As the United Nations celebrates its 67th anniversary this year, it has become an imperative upon me, to recount some, if not all, of the numerous invaluable interventions of the world body towards humanitarian and peace keeping activities in Liberia which have resulted to the transformation of our nation from the perils of the windy storm and tempest of a devastating patricidal civil war to a place of peace, stability and social serenity.
This is important because our nation is now inching forward from a state of degradation towards reconstruction, national renewal and reconciliation, thanks to the United Nations. When the tiny West African State of Liberia signed the United Nations Charter on 26 June 1945, little did it know that it would have benefitted enormously from the essential constituents of the charter on which it penned its signature. 67 years on, Liberia can now beat its chest in appreciation of the decision it took to serve as founding member of the world body.
Even though, the United Nations through its specialized agencies had before the advent of the civil war in 1990, been involved in development programs and projects in Liberia, the intervention of the United Nations became manifest after numerous failed attempts to bring to an end the more than 14 years of carnage, mayhem and brazen abuse of human rights that characterized the civil war. An estimated 250,000 persons were killed, more than a million persons displaced both internally and externally and millions of dollars’ worth of properties was destroyed during the civil war.
When everyone, including myself, felt that hope for the end of the civil war was illusory, especially during the pinnacle of the violent confrontation, dubbed as “War War Three,” the United Nations Security Council, in September 2003, undertook the responsibility of adopting a Resolution to bring to an end the bloodshed and malevolent abuse of human rights that blemished the civil war in our country.
Consequently, Resolution 1509 establishing the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was adopted, leading to the deployment of 15,000 international military personnel, 250 military observers, 160 staff officers and 1,115 police officers, including formed units, among others, to Liberia.
Personnel for the Military were contributed by Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Togo, Ukraine, United States, Yemen and Zimbabwe while contributions to the mission’s police force were made by nations such as 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.
This intervention heralded the beginning of a new chapter in Liberia. It gave hope to the war ravaged people of the country, an indicator that at long last, peace was on the horizon.
The Mission’s mandate included Supporting the ceasefire, Observing the disengagement of armed forces; Protecting civilians; Promoting human rights; Supporting reform of the military and police; Promoting the Peace Process and supporting the conduct of national elections.
UNMIL worked very assiduously in the Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Rehabilitation (DDRR) program of Liberia. This program led to the disarmament of 103,000 ex-combatants and the demobilization of a further 101,000 former combatants. Working with its partners, the UN also rehabilitated, through education and vocational training opportunities at various institutions in Liberia, ex-combatants totaling 98,000. This was very phenomenal, as most of the former combatants who benefitted from the exercise have been transformed from violent, heartless killers to young, enterprising citizens.
The UN has also assisted in promoting a stable democratic process in Liberia by providing logistical and financial support to the country’s two post conflict Legislative and presidential elections of 2005 and 20011, respectively.
Effectively reforming the security sector of the country has indubitably been a priority of the United Nations. Since 2003, UNMIL has helped trained local police officers in emergency response, protection of women and children, criminal investigation and management as well as in the strengthening and professionalizing process of the Liberian Military which has resulted to the training of 2,000 capable Liberian troops.
Other areas in which the UN has made critical interventions in Liberia include Fostering national reconciliation and Conflict management, promoting peace, resolving conflict and strengthening the capacity of the state for peace consolidation, among others.
Specialized agencies of the United Nations including UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNAIDS, UNICEF, WHO, UNOPS among others, have also been critically involved in the process of rebuilding the lives and livelihoods of Liberians through support to education, health, agriculture, repatriation and resettlement of Liberian refugees and other areas of interest to the Liberian society.
Looking back and reminiscing about the state of affairs that existed in the country prior to the deployment of the UN Mission to Liberia, and seeing how far we have come, I tend to wonder what it would have meant if there were no such organization as the United Nations.
Well, the obvious reality is that it would have been very remote for us, Liberians, to have begun benefitting from the current environment of peace, tranquility and social justice that subsist in our country if the UN through UNMIL had not intervened in 2003 to professionally create the platform for the current subsisting democratic space.
Joey T. Kennedy
Cell: 0886-594-158; Email email@example.com