The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) until 30 June and welcomed a series of recommendations by the Secretary-General concerning the role of the Mission in Liberia's electoral process.
The Council took that action by unanimously adopting resolution 1100 (1997). The Secretary-General's recommendations include the following measures: strengthening of UNOMIL's electoral unit, with, among others, recruitment of 200 additional personnel to observe the polling and counting of votes; making provisions for a "quick count"; and assistance by the international community for the repatriation of refugees. He states also that there should be a clear understanding with the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) regarding its responsibilities for the protection of international personnel during the electoral process.
Emphasizing that the holding of free and fair elections as scheduled was essential to the peace process, the Council urged the international community to provide financial, logistical and other assistance to the electoral process, including through the Trust Fund for Liberia, and to provide additional support for ECOMOG to enable it to sustain a secure environment for the elections.
The Council also expressed its concern at the delay in the installation of the new independent Elections Commission and the reconstituted Supreme Court, and urged that they be installed immediately. It requested the Secretary-General to keep it informed on a regular basis of the situation in Liberia, and in particular, significant developments in the electoral process and to report on the matter by 20 June.
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Speaking before action on the resolution, the representative of Liberia praised the pioneering efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which had helped to bring peace to Liberia. He called on the international community to provide resources so ECOMOG could be deployed throughout the country to ensure the holding of free and fair elections, and to assist in the return of refugees.
Also making statements were the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), France, Egypt, China, Portugal, Sweden, Chile, Japan and United States.
The meeting began at 11:40 a.m and adjourned at 12:40 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to consider the twenty-second progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) (document S/1997/237). Stating that the "prospect for peace in Liberia now seems to be more promising than at any time since the start of the civil war", the Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of UNOMIL for a period of three months until the end of June. At that time, he adds, he would be able to report on the conduct and result of the Liberian elections, scheduled for 30 May, including any presidential run-off election that might be necessary.
The Secretary-General also makes recommendations on the role to be played by UNOMIL in the forthcoming elections. He calls for UNOMIL's electoral unit to be strengthened and for a consultant to be recruited to serve as the United Nations technical adviser and non-voting member of the Elections Commission. Moreover, 200 additional personnel should be recruited to observe the polling and counting of votes and there should be provision for undertaking a "quick count". He recommends also that the international community make available additional resources to assist in the repatriation of refugees and that a clear understanding be reached with the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) regarding its responsibilities for the protection and security of international personnel during the electoral process.
In order that Liberian voters receive neutral, factual information about the electoral process, voting procedures and related matters, the Secretary- General further recommends that UNOMIL be authorized to arrange for the production and broadcast of daily radio programmes prepared by UNOMIL and United Nations agency information personnel. That would entail the leasing of production facilities and securing access to air time on local radio stations, as well as an increase in UNOMIL's staff, including the secondment of one professional radio officer.
He states that ECOMOG is essential to the provision of adequate security for the elections, and calls on the donor countries to contribute to meeting those needs particularly those related to transportation.
The Secretary-General concurs with the recommendations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that the election date of 30 May be strictly adhered to; that elections be organized and conducted by an independent Elections Commission; that disputes be adjudicated by the Supreme Court, whose members will be appointed in consultation with the Liberian judiciary and the Bar Association for review by ECOWAS; that the parliament to be elected will be bicameral, with a House of Assembly of 64 members and a
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Senate of 26 members and elections will be conducted on the basis of proportional representation under a single constituency; and that refugees will not vote in their host countries.
In view of the decision that refugees should not register and vote in the countries of asylum, the Secretary-General's electoral assessment commission concluded that refugee participation required a proactive approach to repatriation coupled with additional efforts to facilitate registrations and voting by returnees.
Stating that the timetable for the conduct of the elections is extremely tight, the Secretary-General expresses concern at the delay in the installation of the new independent Elections Commission and the reconstituted Supreme Court, and the implications of that delay for the electoral process. According to the proposed timetable, electoral law and regulations would be enacted by the end of March, the registration of voters would be held in April and the election campaign would be held in May.
According to the report, the current budget for UNOMIL does not include resources for the electoral process. Should the Council decide to extend the Mission's mandate, the additional requirements for the electoral component will be sought from the General Assembly.
Since ECOMOG plans to withdraw from Liberia six months after the elections, the Secretary-General supports a proposal by the Chairman of ECOWAS that a process should commence for the restructuring of the Liberian armed forces, the police and other security agencies, with assistance from the United Nations and the international community.
In discussing humanitarian aspects of the general situation in Liberia, the Secretary-General states that reintegration now constitutes the main focus of effort. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is leading the reintegration of former child soldiers with the aim of directing them into vocational or formal education institutions. Most of the 4,036 demobilized child fighters have been reunited with their families.
Text of Draft Resolution
The Council also has before it the following draft resolution (document S/1997/254, of 26 March), which reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling its previous resolutions concerning the situation in Liberia, in particular resolution 1083 (1996) of 27 November 1996,
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"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General dated 19 March 1997 (S/1997/237), especially his conclusion that the period under review has witnessed an improvement in the security situation, revitalization of civil society, and reactivation of political parties to prepare for elections,
"Noting the agreement between the Council of State and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on a basic framework for the holding of elections in Liberia scheduled for 30 May 1997,
"Emphasizing that the holding of free and fair elections as scheduled is an essential phase of the peace process in Liberia,
"Reiterating that the people of Liberia and their leaders bear the ultimate responsibility for achieving peace and national reconciliation,
"Noting with appreciation the active efforts of ECOWAS to restore peace, security and stability to Liberia, and commending the States which have contributed to the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG),
"Expressing its appreciation to those States which have supported the United Nations Military Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) and those which have contributed to the Trust Fund for Liberia,
"Emphasizing that the continued presence of UNOMIL is predicated on the presence of ECOMOG and its commitment to ensure the safety of UNOMIL,
"1. Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIL until 30 June 1997;
"2. Welcomes the Secretary-General's recommendations contained in paragraphs 29 and 30 of his report dated 19 March 1997 concerning the role of UNOMIL in the electoral process;
"3. Expresses its concern at the delay in the installation of the new independent Elections Commission and the reconstituted Supreme Court, and the implications of this delay for the electoral process, and urges that they be installed immediately;
"4. Urges the international community to provide financial, logistical, and other assistance to the electoral process in Liberia, including through the Trust Fund for Liberia, and to provide additional support for ECOMOG to enable it to sustain a secure environment for the elections;
"5. Stresses the importance of close contacts and enhanced coordination between UNOMIL and ECOMOG at all levels and, in particular, the importance of ECOMOG to continue to provide effective security for international personnel during the election process;
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"6. Urges all Liberian parties to cooperate with the peace process, including by respecting human rights and facilitating humanitarian activities and disarmament;
"7. Stresses the importance of respect for human rights in Liberia, not least in the period leading up to elections, and emphasizes the human rights aspect of the mandate of UNOMIL;
"8. Also stresses the importance of assisting with the prompt repatriation of refugees who are willing to return to Liberia in time to participate in the registration and voting process;
"9. Further stresses the obligation of all States to comply strictly with the embargo on the deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Liberia imposed by resolution 788 91992) of 19 November 1992, to take all actions necessary to ensure strict implementation of the embargo, and to bring all instances of violations of the embargo before the Committee established pursuant to resolution 985 (1995) of 13 April 1995;
"10. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on a regular basis of the situation in Liberia, and, in particular, significant developments in the electoral process, and to submit a report by 20 June 1997;
"11. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
WILLIAM BULL (Liberia) said the encouraging state of affairs in Liberia was directly attributable to the Member States of ECOWAS whose nationals had shed their blood and had expended vast financial resources to help make peace in Liberia. It was due also to the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the widespread international support which now existed for the ECOWAS Peace Initiative. That pioneering effort of a subregion demonstrated that countries could act decisively in bringing some of the objectives of the Charter to fruition.
As outlined in the Secretary-General's report, he said resources must be provided for the deployment of three additional battalions to ECOMOG. That would allow ECOMOG to be deployed throughout the country, a condition necessary to ensure freedom of movement, freedom of expression and voters participation free of intimidation. A substantial number of eligible voters who were presently refugees in neighbouring countries must be assisted to return home prior to the elections. Resources were required for their voluntary repatriation. Also, ECOMOG required additional technical support especially medical supplies, spare parts and anti-riot equipment. Further
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assistance was required for the restructuring of the Liberian Armed Forces and paramilitary units in view of the intention of ECOWAS to withdraw its Monitoring Group from Liberia six months after the elections.
He urged that those requirements be met in order to restore democratic governance in Liberia. Even though some outstanding issues, such as a reconstituted Elections Commission and Supreme Court, had not been fully resolved, they were not insurmountable problems. The long suffering Liberian people had sacrificed much but they were mindful that in the final analysis, durable peace could only be guaranteed if the electoral process was credible and acceptable to the vast majority.
The full implementation of the Secretary-General's basic framework for the holding of elections in Liberia would allow the Liberian people to select their own leaders under conditions which must be declared by all, including the international community, as free and fair. Accordingly, he supported the adoption of the draft resolution now before the Council and joined in the appeal that the international community gave unqualified support to the implementation of the electoral framework.
JAN BERTELING (Netherlands), speaking for the European Union and also Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia, said the Union fully supported the electoral process as defined by the Liberians and ECOWAS on the basis of the recommendations of the ECOWAS Committee of Nine. He welcomed the fact that the military component of UNOMIL was at full strength and supported the Secretary-General's proposal to strengthen the electoral unit of UNOMIL. Efforts should be made to enable as many Liberian refugees as possible to vote. There was a need for voluntary repatriation in the shortest possible time.
The representative said that, since the timetable for the elections was very tight, the Union looked forward to the installation of the new independent Elections Commission on 2 April. He hoped the reconstituted Supreme Court would follow suit. Strict adherence to the timetable would be important. Provided the timetable was respected, the Union would be ready to provide financial and technical assistance to the electoral process. The Union would send a team of election observers there, he added.
The fact that Liberia would be voting in two months for its President and Parliament was due in some respects to the efforts of the ECOWAS and its Chairmen, ECOMOG, UNOMIL and the Special Representative of the Secretary- General, he continued. The Union had made substantial financial contributions to the peace process and the increased strength of ECOMOG would enable it to play a crucial role in providing a more secure environment for the elections. There should be clear understanding between ECOMOG and UNOMIL in that regard. European contributions had also been given for the reintegration of soldiers in civil society following their demobilization. In that regard, the Union
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would like to stress the importance of the immediate arrangements for child soldiers to return to their families and be reintegrated in society.
The draft resolution was put to vote
Speaking before the vote, ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said he would vote for the draft resolution before the Council. The positive results in Liberia was due to the efforts of ECOWAS, the Africans on the ground and the representatives of the Secretary-General. He expressed hope that the process for the elections would be respected. Since the timetable was extremely tight, he expressed concern that the Elections Commission chair had not been named so far. All Liberians, especially the leaders of the former factions, should endeavour to make the elections a success. France would do all it could to help, and that was why it would vote for the draft resolution.
The representative said the demobilization of combatants and the return and reintegration of refugees were essential tasks that should receive adequate attention. France was helping to solve those problems in the context of the European Union.
MAGED A. ABDEL AZIZ (Egypt) said he supported the understanding that the United Nations would assist the electoral process in Liberia. The actions of ECOWAS and ECOMOG in helping to bring peace to Liberia were proof that regional arrangements had an important role to play, but they needed support from the international community. He hoped that assistance to those actions would continue so that ECOMOG and ECOWAS could carry on their efforts.
He also expressed the hope that the elections would take place on 30 May and the Liberian leadership would cooperate in the necessary tasks to make the elections successful. There remained, however, difficult tasks even after the election, including the need to absorb the returning refugees, to reintegrate former soldiers and to reinstate the infrastructure that was destroyed during the war. The international community should stand by Liberians to help them to restore their country.
WANG XUEXIAN (China) said he would vote in favour of the draft resolution before the Council. He was encouraged by the progress achieved in the peace process including the disarmament of ex-combatants, and the political good faith and positive action of the various sections of Liberia. The ultimate settlement of the question remained with the Liberians themselves. It called for a strong sense of responsibility on the part of the people themselves.
He hoped that the various parties would continue in their efforts to hold sincere consultations and to resolve their differences so that the elections would be successful. He favoured shifting the focus of UNOMIL to assistance to the elections. He appealed to all sides to cooperate in the
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elections. He praised the efforts of ECOWAS and said it had helped Liberia to move from war to peace. The international community should provide it with political and financial help, especially now when the peace process was at a critical juncture.
ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said he favoured the strengthening of ECOMOG and paid tribute to the role of its chief commander in demobilizing the combatants of all Liberian factions. For free, fair and internationally recognized elections, several requirements must be met. Some of the factors that should be considered include the urgent installation of the Elections Commission and the reconstitution of the Supreme Court, the registration of voters and the return of refugees, all of which were crucial for the credibility of the electoral process. The possibility of the non- participation of almost 30 per cent of Liberia's population in the elections should be a matter of great concern to the international community.
The representative urged Liberians to cooperate with the peace process by respecting human rights and facilitating humanitarian activities and disarmament. The United Nations and regional organizations must continue playing important roles in Liberia.
PETER OSVALD (Sweden) said prompt voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees was essential in order to enable a large number of them to vote. The ECOMOG would play a crucial role in the electoral process by ensuring security and protection of international personnel. Sweden would vote for the draft as a prolongation of UNOMIL's mandate and the extension of its tasks in line with the Secretary-General's recommendations to promote the process of peace and democracy in Liberia.
JUAN SOMAVIA (Chile) recalled some of the positive developments that had taken place recently in Liberia, such as the demobilization of combatants and the gradual reconstruction of civil society. That showed that the Liberian crisis was being solved gradually to a point at which elections could be held in the country. The fact that about one third of the combatants had not been disarmed should be noted and should not be allowed to hamper the electoral process.
The representative praised the part played by ECOWAS in turning the situation in Liberia around from the chaos witnessed last year by the international community. After the elections were held, the United Nations system, the Bretton Woods institutions and the international donor community should accord Liberia priority in their assistance programmes. Assistance to that nation would help reduce poverty, help bring about peace and gradually place it on the road towards development.
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HISASHI OWADE (Japan) said vigilance on the part of the international community was particulary necessary now that preparations were under way for the 30 May elections. The elections, if conducted in a free and fair manner, would provide the first opportunity for the people of Liberia to express their views as to how and by whom they wish to be governed, and thus prepare the ground for the establishment of a stable foundation for national reconciliation.
In order to enhance validity and transparency, the elections in Liberia would benefit from the repatriation of those citizens who had sought refuge in the neighbouring countries, he said. He emphasized the importance of the continued presence of ECOMOG in maintaining a secure environment in Liberia. He also welcomed the extension of its mandate for an additional three months, until 30 June.
Noting that the wounds of the extended civil war were deep and the very socio-economic fabric of Liberia as a nation must be restored, he stressed that the responsibility for accomplishing that task lay chiefly with the Liberian people themselves. But the international community should be ready to follow with assistance. Japan was prepared to play a meaningful role in such assistance efforts and had already been extending electoral assistance through a contribution to the United Nations Trust Fund for Liberia. Japan would further consider a wide-range of assistance, including the possibility of funding for the purchase of equipment and the dispatch of personnel to serve as electoral observers.
BILL RICHARDSON (United States) said that although Liberia had taken important steps forward, risks to peace remained and the international community must continue to be vigilant. Large numbers of fighters had not disarmed, and the factions, although formally non-existent after 31 January, had not fully disbanded their command and control structures. The ECOMOG continued to discover weapons caches in various parts of the country, even in Monrovia. He appealed to the former faction leaders and their fighters to complete disarmament by turning in to ECOMOG all remaining weapons.
He expressed concern at the delays in inaugurating the independent Elections Commission and hoped it and the Supreme Court would be installed and would start to function without further delay.
He was also concerned that a level playing field be created for all candidates to compete openly and for all citizens to vote freely in the elections. The United States would like to see equal access by the various political parties to the media, particularly radio, to enable them to share their views with as many people as possible. He looked forward to further details on United Nations plans for radio programming.
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The United States supported the fullest possible voluntary participation by all Liberians in the electoral process. The Liberian Government and electoral authorities, and Member States in which Liberian refugees were located, should make every effort to achieve that objective.
He supported the extension of UNOMIL through June to enable it to assist with preparations and observation of the elections and welcomed the Secretariat's assurance to the Council that the new electoral activities would be carried out within UNOMIL's existing resources. Voluntary contributions for the elections should be fully utilized before election activities were funded out of the UNOMIL budget. Once the elections had concluded, including a run-off if necessary, the role for the military observers should be completed and UNOMIL should begin the drawdown of its operation. Some of UNOMIL's activities, particularly the monitoring of human rights, however, should continue as programmes under the appropriate United Nations agencies after UNOMIL formally concluded as a mission.
The draft was then unanimously adopted as Security Council resolution 1100 (1997).
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