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