The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1509 adopted on 16 September authorized the setting up of a peacekeeping mission in Liberia. The group to be called United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, for short; started operation since 19 September 2003 and was mandated to support the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace process; protect United Nations staff, facilities and civilians; support humanitarian and human rights activities; as well as assist in national security reform, including national police training and formation of a new, restructured military.
Security Council Resolution 2008 of 16 September 20011 extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to 30 September 2012.
The Strength of the Mission has grown over the years since the adoption of its first mandate. The Mission initial mandate gives room for up to 15,000 military personnel, 250 military observers, 160 staff and 1,115 police officers, including formed units; and the appropriate civilian component. This was from September 19 2003 – 13 July 2006.The Security Council Resolution 1696 of 2006 provided that the strength of the Mission be up to 14,875 military personnel and 1, 240 police officers, including formed units; and the appropriate civilian components. Up to the 31st of December, the strength of UNMIL stood at 9,206 uniformed personnel, 7,700 troops, 131 military observers, 1,297 police (including formed units), 477 international civilian personnel, 991 local staff and 255 UN Volunteers.
Many of the members' nations of the United Nations contributed to the total personnel in UNMIL. For military personnel we have the following countries: Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mali, Moldova, Montenegro, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Togo, Ukraine, United States, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For police personnel, we have contribution from the following countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As the saying goes, for every intervention, there has to be some form of fatalities. UNMIL has had her share of fatalities since the mission started back in 2003. Up to present, there have been a total of 164 fatalities which includes 118 troops, 18 police, 1 military observer, 7 international observer and 20 local civilians.
Disarms and reintegrates ex-combatants. UNMIL was able to demilitarize armed forces and disarm over 100,000 ex-combatants. In its first year, UNMIL oversaw the disarmament of over 95,000 ex-combatants. Further, in 2009, UNMIL was actively involved in Liberia's Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Rehabilitation (DDRR) program, which disarmed 103,000 and demobilized 101,000 ex-combatants. The UN and its partners provide rehabilitation services such as education and vocational training, with more than 98,000 ex-combatants benefited from these programs.
Provides stability in supports of the democratic elections. In the wake of November 8, 2011 run-off elections, UN peacekeepers were instrumental in helping to prevent an escalation of violence as tensions run high due to the opposition candidate's call for a boycott of the election. In addition, UNMIL was critical in assisting in the growth and reform of the Liberia National Police (LNP) is critical to secure the peaceful and democratic elections character on the October 11, 2011 elections. UNMIL provided logistical support for the delivery of voter registration materials to locations around the country, helping to successfully register 1.8 million people, representing 89 percent of eligible voters, of which 49 percent were women. UNMIL and partner groups, in combination with the National Election Commission, have followed through on their commitment to strengthen and encourage women's participation in the electoral process, holding educational and training seminars for over 400 aspiring women political participants. UNMIL Radio continues to promote a free and fair election by providing balanced airtime to all political parties and providing human rights checklist to national observer groups to use during the electoral process. The mission also continues to assist the LNP by training personnel and devising security and contingency plans to promote stability and ensure peaceful elections.
Insufficient support and role of the police force. The Liberia National Police have made many strides but are still lacking in efficient management, adequate equipment, and community support. They continue to rely on the international community to fund communications equipment, transportation, and facilities for headquarters. The government needs to strengthen the relationship and build trust between police officers and civilians in the wake of incidents of ill-discipline such as harassment of civilians and criminal activity. In addition, the LNP remains understaffed, with a ratio to population of just 1:850, 65-75% of which are stationed in montserrado County.
Prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence. Liberia's 14 year civil war left 40 percent of women affected by gender based violence (GBV). While Liberia is on the path to national recovery, rates of GBV, in particular domestic violence and rape, remain high. Rape still remains the number one crime reported to the Liberian National Police, with most of the victims between the ages of 10 and 19. In 2009, the Liberian government and the UN formed a joint plan to reduce GBV by 30 percent by the end of 2011. Thus far, special courts have been established to hear the backlog of GBV cases, expediting the legal process and encouraging victims to report GBV incidents. Despite improvements in the legal system though, a study conducted by the UN in Liberia tracking cases of sexual violence found that it would take nearly ten years at the current speed the criminal justice system operates to clear the back log of sexual violence cases alone.
Protection of children. An estimated 20,000 child soldiers, a majority of which were between the ages of 8 and 15, were recruited by multiple armed groups during the course of the 14 years of conflict in Liberia. UNICEF and various partners are providing these children with rehabilitation programs, psychological support, general education, and vocational training. Helping former child soldiers remains a challenge because of neighboring countries' continuous efforts to recruit children into armed conflict. Child labor is also a problem in Liberia. Children are often paid to carry illegal goods across borders and are trafficked for sex.
Anti-corruption efforts. The ongoing corruption in Liberia has undermined public confidence in the government and in the rule of law. In 2007, in an effort to prevent corruption, the parliament began prosecuting officials accused of financial impropriety through the adoption of the President's Code of Conduct for Public Officials legislation. However, Liberian legislators still delay in disclosing their personal assets. Additionally, the General Audit Commission's audit report recommendations are consistently ignored. However, its investigations have resulted in the dismissal of several high-profile officials, including the commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority and the Minister of Information. In December 2009, the President enacted a Whistleblower Act to protect those who report acts of corruption. Despite efforts to reform the government, legal bottlenecks in the prosecution of corruption cases continue to hamper the proper implementation of the President's anti-corruption policy. UN Peace building Commission has suggested that a special court be created to fast track corruption cases, however their recommendation have yet to be implemented.
Côte d'Ivoire. Fallout from the presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire continues to pose a serious threat to Liberia's security, as dispute and conflict in the former country has led to thousands of refugees into the latter—there are currently over 160,000 Ivorian refugees in Liberia. Their displacement in Liberia continues to strain the resource limited border towns where they reside, with conflicts emerging over land usage between Ivoirians and Liberians. UNMIL and the Liberian Government have increased their patrolling along the Ivorian border to ensure that Cote d'Ivoire does not draw further combatants from Liberia. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees cooperates with groups in Liberia, including the Government, UNOCI and UNMIL to monitor refugee numbers and activities, and for general managerial support. UNMIL helps maintain security in areas hosting refugees.
Human and Drug Trafficking. Liberia continues to be vulnerable to drug trafficking. Hard drugs, including heroin and cocaine, transit through Liberia in limited amounts. Domestic production of marijuana is flourishing and in many areas is thought to be replacing other agricultural activities, with large amounts crossing into neighboring countries. There are also reports of human trafficking using similar routes. In May, the Government joined the West Africa Coast Initiative, a multi-stakeholder framework regional action plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa and in July the Liberia National Police Transnational Crime Unit began operations. However, porous borders, inadequate training and equipment, and corruption continue to aid and abet the illicit sail of narcotics.