President Sirleaf Lauds UNMIL, Bilateral Partners amid Their Best towards Liberia’s Peace and Stability

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has lauded the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), its gallant men and women, bilateral partners for giving their best as well as all those who made invaluable contributions to Liberia's peace and stability especially the members of the justice, security and rule of law sector.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf spoke Friday, July 1, 2016 at the Monrovia City during program marking the ceremonial turnover of responsibilities of state security to the Government of Liberia. The Liberian leader described the event as a testimony to the enormous work and progress made by her Government since 2006 to ensure a stable and peaceful country; a country where all can live and move freely without harassment; a country where freedom of the press and of the media is guaranteed; a country that provides opportunities for all to contribute to its development.

She said her government understands the importance of security, knowing that without the basic level of citizens' security, there can be no enduring social and economic development and without a sufficiently broad coalition based on confidence in improved justice and shared economic prospects, it is difficult to sustain the momentum for change. The priority of this government therefore is to ensure the security of its citizens.

President Sirleaf noted that that although we have not accomplished all that we had identified to be done before this day - but recognizes that major work has been accomplished, especially as it relates to the readiness of our security agencies to take over tasks once performed by UNMIL. She said, to date, of the 205 activities set as benchmarks to be accomplished before 30th June 2016, 71 have been completed and 84 are on schedule. Those "behind schedule" and "not yet started" will be implemented within the next two years as the Plan developed by the Joint Implementation Group (JIG) and approved by the National Security Council was envisioned for a three year implementation period.

Outlining important historical account in terms of where Liberia finds itself today, President Sirleaf noted: The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra in October 2003 ended 14 years of violence and war in Liberia. This Agreement led to the deployment of UNMIL peacekeepers through Security Council Resolution (1509), whose mandate included a support to the reform of the security sector and the maintenance of peace, justice and security in Liberia.

She said with the presence of UNMIL, the dedication of our international partners, and the commitment of the people of Liberia, we held two successful general and presidential elections - 2005 and 2011. President Sirleaf added that following these elections and our ability to sustain peace through difficult times and being satisfied with Liberia's progress, the UN Security Council, by Resolution 2066 in 2012 reduced the military strength of UNMIL. This action was agreed to by our Government and thus there followed four phases of this reduction between 2012 and 2015. She said it is good to recognize that UNMIL has efficiently completed the four phases of the drawdown process and as stated by the Minister of Justice, the Government of Liberia through the national security agencies have effectively taken over these areas of withdrawal.

She however alluded to the last phase of the transition process, when we met in August 2012 and developed a roadmap for implementing activities for the transition; identified capacity and funding gaps, but most importantly, we developed a detailed list of all UN tasks that Liberia needed to focus on in the final phase of UNMIL transition.

President Sirleaf said with this analysis in hand amid support from our international partners, the security and rule of law agencies embarked on the recruitment, training and the deployment of manpower to enhance their service delivery in preparation for UNMIL transition. She noted that at this stage of our work, our people were hit hard by the deadly Ebola virus disease which incapacitated the country to which we lost thousands of our most precious assets -- "our citizens"-- and were left with a debilitating economy and as a result, our security institutions struggled against very difficult odds to meet their quota of training new men and women in preparation for UNMIL transition.

She indicated that when we finally turned the corner in dealing with Ebola, the United Nations Security Council in December 2014 brought forward Resolution 2190, which stipulated that the 30th June 2016, would be the deadline for UNMIL to turn over fully all security responsibilities to the Government of Liberia.

The Liberian Chief Executive said to ensure the commitment of our government to improve the effectiveness of our security institutions despite our serious economic constraints, the Government of Liberia allocated US$20,000,000 in its 2015/2016 fiscal budget and disbursed US$10,000,000 to the drawdown process. With this minimum amount provided, she added - the GOL Plan focused on ensuring that security institutions could assume eight critical tasks from UNMIL in order to meet the requirements of UN Resolution 2190.

Said President Sirleaf: "Let me state here that going forward and realizing that the Plan was initially envisioned for three years implementation, the Government will ensure that funding is allocated for activities identified in strengthening the institutions. In the 2016/2017 fiscal budget, US$10,000,000 is again allocated by the Government of Liberia to implement new activities in meeting the benchmark as identified in the Plan. The Government has also ensured that salaries for officers trained in 2015/2016 FY to assume responsibilities from UNMIL are covered in this year's Budget."

Our Government, she told the gathering was able to assume the last sets of responsibilities from UNMIL by the deadline of 30th June 2016, adding that Liberia is therefore proud to state that since 30th April 2016, our LNP and EPS officers, without UNML presence, have provided security details for top officials of government. "It is satisfactory to report that we have never felt safer and more secure. We will ensure that support to the security institutions remain in order that all within the borders of Liberia feel safe as we move forward. This will be a monumental accomplishment," she stressed.

She then thanked the members of the Joint Implementation Group (JIG), including international partners, UNMIL and the UN Country Team for supporting the process both financially and through the provision of competent individuals to aid in the development, implementation and oversight of the Plan. She recognized both former and sitting - Minster of Justice, the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning and Defense and the US Embassy for serving as Co-chairs of the JIG, working assiduously to ensure that projects identified for our preparedness were implemented.

For his part, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, Farid Zarif, lauded the people and Government of Liberia for reassuming full control of the country's security. The achievement is testament to the progress Liberians have made in the past 13 years of peace, he said.

He described July 1, 2016, as a culmination of the step-by-step towards rebuilding of Liberia's security institutions almost from scratch, following the long years of civil conflict. He said over several years, Liberia's security institutions took on ever more responsibilities as the Mission drew down from its peak of more than 16,000 uniformed personnel in 2007 to the 1,240 military and 606 police personnel that remain here today," said the SRSG.

Source: Executive Mansion