After years of fratricidal and intermittent civil conflicts which killed more than two-hundred and fifty-thousand people displaced thousands more in Liberia, the United Nations may, by June 30, 2016, officially conclude its peace-keeping mission to the country.
This follows years of ensuring the country’s peace, reintegration, rebuilding and stability. Ahead of the departure of its peace-keeping mission in Liberia or UNMIL, many Liberians – on a daily basis, continue to express serious fears and skepticisms that there will be a security vacuum in Liberia when the mission leaves as scheduled.
The general belief is the inability of the Liberian Government to secure and sustain peace and stability in the absence of UNMIL. But such belief and expressions seemed not to have gone down well with the Liberian Government, especially when its strategic plan for UNMIL’s drawn-down is already in place awaiting implementation.
In view of the foregoing, the Liberian Minister of Justice, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, at a recent MICAT briefing, publicly observed that while the necessary infrastructure were in place, as well as mobilization of resources for implementation of its strategic security Plan, these Liberians – mainly people in positions of influence, ‘out of ignorance’ of the inner workings of the security sector, were harboring and publicly expressing such belief and fears 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, emphasizing 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. “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.” While the concern and reaction of the Minister of Justice must be something to consider, it is also important to share the fears and skepticisms being publicly expressed by some Liberians about the ability of state security apparatus to ensure their security and uphold the stability of the state, being very cognizant of what’s obtaining all over the place at the moment.
The minister may as well be well knowledgeable of reports the involvement of state security agents in facilitating various crimes, including rape, armed robbery, bribery, as well as drug trafficking, among others. With such damming and continuous reports, especially during the current UNMIIL gradual draw-down process, it is respectfully difficult to agree with the Liberian Justice Minister that such fears and skepticisms are perceptions.
Other than such description as indicated by the minister, a comprehensive assessments of these reports of professional mal-practices among state security forces needed to be commissioned and the necessary actions instituted to restore public confidence in the security apparatus, especially the Liberia National Police and Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.
Outlining all of the security strategies for full national security control in the interest of the state ahead of UNMIL’s departure is just one thing, ensuring the practical implication of these strategies is another, considering how things are really handled in our country, especially when you have people in the security apparatus ‘running after quick cash for personal aggrandizements’. Unless, this time, the Minister of Justice is suggesting that the right things will be done, then the fears and skepticisms harbored by some Liberians can be allayed.