18 August 2008The struggle with the rule of law and competition over natural resources threatens Liberia’s fragile stability despite its economy showing significant improvement, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council today. The struggle with the rule of law and competition over natural resources threatens Liberia’s fragile stability despite its economy showing significant improvement, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council today.“Overall, the main threats to peace and stability emanate from the law and order maintenance issues,” Mr. Ban reported, while recommending a 12-month extension to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) through September 2009.“Much still needs to be done, urgently, to strengthen the capacities of both the police and the army, and facilitate their effective presence in the country,” Mr. Ban added.The delay in the reinforcement of the national police and the establishment of an Emergency Response Unit is making it difficult for UNMIL police units in Monrovia to reduce its tasks and redeploy to other “hotspots” around the country.Consequently, Mr. Ban proposes expanding the size of the UNMIL police units from 605 to 845 officers, and calls on Liberia’s international partners to urgently provide assistance in building a national police force. More than 60 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line and the country scores among the lowest in the world in key social indicators, posing a potential risk to a delicate peacebuilding process, Mr. Ban reported, while noting an increase in Liberia’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 9.4 per cent and a significant reduction in external debt.While the increased value of natural resources has contributed to an improvement in the Government’s revenue, “it has created a stronger incentive for illegal exploitation of natural resources, particularly minerals and rubber,” Mr. Ban warned.The recent surge in fuel and food prices as well as political instability in neighbouring Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire could also have negative implications for security in Liberia. Mr. Ban, however, recommends continuing with the planned reduction in UNMIL military personnel, repatriating almost 1,500 – including troops, officers, observers, and engineering and administrative units – leaving a troop strength of just over 10,000 by September 2009. “UNMIL will be able to continue to discharge its mandate of maintaining a stable and secure environment and providing the necessary security umbrella throughout the country to enable the Government to continue its reform and restructuring programme,” Ban reported.In a related development, work started on an UNMIL-funded magisterial courthouse in Unification Town, about 45 kilometres from Monrovia, last week. The $25,000 courthouse, when completed, will bring to 17 the number of such buildings constructed and rehabilitated across Liberia by the UN mission since 2004.“They say that the strength of a chain lies in its weakest link: so does the strength of a judicial system lie in its magisterial courts,” said Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, the Deputy Head of UNMIL, at Saturday’s ground-breaking ceremony.