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Armed Forces Day Keynote Address

Armed Forces Day Keynote Address

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: This day was set...

Savannah State University Seeks Partnership UL

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(MONROVIA, LIBERIA – Tuesday, March 4, 2014)...

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  1. Over the past several months, we have been told that UNMIL will be leaving by June 2016 and that the Government of Liberia will assume full responsibility for the security apparatus of the country. This news has generated a lot of discussions and fears. Some of you are wondering whether or not the Government is prepared to assume this responsibility, and if so, what plans has the Government put in place for the assumption of this responsibility. There are some who are pessimistic, that when UNMIL leaves, the Country will revert to chaos. These are genuine concerns, and we have a responsibility as a Government to clarify them. That is why I am her this morning.


  1. First I will tell you what UNMIL drawdown by 2016 means and what it entails. Does UNMIL drawdown mean that the UN will be leaving Liberia?


  1. Second, I will explain to you what the responsibilities of UNMIL are that the Government is to take over from UNMIL by June 2016.


  1. Third, I will explain to you what the Plan is that the Government has adopted in close collaboration with UNMIL to assume and have a seamless transfer of these responsibilities. Does the Government have or will it have the capacity come June 2016 to assume these responsibilities?


  1. Further, I will clarify what the Plan means with respect to the overall consolidation of peace, security and democratic governance in Liberia up to 2018.


  1. Finally, does UNMIL drawn down mean that the UN will be leaving Liberia? Is the Plan adopted by the Government limited to only UNMIL drawdown? These are questions that I will throw light on this morning.


  1. As you are quite aware, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2003 ended years of violence in Liberia, ushered in a transitional political arrangement, facilitated the holding of general and presidential elections in 2005, and ushered into power a democratically elected government. These developments led to the establishment of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) through Security Council Resolution 1509 (2003) with a mandate to support the reform of the security sector and the maintenance of peace, justice and security.


  1. Following the 2010 elections, the UN Security Council by Resolution 2066(2012), decided to reduce the military strength of UNMIL in three Phases between August 2012 and July 2015, being satisfied that significant progress has been made in reducing threats to peace and security and the creation of an enabling environment for post conflict democratic governance. The Security Council and the Government of Liberia agreed on three phases for this reduction.


  1. Phases One and Two of UNMIL transition are completed.
    1. Completion of phase one of UNMIL transition witnessed the withdrawal of one thousand nine hundred and twenty-six (1,926) UNMIL soldiers from the Pakistani and Bangladesh contingents. They were withdrawn from Robertsport, Cestos City (military only), Foya, Buchanan Welcome Gate, LAC, Loguatuo, Greenville, Cari Complex, Barclayville, Gbarnga, and Totota. Few facilities (Prefab structures that housed soldier in the areas they were withdrawn from) were also turned over to GoL.
    2. Phase Two transition focused on the withdrawal of UNMIL Soldier rendering static guard services in places such as UN Bakery-Freeport, AMACO Gate-Freeport, Fishing Pier-Freeport, PIOP-Freeport, LPRC-Freeport, NPA-Freeport, BLUE Lake –Tubmanburg, Cash escort and cash transfer services were also turned over to GoL. A little of 10% of static guard and cash transfer services are still being rendered by UNMIL.


  1. Few of the tasks still being performed and will be handed over to GoL in Phase Three by UNMIL are VIP protection, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) – bomb disposal, Prison security, Management and monitoring the importation and use of fire arms, Maritime security, Border management and patrol, Static Guarding, and Cash Escorts. Phase 3 was delayed due to the Ebola virus outbreak.


  1. The latest Security Council Resolution reaffirms the resumption of this Phase 3, which will be completed by September 2015. Phase 4 will commence from September 2015 to June 2016, and the following responsibilities will be handed over to the Government in a coordinated manner, and the timelines for the handover of these responsibilities will discussed and agreed upon by UNMIL and the Government and subsequently approved by the Security Council. This arrangement will prevent surprise, allow for training by the Government of those personnel involved in assuming these responsibilities, provision of the requisite equipment and logistics, as well other institutional arrangements. The sequencing enhances a seamless transfer of responsibility. This phase will include reduction in the number of field offices, the number of FPUS, Authorized UNPOL, Military Force and Civilian Staff.


  1. Between now and the completion of phase 3 in September, UNMIL Military Force strength will be reduced from 4637 to 3416. Further reductions will take place between September and June 2016 but leaving at least 1500 soldiers in place by June 2016. In other words, there will still be some military presence in Liberia after June 2016 pending a determination by the Security Council as to the nature of the Post UNMIL presence in Liberia. By 2016, UNPOL will be reduced from 498 to 127 officers while Formed Police Unit (FPU) will be reduced from 1005 to 385. UNMIL’s presence will be consolidated in four regional areas sites: (i) Monrovia; (ii) Gbarnga; (iii) Zwedru and (IV) Harper. This will allow for mobilization in response to any post UNMIL issues.


  1. It is also important to note that the UN has established a Regional Quick Reaction Force based in Ivory Coast to respond to threats within these two countries under a UN Intermission cooperation arrangement. This force can be deployed into Liberia within a relatively short period when the need arises. The Government of Liberia has signed on the relevant status of forces of agreement to facilitate the deployment of such a force in Liberia as appropriate.


  1. In the face of the increased professionalism and enhanced capacity of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the strengthened capacity of our internal security institutions including in particular the Police and the Bureau of Immigration for the control of our borders, combined with the residual UNMIL military presence post 2016, the presence of the Regional quick reaction force in the Ivory Coast; and the consolidation of the friendly relationship and security arrangements that now exist between Liberia and its neighbors(Sierra Leone , Guinea and Ivory Coast), I want to assure all our citizens that peace and stability that we enjoy today will continue uninterrupted and that there will be adequate architecture on the ground to deal in a very decisive and speedy manner any threats to the peace and security.


  1. I also want to clarify that the UNMIL is just but a part and parcel of the UN. Long before UNMIL came to Liberia, there were UN Agencies including UNDP, UNICEF, UNIFEM UNHCR, WHO, among others operating in Liberia, providing support to our development and socio economic challenges. These UN Agencies will remain in Liberia, and the drawdown of UNMIL has absolutely no impact on their respective mandates for Liberia. So it is not the UN that is leaving Liberia. UN will remain in Liberia.


  1. Having thrown light on the aforesaid issues, let me now move on to the Plan adopted by the Government of Liberia for the UNMIL Transition. Although challenges still remain which pose a threat to the consolidation of peace in Liberia, the conclusion is inescapable that UNMIL cannot remain indefinitely in Liberia.


  1. In its Resolution 2190 (2014), the UN Security Council called on the Liberian Government to assume complete security responsibilities from UNMIL no later than 30 June 2016, and stressed that GoL drafts a “concrete plan”, with timelines and benchmarks, for building the security sector to assume these responsibilities.


  1. Her Excellency, the President designated me, as Minister of Justice, to lead the development of the Plan with the participation of all the relevant Ministries and Agencies of Government and in close collaboration with UNMIL.


  1. The Government Plan was developed out of a review of existing plans and strategies, a broad consultative process involving all the security agencies, heads of units in UNMIL that work on both security and justice sector issues including consultations with other branches of government and stakeholders; and retreats convened in February 2015 by LNP and BIN where institutional priorities were identified. A technical team comprising of Government and UNMIL supported the development of this plan under the guidance of the Minister of Justice. The outcome is consistent with the plan for SSR as envisaged under the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) and the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Liberia (NSSRL).


  1. Further, the Government Plan for UNMIL Transition is driven by principles enshrined in the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Liberia (NSSRL) and AfT which stress a shift from narrow regime centred and militaristic security to human security. Emphasis is further placed on efficiency, transparency, accountability, democratic and civilian oversight including coordination, and professionalism; it stresses respect for the rule of law and human rights as vital ingredients for the building of a peaceful and stable society. The Plan also stresses a ‘Whole of Government Approach’ to the implementation of UNMIL Transition, and the link between security and social economic development and growth. It emphasizes principles of gender mainstreaming at all levels of the security and justice sectors, and regional approach to providing security and indivisibility of security whereby Liberia must fully participate in MRU Joint Border Security Committees.


  1. Prior to the EVD outbreak, a threat assessment conducted in Liberia identified a number of local, national, regional and global threats that Liberia could become vulnerable. These include land disputes, consequences of pervasive poverty, massive unemployment (especially among the youth), electoral violence, disasters and emergencies (EVD). The assessment also identified external threats like drugs trafficking, religious fundamentalism, terrorism and instability in neighbouring country/ies that could spill over into Liberia and disrupt its peace and security.


  1. The incomplete reform of the security sector, against the background of UNMIL drawdown and transition, as well as the low level of police deployment across the country among other challenges, are serious threats to the consolidation of peace and stability in Liberia. In view of these threats, this Government Plan for UNMIL transition, therefore seeks to facilitate and speed up the process of preparing the Liberian security services to assume security responsibility with complete independence when UNMIL departs the country.


  1. The Plan identifies political will for reform, whole of Government approach, and prioritization and sequencing as assumptions and risks. This is so because overcoming major challenges requires political will across the three branches of Government, the President and heads of institutions from the executive branch. All branches of Government and ministries, agencies, and commission have roles to play and must work effectively together to perform the roles and achieve the plan according to the timelines.


  1. The Plan notes that although Liberia has made major strides, there still remain challenges such as inadequacy of budgetary and logistical resources, and the institutional and operational weaknesses. Others include lack of human capacity, low professional standards, insufficient coordination, over-centralization of justice and security assets in Monrovia, endemic corruption, and a culture of impunity and a lack of accountability.


  1. To address these challenges, legal and policy frameworks; accountability, oversight, professional standards and discipline; community service delivery in light of public trust and confidence; strengthening coordination and cooperation to ensure coordination among agencies as opposed to turf battles; recruitment and training of personnel with focus on human resource limitations and training to strengthen institutions; development and enhancement of infrastructure and logistical capacity; systemic restructuring to improve management and administrative systems, reduce bureaucracy, decentralize and delegate authority and responsibility, etc.; and improved conditions of service for security personnel are thematic areas that were identified by the Justice and Security Sectors.


  1. The plan identified the following as the specific tasks being currently undertaken by UNMIL. They include:


  • VIP protection;
  • bomb disposal;
  • prison parameter security;
  • management and monitoring of the use of arms;
  • maritime security;
  • border management and patrol; and
  • Cash escort.


  1. The Plan identified the following twelve (12) benchmarks to be achieved between now and the drawdown of UNMIL in June 2016:
  • Whole of government approach in security transition adopted;
  • Key legal, policy and regulatory frameworks established (Police Act, Defence Act, UCMJ, BIN Governance Act, etc.);
  • Trained security sector personnel in place to take over full security responsibilities;
  • Increased professionalism within the security sector;
  • Improved justice and security service delivery across Liberia (establish 10 County and 126 District Security Councils, early warning;
  • Baseline survey on SALW conducted;
  • Administrative systems established to enable and sustain effective institutional performance of security sector agencies (HR management systems, decentralised facilities and fleet management); effective oversight, accountability and disciplinary mechanisms established for security sector agencies (civilian oversight, capacity building for legislative committees);
  • coordination, collaboration and partnerships strengthened within the security sector and between Liberia and regional and international law enforcement partners (Joint Security, border committees);
  • Increased focus on human rights observance; and
  • Increased effectiveness and transparency in the financial management of security agencies; improved conditions of service for the security personnel (medical insurance, salaries and allowances -resettlement); and enhanced operational efficiency and effectiveness (expansion of NPTA facilities, LNP forensic laboratory, etc).

All The benchmarks have consolidated activities with timeline and responsible lead.


  1. Each implementing security and justice institutions has its own implementation matrix with activities and associated timelines. Last but not the least, the big picture is that the transition plan is about institutional building beyond UNMIL and so it is about the future of the institutions and effective service delivery.


  1. The implementation framework has three levels (policy, operational, and technical). The National Security Council (NSC) is at the policy level and will provide strategic policy direction and intervene on critical and sensitive issues requiring policy decisions; the Joint Implementation Group (JIG) is at the operational level and will be responsible for the actual implementation of the GOL Plan for UNMIL Transition, and will provide operational level guidance and solutions for the implementation of the plan. It will be chaired by the Minister of Justice (MoJ) and co- chaired by the UNMIL SRSG, the Chief Justice and the Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), while the Ministers of Defense (MOD), Internal Affairs (MIA), Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) and the Director of Police, NSA, LNFS, EPS, the Commissioner of BIN, the National Security Advisor, Chairman of Liberia National Commission on Small Arms (LiNCSA), UNMIL/DSRSG for Rule of Law, will constitute the membership.


  1. The JIG will meet monthly on a day to be determined during its first sitting. The technical level will comprise of the GoL Security Transition Taskforce (GSTT) and the UNMIL Security Transition Taskforce (USTT) each meeting bi-weekly.


  1. A Joint Technical Transition Secretariat (JTTS) comprising of the GSTT and USTT members will be established to address transition issues that may require joint technical actions or decisions, and to facilitate information flow between UNMIL and the Government (and donors) as well as among the GoL Plan implementation framework, AfT, JSPB, and PSF.


  1. The Transition Plan and the activities thereunder should be considered as a project with funding arrangement distinct and separate from the regular Government budgetary process and arrangement. In this regard, the establishment of a Special Project Fund is proposed to implement the Plan. A special Project Implementation Unit is to be established within the MOJ to manage, supervise and disburse project funds on time. This special project fund will run parallel to the existing recurrent budgets of the various agencies; and the Ministry of Justice will supervise and manage the fund.


  1. Implementation of the Plan is costed at US$104.848 Million Dollars. While the Plan recognizes that it is the responsibility of the Government of Liberia to mobilize the required amount, it also emphasizes the need for increased donor support to the security sector and ensure that this is sustained after UNMIL completes its drawdown. The Minister of Justice working closely with the Minister of Finance will lead efforts to, with the support from UNMIL, include the cost of the transition in the Economic Stabilization and Recovery Plan (ESRP), and increase engagement with the UN Peacebuilding Commission to increase their resource mobilization role in support of Liberia, as laid out in the Statement of Mutual Commitments. A regional engagement strategy is recommended to be developed to explore resource mobilization opportunities.


  1. The Plan underscores the need for the Executive and the Legislature to prioritize security sector funding and ensure adequate and guaranteed national budgetary allocations, for a 3-5 year period. The security sector will have to improve financial management, transparency and accountability; effective use of existing resources; as well as coordination and cost-savings among agencies as this will assist the sector in reducing corruption and costs, improving efficiency, and targeting resources to priority needs. Rigid and scrupulous enforcement of security regulations through the payment of fines as penalties can raise considerable revenues, thereby contributing to meeting the capacity and financial needs of the security sector.


  1. On March 4, 2015, the Plan was validated at a stakeholders meeting attended by all the Justice and Security Sector institutions including the Judiciary, Chairpersons of the Standing Security Committees of the Legislature, Ministries of Government including Justice, Defense, Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Finance, Internal Affairs, and Information; Agencies of Government including Governance Commission, LACC, Small Arms, and Civil Society Organizations.


  1. On March 6, 2015, the Plan was approved by the National Security Council and subsequently transmitted to the United Nations Security Council by Her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.


  1. On Tuesday, 2015, the Plan was submitted to the international partners jointly by me and the SRSG of UNMIL.


  1. On the same day, the Joint Security Committee comprising the MOJ, LNP, BIN, DEA, NSA, and Defense, accompanied by the National Security Advisor brief the “Defence, Security, Intelligence, and Veteran Affairs Committee of the Honorable Liberian Senate on the Draw down PLAN, and had very fruitful discussions on the way forward.


  1. I want to conclude by leaving you with the following messages.


  • That the transfer to and the assumption of security responsibilities by the Government of Liberia will be smooth and seamless;
  • that there will be no disruption in the existing security architecture;
  • that the peace and stability that we enjoy today will continue uninterrupted;
  • that there will be adequate security architecture locally and regionally to deal in a very decisive and speedy manner any threats to the peace and security.
  • That the Transition Plan we have developed is more than just an UNMIL Transition Plan. It is a Peace Consolidation Plan designed to facilitate the assumption of security responsibilities from UNMIL by 2016, address in a comprehensive manner the remaining challenges that pose threats to the security of this nation, and the consolidation of peace, create the environment for socio and economic development, lay a firm foundation for the holding of the 2017 general elections, and pave the way for a seamless transfer of power at the conclusion of the term of this Government with a solid legacy for posterity.
  • It is plan that requires whole government support and the support of the people of Liberia so that we can take ownership of our future and destiny. The Press has a role to play in this in a responsible.
  • In light of the cost implications and the vulnerabilities occasioned by the EVD, it is absolutely critical that the Plan be made a part and parcel of the Post Ebola Recovery Strategy.