The Liberian government has outlined strategies to assume full security at its various borders with neighboring Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone to meet the June 30, 2016 deadline set by the UN Security Council for the country to assume full control of its security as UNMIL draws down.
Outlining the strategies Thursday in a press briefing at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill, Justice Minister and Attorney General, Benedict Sannoh, said in order to assume control of eight strategic activities from UNMIL, focus is being placed on counties along the Liberia/Ivory Coast; Liberia/Guinea, and Liberia/Sierra Leone border corridor, specifically, Sinoe, Lofa, Nimba, Grand Gedeh; Maryland; River Gee; Bong; and Gbarpolu Counties, respectively.
Minister Sannoh said to address the challenges in these counties and assume control over the eight activities from UNMIL, government is moving on three tracks, including “Operational effectiveness” and “Institutional strengthening.”
He said the former requires training of officers, deployment of officers throughout these counties at the County, District, and Chiefdom level, providing them full set of uniforms, equipment and logistics including transportation, communications, lethal and non-lethal weapons, and ammunition, with the view to improve service delivery, while the latter involves exerting efforts to ensure the appropriate legal framework, policies, and regulatory frameworks are in place and that appropriate institutional arrangements and structural reforms are put in place.
“The third track is working effectively with the communities at all levels through community partnerships, country and district security committees , and close collaboration with the local leadership, all of which are underpinned by effective communication strategies at the local and national level. We believe these steps will lead not just to total institutional reform in our security apparatus but improved confidence in the minds and hearts of our people”, the Attorney-General said.
He said government has put the total cost at about US$38 Million to cover all of these activities between now and June 30, 2016, adding, “For this the Government of Liberia has allocated US$20Million in the 2015/2016 Fiscal Budget , of which it has already disbursed or deposited US$10M in the Central Bank of Liberia in a Transition Account for UNMIL Transition. We want to thank the Government for this show of support especially coming after the Ebola crisis. This however leaves a gap of US$18mIllion dollars against which we have started to receive support. We want to thank all our partners in this regard.”
Minister Sannoh said to move the process forward, the various national security agencies, including the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and the Liberia National Police, among others have identified all the activities and related logistics requirements, costed them, and distributed/allocated the US$10Million advanced by the Government to facilitate the implementation.
Meanwhile, the Justice Minister has observed that while Government was putting the infrastructure in place and mobilizing resources for the implementation of this Plan, many Liberians, including people in positions of influence, out of ignorance of the inner workings of the security sector, have stated publicly that the departure of UNMIL will leave a security vacuum in Liberia and that the Government cannot secure peace and stability in Liberia in the absence of UNMIL. “These statements are unfortunate and can best be only characterized as perceptions and speculations”, he added.
He emphasized that direct responsibility for peace and security has actually been in the hands of the Liberia Security Forces, with UNMIL providing mentoring, training, and direct support or intervention only when requested, adding, “When you go to sleep and wake up the next morning to calm and peaceful environment; when you travel from one point in Liberia to the next without fear, it is because of the security cover provided by the Liberia National Police. It was the Liberia National Police that single handedly provided security for the just ended 2014 Senatorial elections; it was the Liberia National Police in close collaboration with the District Security Committee in Lofa that handled the Loma Mandingo ethnic violence following the death of a Loma girl allegedly in the hands of a Mandingo. But that is not all.”
He said it is the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) that protects the land borders of this country, and monitors and supervises the flow of human traffic in and out of Liberia, a job they did with immense satisfaction during the Ebola Crisis.
The Minister noted it is through the hard work of the DEA, though a relatively new institution, that the Government has contained drug trafficking in Liberia in spite of the porosity of the borders. “What the UN Security Council has called upon the Government to do”, he clarified, “is to fill in the gaps that will be created when UNNMIL leaves. This is not a totally new responsibility that this government has not handled. This view is supported by the wording of the Security Resolution, when it calls upon the Government to “assume fully its complete security responsibilities from UNMIL”, meaning that Government already has control, but only that there were still some responsibilities that UNMIL had.”
He this does not mean that UNMIL was in full control while Liberia was in the back seat. “We are in the driver seat as a government and it is where we belong. My fellow Liberians, it is always good to appreciate the capacity in us as a people and as a nation, rather than always downgrading ourselves, our institutions of governance, and looking to others to do for us what we have the potential to do for ourselves”, he reminded.