The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has successfully completed its mandate after almost 15 years of supporting the West African nation in its transition to peace and democracy.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, at a ceremony on 16 March in Monrovia attended by President George Weah, said the completion of UNMIL’s mandate was a pivotal moment for the history of Liberia.
Mohammed lauded the accomplishments of UNMIL, pointing out that the peacekeepers left behind a country that had great potential for lasting peace and stability.
She said: “UNMIL helped to disarm more than 100,000 combatants, and protected millions of civilians; helped to rebuild the police, the security services and other institutions.
“UNMIL facilitated the provision of humanitarian aid; and supported the development of national capacity to promote and protect human rights.”
The Deputy Secretary-General lauded the progress in the country, while acknowledging the remaining challenges.
“Peace will not last without sustainable development; and development gains will be at risk without sustained peace.
“Many Liberians are still waiting for the anticipated dividends of peace. Some of the root causes of conflict remain to be addressed, including poverty, youth unemployment, illiteracy and lack of infrastructure.
“We need to give Liberians back their dignity, dreams and faith in a better future,” Mohammed said.
She paid special tribute to the 202 peacekeepers who lost their lives in pursuit of peace in Liberia saying: “Today, we remember their sacrifice.”
On behalf of the Liberian authorities, President George Weah said: “UN has positively impacted the lives of Liberians as well as every fabric of the Liberian Society since its arrival in 2003.”
Weah acknowledged the hope the UN had given Liberians adding, “Liberia has to protect and sustain the peace”, and expressed his commitment towards ensuring it happens.
UNMIL was established by the Security Council in 2003 and would officially close on 30 March.
The mission created a security environment that enabled more than a million refugees and displaced persons return to their homes and supported the holding of three presidential elections.
It also helped the government establish its authority throughout the whole country following years of fighting and instability.
The conflict took a horrific toll in terms of gender-based violence, with estimated 80 percent of women and girls affected.
As soon as the UN mission deployed, it prioritized the empowerment of women – to vote, to run for office and to join the police and other rule of law institutions.
This investment in women’s equality paid huge dividends in the transition to democracy.
Recognising the important role Liberian women played in pursuing peace, Mohammed said, “Women have borne most of the burden; they have stepped up at every stage.”
To spur women’s empowerment, UNMIL led by example, becoming the first UN peacekeeping operation to have an all-female contingent following India’s deployment of a formed police unit from 2007 until 2016.
The Indian policewomen served as role models for Liberia’s women and girls, triggering a fourfold increase in the number of Liberian women applying to become police officers.
During UNMIL’s nearly 15-year mandate, dozens of countries from around the world deployed troops and police.
Significant contributions were made during this span by African, Asian and European nations led by Nigeria.
Others were Ghana, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Ukraine, Sweden and Ireland, while peacekeepers from the U.S. also played an important role.