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U.S. Department of State
96/01/25 USUN Press Release #006-(96)
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY USUN PRESS RELEASE #006-(96)
CHECK TEXT AGAINST DELIVERY JANUARY 25, 1996
Statement by Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright, United States
Representative to the United Nations, in the Security Council on the
Situation in Liberia, January 25, 1996
The Council has convened today to examine among a wider group of Member
States the Secretary-General's fifteenth progress report on the United
nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) and to discuss the future
I have just returned from a trip to Africa, including Liberia.
President Clinton asked me to travel to Liberia to assess the situation
there. Although I have not yet reported to President Clinton, I would
like to express today some observations and reflections on the situation
First, I share many of the views set forth in the Secretary-General's
report. The peace process indeed is at a critical juncture "and the
full support of all concerned will be required to overcome the recent
setbacks." The Secretary-General's observations about maintaining the
cease-fire, the need for more resources to help ECOMOG to fulfill its
responsibilities effectively, and the need to reintegrate ex-combatants
into civilian society: these are all central to finding a lasting peace
I am both skeptical and hopeful about the prospects for peace in
Liberia. On the one hand, Liberia appears to have hit rock-bottom. On
the other, members of the Council of State seem to be working well
together and all claim, at least, to be committed to peace. Thus far,
they are acting as though they are committed.
Yet, it is unclear whether their commitment will be sustained as
disarmament begins and elections approach. It is also not certain that
each of the main warlords can maintain control of his fighters. Some,
who feel left out of the process, may be capable of undoing it.
The conflict in Liberia is among the elites, not the people. They are
not fighting over ideology, but over personal power. That creates both
risks and opportunities. The risks are that the drive for personal
power, particularly among the extremists, can lead to further carnage
and destruction with little interest in preserving or building society.
The opportunities are that it is difficult to sustain a power struggle
on personal ambition alone. Ultimately the people want peace in the
absence of any ideological goal. The people of Liberia want peace.
In my meeting with the Council of State, I stressed the importance of
the Council's role in keeping the peace process on track so that ECOMOG
deployment -- temporarily interrupted by fighting and attacks on
civilians in various areas by the ULIMO followers of General Johnson --
can recommence. I said that although the United States and the
international community remain committed to helping Liberia, only
Liberians can make the peace. I told them that the international
community is losing its patience. The Abuja peace process that took so
long to negotiate and is now at a critical state of implementation. The
moderates will have to perform better if they are to sustain the support
of the international community.
The members of the Council of State offered many reasons for the delay
in disarmament and demobilization. Everyone but themselves were to
blame. My message to them was simple. "No more excuses." There can be
no further delay in implementing the most important provisions of the
Abuja Agreement, namely, those on disarmament and demobilization. As
far as the United States is concerned, the word "delay" can no longer be
part of the vocabulary of the Council of State. Otherwise, the fragile
peace that does exist will collapse.
Overall, at least for now, I found ECOMOG performing well. They seem to
be playing a neutral and constructive role now, as opposed to various
times in the past. Despite ECOMOG's losses in recent weeks, I was
impressed by General Inienger's resolve to move forward in the face of
adversity. We believe ECOMOG deserves our support, both for the
important role it is now playing in Liberia and because it represents an
important precedent in regional peacekeeping that should be encouraged.
We believe, however, the ECOMOG's force structure should be more
diversified among Member States of the region if it is to constitute an
authentic regional peacekeeping operation worthy of international
support. We also believe that ECOMOG must enter into a status of forces
agreement with the LNTG so that ECOMOG's operations in Liberia are
As the Secretary-General points out in his report, the international
community "must provide the resources necessary to enable ECOMOG to
fulfill its responsibilities effectively." In recent years, the United
States has provided $420 million in humanitarian assistance and $60
million in support of ECOMOG's peacekeeping activities. On October 27
the United States pledged an additional $75 million to support peace,
including $10 million to assist ECOMOG logistically. The vehicles
ECOMOG desperately needs to facilitate disarmament and demobilization
have begun to arrive under the $10 million pledge and we hope to provide
a total of up to 100 vehicles within the near future. In fact the
deployment of ECOMOG troops in December was only made possible by using
trucks leased by my government through the assistance of the United
Nations. However, I said while in Monrovia that the United States has
no intention of allowing its logistical support to be squandered by a
failure of political will -- by any side -- to achieve the objectives of
the Abuja Agreement.
The United States calls upon other Member States to provide similar
assistance as quickly as possible. The assistance is needed not only
for ECOMOG itself, but also to provide a more attractive demobilization
package for ex-combatants.
I also want to acknowledge the courageous work of the observers of
UNOMIL. Their role is vital to the success of the Abuja Agreement.
When I was in Monrovia, I stressed to UNOMIL officers that in addition
to monitoring the disengagement and disarmament of the combatants and
assisting in their demobilization, we expect UNOMIL to follow through
urgently on its other responsibilities, including investigating and
reporting to the Secretary-General on human rights abuses, any major
violations of international humanitarian law, and on humanitarian
assistance activities. We have noted with some concern the criticism
from the NGO community that UNOMIL is failing to meet these
responsibilities. We have no doubt it is a tough assignment. I told
the Council of States that no party should hinder UNOMIL's important
We are studying the Secretary-General's recommendation that the UNOMIL
mandate should be extended for a period of four months until May 31 with
an interim report by the end of March. We believe it is very important
for the Council to continue to review the situation to assess the
progress of disarmament and demobilization and of preparations for
elections, which are scheduled for August under the Abuja Agreement.
There is a simplistic way of looking at Liberia -- that it is a land of
chaos. I do not subscribe to that view. It is true that Monrovia is a
devastated city. Yet I witnessed a daily life on the streets that
embodies a discipline and hope that the leaders of the country must
nurture and live up to.
I delivered a blunt message to the Liberian leadership in Monrovia: the
era of the child soldier in Liberia must come to an end -- immediately.
It is an outrage by any standard of civilization that children under the
age of 15 and numbering between 4,000 and 6,000 are toting automatic
weapons, slaughtering innocent civilians, and ignoring the rule of law.
They have no identity other than through the weapon they carry. We
believe UNICEF can play a key role in rehabilitating these abused
children and I pressed that point during my discussions in Monrovia.
The United States stands ready to assist UNICEF and the people of
Liberia to save these children.
Many UN relief agencies are actively assisting the people of Liberia. I
visited with many of these administrators. We can all be proud of their
contribution in the face of adversity. But the international community
needs to go one step further and consider how demobilized soldiers and
other citizens can be put back to work rebuilding their infrastructure
which, to put it bluntly, is trashed. The international community
should have the technical assistance and other resources to help
rehabilitate Liberia through technical and financial assitance for
doable, targeted public works projects.
Implementing the Abuja Agreement is Liberia's best chance to achieve
peace and justice. The violence must end and the hatred must subside.
Liberia's leaders must find the political will, and its people the
political courage, to succeed in building a new peaceful and prosperous
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