20 September 2006 Liberia has made “tangible progress” in areas such as Government reform and the fight against corruption but still faces major challenges in its reconstruction efforts after years of conflict, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today as he called on the Security Council to extend the UN mission there for another year until 30 September 2007.
Mr. Annan recommended the extension in his latest situation report to the 15-member Council that comes before the current mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) expires at the end of this month, and he highlights in particular the continued UN role in providing security and training of the armed forces.
“Liberia has continued to make tangible progress in a number of areas. The three branches of Government are functioning; the reform… of the security sector is gradually progressing; the resettlement of internally displaced persons has been completed; an increasing number of Liberian refugees have returned home,” he said, while also noting progress to fight corruption and the start of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“Nevertheless, Liberia still faces enormous challenges in several areas. The country is heavily dependent on UNMIL for the provision of security, given that the new police service is still in its formative stages and the training of the new armed forces is only just beginning.”
Mr. Annan also warns that the Government and UNMIL need “to remain vigilant to carefully manage the internal threats to stability,” especially from people who may be adversely affected by the Government’s reform processes, and he also highlights the large number of unemployed youth concentrated in urban areas as a “serious” concern.
However despite such problems, he describes the security situation as having “remained generally stable” since June and says his previous recommendation to withdraw one UNMIL infantry battalion remains valid, adding that this will take place in November while also leaving open the possibility of further reductions “if the security situation permits.”
The Secretary-General also said that Liberia’s efforts to cultivate good relations with its neighbours were progressing well, and he highlighted the important regional message sent by the transfer on 20 June of former Liberian President Charles Taylor from Sierra Leone to The Hague to face charges of war crimes.
“The transfer [of former President Taylor]… to stand trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague was an important development. Not only did it signal that the world will not accept impunity, it also demonstrated the recognition by the Government of Liberia, regional leaders and the Security Council that Mr. Taylor’s continued presence in Freetown was a threat to peace and stability in the subregion.”
UNMIL was established in 2003 to support the implementation of a ceasefire and a peace process in Liberia and as of the start of this month had over 14,800 military and police personnel in the country.