Child considered the second, third and fourth periodic reports of Liberia and adopted concluding observations on 5 October. Among the areas of concern was that Liberia has not taken actions against armed actors operating along the borders who have continued to recruit children into their ranks. The committee recommended that Liberia implement necessary measures to prevent the recruitment and use of children, as well as investigating those recruitments and providing necessary psychosocial support and recovery assistance to child victims.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is to deny anti-government forces and mercenaries access to resources and weapons with which to destabilize Liberia and its neighbours.

An increasing concern for the Council is the strong link between former Liberian fighters and the growing pro-Gbagbo militia activities in Côte d'Ivoire.

Options for the Council include:

adopting a new resolution renewing only the measures on arms as well as the mandate of the PoE supporting the sanctions regime; or rolling over resolution 2025 renewing all the measures as well as the mandate of the PoE.

Council Dynamics

The recent security developments along the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border have once again alerted the Council to the volatility of the region. Council members are particularly worried by the easy movement of arms and militias across the borders of Liberia and other countries adjacent to Côte d'Ivoire, especially in light of the fragility of most of the countries in the region-- including Guinea and Sierra Leone. As a result of this anxiety, the Council is likely to maintain the arms embargo on Liberia, as well as renew the mandate of the PoE monitoring the movement of arms in the region. Agreement on the need for travel bans and asset freezes is more uncertain. The Council has been worried about violations of these measures, in some cases with the apparent complicity of the Liberian government. Since these measures were designed to protect the government and the Liberian state, some Council members have tended to conclude that they are probably obsolete. The progressive delisting of individuals in Liberia from both the travel ban and asset freeze lists, moreover, indicates that the measures may no longer be relevant or effective, and some Council members appear to be keen on dropping them.

There is also a view among some Council members that dropping these measures, which mainly affect people who are part of the political opposition in a country that has now conducted two democratic national elections since the war ended, would help promote reconciliation. Council members appear concerned about this issue, particularly after the Secretary-General's special report sharply criticized the Johnson Sirleaf government for shortcomings in the areas of governance and reconciliation, both of which bear directly on security.

The US leads on Liberia in the Council.

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