“I guess we will stay here until the last combatants come and wait until they decide to close the camp. We expected 5,000 and based this cantonment site on those estimates. The arms are not coming.”
This statement of frustration and gloom was made recently by a representative at the cantonment site in Buchanan set up to disarm MODEL fighters. Indeed, as the disarmament process advances, concerns are growing that the number of fighters turning up have reduced to a trickle and that most of those turning up are coming empty-handed - no arms, no ammunitions, etc. Yes, “The arms are not coming.” This worrisome development leads one to ask, where have the tons of arms the fighting forces claimed to have possessed gone? Have the arms just evaporated into thin air? Will all the arms ever be turned in? Do men like George Dweh, who is slowly transforming his satanic self into the defacto Head of State of Liberia, have incentives to fully disarm themselves?
If recent Liberian history is anything to go by, it is easy to realize that these faction leaders do not intend to fully disarm. The armed factions in Liberia can be likened to a group of armed hostage takers. The Liberian people are the hostages. These hostage takers have used the threat of imminent death that flows from the barrel of the gun to commandeer key government portfolios and lucrative public corporations. They know inwardly that their power and “legitimacy” end with the weapon. They are the experts in the profession of death and looting. So without the weapon, they are reduced to a group of spineless chickens, incapable of inspiring fear even in a two -year old child.
So, it was not surprising to hear that a group of evil-minded individuals from LURD – Edward Farley, Joe Gbala, and George Dweh – had given Chairman Bryant a 24-hour ultimatum to appoint their tribesman from MODEL, Matthew Zarzar, as the new Central Bank Governor and replace Finance Minister Lusinee Kamara with Soko Sackor and that failure to do so would cause them to put an immediate halt to the disarmament of fighters. It was also not surprising to hear that the archangel of evil, George Dweh, had given orders to security forces to enforce a quarantine of Former Central Bank Governor, Elie Saleeby, and prevent him from traveling out of the country.
Given these recent developments, it is a fantasy to expect these individuals to submit fully to the disarmament process. There are indications that they have already begun to bury arms in forests, buildings and some unholy locations in and outside Monrovia – arms they will fall back on anytime in order to perpetuate their unholy presence in the corridors of power.
So what can be done to avert the evil designs of these faction leaders? From all indications, it would seem that without proper community involvement, full disarmament cannot be fully achieved in Liberia. But the crucial question is, how do we achieve community involvement? Do we just ask the citizens in the communities to report all suspicions of hidden arms and expect that the problem will be solved? To be realistic, although private citizens and family members of some fighters may know of places of hidden arms, they may not want to disclose the information for fear that, if found, they would become the target of elimination by members of the disgruntled factions. We need to recognize the risk involved and provide the appropriate incentives that will more than offset the risk and encourage private citizens to be forthcoming with tips.
Does it make sense to give any combatant who disarms (now without even a weapon) US$300 and only give an empty handshake to someone who alerts you about the presence of a cache of arms in certain locations? Just as it is necessary to give financial incentives to combatants for disarmament, UNMIL should use some of the US$50 million or so intended for disarmament to provide financial rewards to any citizen who comes up with credible information about hidden arms. Since each fighter gets US$300 for turning in a weapon, each citizen should also get a minimum of US$300 for credible tips.
When the formal process of disarmament is announced closed, UNMIL should then announce to the general public that anyone disclosing credible information of hidden arms will get at least US$500.00. Financial rewards could be increased based on the quantity of arms discovered. Also, UNMIL should come up with an announcement that any factional leader caught with arms after the disarmament process will be considered a common criminal, thereby warranting his imprisonment and ejection from government (whether he is Speaker or whatever).
It is my fervent view that if UNMIL provides financial rewards to private Liberian citizens for credible information about hidden arms, there will be a dramatic spike in the number of arms that will be taken out of the Liberian society. Considering the present financial hardships in Liberia, giving financial rewards will cause more and more Liberians to allot quality time to discovering information about hidden arms, thereby greatly expediting the disarmament process and transforming Liberia from the hub of armed criminals into to a land of peace and security.