UNMIL: Rising optimism as Liberia solidifies peace


Throughout 2006, Liberia made tangible progress in consolidating peace, reviving the economy and rebuilding national institutions through a joint effort with its international partners.


Led by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who became Africa’s first female elected head of State in the 2005 presidential election, Liberia now has a functioning Government that pursues an ambitious development agenda in the four strategic areas of peace and security, economic growth, infrastructure development, and governance and the rule of law. Since President Johnson-Sirleaf assumed office in January 2006, her Government took a number of initiatives to help the nation recover from years of war.


The restructuring of the national army and police is well under way. Some parts of the capital Monrovia now have running water and electricity for the first time in more than a decade. Revenue collection has noticeably increased. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has begun to carry out its two-year mandate, which is aimed at finding a lasting solution for national unity and reconciliation. Emergency jobs have been created for ex-combatants and unemployed youth. In terms of anti-corruption measures, the Government began eliminating ghost and corrupt staff from its payroll to “right-size” civil administration. It also implemented an anti-graft mechanism in fiscal management and brought under review any illegal or unfavourable concession agreements on natural resources.


Former Liberian President Charles Taylor exits a UN helicopter upon arrival in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he was held by a UN-backed Special Court on multiple charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, March 29, 2006. (UN Photo)


The President’s leadership and commitment have garnered significant support from humanitarian and development partners.The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), in addition to keeping the country secure, has been a major coordinator of the international community’s assistance, supplying a framework for the Government’s development agenda and leading the provision of technical assistance and logistical support.


On security reform, UNMIL assisted the Liberian National Police in intensifying its recruitment and training of an additional 1,400 personnel to create a new 3,500-strong law enforcement institution by 2007. In the area of economic revitalization and infrastructure, UNMIL and other UN agencies, including the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), worked to create nearly 20,000 temporary jobs for skilled and unskilled labourers in public works, such as road rehabilitation and drainage clean-up, in response to the Government’s call for emergency employment.


For the restoration of State authority throughout the country, UNMIL assisted the Government in taking control of the Guthrie Rubber Plantation, which had been occupied previously by ex-combatants who were tapping rubber illegally and destabilising the plantation community. Along with other international actors, UNMIL also helped draft the new Forestry Reform Law, which articulates the Government’s responsibility to manage forestry resources more sustainably. The passage of the law in September paved the way for the permanent lifting of UN sanctions on timber trade.


For Liberia’s decentralization effort, UNMIL and UN agencies initiated the formation of a County Support Team in each of the 15 counties to strengthen the capacity of local authorities in administering social services and implementing community development activities. On the humanitarian front, UNMIL coordinated with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to complete the resettlement of all 314,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) before the rainy season began.


Despite significant progress made so far, Liberia still faces daunting challenges.The country still relies heavily on the UN’s 15,000-strong force to maintain security, three years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in Accra,Ghana, which ended 14 years of civil conflict. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are yet to come home from neighbouring countries. Basic needs in the areas of health care and education have not been met.Many towns and villages remain isolated due to deplorable road conditions.The real challenges of consolidating peace are just beginning to emerge, and UNMIL is determined to help Liberia succeed.


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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

© United Nations 2007