One and a half years since the fall of Charles Taylor’s regime and one year since the International Conference for Reconstruction for Liberia (1), Liberia’s fragile peace remains under threat. The failure of the international donor community to honour their aid pledges, which now total over US$600 million, the lack of progress by the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) in reforming key institutions and the severe shortage of reintegration programmes for over 100,000 ex-combatants are undermining efforts to promote regional stability.
“Donors and the Liberian government must show greater commitment to both funding and implementing reform and reconstruction programmes in a timely, transparent and accountable manner”, says Mike Lundberg, of Global Witness (2). Key targets of the Results Focused Transitional Framework (RFTF) action plan have not yet been met, and “unless adequate security is established and the problems of poor governance and corruption are tackled now, the entire region could slide back into chaos”.
Poor pre-planning and lack of funding for the UN-led Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process has resulted in a US$60 million budgetary shortfall (3). There are currently only 26,000 reintegration programme places (4) for the 103,000 people demobilised (5), and frustration over delays has led to violent riots and to some ex-combatants being recruited to fight in Côte d’Ivoire.
The NTGL still lacks the capacity to adequately control its interior, borders and natural resource industries, leading in part to the UN Security Council renewing its arms, timber and diamond sanctions in December 2004 (6). There are strong historical links between the logging industry and the perpetuation of armed conflict in Liberia, and ongoing logging activities, much of it carried out by former rebel generals and other armed elements, continue to generate large amounts of revenue that go unaccounted for. Reform of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the government agency that oversees the logging industry, has been slow, and a lack of administrative capacity and funds for judicial reform has left the NTGL unable to properly enforce law and order.
Liberia’s reconstruction crisis is exacerbated by the large shortfall in funds for humanitarian aid agencies. The World Food Programme (WFP), for example, which plans to feed some 900,000 refugees and displaced persons in Liberia in 2005, has only received 10% of the funds needed for its current West Africa operations (7), and in June 2004 was forced to reduce rations to almost 40% below normal levels (8).
“While there are a number of new crises around the world, donors and the international community must not forget the need for urgent assistance for Liberia”, says Lundberg. “With the conflicts in West Africa integrally linked, successful completion of the DDRR process, governance reform and reconstruction programmes in Liberia are essential to the entire region’s prospects for peace”.
For press inquires please contact Mike Lundberg of Global Witness at +44-(0)207-561-6372.
Notes for the Editor:
(1) The International Conference for Reconstruction for Liberia was held from 5-6 February 2004 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, USA.
(2) Global Witness is an investigative non-governmental organisation that focuses on the links between natural resource exploitation and conflict and was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. For more information on Liberia, see other Global Witness reports and briefing documents, available at www.globalwitness.org: ‘Dangerous Liaisons: The ongoing relationship between Liberia’s natural resource industries, arms trafficking and regional insecurity’, December 2004; ‘Resource Curse or Cure?: Reforming Liberia’s governance and logging industry’, September 2004; ‘Liberia: Back to the future-What is the future of Liberia’s forests and its effect on regional peace?’, May 2004.
(3) ‘5th progress report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission in Liberia (S/2004/972)’, 17 December 2004.
(4) ‘Money runs out to train, rehabilitate disarmed fighters’, Irinnews.org, 2 December 2004.
(5) United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Press Briefing, 19 January 2005.
(6) United Nations Security Council Resolution 1579 (S/2004/1579).
(7) Global Witness correspondence with World Food Programme (WFP) staff, January 2005.
(8) ‘Returning refugees will starve unless donors provide more food’, Irinnews.org, 13 September 2004.
Press Release / Feb. 9, 2005