Two brutal civil wars in Liberia left the country struggling with widespread violence, corruption, and extreme poverty. By 2003, the parties reached a ceasefire in the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement, thus launching the country’s transition period. Motivated by serious human rights violations and the need for a peaceful postwar transition, the UN Security Council voted to establish UNMIL in September of 2003. The first mandate deployed troops to help stabilize the nation, as well as to develop systems to address human rights abuses, disarmament and child protection, and to strengthen civil society, the justice sector, and national security forces.
“It will be an important milestone, a demonstration of confidence that the country has turned the corner from conflict, disorder and dependence to a future of sustained peace, unity, and independence” – Ban Ki-Moon
Liberia conducted successful national elections in 2005 and 2011, both times electing Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President. Her administration has strengthened national institutions while trying to tackle government corruption and reform the national security forces with UN and U.S. assistance.
Due to security gains and relative improvements in the humanitarian situation, the UN Security Council voted in March 2012 to authorize a gradual drawdown of UNMIL’s force levels. In early 2014, however, Liberia was hit with an unprecedented Ebola outbreak. While at its core a public health emergency, the Ebola outbreak had significant potential political, security, and economic implications for the country as well. Progress made in these areas threatened to reverse, and once the crisis was over in May 2015, UNMIL’s mission was extended until June 2016.
While recovering from the Ebola outbreak, the drawdown process has resumed. The “deconcentration process” is working to support local government services while UNMIL reduces its military ceiling, authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 2215. The drawback process concluded on June 30, 2016, when the UN officially handed back security responsibility to the Liberian police, after 13 years in the country. While UNMIL will no longer perform a security role, it will maintain its presence in the country to advise and support the Liberian government.