The Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)* provides in Article VII for the restructuring of the Security Sector with a new command structure. The call for the restructuring of the security sector was essential given the suppression and brutality that has characterised the Liberian security sector’s history. In 156 years of existence, Liberia’s security has been that of regime security, not of civilian security, with a security sector that engaged in state sponsored terrorism and institutional violence. It failed to legitimise its role by protecting the populace. Thus, many Liberians do not currently view the security sector as an agency of protection.
The arrival of the international community is seen by civil society and the public at large as an opportunity to recreate the Liberian security sector as one that responds to the genuine needs of the populace. As such, the security sector reform process is a crucial element in sustaining Liberia’s nascent democracy.
However, while Article VII (3) of the CPA provides for the participation of the Liberian people in determining the nature and character of the security sector, through public dialogue, the current process is skewed in the direction of international donors. For example, civil society sees the current army training process as flawed, in that it is contradictory to the establishment of a national security architecture that is governed by and is responsive to the requirements of the Liberian people. It is viewed as a concept implemented without the necessary involvement of key stakeholders - primarily the legislature. The army is being built without its citizens having the opportunity to either debate a national security doctrine or partake in a national security threat analysis. Furthermore, civil society is not involved in the vetting process of the new army, and Defence Ministry officials have complained of not being consulted by DynCorp** on numerous issues.
The Liberian government is not being directly involved in the restructuring of the army and police forces, nor is civil society. Yet establishing these two security agencies from the beginning as pillars of a democratic government with civilian oversight is fundamental for peace and stability in Liberia. On 26 May 2008, ex-members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) called for the impeachment of the president for what the group termed a ‘violation of the CPA’. The ex-soldiers contended that instead of restructuring the AFL, as provided for by the CPA, the government had dissolved the army without a retiring scheme for the former soldiers.
These serious conflict issues should not be ignored. What is clear is that the absence of key stakeholders in the SSR process could erode public confidence in the new security architecture.
* The Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed by Liberian Politicians and leaders of warring factions, in Ghana in 2003.
** DynCorp is a a Private Military Company contracted by the US government to train the Armed Forces of Liberia. They are also training the Liberia National Police Force.
For further information, please contact Urias Pour, Liberia Policy Research Group (LPRG)
Liberia’s prolonged war effectively ended in 2003 after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) and the deployment of 16,000 UN troops. Elections in 2005 brought to power Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female President in Africa. Since then the country has made steady progress. In August 2007, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1777, approving the drawdown of its mission in third phases, but by 2010, after the third phase, there will still be 9,000 UN troops in Liberia.
The problem is that the country remains very fragile, and indications – including an alleged coup attempt in 2007 and an escalation of violent crime – are that regime and human security remain at risk. Both the Liberian government and its development partners, including the UN and US, are making remarkable efforts to (re)build state institutions across the country. But the process has been painfully slow and somewhat lacks coherence.
The CPA had called for the restructuring of the Liberian Army (AFL) and Police (LNP), but because these two institutions had been so badly degraded, efforts in this direction has gone falteringly. Since 2004, with no money to build a new police force, the UN police (UNPOL) had been assisting what remained of the LNP to maintain law and order, and UNPOL also recruited and vetted new officers. The LNP has reached its targeted strength of 3000, with a further 500 to be trained as an elite special force by DynCorp, an American security company. But 3,500 police is obviously very small for a country of over 3 million, falling way below the UN’s stipulated police-citizens ratio of 1:400.
ICTJ in 2004 provided advice to UNPOL on the reform of LNP and other law enforcement agencies (at the end of the war, Liberia had 15 uncoordinated state security agencies), and helping civil society actors effectively engage with the SSR process. An internal ICTJ report on an assessment of the police vetting process in early 2008 found that “although surveys in 2006 and 2007 suggest that public trust and support to the Liberia National Police has improved significantly, it is clear that there is much work still to be done to encourage national confidence in the institution and ensure internal respect for human rights standards.” At the moment there are about 90 Community Policing Forums in Monrovia alone, but these hardly meet, are badly coordinated, and few people know about them or the work they are supposed to do. The result is that citizens-police relations are so poor that often enraged community people have in the recent past physically attacked police officers, suspecting them of collusion in criminal activity, at crime scenes, and in a few instances outside of Monrovia, citizens have burnt down police posts and badly assaulted police officers (in a few instances leading to the death of officers.) With the escalation of armed robbery and other violent crime incidents, the situation threatens to worsen.
The creation of an army has been even more fraught. DynCorp and PAE, also an American company, were given the contract by the US – which had pledged $210 million for creating a new AFL – to recruit and train a new army of 2,500. DynCorp was tasked to “recruit and make soldiers”, and PAE to “mentor and develop them into an operational force.” The process has been expensive, opaque and very slow; expenses for the two companies in the first six months of 2007 was $18 million, but by August 2007, only 105 soldiers had gone through basic training. Recruitment accelerated after, and over 700 soldiers are now being trained.
The targeted strength of the army is 2000, and women have been granted a 20 per cent quota. But because of the poor record of the army, the vetting, recruitment and training processes are rigorous, and it is unlikely that this quota will be fully taken up. It also means that the entire process has been slow and very expensive. Recruits are tested for HIV Aids, TB and related health problems, and their background is rigorous checked – including by placing posters with their pictures for identification across the country. Recruits have to be reasonably educated, which means that women – who were far more disadvantaged during the war in terms of access to education – are reluctant to apply, and many who do have failed the various tests.
Command and control of an army being built from scratch is also an issue, and there have been efforts to recruit former officers in the AFL to lead the new army – a very fraught expediency given the notorious record of the AFL.
Civil society has raised questions about transparency with respect to funds for DynCorp and PAE, but the concerns have been rebuffed since the funds come directly from the US treasury, and the reporting requirements do not allow for such open disclosures. But the concern of Liberians is clearly legitimate: before Liberia’s war the US spent about $500 million mostly on the Liberian army, and that army proved atrocious.
There is also a conceptual issue which captures some of Liberians’ anxieties. The Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy (iPRS) paper of 2007 placed “enhancing national security” ahead of the rule of law and economic development on Liberia’s list of priorities, a deviation from standard SSR principles. This is of interest since the excuse of “national security” was used in the past to abuse individual rights, setting the stage for the civil war.
For further information, please contact Lansana Gberie, Senior Associate of ICTJ and Head of Monrovia Office
The Document Library contains links to a number of SSR related documents either focussing specifically on SSR in Liberia or looking at the country alongside others as a case study. A selection of these are listed below: