Keynote Address by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Farid Zarif

10 Feb 2016

Keynote Address by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Farid Zarif

Monrovia, 9 February 2016





9 February 2016, Monrovia City Hall


Keynote Address by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Farid Zarif



Honourable Minister of National Defence, distinguished participants,


I thank you for the opportunity to participate in the 2016 Armed Forces Day Symposium entitled Operations other than war in Post-UNMIL Transition”.  The timing of such a theme is opportune.  


Security transition

In less than five months, by 30 June, UNMIL will hand over the remaining security tasks to the Government of Liberia. As of 1 July, the entire responsibility for security of Liberia will be in the hands of its national security institutions, including the Armed Forces.

This will be a historic milestone in the post-conflict history of Liberia. I congratulate the Government for the progress made in the implementation of its Plan for UNMIL Transition. I believe that together we will successfully accomplish the security transition, reaching the “finish line” on schedule.

It is important to underscore that the end of the security transition will not mark the end of UNMIL’s mandate. The future of UNMIL and a decision on a follow-on UN presence will be determined by the UN Security Council in December. It will be based on the Secretary-General’s assessment of Liberia’s capacity to handle its own security and the situation on the ground.   

It is also important to stress that the United Nations family will remain in Liberia after UNMIL and its successor operation have completed their mandates.   You can count on the UN’s long-term support and engagement in this regard.  


Role of the Armed Forces of Liberia

The armed forces are a pre-eminent attribute of national sovereignty. They are also a symbol of national pride and confidence in the security and inviolability of borders and protection against external aggression.  The Armed Forces of Liberia is no exception. 

With the sustained commitment by the Government and international community, the Armed Forces have come a long way from being one of the root causes of the conflict to becoming a genuine “force for good” and provider of security to a nation that is aspiring toward peace and democracy.

As a true testament to the progress achieved, the Armed Forces of Liberia now helps to keep peace elsewhere by contributing to United Nations peacekeeping. Liberia’s contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mali – one of the most challenging operations – is deeply appreciated. 


The participation of women [75 out of 2,050] in the Armed Forces is another positive achievement. It shows Liberia’s commitment to creating a modern force and advancing the United Nations agenda on Women, Peace and Security.

At the same time, there are still challenges in building the effective security sector.  Looking ahead, it will be essential to have a renewed focus on improving the professional capacity of personnel, as well as on effective community outreach and engagement in the context of the security transition. These efforts will be crucial to building the trust and confidence of the population in the security sector and to laying the foundations for continuing security and stability. I trust that the Government will ensure increased attention to these areas and further engage with the population on the security transition.

Liberia has been enjoying peace for the last decade and more.  It is important that the prevailing stability be used to further strengthen the doctrine and capacity of the Armed Forces.  In this context, it is also encouraging that the Ministry of National Defense is proactively exploring ways in which the army can contribute during the time of peace, particularly after UNMIL’s transition.

The Constitution of Liberia and the National Defense Act [adopted in 2008] define the tasks, which are other than war-related, for which the Armed Forces may be called upon to undertake.  These include:

·     Engaging in civic works;

·     Participating in international and regional peacekeeping operations;

·     Providing command, communications, logistical, medical, transportation and humanitarian support to civil authority in the event of natural or man-made disaster, outbreak of disease or epidemic;

·     Assisting civil authorities in search, rescue and life-saving operations; and,

·     Providing support to all national law enforcement agencies when requested.


These “non-war” related operations should also contribute to the enhancement of broader human security and be in conformity with the principles of the rule of law, international human rights and democratic oversight and accountability. 


Ladies and gentlemen,

As I mentioned earlier, the law expressly provides for circumstances under which the Armed Forces can be deployed, such as the authorization by the President and the approval of the Legislature. They reflect the fundamental principle of civilian oversight and control over and accountability of the armed forces. 

It this respect, the mechanisms of democratic oversight over the security sector and armed forces, including by the Legislature, need to continue to be strengthened. The same applies to mechanisms of accountability.   In this respect, UNMIL has supported the Ministry of Defense and other partners in establishing a military justice system as provided for by the Constitution. 

In the absence of a military justice system approved by the Legislature, the deployment of Armed Forces to undertake operations, particularly involving a potential use of force, will face challenges.  It will also facilitate the ability of the Armed Forces to undertake operations in the post-UNMIL transition phase.  We encourage the Ministry of Defense and other stakeholders to intensify engagement on this important issue before the June 30 deadline to establish such a system and enhance accountability within the armed forces. 

We also trust that a draft Liberian Uniform Code of Military Justice will soon be submitted for consideration by the Legislature. Until then, the Ministry of Defense might consider formalizing the use of the civilian justice system in addressing the cases within the Armed Forces.  This could be facilitated through a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Justice.

In conclusion, let me express UNMIL’s commitment, within its mandate and resources, to continue to assist the Armed Forces and the security sector reform and to a close engagement with all partners during the critical final stages of the security transition and beyond.  


Thank you.