Liberia is a collapsed state that has become in effect a UN protectorate. Whether its political and economic reconstruction can begin depends on how quickly security spreads throughout the country. Squabbles over jobs by leaders of the armed factions have caused near-paralysis in the transitional government. Faction leaders tried to block disarmament until they received more jobs, boding ill for the peace process. The display of cynicism and greed by fighters and political leaders alike has undermined international confidence ahead of the donors? conference that meets in New York, 5-6 February 2004. There is also concern about the role the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) can play in restoring peace. While many hold that with a Chapter Seven mandate, 15,000 troops and 1,115 civilian police it can hardly fail, internal coordination and management problems have contributed to insecurity at least in the short term. ?The honeymoon is over for the UN in Liberia?, a senior UNMIL official told ICG in late 2003 after the fiasco surrounding the start of disarmament on 7 December. The decision to start that process so early was a dangerous miscalculation. UNMIL was not ready. It did not have enough troops on the ground, and coordination with UN agencies was poor. Failure to have all appropriate mechanisms in place led to days of chaos, the deaths of nine people (suspected members of armed factions) and the wounding of one peacekeeper. Fighters loyal to the former government (now officially one of three armed factions) and its ex-president, Charles Taylor, clashed with UNMIL peacekeepers. Disarmament is rescheduled to start in late February 2004, with more peacekeepers deployed and improved coordination. Liberians still have high hopes that UNMIL will help to provide sustained peace but it will need to ensure that it does not continue to make costly mistakes. It needs no reminding that peace processes in the 1990s failed partly because of poor disarmament. Another failure would have grave consequences for an already troubled West African region as well as for future peacekeeping operations elsewhere. There are worrying signs that the leadership of the two main factions formerly opposed to Charles Taylor?s government, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), are trying to keep their fighting forces intact ? not least in case their regional sponsors, Guinea and Côte d?Ivoire respectively, need them to tackle internal dissent and participate in wars of their own. The main spoilers are politicians associated with armed factions. Often, fighters appear more committed to peace than their political masters. No faction leader has any political vision for governing Liberia. It has become evident, five months into the peace process, that some politicians are prepared to jeopardise peace for the sake of jobs. The two years of UN-led transition are seen as a moment to grab whatever is worth having of a bankrupt state. Internal divisions, particularly within LURD, also may disrupt the peace process. UNMIL needs to use a solid reintegration package to peel the fighters away from the politicians, leaving the spoilers vulnerable and unable to threaten the peace. On the other hand, failure to deal with fighters? expectations would undermine UNMIL efforts, leaving the chain of command between fighters and faction leaders in place. UNMIL must also work harder at achieving local ownership. So far, it has been unwilling to devolve significant power or responsibility to Liberians. To a large extent, however, it has had little choice. The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), which includes among others an unsavoury mixture of greedy, malicious and murderous characters, cannot be trusted to implement the peace accords. Its civilian chairman, Gyude Bryant, is hamstrung by the unscrupulous behaviour of politicians supported by the armed factions. Neverthel