Before resuming duty in the country to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1509, adopted at its 483rd meeting in September 2003, Liberia was in a chaotic state. The entire population was subjected to large-scale uncivilized treatments, which included killing, raping, massive looting, destruction of properties and plundering at the hands of various gang of warlords.
In the month of July 2003, things turned from bad to worse, with the dictatorial regime headed by Charles Taylor, on one hand and two ruthless rebel groups – Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD, and Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) on the other battling for control of Monrovia and parts of the country.
While the war was being raged in Monrovia and its surroundings, groups of Liberians and some international organizations were meeting in the Ghanaian capital - Accra, to secure a ceasefire deal and replace the tyranny regime of exiled former President Taylor. The efforts led the establishment of a transitional government headed Charles Gyude Bryant, the government that is now accused of being highly corrupt.
At this junction, the world could not stand aloof to witness the entire Liberian population perish. It was at this point, the U.N. Security Council recognized the ugly situation in Liberia, approved the resolution sponsored by the Bush Administration for the UN to directly intervene in one of the world’s unspeakable atrocities. This led to the creation of the UN Military Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Someone capable of restoring law and order in Liberia was needed to take up the challenging task if calm and stability were to be restored to the land; It was against this backdrop that Ambassador Klein was appointed to implement the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1509.
Ambassador Jacques Klein, a man who enjoyed the support of the UN Secretary-General was also put in-charge of the UN Mission in the country, with specific mandate. After 21 months of duty in Liberia, Ambassador Klein departed the country on 1 May for the United States.
But what are the achievements and failures of Ambassador Klein during his 21 months of stay in the country as head of the UN Mission? On the average, Ambassador Klein has scored some high marks mainly in the areas of security, disarmament and free movement.
He is credited for bringing into the country 15,000 strong UN troops as well as hundreds of international police and military observers. He also helped in getting bulk of the ex-combatants to handover their guns and to submit to the DDRR exercise; placed police back on the streets, provided protection for the society by ensuring security for all, restored law and order around the country, especially in the capital and its surroundings.
The voluble American diplomat, who had served as the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Bosnia and Eastern Slovenia before he was recruited again for UNMIL in Liberia, is also credited for disarming 101,495 ex-fighters. The record shows that 68,162 men, 22,370 women, 8,523 boys, 2,440 girls were disarmed while 33,604 heavy ammunition, 28,314 weapons and 6,486,136 round of small arms ammunition were turned over to the Mission.
Besides, Ambassador Klein positively contributed to the former warlords signing the comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) by threatening to issue them free flight tickets for Sierra Leone to appear before the UN backed war crimes court prosecuting perpetrators of the Sierra Leonean war.
He also contributed to former President Charles Taylor leaving the country to go into exile in Nigeria by saying that, “Mr. Taylor has one last option-to go into exile or a choice to die”.
Ambassador Klein also ensured that parties to the conflict honor the ceasefire agreement; he established civil authority across the country and the deployment of UN Mission, provided security at key government installations particularly at the seaports, airports, and other vital infrastructures, as well as provided protection for UN staff, facilities and civilians.
Furthermore, he helped to establish the necessary security conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance across the country, the restructuring of the police force, and was involved in the first Branch of Government passing the new Elections bill and the signing of the status of forces agreement.
In addition, he ensured that the parties to the conflict ceased all human rights violations and from committing atrocities against the Liberian population, and by stressing to bring to justice those responsible. He is on record for establishing the public information capacity such as UNMIL radio station.
On the contrary, Ambassador Klein failed miserably in helping to restore basic services such as electricity and pipe-borne water to Monrovia as he promised he would do in three months.
The other areas in which Ambassador Klein did not perform to the aspiration of the Liberian people include but not limited the restructuring of the national army – the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and to recondition the principle streets of Monrovia despite of his commitment to give the various streets a facelift. The streets have all turned to rural roads, although Ambassador Klein’s vehicles ply them daily. The other promise that was never materialized before his departure, was the creation of jobs for ordinary Liberians.
But in an interview with Ambassador Klein before leaving the country, he told The Perspective in Monrovia that the Mission had a specific mandate from the UN Security Council and that it was his duty to implement the mandate.