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Top UN envoy says 15000 troops needed for wartorn Liberia

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Having just completed his assessment of what will be needed to cement Liberia’s fragile peace, Jacques Paul Klein, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Liberia, held a news conference in Monrovia today and announced that he plans to head to New York next week and press for a Council mandate on UN peacekeepers for Liberia by mid-September. “The sooner the better for the people of Liberia,” he told reporters, adding that killings, rapes, looting and intimidation will continue, particularly in the country’s interior, unless peacekeepers are deployed in large numbers.”I think there’s a clear understanding by the region that this, this time, has to work,” said Mr. Klein, adding that “Unless we, this time, do this thing correctly, it potentially destabilizes West Africa.” He had consulted with a whole spectrum of Liberian society, ministries, non-governmental organizations and private citizens to get their input on what needs to be done, he said.He stressed that the UN would be looking for a “working partnership with the Liberian Interim Government, not a trusteeship.” A trusteeship implied that people are not capable of doing it themselves. “That is not true,” he said, “We can work with a technocrat government over two years or so to rebuild the fabric of Liberian society. It is a long-term process…we need to think about how to set up political parties that represent the Liberian people, that are not personality driven.”Mr. Klein said that if he got the mandate by the first of October – when the Interim Government is due to take over – the West African ECOMIL troops that have been policing the country for nearly a month would be “blue helmeted” and become UN peacekeepers. “ Then we can begin the process of bringing in the rest of the force structure that we need.”“I don’t know what the Security Council will give us; I am asking for 15,000 troops…enough troops to quickly be able to do disarmament, demobilization – the demilitarization that needs to be done,” Mr. Klein said. All those troops would not be on the ground by 1 October, but the process would take about four months. He said his assessment also calls for some 900 international policemen, some armed, some not. The goal will be recruit, to train, equip and try to build a Liberian police force that understands its role in a democratic society – to protect the citizens. “I would like to find international funds to pay these police, so that they do not live off the citizens and can do their job with dignity,” he added.“We are going to appeal to the international community and also to the American Government that after 1 October they maintain a presence of some sort – we need that,” he said. Mr. Klein also said that the if he got the mandate he needed, he would meet with the European Union to see what monies could be found for long-term reconstruction and job creation. “The key challenge as we demobilize is all these young people – many without education, traumatized and coerced into fighting – to find them meaningful employment and reintegrate them into society, “ he said. As for the United States, the most useful thing is to take on the reconstruction of a small Liberian army, rebuilding it and making it professional and reflecting all the ethic groups and structures within the country. read more

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