Categories
International Relations Security

UN Leaving Liberia: What’s Next?

Nigerian ECMOG soldier in Liberia.

The United Nations military mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is no small endeavor. It is one of longest UN missions in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the largest, and one of the most widely supported—with 42 countries contributing military forces and 35 contributing police personnel.

After ten years, though, the need for armed troops has decreased, and the number of foreign soldiers has shrunk to around 5,000. By 2015, the end of the current drawdown phase, there will still be about 3,700 military personnel. In contrast, while the current police presence holds at 1000, there are plans to increase the number of officers to 1700.

The questions to be asked are: why, after ten years with no significant outbreaks of violence, do so many troops need to remain? And,why is the number of international police increasing?

Categories
Government Elections Conflict

Keyword in Focus: Liberia

Elections in Liberia: pointing to the future. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr

Some degree of controversy is almost inevitable at the annual announcement of perhaps the most prestigious prize in the world. The awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to three women’s rights activists is an undoubtedly appropriate recognition of the role of women in peace building. But opponents of Liberia’s incumbent president, joint-winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, claim that the prize is politically motivated and interferes with domestic politics. With the first round of presidential elections — in which Sirleaf is seeking re-election — taking place only days after the announcement, they fear the timing of the prize for Africa’s first elected female head of state could unfairly boost her prospects.

Whatever. As Liberians go to the polls today, the Nobel Peace Prize is hardly the main reason the international community is watching so closely, and apprehensively. With the images still fresh in our minds of the post-election violence in the Ivory Coast last year (in which Liberians were involved), these second elections since the end in 2003 of decades of civil war are an important test for Liberia’s fragile peace. If the presidential and legislative elections are conducted successfully, i.e. without major incident, then pressure will mount on the UN peacekeeping mission to withdraw. This will no doubt be a delicate undertaking in a country where the presence of international security forces has long been the main guarantor of peace.