Thursday, July 29, 2010

Liberia: New UN backed prison to help country rebuild

UN - The United Nations deputy envoy in Liberia has assured the country of the world body’s continued support for recovery and development in the West African nation, which include a new modern UN-funded prison and a centre where peacekeepers will teach vocational skills to young people.

Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, Deputy Special Representative for the Rule of Law at the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), handed over the maximum security prison in Sanniquellie, the provincial capital of Nimba, to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf today.

The facility was built by the UN in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice in Sanniquellie at a cost of $350,000 – provided by the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which provides assistance to jump-start rebuilding projects in countries emerging from conflict.

It has the capacity to hold 72 inmates, with separate facilities for men and women, and electricity, sanitation, kitchen and recreational facilities, as well as a solar-powered water pump and rain-harvest water storage to guarantee a constant supply of water.

The Peacebuilding Fund has also sponsored the training of 50 new corrections officers, 20 of whom will be deployed to the new prison. In addition, Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers in Sanniquellie will assist the inmates with farming implements and seedlings to grow vegetables and cassava for their own use.

In a report issued in February, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that, more than a decade after its civil war, Liberia is heading towards reconciliation but significant challenges remain in the development of its security and legal institutions, which will impact the future of the UN mission there.

Noting the need to ensure that the Liberian National Police are independently operational and that Liberia redoubles its efforts in the area of rule of law, Mr. Ban identified financial resources as a requirement for continued progress in Liberia.

The areas that need sustained donor support, he said, include the establishment of an efficient communications system, and the construction of a new Monrovia Central Prison to replace the existing structure, which is “overcrowded and dilapidated.”

While in Sanniquellie, Ms. Mensa-Bonsu also took part in the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the Bangla-Nimba Capacity Building Centre, where Bangladeshi peacekeepers will train Liberian youth in vocational skills, including information technology, tailoring, health care, carpentry, plumbing and cosmetology.