West Africa Lurches Toward War

As the world watches the tsunami in Japan and the uprising in Libya, another part of the world is on the brink of disaster. Is anyone paying attention?

BY ELIZABETH DICKINSON | MARCH 11, 2011

MONROVIA, Liberia — Along a muddy border between the Ivory Coast and Liberia, Ivorian refugees pack into a small wooden boat that resembles a giant, square fruit crate. The raft fills quickly and just as quickly departs directly across the river, where a Liberian immigration officer waits to direct them on the opposite bank. The new arrivals carry nothing but the clothes they are wearing and any small plastic bags they can manage. Once on the Liberian side, they are herded into long lines and processing queues. Many will sleep outside; some will take shelter with ethnic kin, in local villages, who are themselves often struggling to survive.

Armed conflict from the Ivory Coast is spilling over its fluid western border with Liberia. And the result is the worst humanitarian crisis that West Africa has faced since 2003, when the wars ravishing Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast finally wound down.

What’s unfolding now in West Africa are the warning signs of another all-out war. Off and on for almost two decades, from 1989 to 2004, rebels roamed the region, pillaging and attacking villages and displacing millions. In Sierra Leone, rebel armies routinely hacked off limbs and hands to deprive villagers of their economic potential — their physical ability to farm. In Liberia, child soldiers, drugged and armed with old Kalashnikovs, terrorized the countryside. Tens of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers have worked for years to stitch the region back together.

The scene today, however, is darkly familiar. Elements of the old wars are surfacing again: Armed fighters are suddenly trying to cross the border from Ivory Coast into Liberia, Liberian ex-combatants are being lured to fight in the Ivory Coast, and almost half a million have been uprooted from their homes in both Liberia and the Ivory Coast, plunging the region into humanitarian crisis. Tension throughout the region is reaching a boiling point at a time when Liberia was already warily preparing for a national election. War is in the air.

The trigger came in November, when Ivory Coast’s incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down after losing an internationally certified election. Although international pressure has isolated Gbagbo diplomatically, he retains strong local support — about 50 percent of the vote and the country’s territory. He and his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, are each backed by loyal armed forces, which were supposed to have integrated after the war. But instead, Gbagbo’s army has maintained control over the south while Ouattara’s rebels, the Forces Nouvelles, have guarded the north. In early January, they started fighting one another again in Abobo, a suburb of the capital Abidjan, and in recent days all along the border with Liberia.

The result has been growing chaos on the Liberian side of the border, where the flow of refugees increased by 90 percent in February. In just the last two weeks, the number of people who have entered Liberia from the Ivory Coast has jumped from 30,000 to 100,000. In the Ivory Coast, at least 200,000 have fled their homes in Abidjan, bringing the total number of displaced in the country to around 370,000. In the country’s interior, the United Nations has very limited access to them. Meanwhile, U.N. agencies in the Liberian capital of Monrovia say they have contingency plans for housing as many as 250,000 refugees.

But civilians aren’t the only ones crossing the border. The U.N.’s top envoy in Liberia, Ellen Margaret Loj, confirmed that armed Ivorian fighters from both sides of the emerging conflict have recently attempted to enter the country. “Some [were] trying apparently to use Liberia as a transit to re-enter into Cote d’Ivoire, others to come in and see if there were any defected fighters among the refugees,” she told me on March 9.

FONTE: Foreign Policy.

Published in: on março 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm  Comments (1)  

United Nations Police in Liberia

In 2003, in support of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and Security Council Resolution 1509 (2003), and the consolidation of peace and security in Liberia; the UN Police provides support for security reform by “assisting the Government of Liberia in monitoring and restructuring the police force of Liberia, consistent with democratic policing, to develop a civilian police training program, and to otherwise assist in the training of civilian police in cooperation with ECOWAS, international organizations and interested States.”

In line with the above, UNPOL assists the LNP in areas vital to the reform and restructuring process; assists with the implementation of programs and initiatives, including focus on leadership, community policing and public relations, investigation of police misconduct, operational supervision, crime investigations and of course, administration and planning, continual training and human resource development; and provides limited operational support from UN Formed Police Units when needed to ensure the maintenance of law and order in Liberia.

The current mandate, UN SCR 1836 of September 2008, endorsed the Secretary General’s recommendation to increase the number of personnel deployed as part of UNMIL’s police component in order to provide strategic advice and expertise in specialized fields, provide operational support to regular policing activities and react to regular policing activities, and react to urgent security situations. Therefore, the current authorized strength of the police component in Liberia includes 498 UNPOL Advisors, 32 Correction Advisory Officers and 7 Formed Police Units. While the primary advisory focus remains on the development of the Liberia National Police, UNPOL also provides a small compliment of advisors to the Liberia Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. The UNPOL is comprised of police officers from 38 countries. The UNPOL has a female representation of about 15% of the authorized strength, including a female Formed Police Unit from India.

Within the UNPOL, the primary departments essential to mandated activities of training, reform, restructuring and operational support to LNP include:

Training and Development
Reform and Restructuring
Research and Planning
Operations
Emergency Response Unit
Structure of UNPOL

Under the authority of a UN Police Commissioner and Deputy Police Commissioner, these departments are staffed by advisor under the direct supervision of a professional level UNPOL Coordinator, UNPOL project manager or UNPOL Senior Advisor. These departments are overwhelmingly co-located with the Liberia National Police, including UNPOL Team Site locations in all counties and in specific geographical zones in the capital city of Monrovia. A UN Police coordinator or senior advisor heads each department, in which UNPOL advisors, mentors, trainers, and monitors work closely with their Liberian counterparts. The partnership helps to build both individual competency and integrity and organizational competencies within the Liberian police; and in assisting the Liberia National Police in strengthening community police coordination and public trust.

There are also many notable supporting activities and units within UNPOL undertaken not only in cooperation with the Liberia National Police; but also other UNMIL and UN Family members in Liberia. UNMIL Press and Public Affairs office promotes and advertises achievements and sensitizes the general public through a variety of radio programmes and other related activities. UN Police Community Relations actively participates in supporting community awareness and crime prevention programs aimed at building public confidence and enhancing positive interaction between citizens and the police. UNDP provides a resource to administer bi-lateral funding of police development projects under the umbrella of security sector reform, among others; UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNHCR also work closely with UNPOL and the Liberia National Police on issues of women and children protection, human rights and crimes against vulnerable groups.

Key Accomplishments in support of the development of the Liberia National Police include:

  • Graduation of over 3,500 new recruits and serving LNP offices from a basic training program at the National Police Training Academy
  • Assisted the Government of Liberia in the deactivation of over serving 2,200 LNP officers who did not meet agreed minimum criteria for service in the “new” LNP or whom had surpassed statutory age and length of service requirements
  • Construction and renovations projects at the National Police Training Academy including classrooms, offices, male and female dormitories
  • Advanced and specialist police training to over 500 LNP officers
  • Development and Implementation of 23 LNP policies and procedures, including a revised LNP Duty Manual
  • Recruitment and training of over 400 female LNP officers (including Class 33 and 34 that are currently in training); including the development and implementation of a government endorsed female educational support program.
  • Instititution of and advice to an LNP Change Management Team
  • Advice to LNP and the subsequent development of a 3-5 year LNP Strategic Plan 2009 – 2013
  • Facilitated training and equipping of a 300 officer LNP Police Support Unit for disorder control in Nigeria
  • Development and ongoing training, equipping and capacity building of a 500 officer, armed, Emergency Response Unit (Class One and Two, comprised of 139 officers including 1 female have thus far graduated from the program)
  • Strengthened LNP command and control and executive decision making through the institution of a Senior Advisory Program with the executive tier of the LNP management
  • Strengthening of LNP administration and payroll through a verification of all LNP officers through physical presence and commensurate examination, accounting and updating of individual personnel records and payroll status.
  • Renovation or construction of over 35 LNP facilities in coordination and cooperation of key stakeholders at the international and national levels, and bi-lateral funding contributions from many donor countries.

 FONTE: UNMIL WEBSITE

Published in: on maio 2, 2010 at 4:14 am  Deixe um comentário