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Drawdown for Liberian peacekeeping mission on track, says Ban Ki-moon

Drawdown for Liberian peacekeeping mission on track, says Ban Ki-moon

Although Liberia faces formidable challenges as it rebuilds after a brutal 14-year civil war, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for the drawdown of the level of blue helmets in the West African nation.

The Government of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has “made great strides in consolidating peace and promoting economic recovery in the country,” Mr. Ban says in his latest report to the Security Council on the country's situation.

He praises the Government's achievements, including efforts towards lifting timber and diamond sanctions; bolstering public revenues by nearly 50 per cent; implementing an interim poverty reduction strategy; increasing enrolment in schools by 40 per cent; and improving the country's human right situation.

The Secretary-General also commends Liberia's efforts to halt illegal diamond mining – which have led to the lifting of sanctions on diamonds as well as the country's admission into the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme – and encourages the Government to strengthen its regulation of this crucial sector.

Despite the country's progress, Mr. Ban notes that the “slow progress in strengthening the security sector is a source of great concern.”

He also cites the hurdles of limited funding and equipment faced by the Liberian National Police. “These deficiencies are a major obstacle to the full deployment of the deployment of the police throughout the country,” Mr. Ban says, appealing to the international community for assistance.

“President Johnson-Sirleaf is to be commended for the positive steps that she has taken to foster national reconciliation and political inclusiveness in the country,” he writes. “However, the ethnic and social cleavages that have plagued the country in the past could still resurface.”

Mr. Ban calls on the Government to step up efforts towards national and local reconciliation to maintain peace in the country recovering from a civil war that killed almost 150,000 people and sent 850,000 more fleeing across its borders.

While recommending that the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) be extended for 12 months until September 2008, he urges the Security Council to approve measures to draw down the world body's presence in the country.

“Sufficient progress has been made in the implementation of the Mission's mandate and in stabilizing the security situation in the country to allow for further adjustments to be made to the military and police components of UNMIL,” the report states.

The drawdown for both the military and police component would take place in multiple stages, resulting in 9,750 peacekeeping troops and UN police on the ground in Liberia at the end of 2010. One of the benchmarks for the drawdown is the creation of a 500-person Liberian quick reaction force in the country's National Police, set to be established by July 2009.

UNMIL was established in 2003 to support Liberia's ceasefire and peace process, and currently has over 14,000 troops and nearly 1,200 police officers, along with around 500 international civilian personnel, almost 1,000 local staff and 220 UN Volunteers.