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Liberian National Security Strategy

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also Commander-in-Chief, said 11 February 2013 that a National Defense Strategy will be released shortly, which will outline the strategic imperatives for the AFL. According to President Sirleaf, this Strategy document will consider basic principles of human security, an environment of openness, quality of growth, regional and international peace and security, and an Armed Forces that is subject and accountable to civilian authority. “Upon completion of our National Defense Strategy, work on the National Military Strategy is expected to commence shortly as the architectural design for the Military Table and Organizational and Equipment for the AFL,” the Commander-in-Chief disclosed.

The Government launched a three-year Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2008 that focused on security, economic revitalization, rule of law/economic governance and infrastructure and basic social services. The Liberian National Security Strategy, upon which the security section of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) is based, has not been made public, but by 2008 the Government of Liberia was moving ahead on the basis of the strategy. The PRS process has forced the Liberians to begin to plan long-term, and while progress had been made, more effort and resources are needed to make the Liberia National Police a viable force. The Liberians are working to strengthen the greatest weakness of the security section of the PRS -- the costing -- but that should not detract from the overall success of the process.

Liberia's Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) paper on Consolidating Peace and Security is based primarily on the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Liberia (NSSRL), which has been approved by President Sirleaf, but has not been published or made public. However, the PRS text was drawn from the draft NSSRL, and the Priority Action Matrix is closely aligned with the NSSRL Implementation Matrix (NSSRL-IM).

The relative ease of preparing the security sector portion of the PRS compared to the other pillars was the result of months of work of the Security Sector technical team. Originally, the task of writing a national security strategy was given to the Governance Commission (GC), and after months of delay, the GC produced an essentially unusable document. The UN brought in a British security expert to work on the strategy, who worked with the Liberian technical team to draft a second strategy paper, with direct engagement by Ambassador and by former SRSG Doss, the team developed a strategy that reflected the proposals contained in the Rand report "Making Liberia Safe: Transformation of the National Security Sector." The technical team then "merged" the two drafts, using much of the text of the GC draft, but keeping the actual strategy of the team's draft.

Of greatest contention was the decision to make part of the strategy to streamline the law enforcement and intelligence functions. The merged draft eliminated the Ministry of National Security, merging those functions with the National Security Agency, with the NSA becoming the lead intelligence agency. It also planned for the elimination the National Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency, and folding those functions into the Liberia National Police (LNP). The GC argued that competing agencies would limit the power of any one agency, and in any event, more discussion was needed. However, consolidation of these organizations made it into the NSSRL and the PRS.

During the county consultation phase of the PRS process, roads, education and health were the main focus of discussions. However, underpinning those discussions was an assumption the Government of Liberia would provide for security, especially the ability of the LNP to enforce the law without abusing human rights or corruption. The Liberians participating in the discussions made clear their safety was crucial to their well-being.

The Security Pillar includes several agencies and services. The US Government has played a major role in three of those, with a leading role in The Armed Forces of Liberia and the Special Security Service (SSS -- the President's protective service), and a contributor to the LNP, and especially a leadership role in the formation of a new SWAT-like Emergency Response Unit (ERU). Other agencies include the National Security Agency, the National Fire Service, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, and the Corrections Service. The PRS does not single out contributions of individual donors, and therefore does not note the central role the US Government played in developing the new AFL. It did, however, keep to the timeline of creating a 2,000 soldier force by 2010, and called for the creation of a Coast Guard within the three-year PRS period. The PRS called for the creation of a police Civilian Oversight Board by December 2008 as well as the formation of the ERU by December 2009. The PRS did not provide for any specific goals for the SSS, but the agency is included in several initiatives to streamline operations and reduce overlapping functions.

The Security Pillar moved forward on a costing exercise based on the NSSRL-IM, and presented the results at the Liberia 2008 Poverty Reduction Forum in Berlin. The exercise showed a three-year costing of the security sector of nearly $376.8 million, which was substantially above the $252.4 million projected in the PRS. The new costing exercise, while much more thought out than the one-line figure in the PRS, was as much a wish list as an analysis of priorities given expected budgetary constrains and limits in donor support, or a reflection of existing donor commitments, such as for training and equipping the AFL. For example, the National Fire Service costed for six fire engines and 10 ambulances, none of which were funded.

The stark contrast of the two figures should not lead one to assume that to PRS itself is flawed. The PRS and NSSRL processes were running in parallel, but in harmony and that the Security Pillar was not able to meet the PRS deadline is not fatal. Several initiatives, such as the consolidation of agencies and the creation of a Coast Guard, required legislative actions, and both the National Security and Intelligence Act and the National Defense Act remained stuck in the Legislature.

The withdrawal of UNMIL was linked to Liberia's ability to assume its own security. Further donor support was needed to avoid a longer than anticipated high level UNMIL presence, or a departure of UNMIL that results in instability. The NSSRL and PRS processes were good catalysts for planning within Liberian security agencies for the three years 2008-2011.

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Page last modified: 07-10-2013 19:05:47 ZULU