International Crisis Group Makes Recommendations to the UN Security Council

(Letter to the Security Council)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 10, 2003


8 September 2003

The Hon Emyr Jones Parry KCMC
President of the Security Council
One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
885 Second Avenue
10017 New York

Dear Emyr,

As the UN Security Council prepares the mandate of the peacekeeping operation for Liberia, I welcome this opportunity to provide some ideas about the elements it needs to contain if it is to effectively help consolidate peace in Liberia and throughout West Africa.

The 18 August 2003 peace agreement signed in Accra by the parties to Liberia’s civil conflict is fragile. The situation on the ground is still highly dangerous, with ceasefire violations; manoeuvring by the armed forces of the parties to establish new facts and leverage in advance of what is bound to be a long and difficult political process; and inadequate conditions for urgently needed humanitarian relief. The ECOMIL force is performing essential functions but it is severely overstretched. A larger, better resourced UN mission must be ready to take over on schedule in October. It must be prepared to stay – and the Security Council must be prepared to give it full support – for a considerable period if this opportunity for peace is not to be lost.

The resolution that the Council should adopt, and the understandings that will need to be reached around it, should address the following priority issues:

1. Authority. The mission must be established under the mandatory provisions of Chapter VII of the Charter, to enable the exercise of full policing and arrest powers in relation to all warring factions as well as all necessary measures to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.

2. Troops. The Secretary General’s Special Representative, Jacques Klein, has said he needs 15,000 personnel. This is a realistic minimum. UNAMSIL had some 17,500 troops when at peak strength to deal with a no more complex situation in Sierra Leone, a country of similar size. It matters also who the troops are. The Nigerians and other ECOMIL contributors are essential but a U.S. component is equally so. That U.S. element does not need to be equivalent in size, but a small but visible U.S. contribution would vastly increase the prospects for success because of the special respect in which Liberians hold the U.S. and its military, for a multitude of historical and practical reasons.

The U.S. should return a few hundred marines to Monrovia from its off shore ships in order to give demonstrative support to ECOMIL through the transition. While the bulk of the peacekeeping duties once the UN force takes over can be carried out by the troops of other contributing nations, the U.S. contribution should include logistics, communications and intelligence as well as the training of a new Liberian national security force.

3. Providing Security. The mission will need to have the size, firepower, mobility and political support to monitor the ceasefire; step between, as circumstances require, government forces and the LURD and MODEL insurgents, and between the fighters of the respective insurgencies as well; cover the key strategic areas, patrol Liberia’s borders to prevent large amounts of new arms from entering the country and block external players from hindering the peace process; and provide a strong presence in the areas where there are timber, gold and diamonds to prevent the exploitation of resources for acquisition of armaments.

4. Police. An international police component is needed to halt criminal abuses in the initial period and train up to professional standards a new and reliable Liberian national force. Jacques Klein has suggested 900 international police. We cannot judge the number but experience of other peacekeeping missions shows that the function is not one to skimp on.

5. Humanitarian Corridors. Establishing secure routes along which to bring food, medicine and other essentials, and sanctuaries within which relief supplies can be distributed, must be ECOMIL priorities for dealing with the immediate humanitarian crisis. The UN force will need to maintain and possibly expand these in the short term.

6. Disarmament & Reintegration (DR)/Security Sector Reform. The peace process following the earlier civil war in Liberia failed in substantial part because fighters were not properly disarmed and reintegrated into society, and Charles Taylor refused to allow ECOWAS to reform the national army. These mistakes must not be repeated. In particular, the mission, supported by military observers, needs to begin to enforce the DR process as soon as it is on the ground in adequate numbers and make an early start at reforming the country’s vast, disjointed and repressive security sector.

7. Transitional Justice. The Accra agreement says “consideration” will be given “to a recommendation for general amnesty”. This needs to be handled carefully. The 1999 Lomé agreement on Sierra Leone was flawed in substantial part because of a premature and too generous amnesty. Conversely, subsequent experience in that country has shown that a carrot and stick approach with respect to prosecutions can be effective. Fighters and their political chiefs alike need to know that while they cannot sabotage peace with impunity, there are incentives for supporting it. The Council’s resolution should call for early efforts to re-establish a fair judicial system in Liberia and hold out two alternatives for those who have been involved in the conflict. If they give full support to the peace process, they will gain appropriate credit that will count to their benefit in any judicial action that may be undertaken respecting past crimes; but if they subvert the peace process, they will be subject to the maximum penalties under the law.

Reports are circulating that Charles Taylor continues to interfere in Liberia through frequent telephone calls and other discussions with senior government officials. This can only put further at risk a delicate situation and is inconsistent with the general understanding that no substantial efforts would be undertaken to execute the indictment handed down against him by the Special Court for Sierra Leone if he withdrew permanently from politics and lived quietly in Nigerian asylum. Nigeria should be asked informally to tighten the conditions of Taylor’s confinement and to advise him that if he continues to meddle in the affairs of Liberia, he risks delivery to the court in Freetown.

8. Public Affairs. Many fighters on all sides and civilians are virtually cut off from information, subject to rumours and manipulation. The mission should develop a strong public affairs operation so that Liberians, particularly fighters, are aware of what the UN is doing to bring peace to the country, as well as of the benefits of cooperation and the penalties of subversion.

9. Regional Focus. Liberia cannot be fixed in isolation. Weapons, money and influence have flowed back and forth between that country, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone for years, fuelling each other’s deadly conflicts and political instability. A regional approach is needed that tackles the closely linked situations throughout the Mano River Union and Côte d’Ivoire. Over the slightly longer term, the Council should consider how to consolidate its resolutions on and missions to this wider region. A start should be made immediately, however, by giving the Secretary General’s Special Representative authority and direction to coordinate with counterparts in Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire and the UN office in Guinea.

10. UN Trust Fund. This is needed to facilitate the additional funding – beyond the percentage shares of peacekeeping costs that are obligatory under a Chapter VII decision of the Council – that will be needed to permit early DR and other reconstruction activity.

A strong UN mission that includes the elements discussed above can provide the space Liberians need to work out their differences and implement the Accra agreement. ICG will offer analysis and policy ideas about the development process and substance of a new political dispensation in the near future, after conducting further in-country research.

Yours sincerely,


CC: Members of the Security Council
His Excellency Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Mr Jean-Marie Guehenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations
Ambassador Jacques Klein, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Liberia