By Josephus Moses Gray
April 26, 2004
The on-going disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) program aimed at disarming ex-combatants of the three belligerent groups including the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy in Liberia (LURD) and former Government of Liberia (GOL) has gained momentum, with the high Command of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and peace brokers expressing satisfaction over the levels of progress made since the resumption of the DDRR exercise on 15 April 2004.
"We are encouraged by the level of cooperation being demonstrated by the ex-combatants during this DDRR process", UNMIL Force Commander Gen. Daniel Opande noted, adding that the belligerent forces are prepared to give the Liberian people peace and stability. Gen. Opande told the United Nations run FM radio station in Monrovia on 28 April that the ex-combatants are very anxious to discharge their weapons to the UN peacekeeping forces.
According to the force commander of the UN Mission in Liberia, the former generals and commanders of the belligerent groups are collaborating with the peacekeepers in the area of the comprehensive implementation of the sensitive and crucial DDRR exercise.
In his statistical report on the DDRR program, Gen. Opande said over 18,000 ex-fighters have so far submitted to the process and disarmed to UNMIL while over 10,500 weapons and 3.1 million rounds of arms have also been collected.
The 18,000 ex-fighters, according to him include former combatants of LURD, MODEL and GOL, with the former GOL combatants constituting the highest number of those disarmed. The DDRR exercise started last December with the ex-fighters of the former GOL but the exercise was later cut-off due to protest from the ex-combatants over the payment of US$300.00 promised them.
After four months of suspension, the exercise resumed on 15 April in the Liberian provisional city of Gbarnga, Bong County, followed by Buchanan, Grand Bassa County and now Tubmanburg, Bomi County.
With the level of fighters disarmed and the deployment of the peacekeepers, Gen. Opande said security has gradually improved across the country but reports from the southeastern parts of the country especially in Grand Kru and Maryland Counties detailed mal-treatment, harassment and raping of unarmed civilians allegedly committed by MODEL fighters.
Gen. Opande argued that any one can assess all parts of the country without experiencing problems from the ex-combatants but admitted that there are still illegal check points being mounted on some of the highway in the country, with specific reference to the southeastern region where MODEL is based.