Why isn’t Liberia in the news more often?
[rizzn’s note: I have an odd habit. Okay, I have more than one odd habit, but one of the odd habits I have is I monitor the news out of Africa. For one reason or another, this year, the news out of Liberia has given me pause. I’ve been paying special attention to it lately, and lots of interesting things have been happening. Liberia isn’t much different from most other places in Africa: medicine and food in short supply, armed conflicts all the time, and government as unstable as hell. Those that remember history, though, know that Liberia was a colony set up by America, and was founded primarily with freed American slaves. I can’t be sure, but given that history, I think it is why America (and by virtue of that, the U.N.) chooses to get involved with Liberia so much. With the possible exception Burundi and Botswana, Liberia has been dominating the UN Newswire this year, and they just announced a few minutes ago that the UN Sec. Council approved the usage of peacekeepers. What this means is American troops are going to be going to Africa to stabilize another country’s government. I say that we should pay attention now, before we’re blindsided by another group of U.S. soldiers being drug through the streets like they were in Mogudishu. So listen up, y’all. I’ll try to keep you updated through my website if something pertinent comes along.]

LIBERIA: Security Council approves 16,000 peacekeepers

ABIDJAN, 19 September (IRIN) – The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a 15,000-strong peacekeeping force for Liberia to take over from a much smaller West African force which is currently stuggling to impose peace and security after 14 years of civil war.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) will be formally created on October 1, two weeks before a new broad-based transitional government takes power in Monrovia to guide the country to fresh elections in October 2005.

UN officials reckon it will take about six months to work up to full strength.

UNMIL was given an initial mandate of 12 months to enforce an 18 August peace agreement between the Liberian government and two rebel movements. The Security Council also charged it with helping the new transitional government to assert its authority throughout the country.

The peacekeepers will be backed up by an international force of 1,115 civilian police officers.

Retired US air force general, Jacques Paul Klein was appointed head of UNMIL, which will be the second largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world after the one sent to neighbouring Sierra Leone three years ago.

Klein was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as his Special Representative in Liberia in July. He was formerly head of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Klein told the Security Council on Tuesday: “We have an obligation to assist in putting an end to a cycle of brutality, violence, corruption and instability that has destroyed the social fabric of Liberian society and has spilled over the borders of Liberia and profoundly affected the region.”

He said the UN had received offers of troops for Liberia from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia and Ireland.

UNMIL will monitor the implementation of the ceasefire between the Liberian government, which was headed until last month by warlord Charles Taylor, and two rebel groups; Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL).

The UN force will assist in the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and repatriation of thousands of fighters roaming the villages of Liberia. It will also and provide security at key government installations such as ports and airports, and protect UN staff, facilities and civilians.

UNMIL will also assist in humanitarian work and will help to enforce respect for human rights “with particular attention to vulnerable groups including refugees, returning refugees and internally displaced persons, women, children, and demobilized child soldiers,” the UN said.

It will help the transitional government restructure the police force and create a new professional army.

The transitional government is headed by businessman Gyude Bryant, who was chosen by the signatories to last month’s peace agreement. It will replace an interim administration led by Moses Blah. He took over the reins of power on 11 August when Taylor was forced by international pressure to step down and go into exile in Nigeria.

The Security Council resolution mandates UNMIL to help Bryant’s administration to rebuild the structure of government in Liberia. The country’s hospitals and schools are in ruins, its courts have ceased to function and its civil servants have been unpaid for years.

UNMIL will to develop a new system of courts and prisons and will assist the government to reestablish the proper administration of natural resources. The country is rich in timber, rubber, diamonds and iron ore and is believed to have offshore oil waiting to be developed.

The Security Council demanded that all parties cease hostilities throughout Liberia and fulfill their obligations under the peace and ceasefire agreements signed in Accra. It also demanded that they cooperate with UNMIL and ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of UN personnel throughout the country.

UNMIL will also help to coordinate the voluntary return of hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries and internally displaced persons within Liberia.

In a report to the Council on Tuesday, Annan said: “With the recent political and military developments in Monrovia, the security situation in the country continues to improve. Liberia remains highly unstable, however, as armed groups, militia and criminal elements operate throughout the country.”

Annan said the Liberian conflict had unleashed armed groups and criminal gangs which had destabilised the entire sub-region.

“The armed conflict in Liberia resulted in serious abuses of human rights and humanitarian law, including deliberate and arbitrary killings, disappearances, torture, widespread rape and sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, forced conscription, use of child soldiers, systematic and forced displacement and indiscriminate targeting of civilians,” Annan said.

Some 250,000 people are believed to have died in war-related circumstances in Liberia since 1989 – about one in 12 of the country’s three million population. At least half were civilian non-combatants.

Meanwhile the UN is increasing its emergency appeal for Liberia from US $69 million to $100 million to meet increased relief needs, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Initially, the UN had asked for $69 million, but raised only half of it. The extra funds were needed because relief agencies were now able to reach areas of the country under rebel-control that had previously been inaccessible, OCHA said.

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