UN Council Assesses DRC, Liberia Peacekeeping Operations

20 May 2009

The UN Security Council is in Liberia, the last stop on its four-nation visit to Africa to assess peacekeeping missions. The visit to Monrovia is a show of support for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The 15 UN Security Council ambassadors arrived in Monrovia Tuesday night to examine the progress made since 2005, when Liberia elected Africa's first woman president. Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist, is trying to revive the failed state she inherited after 14 years of civil war and the misrule of former president Charles Taylor.

Obama administration's UN Ambassador, Susan Rice
Obama administration's U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice
Washington's U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is leading the Security Council delegation. Speaking to VOA on the flight into Monrovia, Rice said Liberia under President Johnson -Sirleaf is no longer a failed state, but is still a fragile one.

"It's fragile because the region remains relatively unstable," Rice noted. "Fragile because of armed groups operating outside the territory of Liberia, and because of the high rate of unemployment, former combatants who haven't found alternative livelihoods and haven't been reintegrated into society, and that's all been exacerbated by the global food crisis and financial crisis."

UN is assessing progress

Rice says ambassadors are assessing progress ahead of Security Council decision due later this year on extending the life of the country's UN peacekeeping mission UNMIL. She says UNMIL's mandate is likely to be extended until after Liberia's 2011 presidential election.

"This will be the second democratic election following that which brought President Sirleaf to power in 2005," she said. "Everybody is of the view that this election is a critical milestone to help consolidate democratic progress, and UNMIL will continue to be present through that time frame, we expect."

Largest peacekeeping operation is in DRC

Tuesday, the Security Council visited the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, to discuss the future of the largest UN peacekeeping mission. The 17,000 strong force known as MONUC is currently engaged in joint military operations with the Congolese army, which is accused of war crimes against civilians.

Ambassadors met DRC President Joseph Kabila and Prime Minister Adolf Muzito to present a list of five suspected war criminals currently on active duty in the Congolese army. France's UN ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said the Congolese leaders had promised to investigate charges against the five.

Human Rights Watch this week charged Congolese soldiers of crimes including rape an murder. The government called the accusations "lies".

Joint mission aims to drive out Rwandan rebels

MONUC recently joined forces with the Congolese army, known as the FARDC, this year in an ongoing campaign to drive out Rwandan rebels operating in the remote mountainous eastern DRC region.

MONUC and Security Council ambassadors have expressed misgivings about working alongside suspected war criminals. But they say it is the best chance for defeating the Rwandan rebels, who are accused of widespread atrocities during a 15-year insurgency that began when they fled into the DRC after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.