Security Council extends UN presence in Liberia, Sierra Leone

15 September 2009 – The Security Council today extended the mandates for one year of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia and the world body’s peacebuilding office in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

In its unanimously-adopted resolution on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the Council authorized the force to assist the West African nation with the 2011 general presidential and legislative polls by, among other measures, facilitating access to remote areas.

The 15-member body also endorsed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recommendation to implement the third state of UNMIL’s drawdown, made in his most recent report on the mission.

In that publication, he proposed that the Council authorize the continuation of UNMIL’s troop strength of nearly 8,000 until after the 2011 polls, following which the drawdown “resume at an accelerated pace,” he wrote.

UNMIL was set up in 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a war that killed almost 150,000 Liberians, mostly civilians, and sent 850,000 others fleeing to neighbouring countries.

As of the end of July, the mission comprised over 11,500 uniformed personnel, more than 1,300 police, nearly 500 international civilian personnel, almost 1,000 local staff and over 200 UN Volunteers (UNV).

On Sierra Leone, the Council emphasized that the West African nation’s Government “bears primary responsibility for peacebuilding, security and long-term development.

For its part, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) should continue mobilizing international support for the country, which is rebuilding after a brutal civil war that tore it between 1996 and 2001.

In Mr. Ban’s latest report on UNIPSIL, he underscored that greater efforts are needed by all Sierra Leoneans to build on the momentum generated by the signing of a key peace pact that led to the cessation of political violence earlier this year.

Measures taken to implement the 2 April communiqué signed by the governing All People’s Congress (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) “have enabled the strengthening of the peace consolidation process in Sierra Leone,” he said.

Last August, the Security Council authorized the creation of UNIPSIL to replace the UN political office in the country, known as UNIOSIL, and gave it an initial mandate of 12 months.

UNIPSIL, which works closely with the UN Peacebuilding Commission, is tasked with providing political support to national and local efforts for identifying and resolving tensions and threats of potential conflict. It also monitors and promotes human rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law, including efforts to counter transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

Sierra Leone is one of the first two countries, along with Burundi, to receive support from the Commission, which was established in 2005 to help post-conflict countries determine the priority areas for rebuilding out of the vast array of challenges they face.

Also on the Council’s agenda today was a briefing on developments in Darfur by Austrian Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, the chair of the Sanctions Committee for Sudan.

[original]

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