UNMIL Must Act
All respect to the youths of Liberia, but arguably, almost all of the wandering legions of unfortunate youths are ex-combatants; ex-combatants who have been disarmed, given a few dollars, and let loose in the streets with no apparent ability and capacity to make an honest living; ex-combatants who have known nothing but violence for a better part of 14 years; ex-combatants who must be de-traumatized and retrained in order to be useful to society Hopelessness is growing, and in the absence of genuine hope, desperation can set in and depict the course of action. The effects of such begrudged actions, born out of despondency can be terminally fatal. We are all witnesses!
UNMIL has done a remarkable job of disarming the former combatants. The cash for weapon program, while not sustainable, was a necessary inducement to make the foot soldiers turn in the weapons, since the warlords could not be relied on to honestly catalogue and turn over their war machineries. But like we said then at the onset of the exercise, we say again that the reintegration and rehabilitation aspects of the DDRR are very crucial to sustainable peace and stability in Liberia, and all efforts must be made to see them through.
As reported by IRIN on December 20, 2004, "...bad feeling has broken out in Voinjama where an IRIN correspondent saw close to 50 ex-LURD fighters sitting idly just a few yards away from the main UN peacekeeping base in what they said was a protest to attract attention to their plight". And these ex-combatants are complaining about the lack of training and jobs as promised to them by the UN.
The IRIN report also mentioned that, "according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), bringing peace to Liberia ahead of elections in October 2005 will depend largely on getting these youngsters with little experience of life other than war into school or into jobs. The report also quoted the Brussels-based think-tank as stressing, "if reintegration goes wrong again, war is almost certain to break out sooner or later."
The clock is ticking, and even though UNMIL must be applauded for successfully completing the disarmament and demobilization aspects, it must be overly emphasized whenever necessary that failing to carry on reintegration and rehabilitation could reverse all the gains the international community has made in bringing relative tranquility to Liberia. This is a cost that the international community cannot bear again. And despite their unbelievable resilience, the Liberian people too may not be able to withstand any such level of intolerable cruelty as they endured over the years.
The rapid trickling of violent civil disobediences, often bordering on the horizon of criminality, and which are worrisomely springing up so often in Liberia, must not be treated as if they were isolated cases. In fact, these are symptoms of potential threats to our collective serenity, cloned out of the perception of these idle and growingly discontented youths, who more than often see authority as the source of their quandary and therefore tend to easily find solace in rebellion. We certainly do not want another Charles Taylor type of veterans loitering everywhere, and dangerously poised to spring havoc at the gentlest of prodding. We owe it to Liberia to make every effort to give these young people some opportunity.
To the UN, the international community has been generous to Liberia and has pledged over $500 million towards the country's reconstruction efforts. The UN must see and understand that reintegration and rehabilitation are pivotal towards the realization of sustainable peace in Liberia, and must therefore step up her negotiating efforts with the contributing nations on behalf of Liberia. A lot hinges on the availability of the funds to ensure that reconstruction truly gets underway in Liberia.
To UNMIL and other UN implementing partners, there is an urgent need to design intensive programs that will keep these young people off the streets and place them into communities so that they can see that they are indeed apart of the system and not outcasts. The concept of rehabilitation should include:
· Proper screening to determine their placement and training levels;
· Ensure that the training facilities are easily accessible, especially for those outside of Monrovia;
· The training must focus on providing them with easily marketable and sustainable skills, and should also focus on civil education so that they understand their rights, the rights of others, and their duty to authority and the country;
· The training should be for about a year, so that they can have enough time to step out of their quasi-military state of mind and into a different environment of opportunities sternly clothed in the dignity of labor;
· Opportunities must be available for those who show the capacity to do better, and they must be accordingly encouraged to matriculate into other higher educational areas.
With the acquiescence of the peace brokers, the warlords
paid themselves handsomely for bringing terror to
our people. And as they continue to milk the country
dry, the kids they drugged, manipulated, and used
to carry out their killings must not be forgotten.
These kids are a significant and integral part of
the Liberian population, and will be so for generations
to come. If they are not prepared to be useful to
society today, they will continue to be menace to
society even in the future.
To the NTGL, instead of niggling the UN to lift sanctions on logging and diamond mining, you can do the country a lot of good if you instead work with the UN to ensure that funds are available to resettle our people from around West Africa, as well as those internally displaced and living in abject poverty right under your nose. Focus some of your energies and resources on the rehabilitation and reintegration of the ex-combatants so that when you leave, our country can be left in one piece.
It is an open secret that the reason why every little confusion in Monrovia nowadays escalates to surprising proportions, is because there are too many young people roaming the streets with absolutely nothing to do. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop". These young people are vulnerable and by direct linkage, they make the country exposed too. Lest we forget, there are enough wicked people around who are ready to exploit that vulnerability to the detriment of the country. While there is relative calm now, let's ensure that the current level of stability is planted firmly and cemented. The sun is shining now, let's prepare for the rain.