Posted by: africanpressorganization | 13 January 2009

Liberia / Uneven Progress in Security Sector Reform

 


 

Liberia / Uneven Progress in Security Sector Reform

 

MONROVIA, Liberia, January 13, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Liberia has gone far since Charles Taylor was overthrown, but its security reform has serious gaps, and the biggest challenges are just beginning.

Liberia: Uneven Progress in Security Sector Reform,* the latest International Crisis Group report, says despite real progress since the civil war ended in 2003, much more is required to counter public dissatisfaction with the police that has resulted in increasing resort to mob justice. The lack of an agreed strategic concept for use of the new security structures, including the army, means no one knows who would defend the country if a new insurgency broke out or instability spilled over its borders from neighbours.

“Army rebuilding has gone relatively well despite an irregular flow of funds and inadequate infrastructure and equipment”, says Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group West Africa Project Director. “But the tough tests are ahead. UN peacekeepers have begun to pull out, and the U.S. – responsible for army training – will also soon be drawing down. The question is how well Liberia will be able to manage on its own. An over-the-horizon emergency guarantee should be discussed with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)”.  

After the civil war, the UN, the U.S, and private military contractors set out to rebuild the police and army basically from scratch. The U.S sub-contracted army training to private military companies, in part because it was overstretched globally, and the State Department has provided shoddy oversight for the contractors’ work. After multiple delays, there are now 2,000 rigorously vetted and trained privates but still only a handful of officers, and the force will probably be unable to work at brigade level before late 2010. Moreover, the government and donors need to do much more to nurture a managerial and leadership core, as well as develop threat assessments to serve as the basis for planning how to prepare and employ the new structures.

The police have been recruited, vetted and trained to a far lower standard than the army. Despite the presence of honest and hardworking officers in the ranks, they are still widely considered ineffective and corrupt and are heavily criticised for allowing a recent spate of armed robberies. Dismal community relations and a belief that a still corrupt justice system often returns criminals to the streets within days of arrest have led to the burning of several police stations by angry crowds of citizens and the growth of vigilantism in Monrovia.

“The police desperately need a combination of managerial expertise, strategic vision, and – once benchmarks have been set for its use – a major increase in resources”, warns François Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “Unless partners, especially the U.S. and the UN, maintain their efforts to make Liberia more secure and stable for the next few years, the investment made since the end of the war could easily unravel”.

 

 

SOURCE : International Crisis Group


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