1 May 2013

Liberia: United States Govt. 'Comfortable' With Liberia's Security, Development of New Army

With the current drawdown of peacekeeping forces of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the United States Ambassador accredited near Monrovia Deborah Malac says she is pleased with the process that led to the restructuring of Liberia's new army, the Armed Forces of Liberia.

"We have been the primary support for the Armed Forces of Liberia and we feel pretty comfortable with how the development of the armed forces have proceeded," she said.

She said Liberia's security sector continues to be faced with enormous challenges but stated that over time the country can be able to handle its own security if given the right support and time to do so.

"It will be a challenge because it requires more manpower, more resources but doing it gradually will help," she said.

"In general we feel pretty comfortable with the way things are but obviously the drawdown needs to happen in a way that it's not too quick and match with what the country's capacity to take on new responsibilities will be."

She said the current phased drawdown of UNMIL is the right path to take in strengthening the security sector to prepare the country for the daunting task of securing its future in terms of security.

"With the drawdown of UNMIL, obviously we spent a lot of time watching carefully what is going on the security side in Liberia," said Ambassador Malac.

"We believe that the phased drawdown is the appropriate way to go, to give the government of Liberia the opportunity to build its capacity slowly, overtime to assume greater responsibility for its own security."

Speaking during an interaction with Liberian reporters, at the American Embassy on Wednesday, Ambassador Malac noted that the first phase of the UNMIL drawdown is about be completed and seems to have gone smoothly.

"The areas they have left seem to have made that transition in good shape. Obviously it's just the first piece of a three-year process," she said.

"But again doing it gradually overtime makes it easier for the country to take on that responsibility rather than doing it overnight."

She said the US is working with the police to help strengthen the civilian security capacity in an eventual drawdown.

No Violent Demonstrations

Commenting on the foiled April 12, 2013 demonstrations by some young Liberians which had the country on edge of another civil disorder, Ambassador Malac noted that Liberia like any other democracy must allow peaceful assembly or demonstrations but any act that would undermine the country's peace and stability must be avoided by all citizens.

"What we would argue is that it's critical that people avoid violence. There is a difference between violent protesting and peaceful protest," she said.

"People have the right to call upon their government to say we don't believe what you're doing; we don't agree with this policy but it should never become a violent confrontation. There are ways to do that appropriately and responsibly."

The American diplomat told reporters that it was a good sign that the planned demonstration which could have turned violent was called off.

"It was a good sign that ultimately there was not a broad based demonstration that potentially could have turned violent; that does not mean that people should not necessarily be allowed to congregate," she said.

"It's an issue that will have to be looked at every time when people are unhappy about an issue, but there's an appropriate way to express that discontent and it should never be about violence."

She said Liberia has come a long way in terms of its violent past and urged Liberians to redirect their energies into positive ventures that would enhance national growth and progress.

"I'm very much an optimist about Liberia' future; just in the short time that I've been here, I sense that the country truly have turned the corner in terms of a desire not to return to violence at least on a widespread basis," she said.

"There is a genuine weariness with dealing with issues through violence. There are a lot of people here who have an interested energy to be put to productive use for positive use and we need to capitalize on that."

Many challenges

Ambassador Malac told reporters that there continues to be challenges faced by the postwar nation but added that with the help of partners like the United States of America Liberia can be assured of recovery.

"I think we all agree that there is still a lot more that needs to happen but I'm very optimistic that working together with the support of the government of Liberia and the people of Liberia; with the support of the United States and other partners can start to overcome some of those challenges," she said.

She said her government respects the right of people to assemble and peacefully petition their leaders for change but urged Liberians to chart the course of peace even in their grievances.

"Obviously the right of assembly, the right to peaceful protest is something that is very near and dear to us the United States and it's a hallmark of any vibrant democracy," she said on Wednesday.

"People should definitely feel they have the right to express their discontent and their concerns about."

She urged Liberians to work toward moving the country forward adding: "I encourage people to look at how far the country has come, understanding that there are many challenges to continuing to go forward but looking at what we can do to move the country forward."

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