A top United Nations representative for Liberia says Liberians should decide how to approach its mandate to promote and protect human rights in post-conflict Liberia.
Ellen Margaret Loj, the United Nations' Special Representative for Liberia, says there is an urgent need for balancing peace and justice in Liberia. And, one of those ways, she says, is for the Liberian people to debate the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which released its final report in December.
"How do you balance the urgent need for maintaining the peace in Liberia and on the other hand, ensuring that impunity is not accepted? You balance that by ensuring that the recommendations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have Liberian ownership," she said.
Loj said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is asking Liberians to discuss the issues, including the controversial recommendation that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf be barred from holding public office for 30 years.
"That is why you will see, in the recent report by the Secretary General, that he is strongly urging the Liberian people to debate these recommendations, to arrive at conclusions as to how they want to follow them up," she said.
She said delays in establishing Liberia's Independent Human Rights Commission were impeding the process. But the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations are only one part of Liberia's transition from conflict to peace and security. "The police force, in order to function, needs equipment - communications equipment, transport, etc, and there we need bilateral donors," said Loj.
She said the Liberian government's budget is still too small to fund a fully-operational army and police force. The U.S. Military is currently leading the effort to train Liberia's army.
"You cannot, in a country like Liberia with a very limited government budget, expect them to foot that bill. It will take a long time for the security institutions to be fully up and running if international partners do not come in and support," said the special representative.
Loj added that Liberia has made steady progress in the past year. Critical for the future development of the country will be the presidential and legislative elections scheduled to take place in October 2011.