Ambassador Jacques Klein Speaks on Progress of Disarmament

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 20, 2004

With over 66,440 ex-combatants from the former warring factions having so far surrendered their weapons to the United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia, the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) exercise in the country has now become irreversible.

Addressing a Special Session of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) held at the Capitol Building on 18 August 2004, the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative in Liberia, Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein revealed that well over 65,000 ex-combatants have been disarmed by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The special legislative session was held in commemoration of 12 months of the existing of the Comprehensive Accra Peace Accord signed last August 18, 2003 in Ghana.

In his reports to the interim legislative body, Ambassador Klein said about 20,000 various types of weapons, 20,000 pieces of deadly bombs and other types of explosives have also been collected from the ex-fighters since the beginning of the DDRR program. According to Ambassador Klein, the peacekeepers collected over five million rounds of ammunitions from the fighters.

Additionally, Ambassador Klein told the lawmakers that beside the DDRR exercises, UNMIL has also immunized 128,000 children across the country against measles and polio.

According to the UN representative, while the primary task of UNMIL is for the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia, the mission is also assisting with the training of a new police force and the improvement of social justice and rule of law, as well as repairing bridges and rehabilitating roads.

Ambassador Klein who vowed to ensure that the Comprehensive Accra Peace Accord on Liberia is implemented to its fullest, said the World Food Program on a monthly basis distributes relief food to about 750,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and others vulnerable persons across the country, while UNICEF is reuniting children with their parents and family persons.

He told the assembly that UNMIL would support the elections commission for the holding of free, fair and transparent elections in Liberia, come 15 October 2005. More then 30 presidential hopefuls have expressed their desire to contest the nation's highest office during the elections.

The DDRR exercises on 16 August extended to Nimba County, the birthplace of the 14-year civil war in Liberia. According to information from the Central Liberian County, about 6,000 ex-combatants have so far disarmed while others looking forward to the process.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia is disarming warring factions who too part in the Liberian conflict including LURD, MODEL and former government of Liberia.

It is however difficult to ascertain the actual numbers of combatants in Liberia. Prior to the onset of the commencement of the DDRR on 17 December 2003, the UN Mission projected that there were 45,000 combatants but later put the statistics to 60,000 and the number seems to be rising everyday.

Meanwhile, the DDRR is yet to be extended to Maryland, River Gee, Grand Kru, Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties and armed rebels still roam in many parts of the country where the DDRR has taken place.