United Nations Mission in Liberia

International Information

International Operation Name: United Nations Mission in Liberia

International Mission Name: United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Africa

Location: Liberia

Mission Date: 19 September 2003 - Present

Mission Mandate: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1509, 19 September 2003

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was created by Security Council Resolution 1509 on 19 September 2003, as a Chapter VII operation. UNMIL’s mandate includes a long list of duties, but can be summarized as supporting:

  • Implementation of the cease-fire agreement
  • Humanitarian and human rights assistance
  • Security reform
  • Implementation of the peace process.

CF Mission/Operation Notes: Liberia, a small poor West African nation, was founded by freed African-American slaves. The descendants of these freemen form about 5 percent of the country’s population, which includes at least 16 indigenous ethnic groups, but it was the Americo-Liberians who maintained power until 1980, when Master Sergeant Samuel Doe staged a bloody coup. This began a period of violence that lasted until 2003 and saw more than 200,000 civilians killed, more than 900,000 seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, children forced to serve as soldiers, and ever-increasing levels of human rights abuses, corruption and ethnic tension.

One coup attempt against Doe failed in November 1985. Another led by Charles Taylor from the territory of the Ivory Coast, began in 1989 and precipitated a seven-year-long civil war which itself served as an impetus for entirely new guerrilla groups to form. A cease-fire was finally arranged in August 1996, but fighting erupted again in August 1999 when the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) spearheaded attacks against the government. In June 2003, with assistance from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) a truce appeared to be holding. After considerable international pressure, Charles Taylor finally stepped down. West African mediators called for a UN-led peacekeeping mission. The Security Council authorized the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on 19 September 2003.

UNMIL was not the first UN mission in Liberia. In 1993, the UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) was tasked to support the ECOWAS Military Observer group (ECOMOG) in implementing the 1993 Cotonou Peace Agreement, which took until 1996 to implement.

At the time that UNMIL was created there were 3500 ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL) troops in Liberia. Composed of soldiers from eight West African countries, ECOMIL was not prepared to run a UN mission of 15,000 troops. The Stand-by High-Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) was requested to provide a headquarters component for UNMIL during the transition from ECOMIL to UNMIL. The SHIRBRIG personnel would augment the UN Interim Headquarters until the main UN force headquarters arrived, which was tentatively scheduled for 1 November 2003. SHIRBRIG would then leave Liberia around 6 November.

(SHIRBRIG is composed of nine full participant European nations and Canada. Five other European nations are also participants, while five other nations, including one each from Africa, Asia and South American are observers.)

SHIRBRIG was scheduled to provide 35 personnel across the spectrum of headquarters responsibilities. The personnel rendezvoused in Copenhagen before deploying to Monrovia, the Liberian capital, on 23 September. They then began transferring responsibility from ECOMIL to the UN, with the UN taking full responsibility for peacekeeping on 1 October.

Despite the peace agreement, tension in Monrovia remained high and fighting broke out on 1 October, when the UN was blamed for allowing LURD leader Sekou Conneh into the city, an event that sparked rock throwing and then escalated. The fighting stopped within a day. Disagreements between LURD and the Liberian interim leader, Gyude Bryant, also resulted in interference with UN humanitarian operations, a clear hint that events could become violent.

ECOMIL troops were rehatted (given blue berets) on 1 October 2003. Troops from other nations arrived slowly, but by February 2004, UNMIL had reached its authorized strength and disarmament and reintegration programmes were well underway.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (LIANE)


Date: 18 September 2003 - 21 November 2003

In September 2003, four Canadian personnel deployed with the SHIRBRIG headquarters under the Canadian mission name of Operation LIANE. After conducting in-clearances and mission planning the four personnel deployed to Monrovia, Liberia on 23 September. Two officers (a lieutenant-colonel and a captain) filled the positions of G1 and G3 Plans (Administration and Operational Plans). Two non-commissioned members provided security assistance.

After setting up the headquarters and later turning over responsibilities to the UNMIL permanent headquarters, the lieutenant-colonel returned to Copenhagen on 3 November. The remaining three Canadians remained in Liberia at the request of UNMIL and finished their duties on 14 November. They were back in Canada on 21 November.

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