Liberia National Dialogue on Security Reform launched

PR 192

(Monrovia, Liberia) - Liberia's transitional leader, Mr. Charles Gyude Bryant, and UNMIL Officer-in-Charge and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Operations and Rule of Law, Mr. Steinar B. Bjornsson, today launched a two-day National Dialogue on Security Reform in Monrovia.

Speaking during the launch, Mr. Bryant said the Dialogue should not only address the multiplicity of agencies responsible for security, but consider the men and women who will be charged with the responsibility of operating these reformed agencies. He cited as one main reason for the past crisis was the abuse that the people suffered at the hands of persons operating the security sector. He then called on participants and facilitators to address this issue and challenged the Dialogue to come out with practical and productive recommendations that can be implemented.

UNMIL Officer-in-Charge, Mr. Steinar Bjornsson noted that "The Security Sector Reform is an essential element in the Liberian peace process as outlined in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Accra, Ghana, in August 2003, which continues to guide the Liberian peace process." He added that based on Security Council Resolution 1509 (2003), UNMIL is Liberia to assist the NTGL in establishing a functioning Liberian Security Sector. According to Mr. Bjornsson, UNMIL's assistance would ensure that the Security Sector adopts "a professional orientation that emphasizes democratic values and the respect for human rights, a non-partisan approach to duty and the avoidance of corrupt practices."

Mr. Bjornsson named steps taken by the transitional Government of Liberia and UNMIL in the reform process as the commencement of the restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia, training of a new Liberian Police which is progressing, reform and restructuring of the Bureau of Corrections and the training of existing and new correctional officers and the appointment of judges. The UNMIL Officer-in-Charge noted that UNMIL will have trained 1,900 officers of the new Liberian Police by 11 October, the date of scheduled national elections.

Liberia's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Cllr. Kabineh Ja'neh, said at often times of the past, security agencies came into being simply to satisfy a particular political objective. "What we seek to do during this transitional period is a radical departure from that traditional posture and to begin developing a security system which will be people-centered, which will always see the need to protect the people and their property above all other considerations," he noted.

This National Dialogue, co-hosted by the Liberian Transitional Government and UNMIL, brings together all statutory security agencies of Liberia to help address the critical problem of Security Reform, which is attributed to the main causes of the Liberian conflict. The Dialogue is co-facilitated by the Conflict Security and Development Group, King's College, London; Centre for Democracy and Development of Nigeria; and Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces in Switzerland.