The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) until 30 September, when it is expected to be terminated.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1116 (1997), the Council called upon Liberian parties to implement fully all of their agreements and commitments and urged all Liberians to participate peacefully in their country's electoral process, scheduled to culminate in legislative and presidential elections on 19 July.
The need for constructive collaboration between the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Liberian Independent Elections Commission and the international community in coordinating assistance for the elections was emphasized by the Council.
It also stressed the importance of close coordination between UNOMIL, the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) and the joint electoral coordination mechanism at all levels. It particularly stressed the importance of ECOMOG's continued provision of effective security for international personnel during the election process and of the needed logistical support to the Election Commission.
Emphasizing in the preambular part of the resolution that free and fair elections were essential to Liberia's peace process and that UNOMIL was mandated to verify them, the Council reiterated that Liberia's people and leaders bore ultimate responsibility for peace and national reconciliation.
The UNOMIL was established by Council resolution 866 (1993) of 22 September 1993 for an initial seven-month period to work with ECOMOG in implementing one of Liberia's early peace agreements and to observe elections in the country. With a mandate that was changed in subsequent resolutions, UNOMIL was the first United Nations peace-keeping operation undertaken in cooperation with a similar one already set up by another organization. The ECOMOG was created in August 1990 by ECOWAS in an effort to settle a civil war that began in late 1989. Total resources of some $133.4 million gross were made available to UNOMIL from its inception to the end of June.
The Security Council meeting began at 10:18 a.m. and adjourned at 10:21 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1116 (1997) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its previous resolutions concerning the situation in Liberia, in particular resolution 1100 (1997) of 27 March 1997,
"Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General dated 20 June 1997 (S/1997/478),
"Noting the decision of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to postpone the election date to 19 July 1997,
"Emphasizing that the holding of free and fair elections is an essential stage of Liberia's peace process and that the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) is mandated to observe and verify the election process, including the legislative and presidential elections, as stated in resolution 866 (1993) of 23 September 1993,
"Reiterating that the people of Liberia and their leaders bear the ultimate responsibility for achieving peace and national reconciliation,
"Emphasizing that the presence of UNOMIL is predicated on the presence of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and its commitment to ensure the safety of UNOMIL military observers and civilian staff,
"Noting with appreciation the active efforts of ECOWAS to restore peace, security, and stability to Liberia, and commending those African States that have and continue to contribute to ECOMOG,
"Expressing its appreciation to those States which have supported UNOMIL and those which have contributed to the Trust Fund for Liberia,
"1. Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIL until 30 September 1997, in the expectation that it will terminate on that date;
"2. Calls upon the Liberian parties to implement fully the agreements and commitments they have entered into, and urges all Liberians to participate peacefully in the electoral process;
"3. Expresses its gratitude to the international community for providing financial, logistical, and other forms of assistance for the electoral process in Liberia, including through the Trust Fund for Liberia, and for providing support to ECOMOG to enable it to carry out its peace- keeping responsibilities and to sustain a secure environment for the elections;
"4. Further emphasizes the need for constructive collaboration between the United Nations, ECOWAS, the Liberian Independent Elections Commission, and the international community in coordinating assistance for the elections;
"5. Stresses the importance of close coordination between UNOMIL, ECOMOG, and the joint electoral coordination mechanism at all levels and, in particular, the importance that ECOMOG continue to provide effective security for international personnel during the election process and provide the necessary logistical support to the Election Commission;
"6. Stresses the importance of respect for human rights in Liberia and
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emphasizes the human rights aspect of the mandate of UNOMIL;
"7. 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 (1992) of 19 November 1992, to take all actions necessary to ensure strict implementation of the embargo, and to bring all instances of the violations of the embargo before the Committee established pursuant to resolution 985 (1995) of 13 April 1995;
"8. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on a regular basis of the situation in Liberia and, in particular, developments in the electoral process, and to submit a report by 29 August 1997;
"9. Decides to remain seized of the matter."
Report of Secretary-General
Before the Council was a report of the Secretary-General (document S/1997/478) recommending a final, three-month extension of the mandate of UNOMIL until 30 September, to help maintain calm in the country, given the possibility of unrest during or after the scheduled 19 July legislative and presidential elections. Further, the provision for a run-off vote for the presidency, which might take place, if necessary, on 2 August and be followed by the installation of a new government on 16 August, make UNOMIL's presence at current strength essential.
After UNOMIL leaves with the installation of a new government, he states, the United Nations might keep a small political office in Monrovia for a limited period to be agreed upon with the incoming government and subject to the Council's concurrence. Such a presence would help promote stability in Liberia as the elected government consolidates its authority and demonstrate
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the international community's support for the democratic and development processes there.
Assessing the preparations for the upcoming elections, the Secretary-General says that, while the peace process is approaching its culminating stage, the timetable for the electoral process is uncomfortably tight. The 60-day extension for the electoral period granted by the 21 May Abuja Extraordinary Summit Meeting of the Committee of Nine on Liberia of ECOWAS was shorter than what was needed to ensure the proper performance of all the technical processes involved. The electoral calendar established by the Liberian Independent Elections Commission, which is planning and conducting the election, is so demanding that it will require the closest possible cooperation among all the actors involved. The elections would be held on 19 July, the results announced a day later and a new government inaugurated on 2 August. Should a run-off election for president be required, it would be held on 2 August, with a government inaugurated on 16 August. The Summit approved an electoral budget of $5.4 million. A total of 12 political parties that are expected to take part in the elections have registered with the Elections Commission and have been engaged in choosing their presidential candidates.
Providing some details on the preparations for the elections, the report states that both the Liberian Independent Elections Commission and the reconstituted Supreme Court, which will adjudicate electoral disputes, were installed in April. The UNOMIL's preparations to observe the elections are on schedule. Its Electoral Unit has its full complement of four electoral officers. A total of 34 civilian electoral observers have joined the 78 military observers outside Monrovia to form medium-term electoral observer teams operating from 16 bases in the field. Since the electoral package approved in Abuja, which calls for the counting of votes at polling centres, will require a large number of observers, 200 of them will be deployed for the polling period.
Two main factors will determine whether the elections are free and fair, the Secretary-General states. The first is the creation of a level playing field and the second is the efficiency and credibility of the organization and conduct of the elections by the Independent Elections Commission. The UNOMIL's assessment will be based on two sets of parameters. The first includes continued security to facilitate freedom of movement and from intimidation, the secrecy of the ballot, access by all parties to the media and their ability to campaign in all areas. The second set are some benchmarks defining the work of the Elections Commission such as the timely delivery of necessary elections materials, the establishment of sufficient numbers of polling sites, the security of the ballot boxes and other sensitive materials and the accuracy of the count.
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