15 October 2003


NEW YORK, 14 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the inauguration of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, as delivered today in Monrovia by Jacques Paul Klein, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia:

Today marks a turning point for Liberia.  Following a decade and a half of civil war and failed attempts to make peace, this is a day full of hope, but also fraught with challenges.

The hope springs from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the Liberian parties in Accra on 18 August 2003.  The steps taken so far to implement the Accra Agreement are encouraging.  The nomination of members of the National Transitional Government and the National Transitional Assembly has gone well -- and we are witnessing today a smooth handover to the Transitional Government led by Chairman Gyude Bryant.  The armed parties have established dialogue within the framework of the Joint Monitoring Committee.  Monrovia has been declared a weapons free zone, and has enjoyed relative calm since the deployment of ECOMIL in early August.  Humanitarian assistance is reaching significant numbers of those in need.

But the challenges ahead are daunting.  The armed parties must honour the ceasefire agreement and begin the process of disarmament without delay.  The entire nation must work together in forging national reconciliation and promoting development.  Liberia’s natural resources need to be managed properly so that they benefit the whole country.  National institutions must be built that can sustain peace, security, justice, and social and economic development for all Liberians. Liberia has to work with its neighbours to tackle cross-cutting subregional issues, including the proliferation of small arms and the activities of mercenaries.

The onus of making all this happen rests, first and foremost, with the National Transitional Government and the people of Liberia.  This is your country, and yours to rebuild.  I urge you to seize the opportunity provided by the international attention and resources currently directed towards Liberia.  The international community has already extended a crucial helping hand through the ECOWAS-led mediation efforts, the deployment of ECOWAS and United Nations peacekeepers, the return of humanitarian agencies, and the support of donors.  It will continue to facilitate the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, provide a security umbrella throughout the country, reform and train the police force, restructure the army, and assist in the reconstruction of the country.

I would like to thank all those who helped Liberia to reach this point -- including the leaders of ECOWAS who launched the peace effort; the gallant men and women of ECOMIL who deployed in Liberia at the most difficult time; and outgoing President Moses Zeh Blah for the leadership he provided during the delicate period leading up to today.

I also ask for your full cooperation with UNMIL and with my Special Representative, Jacques Paul Klein, to meet the challenges of reconstructing Liberia and facilitating a successful transition to the 2005 elections.  The United Nations will work closely with Chairman Bryant, the Transitional Government and all the people of Liberia.  If we work together, we can ensure that this day truly marks a new beginning for your country.

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