The delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. El Ghassim Wane, was accompanied to the Foreign Ministry by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Liberia, Mr. Farid Zarif, who is also the head of the UN Operations in Liberia.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, in welcoming the UN Team to Liberia, Deputy Foreign Minister Shoniyin said meeting with Zarif and the visiting team is always interesting for the Liberian Government and the UN Mission in Liberia.
Mr. Shoniyin said the people and Government of Liberia were grateful for the level of support from the UN, particularly from 2003, with the formation of UNMIL and the very meaningful role it has played in restoring and maintaining peace in Liberia.
He told the UN Assessment Mission head that he was certain that when they begin to fully interact with Liberians they would feel and see how grateful Liberians are to the UN family.
“UNMIL has not only been with us in the security sector, but also greatly worked in civil affairs. They have helped us to restore some of our civil institutions also, including the private sector,” he stated.
Acting Minister Shoniyin further told the UN Team that the Liberian Government would appreciate the current configuration of UNMIL, moving forward until after 2017.
“For us, 2017 is going to be a very critical period and a test of how consolidated and firm our peace and stability is. It will also give us a sense of how strong and firm the ‘shock absorber’ is to respond to potential issues of pre or post-election crisis.
“We are anticipating that the election will go on without any crisis. However, it is also important that we leave room for any unlikely event. With that in mind, we believe that the maintenance of the current configuration will be extremely
important at this time and at the end of 2017,” Mr. Shoniyin emphasized.
Responding, Mr. Zarif spoke of how the UN values the quality of its relationship with the Liberian Government.
“It’s based on mutual respect and understanding. This has enabled us to be very frank and candid with each other and to discuss issues relating to peace and stability for the government and people of Liberia and the international community,” he stated.
He told Minister Shoniyin that the composition of the UN assessment team shows the importance the UN attaches to the relationship it shares with Liberia.
The team includes UN personnel from the UN Secretariat as well as other levels of that multinational body.
“The reason for this composition is that the UN wants to develop a very comprehensive understanding of the situation in Liberia and make recommendations for the future,” Mr. Zarif added.
According to him, since the team’s arrival on August 29, they have been talking to a lot of people on the ground, including government officials and representative of civil society organizations, among others.
Also making remarks, UN Assistant Secretary-General Wane underpinned what Mr. Zarif had said earlier, that the composition of the delegation is a further indication of the strong partnership between the Liberian Government and the UN.
“We have been requested to work in partnership with the UN Mission here to come up with recommendations on what the future should be in our relationships.
“Our assessment is based on what has been outlined by the UN Security Council, including assessing the security situations on the ground and the extent to which Liberian institutions have catalogued the achievements that have been made on the ground,” he added.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials attending the meeting included the Deputy Minister for International Corporation and Economic Integration, Dehpue Zuo; Cllr. Deweh Gray, Deputy Minister for Legal Affairs; Assistant Minister for Public Affairs, Mr. J. Wesley Washington; and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Alberta Doe.
The visiting UN Assessment Team meets with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf later this week.
The UNMIL’s mandate expires on September 30 and the Council is expected to adopt a resolution later this month renewing the mission’s mandate in its current configuration for a period of three months, pending the recommendations of this assessment mission due in November.