The Government of Liberia and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have dedicated the first of five Regional Justice and Security Hubs in Gbarnga, Bong County.
An Executive Mansion release said the hub is intended to increase citizens' access to justice and security services in communities in Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.
With US$13.3 million provided through the UN Peace-building Support Office for the construction of the five Hubs, the government plans to open four additional hubs throughout the country.
The construction of Hubs 2 and 3 in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County and Harper, Maryland County will commence later this year. Hubs 4 and 5 will be built in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, and Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
Speaking at the dedication program Wednesday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said her administration is doing more than simply erecting and dedicating structures.
The Hub program is consistent with its new Agenda for Transformation and efforts to improve and reform the Justice and Security Sector, while ensuring that Government is prepared to sustain peace in light of the UNMIL drawdown and transition, the Executive Mansion release added.
She said the Justice and Security Regional Hub concept derives from the government's initiative to decentralize these services through a regional and county-level approach.
"The opening of this first hub in the nation's heartland is confirmation that we are committed about decentralization; we are committed to serving all over the country, ensuring all our citizens that Monrovia is not Liberia," President Sirleaf stressed.
She stated that the decentralization of Government's services to the people is another indicator of good governance.
President Johnson-Sirleaf: "Citizens' access to justice and security lies at the heart of the rule of law, and is essential to political stability. Decentralization of public services is a key to extending state authority and ensuring that citizens have a stake in the governance of their country."
The Liberian Leader noted that, as part of the Liberia Peace-building Program, the rule of law, security sector reform and reconciliation - one cannot exist without the other. She said in order for the country to reconcile its differences, the people must first feel safe, and feel that they can rely on the security sector in time of crisis.
For her part, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peace-building Support, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, said the dedication of the hub symbolizes what the peace-building architecture had envisaged in 2005, which was a convergence of innovative concepts.
"It is precisely when a government has a bold groundbreaking, peace-building vision that the three pillars of the peace-building architecture work best," she said.
She observed that the construction of the hub indicates that government is trying to reverse decades of neglect to the remote regions of Liberia and extends its presence and authority throughout the nation.
Mrs. Cheng-Hopkins reiterated that citizens have to see and feel the existence of their government and receive tangible services from it, noting "it's a key dimension not only of peace-building but also of nation-building."
She said the UN Peace-building Support Office and the UN Peace-building Fund are proud to be associated with this important endeavor; disclosing that the fund has provided US$5.3 million to undertake the first Hub. Another US$8 million has been allocated for the construction of additional hubs, she said.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Karin Landgren, said with the dedication of the hub, "we are here looking at the future of Liberia, a future where justice and security are brought closer to every Liberian, where greater fairness and accountability increase everyone's confidence in the rule of law."
She added, "It is a future of greater security, which also contributes to the government and UNMIL's overall security transition strategy."
The Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, His Honor Francis Korkpor, Sr., said strengthening the rule of law and promoting Security Sector reform need to be simultaneously addressed to achieve better results.
He said the priority of the Judiciary is to deliver justice, while that of the Ministry of Justice is to ensure citizens' security. "Without citizens' security, there can be no guarantee of an enduring peace, social and economic development," he said.
The Acting Chief Justice said that although the hub was originally designed for the Security Sector, the inclusion of the Judiciary creates opportunities for a greater impact for the benefit of Liberians and foreigners within our borders.
The Gbarnga Hub will be staffed by 139 personnel, including police officers, human rights monitors, public defenders, prosecutors, and probation and immigration officers, among others.