The Resumption of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Process

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 12, 2004

The Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Chairman Gyude Bryant, on Saturday, April 10, 2004, announced the resumption of the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) of ex-combatants of the nation’s 14-year devastating and bloody civil war.

Making the declaration at the well-attended news conference held at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, Chairman Gyude Bryant said the resumption of the DDRR exercises would officially kick-off on April 15 at the various cantonment sites. The news conference brought together officials of UNMIL, UN agencies, foreign missions, and the government.

The parties to the August 2003 Accra Peace Accord committed themselves to the complete DDRR of an estimate 60,000 combatants of the belligerent groups including the loyalists of former President Charles Taylor, LURD, MODEL, paramilitary groups and other militias.

Accordingly, the overarching objective of the DDRR program is the consolidation of peace through comprehensive DDRR, of all ex-combatants into civilian society while the immediate objective is to consolidate national security, as a pre-condition to facilitating humanitarian assistance, restoration of civil authority, promotion of economic growth and development.

Speaking further, Chairman Bryant appealed to Liberians to stop characterizing ex-fighters by calling them all kinds of names, instead, they should be called by good names and that people should stop pointing fingers.

Also, speaking at the news conference, the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein lauded the U.S. Government, European Union, ECOWAS, AU, UN agencies in Liberia, INGOs and NGOs for their dedication and hard work to the peace process in Liberia.

The tough-spoken UN envoy reminded the nation of the 15 April date set for the resumption of the DDRR program. According to Ambassador Klein, the DDRR exercise will commence in Gbarnga, Bong County, on April 15 and the exercise will start in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County on April 20, while the process will be extended to Tubmanburg, Bomi County and Voice of America (VOA) outside Monrovia.

Regarding the other counties, Ambassador Klein did not say as to when the DDRR will resume there but only said ex-combatants who have earlier been disarmed will be taken to the VOA cantonment sites for demobilization. He told the news conference that six additional cantonment sites will be constructed in Tapita, Zwedru, Rivercess and other areas where ex-combatants will be encamped and disarmed.

Giving justification for the suspension of the DDRR exercise in 2003, Ambassador Klein said certain preconditions needed to be addressed. He named the pre-conditions as adequate UN force deployment around Liberia, preparation for security at the cantonment sites, the provision of factions to make available the listing of fighters, arms and locations of weapons, etc.

According to Ambassador Klein, when the process resumes, ex-combatants will assemble at a designated points where they will be picked-up and brought to disarmament and demobilization sites.

He said after seven (7) days, the fighters will be discharged from the disarmament sites into the demobilization sites and will later return to their community. The ex-combatants, he said stands to receive US$300.00 excluding other benefits.

“Peace in Liberia is the responsibility of all Liberians”, Ambassador Klein noted, saying that Liberians must support the DDRR process which he said is essential to peace in Liberia.

The UN Mission in Liberia on last December 17, 2003 suspended the DDRR program and said at the time that the exercise was to resume after the holiday season on January 20, 2004 but the UN has failed to meet up with that date.

According to UNMIL, this action was taken to allow for the creation of more capacity and the upgrading of living conditions at the site, where more than 8,000 former GOL combatants have disarmed. Preparations would also be undertaken to begin the disarmament of LURD and MODEL former combatants.

The announcement of the temporarily suspension of the cardinal part of the peace process, which is the DDRR, disappointment many Liberians. The temporary suspension of the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration program (DDRRP) in December prompted public outcry, but UNMIL said the suspension was timely. Justifying their decision to suspend the process, UNMIL’s Information Officer, Margaret Novikic dismissed rumors that there was not enough money for the program. She said UNMIL has money for every combatant who hands in weapon.

Madam Novikic said at the time that initially about three cantonment sites were expected to be opened for the warring parties: Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and former Government of Liberia combatants.

The UNMIL Information Officer said only the cantonment site for the former GOL was opened on December 7. "We targeted 1,000 combatants at a time... But the camp now is overstretched", Madam Novikic confessed.

According to Madam Novikic, the Schieffelin cantonment site does not have the capacity to demobilize 10,000 combatants at a time. She said in a demobilization camp, the combatants need to be fed, housed, given health care, and counseling.

According to her, during the suspension period, the cantonment sites would be upgraded to meet the demobilization needs of the combatants. She said all of the combatants that have turned out for the DDRR process would receive the initial US$75.00.