News / Africa

UN Wants Security Sector Reform Before Liberian Elections

UN Special Representative Ellen Margarethe Loej speaks in a high level meeting of the Government of Liberia, Monrovia, 08 Oct. 2010
UN Special Representative Ellen Margarethe Loej speaks in a high level meeting of the Government of Liberia, Monrovia, 08 Oct. 2010

Multimedia

Audio

The United Nations says there must be reforms to Liberia's young, post-war security sector to guarantee peaceful elections next year.

Liberian police do not carry weapons because principle responsibility for security still rests with United Nations peacekeepers. But Liberian police do control checkpoints, where motorists say they are often made to pay bribes.

Taxi driver Seydu Diallho says it is a costly problem.

"Every day they pester taxi drivers," Diallho said. "Anywhere you park they will say no parking, even if there isn't a 'no parking' sign. Anytime they see you they will stop you and will want money from you."

There is nothing new about police extorting money from motorists, especially in a country where patrolmen earn about 80 dollars a month.  But, in a country still recovering from civil war and years of abuse by both local authorities and rebels, corruption further undermines public confidence in the rule of law.

Peter Chapman works for the Carter Center in Liberia.

"I think certainly in rural areas there's a mistrust of, the justice sector, but I think that's largely due to the fact that their, I mean their interaction with it is either them or people they know paying bribes, either to magistrates or to police," Chapman said.

Recognizing those shortfalls, the United Nations is keeping its peacekeeping force at current levels through next year's election. Margrethe Loej is the U.N. special representative for Liberia.

"The population does not trust the rule-of-law sector, and they very often take the law into their own hands, and we are very conscious of the potential of having election-related violence," said Loej.

Loej says international support for security sector reform is crucial to safeguarding a young Liberian democracy.

"I don't think money can buy peace if the political will is not there," Loej added. "But, if the political will is there, money can help achieve peace much quicker. The case in point in Liberia, which was an utterly destroyed country after the civil war – money is needed to build the institutions that ensure peace."

The United States has already spent more than $250 million helping to train a new Liberian army. But the 2,200-strong force will not be ready before 2012. So, until then, Liberia's role in its own security is limited to what Human Rights Watch calls a predatory police force and ineffective courts.

Chapman says reforms will take time.

"If you're shooting for the justice system of the UK or France or something, I mean, you know, it took hundreds of years to get there and it's not like you can get there so quickly after conflict," Chapman said.

Frustrations about the pace of justice sometimes mean smaller disputes grow into bigger conflicts. Earlier this year, U.N. peacekeepers moved in to stop unrest between predominantly-Muslim Mandingo and Christian residents in northern Lofa County.

Jerome Verdier is the chairman of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He says the government has been slow to deal with the corruption and poverty that led to war.

"If those issues are ignored, if those recommendations are ignored, in the next ten years so to speak, I can see Liberia embroiled in another conflict, maybe of a dimension more serious than what we have already experienced,"  Verdier said.

Liberia's new, U.S.-trained army remains the great hope to restoring public confidence in national security services. But the troops are not alone, as human rights groups say there must also be substantial reforms to a justice system that has failed to prosecute members of a transitional government accused of stealing millions of dollars.

You May Like

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs