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UN report upbeat on Liberia’s progress while urging further steps to consolidate gains

UN report upbeat on Liberia’s progress while urging further steps to consolidate gains

Liberia’s new Government has continued to make encouraging progress in consolidating peace, promoting national reconciliation and stimulating economic recovery, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today, while calling for further steps to build on these gains and facilitate a drawdown of the United Nations Mission in the country (UNMIL).

“The three branches of Government functioned in relative harmony; the reform and restructuring of the security sector is progressing; more Liberian refugees have returned home; and the Government has continued to take robust measures to fight corruption,” Mr. Annan writes in his report to the Security Council.

He praises President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s efforts to bring together members of various religious and ethnic groupings, as well as political party leaders.

“I encourage the President to continue to work towards involving all Liberians in the country’s recovery process and appeal to all political and civil society leaders to continue their constructive engagement in the reconstruction and reform processes currently under way,” Mr. Annan says.

At the same time, the Secretary-General notes that the deployment of trained police officers continues to be hampered by logistical and management constraints. With respect to the new armed forces, only 106 recruits out of the targeted 2,000-strong army have so far received basic training, he adds, predicting that the new army will not be fully operational until 2008 at the earliest.

Progress in meeting the governance and rule of law benchmarks has been slow, owing primarily to funding and capacity constraints. “There is also a marked absence of critical line ministries, including health, education and public works in many of the counties, for which external funding is urgently required,” the report says.

The management and operational capacities of the national police force still need to be strengthened to enable the Liberian National Police to effectively assume security responsibilities prior to UNMIL’s withdrawal.

He also warns that the continued presence of large numbers of unemployed youth in the urban centres, ex-combatants still awaiting reintegration opportunities, and deactivated police and army personnel “remains a very serious source of tension.”

The Secretary-General says without job opportunities for the unemployed, including former combatants, “the security of the country will be undermined.” He again appeals for donor support to the Government’s employment generation initiatives.

He also calls for donors to provide the funding required for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Independent National Human Rights Commission to become fully operational.

There are more than 15,800 UN military personnel and over 1,000 UN police in Liberia, supported by some 500 international civilian personnel, 750 local staff and 250 UN Volunteers.