Media reports from Liberia indicate the interim Liberian head of state; Charles Gyude Bryant has departed Liberia for the United States to address the United Nations Security Council on June 3, 2004. According to the reports, Charles Gyude Bryant would persuade “the United Nations Security Council to lift the sanctions imposed on Liberia diamond and timber industries.”
The United Nations Security Council first imposed sanctions on Liberia in 2001 for its role in the destabilization of Sierra Leone and creating insecurity in the West African sub-region. The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1521 on December 22, 2003 to extend the sanctions to include Liberia’s timber/logging industry due to Liberia’s role “in fueling national and regional insecurity”. Resolution 1521 has several important provisions including section B paragraphs 11 and 13:
11. Urges the National Transitional Government of Liberia to establish its full authority and control over the timber producing areas, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that government revenues from the Liberian timber industry are not used to fuel conflict or otherwise in violation of the Council’s resolutions but are used for legitimate purposes for the benefit of the Liberian people, including development;
13. Encourages the National Transitional Government of Liberia to establish oversight mechanisms for the timber industry that will promote responsible business practices, and to establish transparent accounting and auditing mechanisms to ensure that all government revenues, including those from the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, are not used to fuel conflict or otherwise in violation of the Council’s resolutions but are used for legitimate purposes for the benefit of the Liberian people, including development.
The United Nations Security Council requires that the Liberian government satisfies the provisions of resolution 1521 before the sanctions imposed on Liberia are lifted. However, according to Global Witness, the Liberian government has failed to meet the requirements to lift the sanctions. The National Transitional Government headed by Charles Gyude Bryant “has not yet established full authority or control over the timber producing areas” Further, the Liberian government does not have information about illegal logging activities by “non-state actors” in southeastern Liberia. Global Witness also reports, “there are insufficient safeguards to ensure that government and industry revenue are not siphoned away” by corrupt Liberian government officials.
Charles Gyude Bryant and the interim government of Liberia do not need the United Nations imposed sanctions on Liberia to be lifted before they can implement the provisions of the Accra Peace Agreement that brought the interim government power. The Accra international brokered peace agreement also requires the international community to assist the interim government creates an enabling environment for free and fair elections in Liberia. Accordingly, the international community made a commitment of over 500 million dollars to Liberia at the February 2004 Donors Conference in New York to meet the reconstruction needs of Liberia.
Importantly, the Gyude Bryant Interim Government has less than eighteen months in power, why then does the government want the sanctions lifted? The answer is simple. Elements from MODEL, LURD and some unscrupulous politicians in the government want to team up with fly-by-night investors to exploit the resources of Liberia for their personal gains. The present attempt by the government to have the sanctions lifted is not about Liberia. It is about how the “contingent of husslers in Liberia masquerading as government officials” will line their pockets before the government’s term expires on January 16, 2006.
The United Nations Security Council must maintain the sanctions imposed on Liberia because (a) The government has not met the United Nations imposed conditions for the sanctions to be lifted; (b) lifting the sanctions will be an open invitation for the exploitation of the resources of Liberia, and (c) the interim government is a caretaker government whose membership is replete with people of questionable characters, if the sanctions are lifted, these characters will exploit the resources of Liberia for their personal gains, thereby undermining the future economic security of Liberia.
In view of the above reasons, it is in the utmost interest of the Liberian people and the security of West African sub-region for the United Nations imposed sanctions to remain in place until a constitutional government takes office in Liberia on January 16, 2006.