Ambassador Sulunteh: UN has confidence in Liberia

Liberia's ambassador to the US Jeremiah C. Sulunteh

Liberia’s ambassador to the US Jeremiah C. Sulunteh

Liberia’s ambassador accredited to the United States of America says the United Nations’ decision to withdraw its peacekeeping forces from Liberia is predicated upon its confidence in Liberia to build on the progress made since the deployment of the peacekeeping mission in 2003 and to continue the remarkable job it has done in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking on March 26 at the 26th inaugural program of the Union of Liberian Associations in the America (ULAA) held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh noted that the Government of Liberia in 2015 prepared, in close consultation with UNMIL and other stakeholders, a plan for a security transition.

The plan sets clear benchmarks for Liberian authorities to take over all security responsibilities, such as providing presidential guard, civilian policing, immigration and border controls, and national defense, he said. 

Ambassador Sulunteh further informed the audience that the post-UNMIL drawdown plan is less about replacing the peacekeeping forces; rather, it’s more about addressing the challenges of maintaining security, peace and access to justice in post-war Liberia.

The ambassador passionately pleaded with Liberians at home and those returning to Liberia from the diaspora, to join the peace-building efforts.

He emphasized the need for active community and law enforcement-friendly participation in sustaining a lasting peace for Liberia. 

“A successful security paradigm will require a concerted community involvement, consultation and cooperation among ordinary citizens, stakeholders, as well as, capacity building for justice and corrections personnel to be deployed throughout Liberia.” Ambassador Sulunteh noted

Liberia with only about 5,000 police officers, a little over 2,000 military personnel, inadequate immigration personnel as well as limited number of officers of the Coast Guard officers, the ambassador confirmed that there is a dire need to increase manpower training for the security sector.

In addition to increasing the number of security personnel, Amb. Sulunteh admitted that though numbers matter, it must not be a dependable factor; logistics are equally needed to enhance effective security operations, in order to enjoy the confidence of the communities.

Meanwhile, at his recent congressional testimony on Liberia at the United States capitol in Washington D.C, Ambassador Sulunteh emphasized that peacekeeping missions should not only be about restoring peace, they must be about sustaining the peace, which includes training and capacity building as a major component of roles and responsibilities.

He made a specific reference to the Liberia disarmament process where, UNMIL disarmed over 60,000 Liberian ex-combatants; however, the mission failed to efficiently change the mindset of the ex-combatants, and today, many of them are seen in the communities engaging in armed robberies.

The ambassador confirmed that part of the post-UNMIL drawdown strategy and in preparation for elections in 2017, the Government of Liberia and the United Nations have agreed on a plan to have 1,500 military forces in Liberia.

According to him, this will be an effort to support government’s plan which stresses a shift from militaristic security to human security. “In addition, the UN has established a Regional Quick Reaction Force based in the Ivory Coast to respond to threats within Liberia and Ivory Coast under a UN Intermission Cooperation Agreement.” Amb. Sulunteh noted.

In concluding his testimony, the ambassador strongly recommended that there should be a post-withdrawal back-up plan, including a small, but robust military presence in Liberia, with appropriate military hardware, as observers during the 2017 general and presidential elections. After which, professional recruitment, training and capacity building of the military and paramilitary personnel should be carried out before a final withdrawal from Liberia.

In a related development, Ambassador Sulunteh, speaking at a recent town hall styled meeting in Minnesota hosted by a group called, Friends of Jeremiah Sulunteh, unveiled his personal level of contributions to the Liberian development and reconstruction process. 

Ambassador Sulunteh confirmed that he will play a key role in the upcoming general and presidential election in Liberia. “Make no mistakes; I will play a key role in the upcoming 2017 Election in Liberia.” 

The quiet and charismatic ambassador who has also been awarding academic scholarships to qualified Liberians at U.S colleges and universities through his personal philanthropy initiatives said, “We should not leave the future of our country to chance comes 2017.”

Making direct reference on what his level of involvement in the coming elections will be, the ambassador concluded that “Jesus Christ didn’t die because he couldn’t prevent death; He died to save mankind; therefore, when we accepted to step aside during the 2011 Senatorial Elections, we did not do so because we could not win Bong County, we did so because we wanted to save the soul of our party and the county we must fully participate in the change in 2017 that we so desire for our one and only country Liberia.”

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