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Vol. 8, No. 03

UN FOCUS

Security Council Visits Liberia Peacekeeping Chief on Assessment Visit Secretary-General Recommends Gradual Drawdown of UNMIL

March - May 2012


Message from the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General

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uring the month of April, Under-Secretary General Hervé Ladsous, Head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, paid a five-day visit to Liberia. This was his first visit since assuming the leadership of the Department late last year. USG Ladsous held discussions with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ministers of state, and many other important stakeholders in the country’s peace process. Addressing the media, he assured Liberians that, despite the transition, UNMIL will stay the course and continue to support Liberia towards a peaceful and prosperous future. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented a special report on Liberia to the Security Council in April which included proposals for the reconfiguration of UNMIL as recommended by the Technical Assessment Mission after they had visited Liberia earlier in February. The report is yet to be discussed by the Security Council.

On 19 May, Representatives of the Security Council member states paid a five-day working visit to Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone to assess progress in post-conflict peace consolidation in these countries as well as regional security challenges. In Liberia the delegation was co-led by Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States of America and Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki of Morocco. The Secretary-General has announced the appointment of Karin Landgren of Sweden as his new Special Representative for Liberia and Head of UNMIL. Ms Landgren brings to the position many years of political, development, resource-mobilization, managerial and international law experience with the United Nations. On behalf of all UNMIL personnel, I warmly welcome SRSG Landgren to Liberia. Let us commit ourselves to fully supporting her as we move into the transition and assist in making Liberia a truly peacekeeping success story.

Moustapha Soumaré Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Liberia 2  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012


IN THIS ISSUE 4. Security Council Visits Liberia 6. Peacekeeping Chief On Assessment Visit 8. Secretary-General Recommends Gradual Drawdown of UNMIL 9. Chair of Peacebuilding Commission visits Liberia 10. UNMIL Hands Over New Detention Centre to Government in Bopolu

4. Security Council Visits Liberia On a visit to Liberia in May, the delegation of the UN Security Council co-led by Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States and Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki commends Liberia’s progress in rebuilding national institutions and reiterates the international community’s support for the government’s efforts at reconciliation and inclusive dialogue.

12. Thousands to Benefit from New Health Facility in Bong County 14. Child Rights Campaign Launched in Maryland 16. Interview: Hervé Ladsous 18. Interview: Sri Mulyani Indrawati 20. Refugees Return After 20 Years in Guinea 22. Snail Farming Brings Smile to Ivorian Refugees 30. Liberians Speak

Chief of Public Information Isabelle Abric

6. Peacekeeping Chief on Assessment Visit Visiting Liberia for the first time in since taking office as Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous reiterates the UN’s commitment to continue supporting the consolidation of peace in Liberia and, in an interview, discusses the future of the peacekeeping mission in the country.

Editor and Head of Publications Mathew Elavanalthoduka Staff Writers Ruby Ofori James S. King Design and Graphics Paddy Defoxy Ilos, II Thomas S. Blidi Photos Staton Winter Emmanuel Tobey Published by the Public Information Office, United Nations Mission in Liberia

8. Secretary-General Recommends Gradual Drawdown of UNMIL The Security Council receives recommendations by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reduce gradually about 4,200 UNMIL troops in three phases between 2012 and 2015 and to increase the police component by three formed units.

unfocus@unmil.org www.unmil.unmissions.org www.facebook.com/unmil2003 www.twitter.com/unmilnews www.youtube.com/unmiltv www.flickr.com/unmil Printed by Buck Press Ltd., Accra, Ghana March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  3


President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ambassador Susan Rice and Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki address the media

Security Council Visits By Ruby Ofori

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hile on a tour of West Africa from May 20 to 24, representatives of the UN Security Council commended Liberia’s progress in rebuilding national institutions after the civil war and reiterated the international community’s support for the government’s efforts at reconciliation and inclusive dialogue following the 2011 national elections. After meeting with President

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other senior government officials including those concerned with security and rule of law, the Security Council held a joint press conference with the President at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two diplomats leading the delegation in Liberia, Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States and Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki of Morocco, expressed the delegation’s overall confidence in Liberia. “We applaud the President and her team for inaugurating an ambitious national development and

economic agenda,” Ambassador Rice told reporters at the press conference. “It was quite evident that Liberia has made considerable progress since the end of the civil war.” The Security Council delegation brought a message of appreciation to the people of Liberia, Ambassador Loulichki said during the press conference. “We are extremely proud of what Liberia is achieving and we are optimistic about the future of this country, not only to stabilize but also to have a prosperous future,” he said.


a demonstration of newly acquired skills by special units of the Liberia National Police. Since its reopening in July 2004, more than 4,500 police officers, including 670 women, have been trained with the support of UNMIL and bilateral partners. At that event the Minister of Justice, Christiana Tah, expressed her thanks for the support received by Liberia’s Security and Rule of Law institutions from the international community. On day three of their visit to Liberia, the delegation heard from Ivorian refugees about their conditions of life and security concerns during a visit to the largest of six refugee camps set up and run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Liberian Refugee, Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC.) The Premier Timber Production Company (PTP) refugee camp has a population of over

s Liberia During their visit, the Security Council members heard from Liberians including women whose lives were transformed by a vocational training project sponsored by UNMIL and managed by a Liberian non-governmental organization. Beneficiaries of the Alternative Livelihood Project for Traditional Women in Kortu town proudly showed off their colourful wares such as printed fabrics and fresh soaps -- products they make and sell to generate income. At the National Police Training Academy the delegation witnessed

efforts of the Liberian Government, through the LRRRC and in partnership with the UN and other partners “to meet the needs of Ivorian refugees in Liberia.” Some 200,000 refugees sought refuge in Liberia following the disputed 2010 presidential run-off election in Côte d’Ivoire. Numerous humanitarian actors and Liberian institutions mobilized in support of the Ivorian refugees, Liberian returnees and third country nationals who came to Liberia as a result of the Ivorian crisis. More than half of those who crossed into to Liberia have since returned, either on their own or with UNHCR assistance. Liberia currently hosts more than 67,300 Ivorian refugees, mainly located in the border counties of Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Nimba and River Gee. While in Zwedru the delegation was briefed on UNMIL/UNOCI inter-mission cooperation

The UN Security Council commended Liberia’s progress in rebuilding national institutions after the civil war and reiterated the international community’s support for the government’s efforts at reconciliation and inclusive dialogue following the 2011 national elections. 7,200 persons. While at the PTP camp, the UN delegates heard the testimonies of male and female refugee leaders representing a cross section of refugee in camps across Liberia. “We are interested in your stories; how did you get here and why…and what are your concerns about returning home,” Ambassador Rice told the refugees. Ambassador Loulichki hoped that the refugees would soon see their loved ones in peace, security and dignity. Speaking in French he praised the high level of generosity shown by the Government and people of Liberia who have welcomed their neighbors in need. The head of UNHCR’s country office, Cosmas Chanda, briefed the Security Council delegation on the

arrangements and plans to further enhance the collaboration between both the UN missions. The Security Council’s tour of West Africa also took in Côte d’Ivoire, where the diplomats met with President Alassane Ouattara and representatives of the Ivorian National Assembly. In Guiglo in the West, they were briefed on security and humanitarian issues. On their final day in Cote d’Ivoire the delegation met representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to discuss regional security issues. From Côte d’Ivoire the delegation went to Sierra Leone to hold discussions with President Ernest Bai Koroma and Sierra Leone’s political party representatives. The last visit of the Security Council to Liberia was in 2009. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  5


Peacekeeping Chief On Assessment Visit By Ruby Ofori and Napoleon Viban

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hile on a five-day visit to Liberia in April, UnderSecretary- General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous praised

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UNMIL as one of the flagship missions within the family of 16 peacekeeping missions around the world. “After years of violence and drama, one can feel that Liberia is finally on a positive track,” he said while addressing UNMIL staff during a townhall meeting. Having achieved

peace and some measure of security, the challenge for Liberia now is to build democracy in its broadest sense, he noted. During his visit Ladsous met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and members of her Cabinet as well as members of the opposition and the


Ladsous meets peacekeepers during a field trip to Bong County

legislative branch of the government. He visited the Peace and Justice Hub in Gbarnga, and the PTP camp in Zwedru that houses thousands of Ivorian refugees. Ladsous said he had sensed some anxiety among Liberians about the possible imminent departure of UNMIL. Liberians should rest assured that the United Nations will stay the course and continue to support Liberia until the country is judged to be a success story, he said. “We have invested so much in this country in terms of blood... in terms of national capital and in financial

terms. There is no question we will let that go down the drain.” Liberia will become a “success story” and the UN will continue to work hand in hand with the government and people of Liberia to achieve that objective, he reaffirmed. Touching on the future of UNMIL, Ladsous said the mission will support Liberia by making a “very gradual” shift in emphasis from peacekeeping to peacebuilding. Going forward, the mission will focus more attention on consolidation of democracy, rule of law, the police, the judicial system and on national reconciliation, he said. Describing the Gbarnga Peace and Justice Hub as a “wonderful concept” Ladsous said he was considering replicating the idea in other peacekeeping missions around the world. The US$3.7 million hub combines legal, police and counselling services under one roof for the citizens of three counties – Bong, Nimba and Lofa. Four more such hubs are planned for future construction to cover the entire country. To better understand the challenges of securing Liberia’s borders, Ladsous travelled to B’hai border crossing in Toe Twon in Grand Gedeh County for a meeting with county chiefs of the Liberian National Police (LNP), the Emergency Response Unit, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). During his meeting with the Ivorian refugees, Ladsous stressed the role of the United Nations in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire in helping to heal the wounds of conflict between communities in the two countries. He urged the refugees not to give up hope of returning home to live in peace. At the B’hai border post officials of all four law enforcement agencies cited critical shortfalls in personnel and logistics as major challenges in their work. Commander Col. Harry S. George of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization said there are scores of clandestine border crossings which continue to elude surveillance by the authorities along Liberia’s

border with Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côté d’Ivoire. The local authorities told the Under-Secretary-General that the proliferation of arms after years of war in the region remains a key preoccupation of the local police. They said the lack of logistics to rapidly deploy to locations where arms are sighted meant evidence is often destroyed before the police get to the scene. As in the case of Liberians throughout the country, the LNP officers in Grand Gedeh expressed concerns about UNMIL’s reconfiguration, conceding that they still rely heavily on UNPOL for operational and logistic support. Similar fears were raised in Monrovia and Bong County and at each stop Ladsous sought to contextualize UNMIL’s transition as part of the natural life-cycle of peacekeeping missions throughout the world. He said UNMIL would not jeopardize the gains made in Liberia over the past 8 years by leaving prematurely. On the last leg of the USG’s tour of Liberia before crossing the border into Côte d’Ivoire, the Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations Mission in Côté d’Ivoire (ONOCI), Albert Gerard Koenders, arrived to accompany the USG back across the border. Ladsous noted that the arrival of Koenders and his entourage bore “eloquent testimony to the cross-border cooperation between the two missions and governments.” He said UNMIL and UNOCI were the flagships of inter-mission cooperation. This is a new concept in which peacekeeping missions are being encouraged to achieve more with less through optimized and judicious use of limited resources. Koenders said UNOCI was working closely with the Ivorian government to figure out how best to allay the fears of refugees in Liberia and encourage their voluntary return home. A voluntary repatriation programme supported by UNHCR is ongoing. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  7


Rick Bajornas/UN Photo

Secretary-General Recommends Gradual Drawdown of UNMIL

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ecretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Liberia be reduced gradually by about 4,200 troops in three phases between this year and 2015, when it will have a residual presence of approximately 3,750 soldiers. In a report to the United Nations Security Council on 30 April the Secretary-General gave an assessment of the current status of security in Liberia and outlined recommendations for the next phase of the Peacekeeping Mission. “While Liberia no longer faces any military threat, the country still has significant challenges because of its limited national security capacity,” as well as other potentially destabilizing factors, the UN Secretary-General’s report stated. The report further recommended that the Mission’s police component 8  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

should be maintained at its current strength of 498 advisers and 845 officers in seven formed police units, and be authorized to add three formed units as needed over the next three years. UNMIL currently has a total of 9,195 uniformed personnel, which includes 1,279 police, including those serving in formed police units. The UN chief pointed out that much has been achieved in enhancing peace, promoting economic recovery and social advancement and strengthening regional cooperation in Liberia under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. However, he noted, the gains remain fragile and susceptible to reversal as long as the socio-political basis of governance is not understood by all Liberians. “Building credible and effective institutions, particularly in the security and rule of law sectors, will require progress in overcoming the root causes of the country’s conflict,

including structural inequalities,” said the UN Chief. “Considerable political will and commitment is essential from all stakeholders, and I therefore call on the people and the Government of Liberia to continue their efforts to strengthen the foundations of democracy, and for international partners to stay the course in Liberia and support national efforts to consolidate the conditions for lasting peace and development,” he added. Ban also noted that continuing stability in Liberia will also depend on the evolution of the situation in the sub-region and the development of national and regional capacities to respond to sub-regional threats to peace and security, which remain a serious concern. He reiterated the UN’s readiness to support West African regional initiatives to enhance stability. The Security Council is yet to deliberate on Ban’s recommendations.


Chair of Peacebuilding Commission visits Liberia

Chair of the PBC Ambassador Staffan Tillander addressing community leaders and government officials at the Peace and Security Hub in Bong County

By Frances Alesi

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n April, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, Liberia Configuration, Ambassador Staffan Tillander, made an official visit to Liberia to observe at first hand the progress made and challenges remaining in peacebuilding priority targets established between the government of Liberia and the United Nations. In Gbarnga, Bong county, Ambassador Tillander witnessed the ongoing construction of the regional justice and security Hub. The Hub is expected to strengthen the effective delivery of justice and security services to citizens in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties. Tillander was accompanied on the tour of the Hub by the Deputy Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral for Rule of Law, Louis Aucoin, UN Police Commissioner John Nielsen, Liberia’s Deputy Minister

of Internal Affairs for Operations, Ranney Jackson, and senior Liberian justice and security officers from Bong County. At the end of the tour, Ambassador Tillander described the Hub as an important effort to bring peace to Liberians and for UNMIL transition, noting the importance of the center where police officers, judges and others can make sure that justice is delivered. Commenting on the numerous concerns Liberians had raised about some of the facilities at the Hub, the PBC Liberia Chair said, “it is a healthy sign that people are speaking out and giving their opinions about what they see because these are the people who are going to use these buildings,” adding that “it is part of the democratic system that people are voicing their opinions.” Tillander also visited the Gbarnga Central Prison, where he discussed challenges and achievements in the corrections sector

with the Assistant Minister of Justice for Corrections as well as prison staff. In Grand Cape Mount County, Ambassador Tillander held discussions with security agencies (both Liberian and Sierra Leonean counterparts) at the Bo-Water Side integrated border post, during which he was briefed on the security issues along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border. He also toured the main border-crossing point and was escorted by Liberian and Sierra Leonean security officers across the Mano River Bridge at Bo-Waterside to the Sierra Leonean side. During discussions with the County leadership in Sinje, the need for youth and women’s empowerment, and skills and adult literacy training were highlighted. The need to address the increasing number of sexual and gender-based violence cases and rehabilitation the road network were other key issues recommended for urgent attention. At a forum with the Sinje Youth and Women’s Groups at the Sinje Youth Centre, emphasis was placed on ensuring that skills training and employment opportunities are made available to women and out-of-school youth. Ambassador Tillander also held a meeting with the Grand Cape Mount County Peace Committee (CPC) in the peace hut at Sinje. Members of the CPC briefed him on progress made by the Committee, including training of 1,000 youth in leadership skills and peace building, as well as mediating and resolving community level conflicts. During his stay in Liberia the PBC chair met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as well as Ministers and Heads of key institutions and agencies. In addition, Ambassador Tillander also attended a meeting with the PBC Joint steering Committee. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  9


Bopolu residents and local officials pose for the camera at the hand-over of the facility

UNMIL Hands Over New D Centre to Government in By Zazay T. Kolubah

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iberian officials say the modern detention facility built in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County by UNMIL Quick Impact Project and handed over to the government last December makes a significant contribution to the improved security environment in the county. Before the new facility was built, there was an attempted jail break about a year ago by eighteen suspects who were locked-up in one tiny cell

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at the Bopolu Liberia National Police Headquarters, recalls Bopolu Prison Superintendent Dweh Tarwillie. But for the quick intervention of the Liberia National Police, UNMIL Nigeria Peacekeeping contingent and local citizens, the escapees would have destroyed the police station, he said. “This situation in fact demonstrates just one of the many reasons why the county needed a modern accommodation for detainees,” said Tarwille. Officials say the new facility brings an end to a time when suspects in

police custody were accommodated in makeshift structures or had to be transferred to the Bomi Central Prison in Tubmanburg. Getting suspects to court in Bopolu on time from Bomi Central Prison was a challenge because of the long distance and bad roads. Lucy Gachie of UNMIL’s Corrections Advisory Unit said the lack of a formal detention facility poses serious challenges. She said persons deprived of their liberty largely depend on the detaining authorities for respect of their basic human rights;


introduced in the rehabilitation plan for the centre to supplement inmates feeding and equip them with basic farming skills upon expiry of their sentences, Gachie noted. She urged the Liberian Government to support what she termed “the noble goal” by providing funds for expansion of the facility given the possible increase in inmate population with the restoration of the rule-of-law

for more rehabilitation programmes such as skills training in information technology, sports and psychosocial therapy in addition to the current agriculture project - a cassava farm that would help make the hands and minds of detainees more useful. The Bopolu Detention Centre has a maximum capacity of 15 inmates with three cells; each for male, female and juvenile detainees. In late September

Zayzay Kolubah/UNMIL

The completion of the centre now facilitates separate accommodations for males, females and juvenile inmates while crop farming has been introduced in the rehabilitation plan for the centre to supplement inmates feeding and equip them with basic farming skills upon expiry of their sentences.

Detention n Bopolu

2011, UNMIL also handed over 10 Quick Impact Projects in three counties including Bong, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount to ensure security and justice for local residents. Of these projects, Gbarma in Gbarpolu County received a police depot and a magisterial court. Official opening of the new detention facility

Zayzay Kolubah/UNMIL

therefore it is incumbent upon the prison authority to seek the welfare of the inmates. “This is the reason UNMIL Corrections Advisory Unit has undertaken to support the Liberia Bureau of Corrections in the construction and refurbishment of a prison facility to provide safe, secure and humane conditions for those in custody,” she said. The completion of the centre now facilitates separate accommodations for males, females and juvenile inmates while crop farming has been

in the country. Gachie said the dedication of the facility signifies UNMIL’s commitment to strengthening the rule-of-law in Liberia. The Director of Corrections at the Ministry of Justice, Eric Mulbah, called for citizens to help maintain and manage the structure. He appealed

March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  11


UNDP Photo

Inauguration of the clinic in Rock Crusher Village

Thousands to Benefit fr Health Facility in Bong C

By Augusta Pshorr

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he people of Rock Crusher village celebrated the handover of the first ever clinic in their area with a spontaneous song of praise. “We tell God thanks” they sung in Bassa in March this year. Sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of its Millennium Village Project, the clinic will provide primary health care services to over 16,000 inhabitants of the Rock Crusher Community in Bong

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County and residents of Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties. Nyenpu, a pregnant 21 year old, said the new clinic brings her a sense of relief. “I was really worried as to how it was going to be for me when pain grab me knowing there is no clinic. But now that we have a clinic right in our community, all I can say now is that my worry is over.” With tears rolling down her face, Korpo, an elderly woman, recalled needless deaths in the past when there was no health facility. “Sometimes while walking or carrying a patient in

a hammock for hours, the sick person would die on the way. I have seen such things happen as a girl growing up and an old lady as I am today.” James Gbeme, an elderly resident, could not help but smile with joy at the new development. “We just don’t know what to say. This is a big-big day for us,” he said adding that “this day has brought not only joy but also unity in this area. “ Martha, 42, also talked about the hardships of the past. “We used to walk up to eight hours to get to the nearest health centre in Gbekon.


UNDP Photo UNDP Photo

rom New County Sometimes the journey to the health facilities would end in death,” she said. Ma Korpo said the moment gave her a sense of personal vindication. “I always thought that one day we will have a clinic of our own in this town,” she said. A group of youths roamed the town singing in joyous celebration of their new clinic. Big Boy Sumo said they were really happy that at long last the people of Rock Crusher now have a clinic. “We are so happy today for what is happening in this our

area,” Sumo said. “Health care contributes to the growth and development of any society, therefore the UNDP is happy to be a part of the construction of the

operation of the health facility. “This clinic is for you the people of Rock Crusher, please help to keep the clinic clean by taking up time to brush around it whenever we notice that the grass is overgrowing around this facility,” she said. John Glekai of the Bong County Health Team thanked the people of Kokoyah District for working with the UNDP and the County Health Team to ensure the completion of the project. “This is the result of hard work and commitment on the part of the people of Kokoyah and UNDP and other partners.” He described the clinic as a “very big and great gift” and commended UNDP saying: “We are very proud of UNDP for this initiative. This is a meaningful intervention in the health sector.” With an estimated cost of US$ 120,000, the clinic includes an out-patient department and a maternity ward. A tower is currently being constructed at the site to boost communications. This is the second clinic constructed under UNDP Kokoyah Millennium Village Project. The first beneficiary was Yolo Town which obtained both an ambulance and clinic. The KMVP project runs from 2008-2013 and is supported by the

With an estimated cost of US$ 120,000, the clinic includes an out-patient department and a maternity ward. A tower is currently being constructed at the site to boost communications. This is the second clinic constructed under UNDP Kokoyah Millennium Village Project. The first beneficiary was Yolo Town which obtained both an ambulance and clinic. first clinic in this community,” said Stephen Kolee, the UNDP project coordinator. Lucia Herbert, Bong County Superintendent, called on the people of Rock Crusher to take ownership of the clinic by helping in the smooth

Government of Norway. It aims to transform the lives of rural people by helping them run small-scale commercial enterprises and support the villages to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  13


Child Rights Campaign Launched in Maryland By Gideon Nma Scott, Jr.

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ric Wallace is a 10-year-old school drop-out who sells soft drinks in the scorching sun on the streets of Harper. He is homeless and at night sleeps on market stalls. Eric’s dissent into destitution began with the demise of his mother when his father left him in the care of his grandmother. The boy now earns a living for the two of them. “After I go home before the old ma’am will find food for us,” Eric said. The focus of a two-day workshop held in Pleebo from 23- 24 March was 14  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

to address the plight of children such as Eric in Maryland County. Participants included the UNMIL Human Rights office, the Maryland County Gender Office and non-governmental organizations such as Right To Play, Restoring Our Children’s Hope and the Maryland Children’s Assembly. Madam Comfort Wilson, a representative of Maryland Women’s Groups said adults exploit children by forcing them into labour. At night, the children sleep in deserted buildings and on porches where they often get beaten by homeowners. Wilson urged adults to take a more sympathetic

approach to street children and to provide some level of parental care for them. The guest speaker at the event, 13-year-old Aicha Bedee, declared that children have a right to be protected and nurtured to grow into adults who can fully assume their responsibilities within the community. She said children need to be part of a family environment of love, happiness and understanding. Bedee noted that article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the rights of the child “to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any


Gideon Nma Scott, Jr./UNMIL

work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.” Professionals in Liberia’s security sector and local government believe the numbers of children living on the streets are rising in Maryland, though there are no official statics. They attribute this increase to economic factors and regional instability in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. “Some of the kids are from neighboring counties, while others are refugees,” said Thunder Tiklo, the Liberia National Police Women and Children Protection Services commander for Maryland County. Commander Tikloh said most street children are involved in criminal activities in the county, which put them in contact and conflict with the law. “The LNP/WACPS is working along with partners to remedy the situation,” he said. Some children claim to have relatives in Maryland whom they have rejected because of

of video centers is expected to prevent the trend. The mayor said children should not be held responsible for their plight but rather should be helped out of it. Chiefs, elders and parents should not give their children to guardians whom they have no reason to trust, he said. Henry Cole, representing the superintendent of Maryland County, said parents should take advantage of educational facilities in their communities. The superintendent has ordered the county education officer to find out how many children are living on the streets. He said the information will be used to determine the causes of school drop-outs and how the county can help in keeping children in school in their respective communities. Condeh Jerbo, the County Gender Coordinator, called on the government and partners to set up a safe home for street children in Maryland. Jerbo said the safe house would provide basic parental care, home training,

Professionals in Liberia’s security sector and local government believe the numbers of children living on the streets are rising in Maryland, though there are no official statics. They attribute this increase to economic factors and regional instability in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. “Some of the kids are from neighboring counties, while others are refugees,” said Thunder Tiklo, the Liberia National Police Women and Children Protection Services commander for Maryland County. what they see as harsh treatment by those relatives, he noted. A number of measures have been taken by various authorities to protect street children. Anthony Harmon, the city mayor of Pleebo, told the gathering that he has ordered the closure of all video centers and other entertainment places from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Video centers are regarded as a major factor influencing children to run away from their homes and dropping out of school. And closure

psychosocial counseling and skill training activities for the children. She noted that children should be consulted about programmes which address their needs. She encouraged the Maryland Children’s Assembly to lead sensitization activities to discourage their peers from living in the streets. At the end of the programme, the county authority and partners vowed to work for the promotion of child rights activities throughout the county. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  15


in conversation: Hervé Ladsous

“Continue having confi Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous, Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, was on a five-day visit to Liberia in April during which he held discussions with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other important stakeholders in the country’s peace process. In an exclusive interview with Editor Mathew Elavanalthoduka and Chief of UNMIL Radio Jesca Muyingo, the top peacekeeping official discusses the future of UNMIL, the need to strengthen Liberia’s institutions and reiterates the UN’s commitment to continue supporting the consolidation of peace in the country. Excerpts. UN FOCUS: Could you briefly tell us about the purpose of your visit to Liberia?

USG Ladsous: I am almost six months on the job and I wanted to come here as soon as possible -- as I do with

all other UN peacekeeping missions -- to get a better understanding of the issues and challenges in Liberia. The conclusions of the Technical Assessment Team mission that visited Liberia a month ago are to be submitted to the Secretary-General and decisions by the Security Council would follow soon. Based on the discussions you have had with various stakeholders here, how long, in your view, should UN peacekeepers continue to stay in Liberia? I keep telling all my interlocutors that this is not the issue right now. Of course, we do have to reduce somewhat the size of our military component because the situation has evolved. Peacekeeping missions are like living organisms -- they go through a life cycle and we have to take stock of prevailing circumstances in the country. The military will be downsized gradually, but I think we may consider the police component has to be increased in view of the new requirements. The issue is not whether we shall leave tomorrow or next year. Not at all, because the task is not complete and we have not fully realized our mandate, which is to strengthen the institutions, rule of law in particular, the police even more

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fidence in UNMIL…” particularly. All in all, there is still a lot of work to do in general to support all the processes that are underway in the country. So the exit of UNMIL from the country is somewhere there, but I would say much beyond the horizon. I found that there is a lot of anxiety amongst Liberians. In Gbarnga they kept saying “we don’t want you to leave” and I said this is not what we are going to do. We remain by your side very committed, we will not forego or risk the investments made for many years that still need to be consolidated. We are phasing from peacekeeping to peace building. UNMIL is still here definitely. Limited capacity of critical national institutions -- for example the Police, the Army, the Judiciary – is of major concern to Liberians. How do you think the fragility of these institutions will impact the draw-down of UNMIL? I think one has to look at the recent past --few years ago -- to see what existed. Practically nothing. Now we do have those institutions but they are probably undersized, probably still undertrained. The Police Training Academy may need to increase its intake of trainees because, as I understand, the Liberia National Police, which is about 4,200 in strength, probably need to be increased to about 7,000 to match the ratio with the population. The same goes for magistrates. I just visited the construction site of the first security hub, which I think is a very impressive concept, something we have done elsewhere but on a very less ambitious scale. It is a solid innovation and I will be watching its progress very closely. National reconciliation is a major concern for Liberia, and this was very much made evident during the 2011 elections. Knowing that comprehensive post-conflict reconciliation takes long

to happen, how would this impact the final withdrawal of peacekeepers from Liberia? You said it. Reconciliation in fact takes a long time. But reconciliation is also a process. And this is where I think there are initiatives that we must try to bring together. But that is first and foremost the responsibility of all Liberians because reconciliation is something people buy into. They have to be convinced. We cannot do it for them. But we can certainly provide assistance and advice. But the primary responsibility rests with Liberians.

you mention funds. How would you reassure Liberians that Liberia does not fall in the shadows and receive less attention than it deserves when other more urgent priorities are arising? I think Liberia deserves continued attention because beyond the country, we have a very sensitive and fragile region with new problems. It would be senseless to risk losing all those billions of dollars and big amount of political capital the United Nations has spent in this country. I think we have a big stake. I would say that Liberia could be one of our success stories.

A couple of months ago you mentioned that a billion dollars will be cut from UN’s peacekeeping budget which made headlines in the Liberian media with interpretations that it would affect UNMIL seriously. Would you like to clarify? Your media colleagues got the figure a bit wrong because I did not say 1 billion. I said we will be going from one cycle to another roughly from 7.8 billion to 7.1 or 7.2 billion. But this is in line with the budgetary difficulties in many countries and of course the desire to see the cost of overall peacekeeping reduced. It is a fact that we have been reviewing the mandates of several peacekeeping operations around the world and that there will be reduction. I never implied that roughly 1 billion or 600 or 700 million would come from UNMIL. It is an overall trend we will pursue. Peacekeeping is in a state of consolidation unless the Security Council give us a new mandate which is a possibility. I think it is a matter of adapting to the circumstances. We shall review the mandate of each mission periodically to adjust to the ground realities.

It is about 6 months since you took over DPKO. What are the key changes you would like to see in DPKO during your tenure? We have been entrusted with mandates given to us by the Security Council. We have to live up to those responsibilities very clearly. Second, let’s try to do the job as well as we can. There are several changes which are underway on the basis of the New Horizon concept. For instance we have to continue enhancing civilian capabilities, we have to continue identifying the gaps. We have to continue working to improve on the global field support strategy. I would like to see modernizing -- we are using 20th century technology, perhaps we could start considering 21st century technology. I will not go into details but I think we will have to be in tune with our times.

There are several hot spots around the world today such as Libya, Syria, and

If you have a message for the Liberian people, what would it be? My message to the Liberian people is to continue having confidence in UNMIL. We will not abandon you as we are committed to completely putting out the cycle of violence that we saw in the past.

March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  17


in conversation: Sri Mulyani Indrawati

“Economic and Social Pr Vital for Peace and Secu World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati visited Liberia for the first time in March. During her two-day visit, the former Finance Minister of Indonesia met with the President of Liberia and other senior government officials as well as heads of UN agencies. In an exclusive interview with Ruby Ofori, Indrawati talks about how the World Bank is partnering with the government of Liberia during this critical phase of the nation’s development. Excerpts. UN FOCUS: Could you briefly tell us about the purpose of your visit to Liberia? Sri Indrawati: This is my first visit as Managing Director of the World Bank. For the World Bank, supporting Liberia as a post-conflict country is very important. It is among the Bank’s highest priorities. So it is a very good opportunity for me to meet with the President, the government ministers as well as all other stakeholders. To really listen to what is the most critical and highest priority to sustain the progress being made -- on political stability, on peace, but most importantly on economic progress. So this is the opportunity for us to reiterate our support; to strengthen our cooperation; as well as to align our priority to the Government’s own programme. Some US$530 million of investment funding has been mobilized from the International Development Association and trust funds for Liberia during 2009 to 2011. These funds were meant to focus on the Poverty Reduction Strategy, rebuilding state functions and institutions as well as to jumpstart the economy. To what extent was success achieved in the three main areas of focus? Some of the tangible results, for example, are road building and 18  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012


rogress urity…”

electricity, which we are still in the process of supporting and rebuilding with the government. I think that’s the area which is more or less tangible. The less tangible but critical are the areas in which we support the Government in capacity building. We definitely see the growth rate, seven per cent, as the indirect result from the policy framework as well as the development

and construction projects that we are doing here during the PRSP 1. So we will continue to work on that area. During your press conference you talked about infrastructural development for reconciliation. What did you mean by that? This is a country which is not in a normal situation. It has just emerged from a situation of conflict, and conflict is still deep rooted here. That’s why the process of designing the development programme should carefully fit with the continuous and consistent effort to make sure that reconciliation is moving on. If you are dealing with the infrastructure, making sure that they are connecting the people, mobility of these people will make sure that they are becoming more integrated and united rather than divided. If you are designing an education, making sure it also provides the support for this reconciliation process. So when you are dealing with a post-conflict country or society, the design of your development programmes and projects is not going to be neutral to that. We should be fully aware of that element. Now that Liberia has crossed the threshold of HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries), how will the country benefit from international monetary agencies such as the World Bank? Definitely the progress means that Liberia is going to be able to access more although of course it is not in the form of a grant. That the resource that they are going to get will really have the tangible result that can be shared by the people in general. We are fully aware of this urgency. Of course our priority, which is in alignment with the Government’s own strategy, is going to support infrastructure – electricity, roads, agricultural infrastructure, but also increasing and improving the capacity of human capital. This is the area which is going to be very critical. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is working with the government to

build the capacity of national security agencies to be able to eventually take over the security tasks from the peacekeepers. Does the World Bank plan to support the Government of Liberia in strengthening its security infrastructure and institutions? Well, the World Bank as a development partner, we do understand that when UNMIL mission is going to be withdrawn, then the government’s own is going to be very important. But peace and stability is the responsibility of all people here. So although we will focus, and in this case, supporting the government’s effort in building the capacity of the security sector. But, most importantly, it is the economic and social progress that will make sure that the stability and the peace can be maintained. This is the area which the Bank will consider a priority, the area which is really related to economic progress, social progress, equality. As a well respected economist and former finance minister of your country, one of the largest countries in the world, what advice can you advance to improve the Liberian economy? The government, especially in the very critical stage at this moment, has rightly put the priority on the three very important areas. The first is institutional building and that is the area, which I think is related to not only the government but also local government and other institutions which are delivering public services, health and education. The second one is infrastructure. That is related to hard infrastructure such as electricity, roads, agriculture, because most of the employment is in agriculture. The third is human capital. These three very important priorities can only be supported or implemented if the government has the right policy, good governance, transparency, delivering accountability as well as strong institutions. This is the experience of all countries in the world. With that we wish the Liberian people, the economy and the Government all the good luck. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  19


Refugees Return After 20 Years in Guinea By Siebo Williams and Sulaiman Momodu

L

iberians living in Guinea as refugees are facing a difficult choice of whether to return to Liberia and give up the “home” they have known for decades or lose their refugee status by June 30. Some like Bendu Sheriff, 42, have opted to return home with the assistance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Sheriff was among a group

20  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

of 109 refugees who recently returned to Lofa County and found that coming home after almost 20 years away was in her words “a joyful experience.” “Coming home is the best thing that any refugee can do for him or herself,” she said adding that those “who are left behind should take advantage of the exercise and return to contribute to the development of the country.” Another returnee, Yartor Dorbor, urged the remaining refugees in Guinea to return as Liberia is gradually reviving. During almost 20 years of exile in

Guinea, Joseph, a Liberian fisherman, did not know if his family was alive or dead. When he recently found out by chance that they had survived the attack that caused him to flee his native Liberia, he decided he must go back. “For the first time, I am eager to return home. I want to see my family,” said the 55-year-old fisherman, who is joining a growing number of Liberian refugees returning home with UNHCR help before they lose refugee status. A mass sensitization campaign is being undertaken by UNCHR-Guinea


last year. More than 126,000 Liberian refugees have returned home by land, air and sea since the end of the civil war in 2003. “We are happy that a lot of people are now opting for voluntary repatriation. The new Liberia needs people,” said Tchakoly Ali Tchanile, head of the UNHCR sub-office in N’zerekore, Guinea. The refugee agency supported a recent mass information campaign in five West African countries to inform Liberian refugees in the region about the situation in Liberia, which has held two national elections since 2003. The campaign also told them of the options for repatriation or local integration in their host countries. Joseph the fisherman is among those who decided to return, though he was in no hurry to go back until he heard word of his wife and five

Newly arrived refugees from Guinea being briefed by UNHCR official

encouraging more Liberian refugees to take advantage of the voluntary repatriation exercise as the cessation status of Liberian refugees gets closer, said UNCHR-Guinea Associate Public Information Officer, Mariata Sendenu. Once the cessation clause has been invoked on June 30, Liberian exiles will no longer be regarded as refugees . “The reasons that forced Liberians to flee from their country no longer exist,” noted UNHCR Representative in Liberia Cosmas Chanda. Like fisherman Joseph in Guinea, hundreds of refugees in countries of asylum such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, have decided to return home before the deadline. Since the start of 2012, UNHCR has facilitated the repatriation of more than 4,800 Liberian refugees compared to 1,762 for the whole of

to Liberia after many years living in Conakry. In addition to arranging transportation for registered refugees who wish to return home, UNHCR provides a cash grant and additional funding for those who need transport to their home areas after repatriation to Liberia. Not everyone wants to go back home. Joseph Vontaay has lived in Guinea for two decades. The 44-year-old Liberian has decided to stay. “I am a locally integrated refugee,” he said, adding that UNHCR had given him shelter assistance and income-generation support. “I have found a new home in Guinea,” he said proudly. The UN refugee agency is working with the Liberian authorities to deliver national passports to all Liberians wishing to locally integrate. In

The refugee agency supported a recent mass information campaign in five West African countries to inform Liberian refugees in the region about the situation in Liberia, which has held two national elections since 2003. The campaign also told them of the options for repatriation or local integration in their host countries. children. He recalled the day the family was separated in 1991. He was out fishing when rebels attacked their home town in south-eastern Liberia. “There was no way to return home and search for them [his family], so I fled to Guinea. They did not know my whereabouts and I did not know whether they were alive,” he said adding that he had recently been in contact by phone after discovering from a refugee returnee that they were alive. “Talking to my family was the happiest moment of my life. When I separated from my family, my wife was pregnant. I am very happy to learn that my unseen child [a daughter] is now in high school,” added Joseph, who is expected to be flown back soon

addition, UNHCR is working with its partners and the authorities to facilitate integration and to deliver work and residence permits to all Liberians wishing to locally integrate so that their legal status is secure after the cessation. Fisherman Joseph, meanwhile, is already planning his future. “I am very grateful to UNHCR for their assistance to us refugees over the years. Having located my family, I will be returning home a happy man to continue my fishing and start a fresh new life.” Between 1989 and 2003, more than 350,000 Liberian refugees fled the civil war raging in their country. The fighting and violence left an estimated 200,000 dead and more than 800,000 internally displaced. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  21


Sulaiman Momodu/UNHCR Sulaiman Momodu/UNHCR

A harvest of snails

Snail Farming Brings Sm Ivorian Refugees By Sulaiman Momodu

P

apa Tokpa Sadia, 45, is all smiles as he picks up a snail and passionately explains how it is extracted from its shell to prepare a meal. “Snail meat is very delicious and nutritious,” says the Ivorian refugee at the Saclepea Refugee Camp in Liberia. There are smiles and laughter all 22  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

around as fellow refugees enthusiastically concur. Sadia is one of 30 visibly delighted refugees, among them 20 women, who are being trained in snail farming in the camp. The pilot project which started in 2011 is a UNHCR-funded income-generating activity for the refugees. Like their Liberian hosts who eat snails as a delicacy, Ivorian refugees

say back home they used to roam the forests looking for snails for household consumption and income. They express delight that they have what they describe as a “snail village” in their camp. Rather convincingly, they argue that eating snail prevents many diseases because it is very rich in nutrients – it is high in protein and iron, low in fat and contains amino acids.


Sulaiman Momodu/UNHCR

New Ivorian snail farmers

mile to After some months of training, the refugees are now knowledgeable about the various processes snails undergo before harvest. Soils with high organic matter support the growth and development of snails. “The farming starts in the Breeding Pen to Raise Pen, Paddock or “semi-free” Range, and finally to the Free Range,” explains Sadia. Another trainee, middle-aged Mensor Marie, has fond memories of life in Côte d’Ivoire before she was forced to flee to Liberia. “When we were small, we used to go into the forest to look for snails. It was very exciting. Today, it is a good thing that

we are learning how to breed them. What we are breeding here is called Achatina-achatina,” she says, proudly pointing to the name in a pamphlet on snail farming. Marie points out that the snails are easy to take care of. “We give them things like potato leaves, cassava leaves, pawpaw and oil palm residues.” The refugees are being trained by the War Victims Assistance Program (WAVAP) organization. The Executive Director of WAVAP, Dismas Cupson, is a former refugee who acquired the skills and knowledge in snail farming while in refuge in Ghana. Upon his return to Liberia, he trained some Liberians in snail farming as trainers. He explains that in pre-war Liberia, snail meat was traditionally a major ingredient in the diet of people living in the forest belt. “The consumption rate tremendously increased during and after the civil war,” he says.

except the domesticated snails from Côte d’Ivoire. The imported snails are sold for L$14,000 (US$200) for 50kg bag.” Notwithstanding the demand locally and internationally, Cupson says there are no snail farms in Liberia except the one in the Saclepea Refugee Camp. Refugees say there are over 3,500 snails in the pilot project but it will take almost three years for the snails to fully mature with proper irrigation system as snails grow faster in cold places and will not go into dormancy. The farm has two security guards to ensure that the snails are not stolen before harvest. Notwithstanding challenges such as the need for irrigation, Cupson says the key achievement of the pilot project which has now ended is that 30 refugees have been trained in snail farming. The project has also attracted a lot of refugees and Liberians who

Refugees say there are over 3,500 snails in the pilot project but it will take almost three years for the snails to fully mature with proper irrigation system as snails grow faster in cold places and will not go into dormancy. The farm has two security guards to ensure that the snails are not stolen before harvest. Cupson points out that when the civil war engulfed the entire country, food importation, hunting and farming ceased completely. A larger number of the population survived on wild crops and snails. Health authorities and non-governmental organizations working in the area of nutrition in Liberia have been advising the population to eat nutritional foods including snails, according to Cupson. “The demand for snails currently outstrips the supplies,” he says. “In the rainy season, a 50kg bag of snails is sold for L$8,000 (US$125). But in the dry season, wild snails disappear from the market

have expressed their interest to be trained. “I am aware that snails are a delicacy and enjoyed in many parts of the world, however, this is the first snail farm project I have witnessed. The project is unique,” remarks UNHCR Head of Sub-Office Andrew Mbogori, adding that it is part of the livelihood project which UNHCR and partners support as part of self-reliance approach to refugee living in the settlement. Mbogori says an evaluation of the project and others is currently ongoing to determine further support and wider coverage to refugees and host communities. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  23


Sulaiman Momodu/UNHCR

UNHCR’s Andrew Mbogori (R) handing over a binocular

UNHCR Boosts Strategic Health Centre By Sulaiman Momodu

A

n assortment of much needed medical equipment was donated to the people of Zoe-Geh District in Liberia’s north-central Nimba County by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in early April. The equipment delivered to the Bahn Health Centre, once a health facility in dire need of rehabilitation, included hospital beds, mattresses and bed linens, as well as a binocular microscope, laboratory and sterilization accessories. The equipment will be used for outpatient and inpatient care, maternal

24  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

and child health departments, laboratory services, sterilisation, and emergencies. “We all know how strategic this health centre is. What we see here today is overwhelming,” remarked the Nimba County Health Officer, Dr. Cuallau Jabbeh Howe, thanking the UN refugee agency as she received the items on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW). The community is host to the Bahn Refugee Camp, one of seven Ivorian refugee camps in the country. Ivorian refugees who use the centre as a referral clinic as well as local residents expressed gratitude for the donation. Before the arrival of refugees, the public health centre was in a very poor state even though it is the only public

health centre in Zoe-Geh, the second largest district in Nimba County with a population of over 100,000 people. Last year though, UNHCR rehabilitated the facility much to the delight of the local population. “We are here to support the Government of Liberia to provide assistance to refugees. We thank the Liberian people for their immense hospitality and the people of Bahn for hosting Ivorian refugees,” said Andrew Mbogori, head of the UNHCR sub-office in Saclepea as he turned over the equipment worth nearly US$ 28,000. Depending on the availability of funds, Mbogori assured that UNHCR will continue to support efforts to improve and promote health services in Nimba County. In addition to this latest donation of equipment and the recent facelift of the centre, UNHCR Public Health Officer, Dr. Gebrewold Petros Yohannes, said the centre also receives assistance with fuel for electricity, drugs, medical supplies, and technical support. “Recently we also provided assistance in the form of drugs and medical supplies to health facilities in Grand Gedeh and Maryland counties,” Dr. Yohannes added, pointing out that support to health services through the refugee programme also benefits host communities. He noted that the items were procured through the support of donors and urged that the equipment be used for the intended purpose in order to make positive impact on the health of communities. Committing the MoHSW to provide more medical personnel needed at the health centre, Assistant Minister of Health for Curative Services Dr. Saye D. Baawo reiterated that all government health services are free. “The Government of Liberia and partners are providing these things free. We will frown on anybody who will ask patients to pay for medical services,” he stressed. The event was attended by representatives from the Bahn community, refugees, NGOs, UN Agencies, and staff of Bahn Health Centre.


Sulaiman Momodu/UNHCR

UNHCR fulfils Promise

local authorities with logistics during his visit to Liberia in March 2011 at the height of the Ivorian refugee emergency. Chanda lauded the Government of Liberia for providing protection to the refugees and commended local communities for

By Sulaiman Momodu

I

Newly donated vehicles lined-up

Sulaiman Momodu/UNHCR

t was all smiles at the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Monrovia as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) donated six brand new vehicles, including two ambulances and four Toyota LC 200 Land Cruisers, to Liberia’s border counties hosting Ivorian refugees. The donation in May was a fulfilment of promise made during the Ivorian refugee influx into Liberia more than a year ago. The four Toyota vehicles were donated to the superintendents of Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Maryland and River Gee Counties while the two ambulances were donated to the Martha Tubman Hospital in Zwedru and to the J.J Dossen Hospital in Harper. Handing over the vehicles to the Minister of Internal Affairs, UNHCR Representative Cosmas Chanda said the donation was in fulfilment of the promise the High Commissioner, António Guterres, made to assist the

their generosity and hospitality. “UNHCR cannot reward the people of Liberia for their kind gesture. What we are doing is only a token of our appreciation,” noted Chanda. Thanking donors for their support, Chanda said in addition to the donation of vehicles and ongoing assistance to communities in areas such as the rehabilitation of bridges, schools and clinics, UNHCR has further earmarked US$ 2 million to complement the efforts of the Government of Liberia in the implementation of Quick Impact Projects in refugee-hosting communities. Some of the priority projects jointly identified by the UNHCR, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) as well as host communities include expansion of health and educational facilities, supply of school materials, rehabilitation of roads, bridges and markets. Taking delivery of the vehicles, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Blamoh Nelson, expressed gratitude for the donation and thanked UNHCR for its continued support. He noted that the vehicles will go a long way in enabling the county authorities to better discharge their duties.

March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  25


Cross Border Food Se A unique meeting of agencies concerned with regional food security

By John T. Monibah

I

n early May 2012, representatives from NGOs and UN agencies from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia met in Monrovia to discuss new approaches to food security interventions along the Ivorian-Liberian border. The meeting brought together, for the first time since the onset of the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire in November 2010, food security actors from both countries. The occasion marked a “unique” moment in efforts to achieve long term food security for the border communities of the two countries, said FAO Liberia Country Representative Jean Alexandre Scaglia. It created “synergies to maximize allocation of our resources and take better advantage of available skills,” he added. Recent assessments have shown 26  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

that the border region between Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia continues to be fragile and prone to instability. It is marked by limited state capacity and the presence of a number of high-risk groups, including refugees, internally displaced people as well as ex-combatants and armed groups who fought during the political crisis following the 2010 presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire. There are also large numbers of youth that are lacking sustainable livelihood opportunities and can easily be drawn into future conflicts should they arise. Land conflict and social cohesion problems persist throughout the region. The porous border between the two countries facilitates cross-border movements of people and goods, and provides an enabling environment for illicit activities, including the movement of

armed groups. In this context, experts say food security intervention, if carefully designed, can play an important role in stabilizing the region in the mid to long term. FAO officials say the ongoing transition from emergency to recovery and development opens a window of opportunity to tackle the root causes of political conflict and food insecurity, and to build the region’s resilience to future shocks. At the Monrovia meeting, representatives from UN agencies and NGOs from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia agreed on eight cross-border actions outlining a new approach to food security along the Ivorian-Liberian border. (See box) A core group of food security actors working on both sides of the border - including the respective


FAO

offices of World Food Programme, FAO, Norwegian Refugee Council and Danish Refugee Council in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia - has been formed to move the process forward, particularly at field level, including by conducting joint assessments and designing projects jointly. Other food security actors are invited to join efforts to strengthen cross-border collaboration, based on the actions defined in Monrovia. The Monrovia meeting was held to follow-up on a meeting of the UN Country Teams and UN missions from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia in Abidjan in March 2012. While the Abidjan meeting focused on a comprehensive and global framework for cross-border collaboration, the Monrovia meeting focused exclusively on cross-border collaboration of the food security sector/cluster. Terming it a “regional solution

ecurity oriented approach”, UNDP Country Director Dominic Sam urged expansion of the Cross Border Food Security initiative to cover other “volatile areas in neighboring countries”. World Food Programme Deputy Country Director Wurie Alghassim stressed the need for the governments of Liberia and Côté d’Ivoire to play key roles in implementation of the concluding points derived at the meetings. Participants at the Monrovia meetings concluded that developing agriculture based livelihoods yields triple advantage by increasing food security, promoting economic development and furthering food stability and security. Meanwhile the eight member task force on food security will coordinate and monitor implementation of Monrovia Food security principles and promote further cross border collaboration.

Cross-Border Actions on Food Security Strengthen state authority and public trust: Insecurity along the Ivorian-Liberian border. illegal taxation and check-points are serious problems, as are corruption and impunity. People’s trust in state authorities is low, and state presence and capacity is weak. Sustainable solutions to food security require secure access to farms and markets. Food security actors need to work with the Governments of both countries, alongside other actors, to help build state capacity and re-build public confidence in national institutions.

Engage in partnerships on social cohesion and land tenure: Social cohesion and land tenure concerns should be integrated. Food security actors need to notably take into account the ethnic composition and the socio-economic dynamics as well as land tenure issues.

Support economic transformation: Cash crop production is already very strong in certain areas of the border region, and has potential for further development. Cash crop production will need to take into account the complex and fragile land tenure situation, and must not undermine the protection of classified forests which are already under much pressure in Côte d’Ivoire. Local and national authorities need to be strongly involved in programmes to promote cash crops. In areas where forest resources are already under much strain, the modernisation of food crop production and the promotion of short-cycle livestock production can be a viable alternative to cash crops and provide greater protection of forests. The development of small-scale industries for the transformation, handling and transport of goods, as well as the rehabilitation of roads would also boost the economic development.

Ensure medium to long term interventions: Transiting from the humanitarian to the recovery and development phases, food security actors need to start tackling the root causes of food insecurity and helping build resilience to future shocks.

Tailor interventions to specific profiles of refugees and IDPs: There are specific target groups in the border region that will require tailor-made food security interventions and support. These include returnees from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia (including fighters who returned), refugees not willing to return, IDPs in Côte d’Ivoire and former combatants, as well as households hosting IDPs and refugees. Food security actors must provide support to these groups taking into account their specific background and the challenges that they face. Food security actors need to participate in and make use of platforms to share information with populations and stakeholders across the border.

March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  27


Moses Zangar, Jr./UNMIL

A resident of Bacconi village learns to read and write

Making Women Stronger One Class at a Time By Moses Zangar, Jr.

“M

y eyes are now open. I can now c o u n t from 1 to 50.” Those were the words of Esther Weah, one of 40 rural women beneficiaries of an economic empowerment programme sponsored by UN Women in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Development. The programme enabled Esther to read, write and experience a formal classroom education for the first time in her life. Acquiring literacy and numeracy skills was an immense source of joy for all the women. Regina Toe, a single mother and school drop-out said the programme was first rate because the “instructors are wonderful and very understanding to each individual’s needs. They make me feel as if I am 28  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

going to make it no matter what obstacles I may have,” she said. Esther, Regina and the other students are inhabitants of Bacconi, a small fishing village of over two thousand people in Grand Bassa County. The economic empowerment project they benefited from is being replicated in Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Gbarpolu, Rivercess, and Margibi Counties. For six months the women are immersed in adult literacy, fish preservation and tailoring as a prelude to further work -- learning how to run Village Savings and Loan Associations. “The Village Savings and Loan Associations provide an opportunity for the women to participate in a savings programme, earn interest on their savings, as well as to access credit to expand their businesses,” said Emily Stanger, Programme Manager of the Joint Programme for Gender Equality and Women’s Economic

Empowerment (JPGEWEE). “By increasing women’s access to financial services, improving their numeracy and literacy skills, and enhancing their economic skills in viable sectors, we are decreasing women’s economic vulnerability and ensuring that they have the self-confidence and financial independence to take a stand against violence in their homes and in their communities,” Stanger said. One of the most important components of the project is its focus on dialogue with men, and community and religious leaders. According to Stanger, the dialogue works to raise men’s awareness of the benefits of women’s empowerment for their communities and their households. They also serve to educate the community on laws protecting women in Liberia, including the rape law and the inheritance law. “UN Women will continue working with the women of Bacconi to build their skills in conflict mediation and peace building and to ensure that the community has direct linkages to the local branch of the Liberia National Police,” she said. Since starting the tailoring and literacy programme in early May 2012, Weah, 59, who has never sat in a classroom before, said she is now able to recite and write the English alphabet, something that she couldn’t do before. UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, established to accelerate progress in meeting their needs worldwide. The Economic Empowerment of Women and Girls is one of the three key strategic priorities for UN Women in Liberia. Additionally, the Government of Liberia and the United Nations system in Liberia prioritize interventions for women’s economic empowerment within the JPGEWEE. Several beneficiaries interviewed praised the programme and said the initiative will help lift them psychologically.


Community-Based Networks Set up to Fight Gender-Based Violence By Frances Alesi

Frances Alesi/UNMIL

A

new strategy to prevent gender-based violence has been designed and launched in six counties of Liberia -Bomi, Gbarpolu, Nimba, Lofa, River Gee and Grand Bassa -- to help create awareness of gender-based violence issues in the community and monitor the functioning of the justice, health and police systems regarding their support to survivors of such violence. Known as the Gender-based Violence Observatory Networks, this new initiative of the Ministry of Gender and Development has been designed with funding support from the Norwegian Government. The networks include representatives of community-based organizations working on and supporting prevention and response to gender-based violence in their respective communities. There are around 8-10 members in each network in a county. The representatives include members from rural women’s networks, youth organizations and leaders of traditional groups. Gender experts say the first six county assessment showed most common cases of violence are wife beating, physical assault, persistent non-support, family abandonment, child abuse (forced labor, child beating), and rape. Most communities resort to traditional methods of mediation to address these cases. In Bomi County the observatory networks have decided to raise awareness about early marriage, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, the Inheritance Law, Rape Law and what experts call Gender-Based Violence Referral Pathways – the easiest way for survivors to report

Raising awareness about gender rights

violent crimes and find support. The observatory networks, once fully functional, will hold bi-weekly meetings per district to discuss gender-based violence issues that have been brought up in their community groups as well as activities to be carried out. The observatory networks will work in collaboration with rural women’s organizations and other non-governmental organizations involved in gender-based violence programming, and will work hand in hand with the County Gender Task Force. A representative of the Observatory Network will be present at County taskforce meetings to provide and receive updates on GBV activities in the counties. The networks have been encouraged to set up support groups for men which are known as Men as Partners to Stop Violence against

Women. These male societies aim to encourage men to talk about violence against women in their communities at weekly “men-only” meetings with women officials of the observatory network in attendance. During these meetings the participants give their views on the causes and consequences of violence against women and children; and talk about how they can help end such crimes. The observatory network is still in its nascent stage and a round of training with all observatory network members is planned for June and July. All networks will be provided with logistic support to facilitate monitoring and create awareness in the communities. The key idea of such a network is that for any prevention strategy on gender-based violence to be successful it must be owned, managed and implemented by the community. March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  29


Liberian

“Do Liberian Media Practise

Robert Youquoi, Private Security Personnel, Monrovia: Well, I can’t give them 100%. They are trying their best to expose the ills in our society. Equally some journalists practise negative journalism. They air reports that do not bear facts. But by and large they are doing well for us. The fact that they expose wrong doings in government and society at large is something that I personally appreciate. For this reason I give the media 75%. The journalists are the watch dogs keeping watch over all the wrong things without which ordinary people would not know of wrongs deeds in our country.

Joe K. Williams, Politician: Yes they do. However, there is no society with absolute good and absolute evil. By measurement, I think Liberian media perform to an average of 75% responsibility. They are doing their best and the public should support the media for bringing to light the wrongs in our society. Without them we would not know the evils and the positive things going on in Liberia. Responsible journalism is presenting the facts and following ethics of the profession. I remember during the last elections journalists went into remote areas providing on the spot reports about election activities. What the public should do is to give them their support. 30  •  UN FOCUS  •  March - May 2012

Weade Kobbah-Wreh, Chairperson & Assistant Professor, Mass Communications, University of Liberia, Monrovia: My response to that is two-fold. Yes and no. I believe the media are polarized along those lines. There are a group of professional media practitioners and there are smaller more destructive groups of people who pretend to be journalists and who are not. Those are the ones who do more damage to our profession than the ones out there who are professionals. I will give 70-30 percentage points, seventy percent for those practicing professional journalism and thirty percent for unprofessional journalism (slanted stories). Most media institutions in Liberia are not owned and managed by professional journalists. Some are managed by people who don’t have the professional wherewithal and by politicians who try to serve their own political aims. Properly trained journalists are not being recruited to work in mainstream media because most media institutions cannot afford to pay them commensurable salaries. Those journalists ironically seek employment with NGOs and a few open their own institutions and are self employed.

Augustine Tebleh, Manager, Dugbor Law Firm & Junior Student, Louis Arthur Grimes School of law, University of Liberia: On I would say no. There are only few media institutions/journalists that I believe practise professional journalism. What I notice tells me that many media practitioners particularly journalists engage in yellow journalism. They don’t balance their stories. As a professional journalist what one must do is to balance the stories because the story you get from one source may not be the fact. On many occasions I read the newspapers and see that the headlines contradict the body of the story. That is sensationalism. The media should do the best they can because the media are watch dogs of society. They are the bridge between the people and government and society at large. They should be promoters of peace. Just like the legal profession, lawyers are not parties to the case(s) they handle. They are to remove themselves from cases just as journalists must not be parties to reports or allegations they handle. Somebody may falsely implicate another person in a case. As a professional journalist you must rationalize the case and get the other side of the story before reporting and this is what I see lacking in most reports I read in some local dailies. People rely on the media for information. Some reasons for poor quality journalism in Liberia are that most of our journalists lack better training and some take the profession for survival purpose not as a career.


ns Speak

e Responsible Journalism?”

Miatta Fahnbulleh, Singer/Women Activist, Monrovia: The media are part of our society. Work by the media right now is substandard. No training. They lack the capacity and this in itself is an illness. Here is the reality. People are coming from high school thinking they can write stories, thinking they should be heard on radio when they are not articulate in the English Language. They don’t have the training in interview particularly in broadcasting, and that is disastrous. Most people tell me they prefer to listen to the BBC rather than listen to local radio broadcasts because it is so bad. That also extends to some of the written media (newspapers). You have individuals coming from mass communications colleges and you read or listen to their broadcasts you wonder what happened to their English 101 course at the university. Well, like in school, if we were to grade them on the scale of 10 as highest point, I would grade Liberian journalism four and half to five points and that’s because I want to be very understanding and supportive. The reports in some newspapers are gossips not bordered on investigative journalism. They report stories that should be followed up, they never follow up. Most stories they report are based on political sentiments.

Sam D. Monbo, CPA, Monbo & Company, Monrovia: I think the media in Liberia practise responsible journalism. I read all the newspapers and comparing them with newspapers that I read yesteryears, I think Liberian journalism and news contents have improved today than before. Journalists follow the issues and report them on time. This is encouraging. Percentage wise I will grade Liberian journalism 80%. There are some journalists who do not research their facts and this is where the twenty percent issue lies. They need to improve on that. Newspapers lack coverage and circulations to the length and breadth of Liberia. They are just concentrated in Monrovia with bulk of their reports about events occurring in Monrovia excluding those events taking place in rural communities. The people in the newspapers business in Liberia run it as entrepreneurs. They don’t operate as corporate entities with people buying shares. Therefore they lack investment capital that enables them reach out. This is another area of the twenty percent failure. They make the newspapers business a Broad Street (Monrovia) business. They need to improve on this too which is another twenty percent problem. Yes there are some bad journalists. But to a large extent, journalism now is on the right track although some people may have different views about this.

Lurleen King Falla, Principal & Chief Administrator, B.W. Harris High School, Monrovia: For the most part, I do not believe the media practise responsible journalism in Liberia. Most times they get reports that they do not check or verify their sources. The broadcast medium tries sometimes to balance their reports, but in the event they fail to balance their reports, they allot time to the accused party to comment on the matter. I will give the broadcast medium 80% and print medium the rest. There are more sensational stories in the local media especially the print. Liberians are people who let things go for the next person’s action. They don’t take delight in court cases. As a result, the media take advantage of stories that injure peoples’ characters. I recommend that we have more professional people who are journalists. Not anybody can become a journalist. People have come here to my office not properly dressed, who do not speak English Language well and they call themselves broadcasters. Print media, used to be one of my favourites. I used to like reading the newspapers because when one looked for professional journalism and standardized English the newspapers were the place to look. Now when you read editorials, I don’t know. I don’t want to be bother by that.

March - May 2012  •  UN FOCUS  •  31


UN FOCUS, Vol. 8, No. 03 A publication of the United Nations Mission in Liberia Public Information Office www.unmil.org


Security Council Visits Liberia