United Nations Takes Over Peace-Keeping Mission In Liberia This Week


The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted October 1, 2003

The multinational United Nations peace keeping force under the name ‘United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL’) is expected to formally begin its operations in the country, come Wednesday, October 1, 2003.

Pursuant with UN Security Council resolution 1509 as envisaged by resolution 1497 and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of August 18, 2003, UNMIL takes over from the ECOWAS "vanguard" stabilization force, ECOWAS’ Monitoring Group in Liberia( ECOMIL) which has successfully executed its mission in Liberia beginning with securing the Roberts International Airport (RIA) and gradually deploying its 3,500 strong multinational force between the belligerent forces of LURD, MODEL and the GOL.

The deployment of the first elements of ECOMIL began on schedule on August 4, 2003. Since then, approximately 3,500 soldiers, comprising two Nigerian battalions, one battalion from Guinea Bissau and companies of varied size from the Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Togo have been deployed in Monrovia and its surroundings. A contingent from Benin is expected shortly.

UNMIL’s specific mandate include providing support for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, monitoring the terms of the cease-fire agreement including human rights violation, facilitating humanitarian relief efforts, protecting civilians from violence, establishing the conditions for the safe and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons, supporting the National Transitional Government, supporting the creation of conditions under which elections can be held and eventually supporting those elections, among other tasks.

UNMIL’s deployment constitutes four phases and the first phase considered "initial operating capability" is the first step toward the main deployment.

This first phase which covers the period from October 1, until the force headquarters is operational on November 1, 2003, will include the establishment of an interim headquarters, the transition of ECOMIL elements to UNMIL and the deployment of logistics assets and other key capabilities such as engineers and aviation.

This first phase is to lay the foundations for the subsequent phases and it "unlikely" to include any major expansion in the number of troops already here.

There continues to be appeals coming from various quarters for the rapid deployment of peacekeeping troops to Nimba and other parts of the country where fighting is still raging to separate belligerent groups; however, ECOMIL has insisted that they are presently stretched thin. Of the 5000 troops envisaged to have formed the initial vanguard force, only 3,500 multinational forces arrived and were deployed.

Additionally, during this first phase, it is also "highly unlikely" of increasing the operational deployment much beyond the general areas of operations now covered by ECOMIL. Though there is the expectation that the newly established UN force will move into other parts of the country in support of the broader objectives of the international community.
Any UNMIL operations during this initial phase will be dependent on certain key assets, such as military air assets, being deployed early, as well as issues of force protection and logistics sustain ability.

The United States Government has always maintained that their deployment of troops to Liberia would be to boost ECOWAS’ efforts in bringing peace to Liberia and their duration here would be limited. They have provided logistical support for ECOMIL and positioned a task force of over 2,000 marines off the coast of Liberia since August 4, 2003.

During the first phase of the "initial operating capability" ECOMIL headquarters will play the role of brigade headquarters for the Monrovia sector. This interim UN headquarters, will not only assume responsibility for military operations, but will also act as a key element in the transition to the main force headquarters, when it deploys.

The second phase of UNMIL’s operations covers the period after November 1, 2003 with the establishment of "transitional operating capability" as the force expands and deploys into four sectors of the country, including the existing one in Monrovia, each sector containing a brigade-size formation of approximately 3,000 troops.

Those ECOMIL contingents with the appropriate level of capability, transitioned to UNMIL will constitute a brigade that will operate in the Monrovia area.

In addition to the four brigades, there is a requirement for a properly constituted reserve and key assets such as logistics, aviation and engineers which will bring the total force to 15,000, including 250 military observers and 160 staff officers.
Deployment will commence with the three additional brigade headquarters, their lead battalions and support elements and will be followed by the remaining battalions as quickly a possible.

© 2003: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.