Liberia: UN Envoy hails contributions of peacekeeping mission personnel

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The top United Nations envoy to Liberia today praised the tireless efforts by uniformed and civilian personnel serving the world body's peacekeeping operation in the West African country at an award ceremony in the capital Monrovia.

In honour of their contributions to stabilizing the security situation in Liberia, which is recovering from a brutal 14-year civil war, the Secretary-General's Special Representative Ellen Margrethe Løj presented peacekeeping medals to 56 military observers and 28 staff members - representing 29 countries - deployed in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Ms. Løj thanked the military observers for "keeping your eyes and ears open along the borders, as well as internally."

She also voiced her appreciation to the UNMIL staff members who provide support in key areas of the mission's work, including planning military operations, and providing intelligence, logistics, communications and engineering support.

"We need to keep a close watch on developments in Guinea and the other neighbouring states and on the 2011 elections," said Ms. Løj, who also heads UNMIL.

In September the Security Council extended UNMIL's mandate by another year, authorizing the mission to assist Liberia with its 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 August.

In that publication, Mr. Ban 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.