By Prudence Arobani
The Head of UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Farid Zarif, has commended the outgoing President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for the prevailing peace in the former war-torn country.
Zarif said the legacy of Sirleaf was also connected to the legacy of UNMIL, which would wind down in March after 15 years of operations in the country.
He said UN peacekeepers, working with national authorities, managed to bring peace and stability to the country, to help it rebuild and to pave the way for renewed economic growth.
“We are very confident that with the departure of UNMIL, Liberia will be in a far better situation to meet the challenges of the future,” Zarif said.
According to him, all security duties have been transferred over to Liberian officials in June of last year.
The UN official, while noting continued vulnerabilities and fragilities, said Liberia was a very rich country endowed with many natural resources.
“With improved management of those resources, along with a diversification of the macro-economy and support from the international community, the country has the potential.
“Sirleaf should be credited for providing a vision for the future of Liberia. And if elements of that vision are implemented, Liberia will soon become a self-sustaining society.
“Her legacy is very much connected to the legacy of the UN mission in Liberia,” Zarif said.
Sirleaf would step down in January after two terms in office and would be succeeded by George Weah after official announcement following Tuesday’s second round of vote.
This would be the first time one democratically elected leader in Liberia hands over power to another in more than 70 years.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation, was due to arrive in the capital, Monrovia, on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres requested Obasanjo to travel to Liberia as part of the UN’s continued good offices engagement.
‘Good offices engagement’ is a term for third-party assistance in mediating a conflict – and to help support an orderly and peaceful transition of power.
Ahead of the Dec. 26 election, as well as the first round of vote on Oct. 10, UNMIL chief said the Mission supported national election officials, even delivering voting materials by plane.
According to him, other branches of the UN provided technical assistance.
Zarif said UNMIL also carried out its good offices engagement with community members, bringing together local leaders, faith-based organisations, the media, women and youth, among others.
“We thought that based on past experiences of violence, we need to really invest in preventive diplomacy. Together we have been very successful in avoiding all forms of violence.
“Even demonstrations did not happen, let alone mortalities or casualties. So we are very happy with the success of the good offices,” Zarif said.