Ten years after the end of Liberia’s brutal civil war, the country has made tremendous progress on the path to lasting peace and stability, its President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, told the United Nations General Assembly today, while adding that serious challenges remain.
“As Liberia moves toward its tenth year of sustained peace, we can state with conviction that our country has turned the corner,” President Johnson-Sirleaf said in her address to the Assembly’s high-level General Debate, which began at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.
“Liberia is no longer a place of conflict, war and deprivation. We are no longer the country our citizens fled, our international partners pitied and our neighbours feared,” she added.
President Johnson-Sirleaf thanked the UN for being “a very committed and effective partner” with her country as it emerged from conflict and embarked on the path to peace, security and development. “We owe the Organization much gratitude for preserving an enabling environment for peacebuilding and state-building.”
The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Liberia since 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a decade of war that killed nearly 150,000 people, mostly civilians. The mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) includes helping to restore the rule of law and democratic processes, as well as facilitating humanitarian assistance.
The President highlighted some of the gains made in recent years which have resulted in an average annual growth of over six per cent; the mobilization of over $16 billion in direct foreign investment; an expanded fiscal space through unprecedented debt cancellation, infrastructure reconstruction and institutional rebuilding.
“More importantly, we have earned our rightful place as a country of hope and opportunity,” she stated. “The processes of change which have started will continue and will not stop until the country is placed on an irreversible path of sustained peace, growth and development.”
The country’s Vision 2030, resulting from a robust nationwide consultation, is a long-term programme for transformation, which prioritizes youth development, infrastructure, reconciliation and capacity development.
At the same time, President Johnson-Sirleaf said the Government is keenly aware of the challenges to be faced over the next three years, as UN peacekeeping forces are gradually withdrawn from Liberia.
Earlier this month, the Security Council extended UNMIL’s mandate for another year, reducing its military strength in three phases and authorizing the Secretary-General to implement the first phase of that reduction – 1,900 personnel – between October 2012 and September 2013.
The Council also decided that UNMIL’s primary tasks are to continue to support the Government’s efforts to solidify peace and stability, and to protect civilians, and that it will also support the Government in transitioning complete security responsibility to the Liberia National Police.
“We have emphasized the need for a responsible transition, through a gradual process, occurring over a period of three to five years,” the Kenyan leader said.