New Democrat (Monrovia)

12 February 2013

Liberia: Government Firms Grip On National Security As Unmil Draws Down

A decade ago when the Blue Helmets arrived to establish sanity in the midst of carnage and mayhem especially in Monrovia, stakeholders in the security sector reform process, anticipating the inevitable departure of the UN peacekeepers, began preparing Liberians to shoulder responsibilities of national security.

Planning and implementation of the security sector reform process, with assistance from the international community, has borne fruit with training of the new Armed Forces of Liberia, police and immigration personnel though inadequate, as well as lawyers, judges and other judicial officers to take charge of national security and the rule of law when the Blue Helmets finally leave.

UNMIL peacekeepers have been in charge of security while training was being implemented for personnel responsible for the new AFL, the police and other paramilitary officers to conveniently take charge of national security and justice in order to erase fears among the public that the departure of UNMIL may leave a security vacuum.

But the dedication today of the Gbarnga Regional Justice & Security Hub--costing US$3 million and covering Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties--is indicative of concerns by Liberian authorities and UNMIL to ensure the gains they have achieved are sustained and not reversed.

The Gbarnga Regional Justice & Security Hub is the first of five hubs that will extend security and justice services to all Liberians throughout the country.

It is heartening that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, apparently cognizant of the warning from Sierra Leone's former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah about how UN peacekeepers left his country without adequate security, insisted and ensured that the UN uses the enormous resources thrown at it on behalf of Liberia for capacity building, and not spoon feeding for entrenching dependence.

Now, the UN's promise to leave Liberia with a competent and reliable police force, amongst others, is fast entering the test tube as the Mission begins to count its days and the opening of the first Justice and Security Regional Hub in Gbarnga today.

When completed, there will be five justice and security regional hubs intended to promote a comprehensive approach to address justice and security problems through co-location of the regional Liberian national police headquarters including a robust police support unit element, as well as a patrol unit of the Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization and elements of the justice system, including county attorneys, city solicitors, public defenders, magistrates and judges.

These correlated personnel will also promote and provide enhanced public information on the services offered including referral to free legal advise for the indigent.

The Gbarnga Hub will also ensure regular security patrols in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties as well as provide enhanced skills training in policing, combating crime, criminal investigation and law enforcement, amongst others.

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