So, So Much Still Needs To Be Done Towards UNMIL’s Draw Down? A Reflection On The SRSG’s Remarks

By Atty Philip N. wesseh (PNW)

“As we reflect today on the peace Liberia enjoys, let us recognize the confidence the UN Security Council vested in Liberia in setting the deadline of 30 June, 2016 for the country to assume full responsibility for all aspects of national security,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations (SRSG), Karin Landgren, who is also Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Liberia. She added that“much still needs to be done to achieve a coordinated, accountable, and democratic security sector in Liberia.”

The Secretary General Special Representative made the remarks when she spoke at a ceremony marking the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers under the global theme:”UN70 and UN Peacekeeping: Past, Present And Future,”which was held at the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) headquarters in Monrovia. It brought together senior officials of the Liberian Government, the United Nations family, members of the diplomatic corps, non-governmental organizations and other partners.

Regarding the draw down, place set for next year, Madam Landgren said, “This year’s theme is particularly appropriate in Liberia as the Government, with UNMIL’s support, proceeds with the transition of all security tasks from UNMIL to the Liberian security sector; This transition gives us an opportunity to reflect on the 12 years of peace since the civil conflict ended and UNMIL deployed in October 2003.”

Vice President Amb. Joseph N. Boakai who graced the occasion pointed out that, “The Liberian people cannot repeat enough how grateful and blessed they are for the sacrifices the world community, through these international peacekeepers have made to save, stabilize, and propel our country, lifting her onto the path of true nationhood.”

The celebration of the International Day of Peacekeepers have come and gone, but one thing that I consider very important is the reminder by the special representative of the secretary general, regarding the much-talked about draw down plan of the United Nations peacekeepers that have been in the country for more than a decade. The UN peacekeepers began arriving in the country after taking over from the ECOWAS Vanguard Force that was deployed in Liberia in October 2003.

Since news of the planned draw down plan by UNMIL, there have been assurances by the government of Liberia that frantic efforts are being placed to take over security following the departure of the UN peacekeepers.

As the draw down continues, the latest remarks of the special representatives should send a signal to this country and its officials that there is a need to constantly review efforts being made to completely take over the security when the UN peacekeepers leave these shores.“Much still needs to be done to achieve a coordinated, accountable, and democratic security sector in Liberia.” Do we really, as a people and nation comprehend this point of her remarks on such an important day?

As a student of communication, I see this part of her remarks that there are still more challenges ahead for this country’s security to take complete control of its security. Although she was very diplomatic in her expression, it still sends a message for this government to buckle up to achieve all that are needed to effectively and efficiently replace the peacekeepers.

For me, the remark raises the issue of manpower, logistics, effective communication and better coordination among the security apparatus of the country. Many times people complain of the absence of security officers in some parts of the country, while there are also claims of misconduct on the part of some of the security officers. Also today, some of the officers operate in makeshift structures, lest to talk about checkpoints along the main roads in some of the leeward counties.

I should not be misconstrued as suggesting that there would be security officers assigned to each citizen. No! This is not my point because even developed countries or those of affluence have not been able to do security to one citizen ratio. But what matters is for the government to have certain number of security officers for the protection of lives and properties.

Today, there are lots of complaints against some members of the Liberia National Police. This means that something needs to be done to improve police officers’ behavior and also their relationship with the public or civilians. Policing does not only rest on those in uniforms, but also the citizens who should work along with the police in combating crimes in all forms.

In fact, it is difficult to distinguish the citizens from the police should one consider how the word, “police came about. Research shows that , “the term police comes from Old French policie, essentially meaning ‘civil organization’; it comes from Late Latin poilita; in turn from Latin, meaning ‘the State’; coming from Greek politeia, coming from poiltes, meaning ‘citizen’, from polis, meaning ‘city’.

This clearly shows that a cordial working relationship between the police and citizens is sine quo non to the successful operations of the police.Therefore, the LNP MUST cultivate this cordiality. Equally, this means that the citizens have a role to play to keep, preserve and sustain the peace by avoiding acts, such as violence, that have the propensity to undermine national peace and stability.

I am making reference of the police because of the plethora of complaints against them, and more importantly, the police is the first line in national security and an important factor in the criminal justice system of the country. As such, issues of attitude and behavior should be matters of paramount concern.

One meaning of police officers that I admire is the one which says, “Police officers play a central role in the law enforcement system. They monitor criminal activities, take part in community patrols, respond to emergency calls, issue tickets, make arrests, investigate crimes and testify in court as needed.”

Intuitively, by reading the statement of SRSG, I deduced from her remarks on the issue of security, that the citizens, too, have a part to play should the peacekeepers leave. It will be foolhardy to believe that the security of the state only rests with the security forces. They can only succeed with the cooperation of the citizens. The citizens have a role to play to prevent the commission of crimes. In many instances, some security forces have been successful in apprehending suspects through the efforts of non-security forces, sometimes by video recording.

As this country is left with less than a year to take over security, it is prudent for this government to ensure that all would be well should the peacekeepers leave. The issue of manpower, logistics and incentives should be taken seriously. This is why I am happy that serious concern has been given to national security and the transitional program in the national budget.

This issue of UNMIL’s draw down should not be taken lightly, as sufficient “NOTICE” has been given to this authority to avoid being caught between scissors or between the rocks and the high sea waves that could bring about impossibility, like in the case of “force majeure.”

To those concerned, let me say that let us work while it is day, as no one knows when night cometh; also bearing in mind that “procrastination is the thief of time,” hence, the sooner the better. I Rest My Case.