A Ghanaian peacekeeper with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is pictured on guard duty during a visit by Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIL, in Cestos City, Liberia. Photo ID 535529. 16/11/2012. Cestos City, Liberia. UN Photo/Staton Winter.

The UN Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia is Coming to a Successful End

By the end of this month the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia will no longer exist. The mission, known as UNMIL, is closing shop after nearly 15 years in operation.  This is a a major milestone and success story for both Liberia and the United Nations.

In 2003, it was hard to imagine this day would ever come.

Around 250,000 people had been killed in a singularly brutal civil war. The infrastructure that existed in the country was decimated. Most Liberians who had the opportunity to leave country had fled.

Fifteen years later, thanks in large part to UNMIL, Liberia is a stable democracy with a rapidly developing economy. It was a hard slog, but Liberia has made incredible strides and is emerging as a beacon of political stability in a volatile region.

In 2006, Liberia it was the first country in Africa to elect a female head of State, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. After serving two terms she stepped down peacefully and ceded power to her political rival, George Weah, who won free and fair elections. This was no small feat. Throughout the region, leaders tend to cling to power beyond their constitutionally mandated limits.  If they do cede power, it is typically to political allies. Liberia bucked this trend. To be sure, Liberia is still a very poor country, but it now has the basic security and political stability needed to thrive as a democracy in Africa.

On the line with me to discuss how UNMIL was able to work itself out of a job is retired Col. Christopher Holshek. Col. Holshek was one of the few American officers to serve in UNMIL and he explains just how the UN’s role in Liberia transitioned from peace keeping to peace building. There are so few American military officers who serve in UN peacekeeping missions, his perspective on this question is very unique.

The folding of the UN Mission in Liberia is a good news story coming out of the UN. It demonstrates that UN Peacekeeping is a powerful tool the international community can deploy to help countries manage the fragile transition from conflict to peace.

If you have 25 minutes and want to learn why UNMIL was a success, have a listen.

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