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Jun 2, 2015 | Publications

Security Sector Reform Considering the prevalence of militarized institutional structures and practices in Liberia, it will take a long time before any security sector reform (SSR) efforts have a major impact on people’s everyday security. However, the Liberian government has introduced key policy frameworks that aim to professionalize the security sector: the Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs), Lift Liberia (PRS I) and the Agenda for Transformation (PRS II). However, there are major gaps between these policy documents and actual implementation. Currently, the Liberian National Police (LNP) consists of around 4,000 personnel, which is half of the recommended amount by United Nations (UN). Moreover, the vetting process was not very comprehensive and there are still police officers with a history of human rights abuses. Overall, UNMIL and the United Nations Police in Liberia (UNPOL) have been responsible for most police reform efforts. However, even after heavy investment in police reforms, many challenges remain. For instance, only 23% of police officers are based outside of the capital. In addition, training is behind schedule due to lack of funds. As a result, the police force is severely under-staffed and has limited capacity, infrastructure and resources. Moreover, there is a major disconnect between the SSR process and justice sector reform. Lack of oversight and accountability of the security sector are also major issues. As international funding for SSR continues to dramatically decrease, the Liberian government is trying to step in as a SSR leader but it will be unable to match the previous contributions of international donors. Consequently, the future of SSR in Liberian is bleak. However, worthy of special note is a unique SSR initiative, the Joint Security and Justice Programme (JSJP). Under this initiative, five regional peace and security hubs have been created to “provide decentralized and holistic approach to justice and security”. The hubs intend to bring the LNP to areas outside of the capital, but they will also bring different security sector institutions together under one roof, such as Police Support Units, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization officials, prosecutors and corrections officers. Unfortunately, awareness of this initiative and the peace hubs is quite low and they do not play a significant role so far in improving personal security perceptions. Limitations in the DDRR process With some interruptions, the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process began in December 2003 and ended in October 2004. It processed 100,000 ex-combatants who went through disarmament and demobilization stages. However, as it often happens in DDRR processes, the rehabilitation and reintegration stages of the process have been considerably delayed notably due to, lack of funding and poor planning. In addition, limited job opportunities mean that ex-combatants have limited alternative ways of making a living. Perceptions of Police Although there are ongoing concerns about corruption, more and more people are beginning to view police agencies as a legitimate security providers and personal security perceptions are improving. In fact, 18.4% of people in urban areas cited police as the most important group for their personal safety, while 76% in urban areas and 33% in rural areas reported that if they were victim of a crime they would go to the police first. The reason for such low percentages in rural areas is that police presence there is weak or non-existent. As a result, 53% of respondents in rural areas preferred to go to customary leaders or courts. Overall, only limited progress in SSR has been achieved, but it at least somewhat positively affected the perception of personal security in Liberia. The study found that the main factors have been the presence of UNMIL and a relatively stable political settlement. As UNMIL is drawing down its military presence in Liberia, it is worrying what effect that will have on the SSR process, security governance and the general security environment in Liberia


Margarita Yakovenko received an MA from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa and was recently an intern at the Centre for Security Governance and the Security Governance Group.