UN Force Starts Deployment in Northern Liberia, no Troops for Maryland, Grand Kru Counties
By Josephus Moses Gray
April 14, 2004
The Liberia’s northern county of Lofa, where the 1999 rebellion against the regime of former President Charles Taylor began, receives the presence of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force.
Addressing the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) regular weekly news briefing in Monrovia last week, Gen. Daniel Opande, Force Commander of UNMIL disclosed that as of last Wednesday, the mission has started deploying its peacekeepers in Voinjama, the administrative seat of Lofa, the former stronghold of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels group.
According to Gen. Opande, within the next few days UNMIL troops will deploy in Zorzor and Foya and then Kolahum, both in Lofa County. The people of these areas suffered greatly during the heat of the Lofa war, as they were accused by the then Taylor’s regime of supporting LURD to remove the regime from power.
He, however, said the UN troops that will be deployed in the southeastern regional counties of Maryland and Grand Kru are yet to arrive in the country, and added that as such, the date for the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces there remain indefinite. He said that his mission has completed its assessment visit to the areas.
There have been several reports about harassment meted against the people of both counties by the MODEL warring faction which controls the counties that are now said to be left in the cold - as there is no sign of the deployment of the UN peace keeping forces in the two counties.
He told local and foreign journalists that currently the UNMIL force has 13,943 troops in Liberia, including 139 military officers and 114 staff officers. He said, “as to preparation for disarmament, I can assure you that as I speak, I am ready, the force is ready, all our plans are ready”.
Committing on the departure of certain troops from the force, Gen. Opande said a battalion of Bangladeshi troops totally about 900 have completed their tour of duty in Liberia is expected to leave this week. The departure of the troops will cause some setback for the DDRR process because they are being replaced, Gen. Opande noted.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Chairman Gyude Bryant, on 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 a 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.
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 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 will start in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County on April 20, 2004. The process will eventually 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 in those counties.