1500 Armed Men In Gbarpolu Forest
But with the faulty start of the Mission’s disarmament process in December 2003 at Camp Schifflin, many Liberians if not all called on the mission to go beyond its original plan of disarming these ex-fighters by going into areas considered the rebels’ dens.
One such area is the Gbarpolu Forest where constant calls are coming from the citizens for the over 17,00 UN peacekeeping forces to extend their operation there as the place remains untouched.
In spite of UNMIL’s claim of successful disarmament, reports from the Gbarpolu Forest give account of over 1500 armed men who actively took part in the war and are still armed.
According to a former General of the disbanded LURD rebel group, Philip
Rambo, he met several of these fighters in the forest recently when he took
a reconnaissance mission in the area to ascertain the situation.
Gen. Rambo said the area was not touched by UNMIL during the disarmament process and based on this many fighters told him they are awaiting UNMIL to disarm them.
He said due to rumor that these men were recruiting to wage war on the new government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, he was asked by the African Development Agency (ADA) boss Wendell McIntosh to travel to the place and do thorough assessment.
Gen. Rambo further said that when he got there, many fighters were able to explain to him their intent, adding, “My boys told me that they in support of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf but that they want for UNMIL to go and disarm them.”
On the question of how many men still in arms, Gen. Rambo said according to what the fighters told him they are over 1500 men.
Meanwhile, latest information coming from Kolahun District, Lofa County says some of those former fighters escaping from Gbarpolu Forest are threatening to fight back if the locals in the area who are asking them to leave attempt to attack them.
In recent times, residents of Gbarpolu County have been reporting of sporadic gun sounds coming from the forest attributing it to rebel recruitment exercises being going on but UNMIL has repeatedly dispelled news, terming it as “false and media speculations.”
With the latest information, observers are asking UNMIL authorities to urgently liaise with Gen. Rambo and dispatch troops to the area to have these ex-fighters disarmed.