posted on Tue 11 Aug 2015 3:30 PM
Consultations on Liberia Sanctions

Tomorrow (12 August), Council members are scheduled to receive a briefing in consultations from Ambassador Dina Kawar (Jordan), chair of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee. The briefing is expected to cover the final report of the Panel of Experts (PoE), transmitted to the Council on 22 July (S/2015/558), and an update from the Secretary-General on the Liberian government‘s progress on arms and ammunition management and border monitoring and management, transmitted to the Council on 31 July (S/2015/590). The consultations will provide Council members with an opportunity for preliminary discussion on a resolution on Liberia sanctions in the coming weeks (the partial arms embargo and travel ban expire on 9 September; the asset freeze is not time-limited).

When the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee last met on 21 July, members discussed the PoE’s final report and the Secretary-General’s update. The analyses of the PoE and the Secretary-General were consistent, as both presentations emphasised that while some progress has been made significant challenges remain with respect to the Liberian government’s institutional capacity. Committee members also discussed an agreement regarding “hot pursuit” in border areas that had been agreed upon at the 3rd Quadripartite Meeting – comprised of representatives of the governments of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, and the UN peacekeeping operations in the two countries – held on 10 March in Abidjan. Committee members reached agreement on the recommendations in the PoE’s final report; five relate to improving management of arms and ammunition and one concerns enhanced coordination and information sharing regarding the border between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. With reference to the Council, the PoE recommends that UN or other entities be given a mandate to regularly inspect government armouries and weapons management systems—even after the drawdown of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the termination of the sanctions regime—until Liberian systems are fully established.

The Secretary-General’s update report identifies a number of ways in which UNMIL has been assisting the government of Liberia with arms and ammunition management. These include training in weapons marking up to regional and international standards, quarterly inspections of armouries, capacity building through regular meetings, and providing advice and training for explosives storage. However, limited government funding for arms and ammunition management is likely to be a future constraint, and the Secretary-General concludes that “additional funding support from the international community is likely to be necessary”. Furthermore, a much-needed security sector legal framework has yet to be passed in the Liberian legislature, including laws on firearms and ammunition control, a uniform code of military justice, and a revised law for the national police. In the assessment of the PoE, much of the progress that has been made in the area of arms and ammunition management can be attributed to external support and monitoring, rather than to domestic systems that can operate independently and sustainably. This suggests the need for continued regional and international engagement, which could be significant to keep in mind as Council members negotiate an upcoming resolution on UNMIL next month.

The PoE’s final report documents several security issues during the reporting period concerning the border between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire: militant attacks and kidnappings in western Côte d’Ivoire; alleged cross-border shootings of Liberian civilians by government soldiers in Côte d’Ivoire; suspected arms embargo violations; payments since 2013 from Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of the Interior to Liberian mercenary groups to prevent attacks in Côte d’Ivoire; and arrests in Côte d’Ivoire leading to further information exposing the regional recruitment approach of militant groups (including links with Liberia and refugee camps with Liberian populations). The report identifies the structure of militant financing and leadership as a combination of elites tied to the former Gbagbo regime and networks comprised of Ivorian militias residing in Côte d’Ivoire, Ivorian militias residing in Liberia, and Liberian mercenaries who transit between the two countries. The panel concludes that border attacks do not constitute a “direct threat to the national security of either country” but they could escalate into a serious, broader conflict. While some progress has been made in terms of border management, the Secretary-General’s update notes that in a context of UNMIL drawdown “further strengthening of the Liberian security agencies, including their infrastructure and logistical technical capacity, is essential.”

In December, when the Council renewed Liberia sanctions for nine months by resolution 2188, it stated its intent to keep measures under review with a view toward their modification or termination, contingent upon sufficient progress toward meeting the conditions outlined in resolution 1521, while also taking into consideration the threat posed by Ebola. Resolution 1521 established the following criteria for termination of the regime: maintain cease-fire; disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation; security sector reform; implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; and stability in Liberia and the sub-region. As the Ebola outbreak in Liberia has subsided, these are likely to be the factors Council members will consider prior to an anticipated sanctions adoption next month. Tomorrow, Council members may also wish to discuss what implications Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential election in October could have for stability in Liberia.