Over 1,800 Combatants Disarmed To UN Peacekeepers In Liberia

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 23, 2004

Latest statistics released by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on the on-going disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) shows that a total of 1,873 out of an estimated 60,000 combatants have so far been disarmed since the resumption of the DDRR exercise.

According to the UN Mission, the 1,873 ex-combatants are members of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). Out of the number of persons disarmed, the Mission indicates that 1311 belong to LURD while 562 persons are recorded as members of MODEL.

Out of the 1,311 LURD combatants disarmed between the period of April 15-19 in Gbarnga, Bong County, 139 are children and 48 women.

The Mission said 689 ex-combatants of LURD have been discharged from cantonment site following their completion of the demobilization in Gbarnga. The Mission further disclosed that the demobilized ex-combatants have each received an initial cash of US$150.00 and were put on board UNMIL vehicles to specific points of destination for their various communities. It is from the various communities, UNMIL says the demobilized ex-combatants will under go vocational programs including job opportunities, educational and other training but it is not known when the vocational programs will resume in the country.

During the past few days of the DDRR program in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, a total of 562 combatants of MODEL have been disarmed and of that number, 132 and 41 are children and women respectively.

General Boi Bleaju Boi, Co-chairman of MODEL was the first to disarm to UNMIL during the start off the Bassa DDRR program. General Boi said he was taking the initiative as a sign of an encouragement to his forces to submit to the DDRR process.

The UN Secretary-General Special Representative in Liberia, Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein recently told a UNMIL regular weekly news briefing in Monrovia that 250 combatants are scheduled to be disarmed per location each day after which they will spend one week in nearby cantonment sites for demobilization and later discharge to their home communities.

Meanwhile, UNICEF says it is mobilizing resources to provide immediate care and reintegration support to the estimated 15,000 children who will come through the demobilization process.

According to a dispatch from UNICEF-Liberia, an extensive awareness campaign has been conducted jointly with UNMIL to prepare children for demobilization and reintegration. The campaign is also aimed at preparing families and communities for the reunification of the returning children.

UNICEF says it has negotiated with UNMIL in order for children to be prioritized in the process and for them not to spend longer than 72 hours in the demobilization camps - UNICEF wants for the children to be separated from adult combatants. Accordingly, children will be transferred to Interim Care Centers from where they will begin the road home to their families and communities.

The planned DDRR program also shows that April 15 and 20 for Gbarnga and Buchanan, while April 24 is for Zwedru, Tubmanburg, VOA, Careysburg, and April 31 is planned for Ganta and Zorzor.

The Mission has also planned 6 May for mobile disarmament Operation Unit, and 7 June for DDRR in Harper, Maryland County, while July and August are set aside for planned “Food for Weapon” project. However, the forces to be deployed in Maryland and Grand Kru counties are yet to arrive in the country.

Currently, UNMIL has a total of 14,025 strength in Liberia, out of which 13,102 are contingent troops; 114 staff for force headquarters, 645 staff for headquarters sector, 156 UN Mission Officers and eight (8) official visitors.