Both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN had deployed personnel to Liberia during the war in an effort to contain the violence and expedite an end to the conflict. Although those operations ultimately failed, the talks that took place in Ghana during the summer of 2003 provided renewed impetus for a fresh multilateral deployment if an agreement was found. On 1 August 2003, weeks before the Accra Agreement was signed, the UN Security Council authorised the deployment of the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL), to prepare the ground for the arrival of a UN mission.1 Two months later, following the conclusion of the negotiations in Accra, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) took over from ECOMIL. The Mission was reinforced until 2005, when the number of personnel peaked at 15,000 peacekeepers and 1,100 police.2
Liberia was left devastated by 14 years of armed conflict. Its national infrastructure and state institutions had been destroyed and thousands of combatants remained scattered across the country, weapons in hand. These challenges only served to magnify the task of ensuring the fragile peace that had been negotiated in Accra did not fail as a dozen previous agreements had. Thus, upon its deployment, UNMIL’s priorities were managing the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration process, training the newly established police force, providing border security, building the capacity of other state institutions, and repairing infrastructure to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid.3 Between December 2003 and November 2004, UNMIL disarmed more than 100,000 former combatants.4 In January 2004, UN Police launched a training programme for the Liberian National Police and helped to re-open the national training academy. The first class of 127 police cadets graduated from the programme within a year.5 In October 2005, presidential and legislative elections went ahead with the support of UNMIL in a safe and secure environment. In 2006, work began on building a new military for Liberia, with UNMIL providing support to the process alongside the US.6 In February 2018, UNMIL withdrew from Liberia, leaving a small contingent of ECOWAS personnel and a UN Peacebuilding office in the country to monitor events.7 This sustained effort helped to prevent a conflict relapse in Liberia.