The United Nations closed its peacekeeping mission to Liberia on Thursday, 15 years after it was deployed in the aftermath of two civil wars ending with the fall of then president Charles Taylor.
The mission withdrew most of its 15,000 troops in mid-2016, signalling the West African nation can meet its own security needs. Some 2,000 UN forces remained in case of an emergency, but over time they have pulled out.
“This mission contributed to the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia,” President George Weah said in a joint address with visiting UN Deputy Secretary Amina Mohammed.
“We salute the men and women in blue helmets who came from far and near, some of whom paid the ultimate price for peace”.
Weah was sworn in to cheering crowds in January, a testimony to how far Liberia has come since civil wars left almost 250,000 people dead and turned children into killers. He replaced Africa’s first woman president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after a hotly contested but peaceful election a month earlier.
After being bogged down in quagmires such as Mali, Central African Republic and Congo, it was welcome news for a UN peacekeeping mission to be able to leave a country where peace is restored.
“The results were over time but there were 100,000 combatants disarmed and reintegrated,” Mohammed told Reuters. “The youth are taking ownership as custodians of peace.”
She added “there’s a lot of consolidation that needs to be done.”
Founded by freed American slaves, Liberia is Africa’s oldest modern republic. Though now peaceful, youths complain little has been done to tackle widespread graft or lift Liberians out of dire poverty.