Wrapping up a relatively quiet trip to Africa, the UN Security Council toured Liberia, a country that has calmed after years of devastating war, but which still has the potential for instability. Addressing the topic of the UN peacekeeping mission that has operated in the country since 2003, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, offered this:
Asked when the country would be able to stand on its feet without peacekeepers, Johnson-Sirleaf told Reuters after talks with a Security Council delegation: “Two years after the elections. Then we can ask everybody to leave.”
Four years (elections are scheduled for 2011) may seem like a rather arbitrary timeline, but the Secretary-General and Security Council representatives on the trip — including U.S. ambassador Susan Rice — were inclined to agree with the schedule, as well as with the proposed troop drawdown to come. The UN is currently omnipresent in Liberia, and its peacekeepers play an important role in making sure the country remains safe, stable, and democratic. And as Nick Kristof’s most recent column attests, some problems — one of the worst, in fact — have stuck around even as peace has settled in.