UNMIL’S Departure: Implications for Bridging Security-Society Divide

By: Emmanuel Dolo, Ph.D.


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 22, 2016

                  



 
 
 
 

Following the end of nearly two decades of civil conflict, in 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was established. The goal was for UNMIL to support the ceasefire agreement and the peace process. UNMIL would provide protection for UN staff, facilities, and civilians as well as support humanitarian and rights-based activities. UNMIL also has responsibility for facilitating national security reform, coupled with training the national police force, while restructuring the military (UN Security Council Resolution 1509).

In successive years, the mandate has shifted slightly based on the socioeconomic contexts. The most recent occurred during the Ebola outbreak in September 2014 when the disease was mounting. However, in March 2015, the Security Council authorized resumption of the UNMIL drawdown. Government of Liberia is expected to resume full responsibilities for national security by June 2016. Within Liberian civil society, debate is raging with many constituents expressing worries, even trepidation, as to the feasibility and possible consequences of the drawdown. The pending presidential election scheduled for 2017 has heightened fears that the nation’s security situation is too fragile for UNMIL, which has been the staple, if not the foundation, of Liberia’s peace process to suddenly exit at such a crucial time. Truthfully, the ultimate decision on UNMIL’s departure will be made following a Strategic Review in September, possibly in December. And even if the drawdown occurs, residual capacity will remain to protect UN assets and personnel, which could be activated if required to support national security and justice actors.   

While the national debate has focused on the readiness of the Liberian national security and justice actors in the wake of this decision, I believe strongly that this attention is misplaced. The issue should not be whether the national security agencies are ready to assume full responsibility for the security of the state. Instead, it should be whether both the citizens and security and justice sectors are jointly ready for UNMIL’s departure. How will community actors or civil society cope? Like a patient being admitted in hospital for treatment and care, right at that juncture, a discharge plan is often commenced at admission. Hence, when UNMIL was slated for its mission, it is my feeling that a withdrawal plan was started and aligned progressively with the strengthening of the Liberian security apparatuses. It would be normative to assign monitoring benchmarks and indicators to such a process, thus, ensuring that drawdown howbeit farfetched not coming as a surprise to stakeholders.  

For ordinary Liberians, the worry expressed might be emanating from two sources: fear for their physical security and psychological security. The former comes from the fact that ordinary Liberians still mistrust the national security agencies amidst high levels of infighting, violent crimes, operational lapses, and sexual abuses toward vulnerable populations, sometimes committed allegedly by some of the same law enforcement agents who have sworn to protect the citizenry. Relative to their psychological security, UNMIL has been akin to a medication, perhaps a psychotropic drug which regulates a patient’s “mind, mood, and behavior” and even their day-to-day functioning. They might be either legal or illicit. Indeed, UNMIL’s presence has offered Liberians emotional security alongside physical security. Liberians believe that if the national security apparatuses were to run amok, UNMIL would intervene and prevent illicit incursions. That confidence and contentment has grown stronger over the life cycle of UNMIL. This does not mean that the national security forces have not arrested, detained, and even abused some citizens illegally and with impunity, while UNMIL is present. But somehow, UNMIL’s presence has brought some level of ease particularly in rural parts of the country where national security presence is sparse.

As one who spent some part of my academic and professional life working on issues of refugee mental health, it has been noticed that fear of the unknown, is considered the gravest threat to human security in post-war situations. In post-war societies where peace is fragile and democratic institutions have yet not matured or being tested to determine if they can function within the contours of rule of law, fear of the unknown has a dampening effect on people’s hope and security. That sporadic violence have occurred in Liberia and some national security apparatuses have been implicated including violent crimes cannot give citizens, especially vulnerable people: women, youth, children, pen-pen boys, etc any assurance. UNMIL’s departure instills paralyzing fear that conditions could get worse. When a group of people feel unprotected, that translates into a progressive feeling of being unworthy of protection. And within a democracy, no citizen should feel unworthy of protection by the state. That is certainly the catalyst to vigilante or mob justice.

If any belief system makes it difficult for ordinary Liberians who cannot afford to procure personal security guards to accept UNMIL’s departure, it is the sense of uncertainty that a large void is about to be created and they have no clue what will occur as a result. Unfortunately, neither UNMIL nor the government have devised a systematic process for allying these fears. Yes! UNMIL has initiated community forums in locations from which its staff are departing whereby in collaboration with government functionaries they seek to explain the implications of the departure and the possible alternatives that government would offer.

But human emotions are generally regulated in lockstep with their beliefs, and thus, for now, Liberians believe in large numbers that UNMIL’s departure means insecurity. The struggle for the government is to find ways in which it can change the belief systems of its citizens through these scary times, giving them the self-confidence they need from the state. UNMIL’s departure is an event beyond the control of Liberians, and so they will have to accept it grudgingly. But one has to ask: if something goes wrong and UNMIL is gone; and the national security apparatus goes into acrimony with some citizens do we know what the citizens’ actions would be? How prepared are the citizens to take abuse from the national security forces without resorting to reciprocal action? What has been done to truly engage the citizens to not act on their impulses based on the distrust that they have for the security forces?

Equally so, what has the society done to address citizens’ rejection and indifference toward law enforcement personnel? What if a local demonstration occurs and demonstrators view the police intervention as repression, thus leading to confrontation, how prepared is the society to address this likely incident without resorting to vigilante actions? What training and protocols have been developed that are being taught to both police and citizens to prevent the escalation of possible standoffs? Has the message been sent loud and clearly to the law enforcement personnel that they are working for the citizens within a democracy? Unless the breakdown in communication between security and society is addressed proactively with real mutually-beneficial solutions, UNMIL’s departure will continue to produce the fear and trepidation it has caused.

Liberian society will also have to graduate from negative connotation of the security forces as “corrupt, inept, and ignorant” and begin to define them with the same respect that UNMIL has been accorded. Civil society organizations will need to invest in this arena – building psychological resilience within communities to enable better reception and respect for the national law enforcement entities. It is patently false that all police are bad and all citizens are good and vice versa. The truth resides in a happy medium and fostering and facilitating that deliberately through mutual engagement strategies is warranted in times like these. As long as citizens are unable to be outraged and to protect our security actors, the security professionals will not protect the citizens. Liberians, many of them, are incapable of feeling a sense of indignation when faced with scenes of disrespect and violence against the law enforcement agents. Assault against law enforcement officials should never be tolerated by citizens, but in a society steep in a culture of violence and low respect for the rule of law, unless public education is done, the status quo will prevail.

How do we change the poor perception and end the lack of confidence of society towards the national law enforcement agencies? Work is required from government and civil society. What is needed is for Liberians (security sector actors and civil society actors) to build and sustain a culture of respect for laws and strict application of reprimands. The national law enforcement must become representative of who we are as a society and people, if UNMIL’s departure has to occur without leaving the lingering effects of fear. If we have national security apparatuses that are ineffective and corrupt, it is because of what we as a society have failed to accomplish. We have failed to build a civilization that does not respect itself, and the security sector is simply a microcosm.  
Clearly, there will be varying trust levels towards different national security institutions depending on geographical, class, and communal differences. Based on the crime ever suffered and the nature of the perpetrator, Liberians of different statuses in society would decide on what level of respect to award their security forces. National state security agencies will continue to have weak regard from the public if they too remain entrenched in corrupt practices or human rights violations with impunity. That the civil war weakened the Liberian state and its institutions and transformed security institutions into mini-arring factions did not help the situation. Security reforms envisaged meant incorporating some of the rights violators into the national security forces. Demobilization and disarmament of the various militias was conducted in piecemeal form and largely allowed sectarian political leaders to retain a place and role in the national security apparatuses.

National security and justice actors in Liberia, like many of our public service providers are strongly affected by the ill-effects of the war. And ten years is a short period to overcome the trauma and negative effects of war fought for a protracted period. As such, there are significant weaknesses at the institutional level, reflecting a lack of capacity and consensus on the role of the security forces, particularly their interaction with the public. It is impossible to not speak of security sector reform without taking into consideration the social and cultural as well as the political context in which they operate. Two decades of war, instability and pillage has continued to play a role in the security provision after the war. State security institutions, after the war argue that they suffer from being underfinanced and understaffed as well as being stifled by political influences of different sorts. In the wake of these societal challenges, and with the forthcoming presidential elections, opportunities for reforming the national security sector institutions might be difficult to do optimally. Though the post-war era brought about peace for nearly a little over a decade, and enhanced the capacity of many state security institutions, bridging the gap between security forces and the citizenry must now become a priority as UNMIL departs. The whole society must find a way to overcome its tyrannical and warring pasts so that we as a collective do not allow governmental and societal failings to undercut the remarkable gains of the last decade or more in peace and democratic institution building.  


The Author: Emmanuel Dolo is the President and CEO of the Center for Liberia’s Future (CFLF), an independent think tank, based in Duazon, Liberia. 


Kou Gontee
"Neither UNIMIL nor the government has devised a systematic process for allaying these fears", because neither UNIMIL NOR THE GOVERNMENT HAD OR HAS ANY CONCERN ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY IN LIBERIA AFTER the so called Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her criminal cartel leaves at the end of 2017.

This is why neither Amos Sawyer, Boima Fahnbulleh, Togba Nah Tipoteh, Comanny B. Wisseh, have all along supported This corrupt woman and her family and children in this wicked and very corrupt woman in looting our country. According to Ellen, Amos Sawyer, Boima Fahnbulleh, Cimmany Wisseh, etc. Etc., between 2006 and 2017 it is their time to become millionaires and billionaires just as during Charles Taylor's reign of terror and rape and loot Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson became a millionaire! Did not Robert Sirleaf who was living from hand to mouth become a billionaire since he started working with his mother corrupt Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? You be the judge.

BESIDES, JUST AS THE ERECTION OF DEMOCRACY CAN NEVER BE MADE POSSIBLE BY AND THROUGH THE BARREL OF THE GUN AS WRONGLY BELIEVED BY GEORGE BUSH, SO TOO, THE BARREL OF THE GUN CANNOT GUARANTEE SECURITY ESPECIALLY WHEN THE BARREL OF THE GUN IS TEMPORAL, AS IS THE CASE WITH UNIMIL.
MOST ESPECIALLY WHEN THE SO CALL PEACE AND OR SECURITY HAD BEEN INSTALLED UNDER BAD FAITH, FALSEHOOD, AND SELFISH ENDS,
Kou Gontee at 12:24PM, 2016/01/23.
Kou Gontee
COTRECTION:!!

THE FIRST LINE OF THE SECOND PARAGRAPH SHOULD NOT CONTAIN THE WORD "NEITHER"!

THUS, THAT LINE SHOULD BE- THIS IS WHY AMOS SAWYER, BOIMA FAHNBULLEH, TOGBA NAH TIPOTEG, CONMSNNY B. WISSEH HAVE ALL ALONG SUPPORTED ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF AND HER CRIMINAL CARTEL INCLUDING HER FAMILY,
Kou Gontee at 12:43PM, 2016/01/23.
sylvester moses
The self - evident proposition of Dr. Dolo’s topic is that we have a “security – society divide”, but the facts debunk that theory. For instance, societal rage since 2013 is directed at unresponsive, unaccountable, ineffective governance, and has occasionally been expressed by violent political discontent. Whereas confrontations with the security sector by any segment of society is often reactions to specific abuses, or acts of brutality. For instance, in few American states there actually exist a “divide” between police forces and Black inner city youths from which ‘Black lives matter’ activism sprung. Yet reforms to bridge the gaps went beyond law enforcement capacity, procedures, practices, and included resource for youths’ empowerment, and changes in city council procedures. In Liberia, the problem is regime rejection of concrete actions to restore public confidence in governance as envisaged by the UN. After all, the World Body intended Post – War Confidence Building to be a horse pulling Security Sector Reform as a cart.

In sum, this effort to proffer excuses for refusal to invest, like the UN mandated, in regaining the trust of the marginalized majority is unpersuasive. Indeed, government inaction informs a disregard for the powerless, but, unsurprisingly, a frantic willingness to pour millions of US dollars into the fantasy of full - proof force readiness. Dr. Dolo knows that the present public – security sector distrust is a by – product of EJS’s bad governance, never mind his pompous tortuous conclusion: “The struggle for the government is to find ways in which it can change the belief systems of its citizens through these scary times, giving them the self-confidence they need from the state… The whole society must find a way to overcome its tyrannical and warring pasts so that we as a collective do not allow governmental and societal failings to undercut the remarkable gains of the last decade or more in peace and democratic institution building”.
________________________________________
sylvester moses at 08:28PM, 2016/01/23.
Emmanuel Dolo
Dear Mr. Moses,

Are you the same Sylvester Moses that worked in the National Security apparatus of the infamous Samuel K. Doe Government? I hope not. But if you are the same one, I would imagine you have a keen idea about what it feels like to administer and enforce tyranny and the difference between that period and the current democratic era. The fact that you can participate in all of the various discussions about Liberia and is manifold nation building challenges, many of which emanated from the Doe administration without the reckless and repressive tools of government amassed against you distinguishes the Sirleaf administration from the one for which you worked. Your insights are acknowledged. Just a note: I was a student at the University of Liberia in the 1980s and have quite clear memories of what the NSA Police, and military apparatuses did during those moments. It is my fervent hope that you are not the same Sylvester Moses of the Doe era.


Best,

Emmnuel Dolo
Emmanuel Dolo at 07:29AM, 2016/01/24.
Emmanuel Dolo
I meant to say its manifold...
Emmanuel Dolo at 07:31AM, 2016/01/24.
Kou Gontee
MR. Dolo,

The so called current "democratic era" to which you have alluded CAN IN NO WAY be credited to an Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who recently ordered her bodyguards to beat-up journalists and destroy their cameras when she went to beg Senator Varney Sherman to back off from requesting his colleagues (the senate) in her son's Robert Sirleaf' embezzlement at NOCAL!

MR. Dolo, you make a BALD-HEADED LIE when you claim the current "democratic era distinguishes the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's administration from the Doe or Taylor administration" when the very Ellen Johnson would persecute, prosecute, and jail journalists for reporting the corruption of her cronies (Chris Toe) corruption report which was passed to the Press by the GAC!

Mrs. Sirleaf's advisor, you do not have to justify your salary by wrongly giving UNDUE CREDIT to an Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who and her Children would go and drag a broadcaster from on air to prison because she and her Children disagree with what is broadcasted!

My friend, know this that the North of the current democratic era is fundamentally the result of technology and the International Criminal Court!AND NOT BASED ON THE UNJUST AND CORRUPT POLICIES OF an Ellen Johnson Sirleaf whose cronies would DEFY AND IGNORE summons from the Supreme Court while Children would go and drag Citizens from their beds because her Children hold such Citizens as suspects! RETHINK MY FRIEND!
Kou Gontee at 08:56AM, 2016/01/24.
sylvester moses
Dr. Emmanuel Dolo, I’m happy that you acknowledged my “insights”. But saddened that a very brilliant man would indulge in the low blow of argument ad hominem – attacking, in this case, the circumstances of an individual advancing an argument instead of trying to disprove the soundness of the argument.

Nonetheless, before pontificating on democracy, you should know that I worked in one for fourteen years before being asked to return home by the Tolbert administration in 1979, and in September 1980 by the Doe administration. Needless to say, had you done some research, for example, by reading “Promise Betrayed” about Liberia then, the result of on the grounds enquiries by American Human Rights lawyers published in 1987 (a year after my dismissal), it would’ve been obvious that our management team at NSA led a “professional” outfit. Of course, Nimba County Senior Senator Honorable Prince Y. Johnson, and other impartial citizens can confirm that. Dr. Dolo, perhaps, you ought to reflect on the revealing role of your benefactor, Mrs. Sirleaf, in the tragedy and tyranny that befell Liberia from 1985 to the departure of President Taylor.
sylvester moses at 10:06AM, 2016/01/24.
Emmanuel Dolo
Dear Mr. Moses,

That you can criticize a government almost every day without repercussions clearly distinguishes the government you worked for and the one I worked for. There is absolutely no comparison between the Doe government and the Sirleaf administration with respect to human rights and any of the basic indicators of democracy. It would be mere wishful thinking to make such a comparison. Yes, like any government arising out of a society with history of tyranny, decadence, and outright carnage and pillage, the institutions that the current president inherited were weak, nonexistent even, and thus have required complete rebuilding from scratch. This administration will be the first to admit that in some instances, it has not achieved some of the benchmarks that it set for itself due to the systemic problems we all admit originated prior to this administration. The freedom for you to be a "tourist rhetorician" writing comments under substantive articles that people write without writing one yourself, speaks volumes of the quality of the contributions that you are able or willing to make to the national conversation. Almost all of your comments mention the president as if governance in Liberia does not have other components and principal actors. There are three branches of government and non-governmental actors outside of government, each with an essential role to play in how the society functions. This means the nation's problems cannot logically emanate from one source - the executive branch, least to say one person - the President. Take a sector that you know and write a full article on it and thus put your thoughts and understanding of the issues under the critical lens and perspectives of others as you do daily hopping from one website to the other writing comments about what others write. The national conversation will remain sparse, if the only role its citizens, especially those who claim to have a body of knowledge from the 1970s to now, are unable to compose a fitting article that deals with national challenges. We all own Liberia, and some of you played a bigger role in the level of decadence this government is seeking to fix. Your hands are not clean Sir. The NSA that you led was the executor of the Doe administration's tyrannical actions against many Liberians. I was a student at the University of Liberia in the 1980s and know well the agony of the period meted out against citizens who advocated for rights, and whose lives suffered blunt abuses at the hands of the NSA. Write an article describing the role that you played while at the NSA, and wait to see the slew of comments that you will get on a possible "historical revision" that you might posit. Many of the professionals who worked for the NSA that you administered are still alive. I challenge you to complete that article and post it on the websites that you constantly visit.

I wish you all the best in completing the article. I anxiously look forward to reading it. This is my last comment on your thoughts. I must now move on to doing additional thinking about a challenge facing our country. Finally, I reiterate, the Samuel K. Doe administration for which you worked, which normalized tyranny as a day-to-day affair cannot in any way be compared to the Sirleaf administration. To do so is to be plain old subjective.

Best,

Emmanuel Dolo


Emmanuel Dolo at 01:01AM, 2016/01/25.
Sylvester Moses


Dr. Dolo, you mimic a third rate artist who whines that the critic who flays his/her substandard work can’t do better. For your information, while a cop and student at FBC in 1974, I wasn’t only an associate editor of a widely - read magazine, “Awareness”, but also one of three creative writers in Sierra Leone interviewed by VOA’s literary commentator Lee Nichols for his TV program “Conversations With African Writers”. And you know, writing, like other skills, isn’t that arduous for those who’ve been practicing repeatedly. As 18th century English poet Alexander Pope did wittily put it:

True ease in writing comes
From Art not chance,
As those move easiest
Who have learned to dance.

By the way, Emmanuel, waving flags for PRC concerns me the least; the issue is a regime whose leadership stoked horrendous nationwide carnage and insecurity, yet would rather be millionaires instead of restoring trust in governance to actualize stability, and positive peace. And, unsurprisingly, I’m not the first victim of the bombasts of bookish bad governance beneficiaries. Others, indeed, included notables such as the following: Tiawon Gongloe, Mr. John Morlu; Senator Sherman, Mrs. Christiana Tar, Mr. Harry Greaves, Mr. Kofi Woods, Dr. Chris Neyor, and Leymah Gbowee. The irony is that once loudmouth critic EJS wants to do whatever her ego fancies with no questions asked: yea right, a truly democratic president.

Sylvester Moses at 08:51AM, 2016/01/25.
Kou Gontee
Exactly, MR. Moses! Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is operating as a reckless and corrupt dictator while Mr. Dolo's intuition sees her as a Democrat! Probably Mr. Dolo has suspended his conscience to please Ellen but when it came to Amos Sawyer, Boima Fahnbulleh, etc. etc, all of whom he aptly described as "USERS" he Dolo let loose his intellect, will, and sensibilities!
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