30 June marked the last day of the United Nations Military presence in the small west African state of Liberia. With a population of 4.56 million [2016 estimate] the UN has overseen the return to ‘normalcy’ since the brutal regime of Charles Taylor was brought to an end in 2003.
Taylor resigned as a result of growing international pressure, and went into exile in Nigeria. In 2006, the newly elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, formally requested his extradition. He was detained by UN authorities in Sierra Leone and then at the Penitentiary Institution Haaglanden in The Hague, awaiting trial by the Special Court. He was found guilty in April 2012 of all eleven charges levied by the Special Court, including terror, murder and rape. In May 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Reading the sentencing statement, Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said: “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”
Arriving in August 2003 as the West African Stabilization Force [WASF] it later became the United Nations Mission in Liberia [UNMIL] with the mandate to ensure security and instil confidence of the people. An estimated 250,000 people lost their lives in the 14-year crisis that engulfed Liberia.
Read the article of William Q Harmon on the leaving of Liberia by the UN forces and what the future holds.
SMA involvement in Liberia began in 1906. Fr Stephen Kyne, from Hollymount, Co Mayo became the Prefect Apostolic of Liberia. The territory was entrusted to the Society and became the first missionary assignment of the Irish Province when it was founded in 1912. Today Liberia is divided into three ecclesiastical jurisdictions under local leadership: the Archdiocese of Monrovia [Archbishop Lewis Zeigler], Cape Palmas diocese [Bishop Andrew Jagaye Karnley] and Gbarnga diocese [Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah].
Fr Gareth Jenkins (from England) is the SMA Community Leader in Liberia.