Ex-Fighters Go On the Rampage in Vai Town
...In demand for Computer training
By: Charles Crawford
Normal traffic and business activities in the commercial district of Vai Town yesterday came to a temporary standstill as disgruntled ex-combatants staged a protest action in the area.
According to the ex-combatants, their action was intended to draw the attention of the National Transitional Government of Liberia(NTGL), the United Nations Mission in Liberia(UNMIL), and the international community for what they claimed to be the prolonged delay of their being given the opportunity to undergo computer training as part of their disarmament benefit.
Although there was not any shooting in the area, the situation was so severe to the extent that residents and others who went to the Vai Town area to transact business had to run helter-skelter for their lives as missiles thrown by the ex-combatants flew randomly in the area. The disgruntled fighters even went as far as setting up a road-block on the street.
As the situation intensified, UNMIL Ghanbatt troops assigned on the Bushrod Island under their deputy commander, Maj. Hagan, immediately moved in to put the flaring situation under control, thereby restoring some degree of sanity in the Vai Town area. The UNMIL Ghanbatt troops were later joined by UNMIL Civilian police. There was no casualty reported, but two of the ex-fighters were arrested.
Explaining the reasons for their action, some of the ex-combatants said, from information they had received from the National Commission of Disarmament Demobilization Reintegration & Rehabilitation (NCDDRR), they were instructed to report to the Imani Institute of Technology & Vocational Studies located in Vai Town to immediately begin their computer program.
They said, “for the past weeks, we have been coming to this institute to begin our computer studies, but for every time we come, the school administrator always tells us to go home and come back the next day. He tells us nothing genuine concerning our school business. And you see that’s money we’re paying, and further more we are frustrated. So, for this reason, we decided to take some action just to draw the attention of UNMIL, the NTGL, the American government and other world bodies presently in Monrovia.”
Giving his side of the story, the Administrator of the Imani Institute, Mr. Gabriel Siaffa said his institution was contacted by NCDDRR to provide computer training to about 843 ex-fighters, adding that thereafter the assessment done on its facilities by UNDP and JIU, the institution was declared “to be lacking the capacity” to absorb the students, and added that the contract was later given to UMCOR which in turn contacted them, Imani Institute, to carry on the training program, since indeed UMCOR does not provide computer training.
“We agreed to conduct the training, but we needed the contract to be signed between our institution and UMCOR, something that hasn’t been done yet, and so when the ex-fighters come we tell them to go back. This has been going on for weeks and to our surprise the ex-combatants came this morning and started misbehaving, they even attacked me and my staff.”
At the NCDDRR offices in Sinkor, Mr. Siaffa was accused of inciting the ex-fighters to go on the rampage in a bid to get the contract, an allegation he(Siaffa) quickly denied. “We can’t give you the contract because you lack the capacity to teach the 843 ex-fighters. So stop inciting the guys! There is no contract signed between your institution and us, so why then should you go and begin registering the student for the computer program at your institution. We are going to put an announcement on the air and in the papers telling the ex-combatants to stop going to your place, but instead they should report to our headquarters on 9th Street in Sinkor. There, we will advise them where to go for their computer training.” remarked Mr. Mack M. Jouridine, D&R Manager at the DDRR/JIU/ UNDP, hereby putting the entire imbroglio to a halt.