The United Nations Security Council this evening authorized the establishment of a multinational force - welcomed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had called for speedy action by the Council - to support implementation of a recent ceasefire agreement between the Liberian Government and the country's two main rebel factions.
With West African leaders preparing to send the first contingent of Nigerian peacekeeping troops to Liberia as early as Monday, the Security Council adopted a new resolution authorizing a multinational force, as well as a follow-on UN stabilization force, by a vote of 12 in favour with France, Germany and Mexico abstaining.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had urged the Council to take quick action on a force for Liberia, said he was very pleased with the passage of the resolution this evening. “I hope this implies a new political will, a will that has been absent among the international community,” he told reporters outside the Council’s chambers following the vote.
“Now that this resolution has passed, I hope we will move ahead with urgent and determined action to help the Liberian people,” he added. “I would hope that when the multinational force gets there, it will bring some hope and relief to the Liberian people as we prepare to deploy a UN peacekeeping operation.”
The United States-sponsored resolution outlines the 15-nation body’s strategy to help restore order in the war-torn country, including establishing conditions for initial stages of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities to ensure and maintain security in the period after the departure of Liberian President Charles Taylor, and installation of a successor authority.
Under the text, those arrangements would take into account agreements to be reached by the Liberian parties, and would aim to secure the environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and prepare for the introduction of a longer-term, UN stabilization force to relieve the multinational force.
To that end, the Council declared its readiness to establish such a follow-on UN force to support a transitional government and to assist in the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement for Liberia. The Council asked the Secretary-General to submit recommendations for the size, structure and mandate of this force preferably by 15 August, and set subsequent deployment for no later than 1 October.
In another provision, the text authorizes the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to extend the necessary logistical support – for a limited period of 30 days – to the forward elements of the force being deployed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) without hindering UNAMSIL’s operational capacity.
It also requests the Secretary-General, pending a decision by the Council on the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia, to take the necessary steps, including the necessary logistical support to the ECOWAS elements of the multinational force, and pre-positioning critical logistical and personnel requirements to facilitate the rapid deployment of the envisaged operation.
The text also includes a provision giving the peacekeepers and current or former officials from a contributing State immunity from prosecution by anyone – including the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC) – but their own government.
The Council stressed the urgent need for all Liberian parties who signed the ceasefire agreement on 17 June, particularly the leadership of the two rebel groups Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL), to immediately and scrupulously uphold that accord, to cease using violent means and to agree as soon as possible to an all-inclusive political framework for a transitional government until such time when free and fair elections can be held.
The Council noted that critical to this endeavour is President Taylor’s fulfilment of his commitment to leave the country.
Stressing the need to create a secure environment that enables respect for human rights, including the well-being and rehabilitation of children, protects the well-being of civilians and supports the mission of humanitarian workers, the text demanded that all States in the West African region refrain from any action that might contribute to the instability in Liberia or on its borders between Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire.
The resolution calls on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to the multinational force and stresses that the expenses of the force will be borne by the participating Member States and other voluntary contributions.