UNMIL Deputy SRSG for Rule of Law Waldemar Vrey - statement at the press briefing on the security transition at MICAT – 12 November 2015 (Near Verbatim)
Hon. Justice Minister Benedict F. Sannoh
Distinguished members of the Security Institutions
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,
From the mission we share your loss of Mr Alphonso Armah, the Secretary General of the Liberia Football association.
It is a pleasure to be here at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism today with Justice Minister Sannoh to talk about the ongoing security transition.
There are less than eight months to go until 30 June 2016 – that is the deadline for Liberia to fully assume responsibility for its own security. Make no mistake; 30 June 2016 is not a suggested date. It is a deadline .It is cast in stone by the United Nations Security Council.
Liberia’s job, with support from UNMIL and many other partners, is to deliver on the priorities over the remaining 230 days. This will require sustained commitment until the finish line.
The good news is that Liberia’s Government, at the highest levels and across ministries are fully committed to the comprehensive security transition plan.
The plan is closely aligned with the phased drawdown of UNMIL. But the Government’s transition plan covers far more than the transfer of residual tasks still performed by the Mission. More importantly for the long-term stability of Liberia, the plan addresses remaining security sector needs and establishes the foundations for a professional and accountable security sector that is responsive to the communities it serves.
We have seen momentum on the plan recently. Two days ago, on 9 November, the Joint Implementation Group agreed on the allocation of $10 million to fund identified transition priorities.
UNMIL fully supports Liberian leaders’ intention to extend the legislative session from mid-November. This should help ensure that the necessary legal framework for the transition is put in place through the passage of the Police Act, Immigration Service Act and the Firearms and Ammunition Control Act.
Other important legislation is required to reinforce a fair and just society where security can flourish, such as the Land Rights Act and Land Authority Act.
We also need to see further progress on the development of security forces outside of the capital, but this by itself is insufficient to ensure security.
Every Liberian has a role to play
It is clear that police do not operate in a vacuum. They need the support and cooperation of communities to effectively serve and protect – this is true anywhere in the world.
Security is every community’s responsibility. Every Liberian has a role to play to help the Government provide the safe and secure environment that we all want to see
Citizens will not blindly trust security forces. Mutual respect and trust must be earned. Responsible, accountable Government is one key to empowering communities and unlocking their potential. We saw this great potential during the Ebola response. When communities were given the resources and decision-making authority, Liberia united to beat back Ebola.
The SRSG has said he is confident Liberians will succeed in retaking full responsibility for security. I also believe that in that future, all Liberians will look back at 30 June 2016 with pride.
The UNMIL drawdown
I would like to use this opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings about the UNMIL drawdown.
The UNMIL drawdown is nothing new. The mission’s uniformed presence, which once numbered 17,000 military and police personnel, has been reduced by about 12,000 over the past decade – yet no significant security incidents have taken place in areas from where we have withdrawn.
The drawdown continues. On 8 December, UNMIL will withdraw from Barklayville in Grand Kru County.
Come 1 July 2016, UNMIL will still have a few more 1,240 military and 606 police on the ground. These forces would only be used in a very extreme situation – one that threatened a strategic reversal of the great progress Liberia and its partners have made over the past 12 years.
Any decision about UNMIL’s eventual withdrawal or a follow-on mission will be made by the Security Council. In its resolution 2239, the Council stated that it intends to consider the matter only after a thorough review of the situation in the months following the security transition deadline.
We expect the UN Security Council to have deliberation and decision-making towards the end of 2016
The UN will not cut and run from Liberia. Even after any eventual withdrawal of UNMIL, the UN County Team will continue to support processes that are fundamental to long-term peace and security.