8,000 Combatants Disarm To UN In Liberia

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted December 16, 2003

Despite the two-day disruption of the DDRR program that formally commenced on 7 December, at the Camp Schieffelin cantonment site, UNMIL has disclosed that some 8,000 combatants were screened, whilst 4,002 weapons were collected at the site.

Briefing the NTLA Committees on National Defense and National Security at the Capitol yesterday, UNMIL’s Deputy Force Commander said although there was limited awareness on the part of the combatants and misinformation about the DDRR program, 4,188 of the total combatants who disarmed at the site have each received the amount of US$75.00, while 2,767 pieces out of the total weapons already received have been destroyed.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Owonibi who addressed the NTLA on behalf of the UNMIL Force Commander, said the process is gradually being placed on track but UNMIL is presently faced with a problem of the lack of logistics and other facilities at the camps in the face of the huge number of combatants, therefore they have deemed it necessary to suspend the process until after the Christmas season.

He said the DDRR program is supposed to be a coordinated program enabling all stakeholders to have adequate information on the process as such, the break is intended to also prepare all fully for the program and putting in proper mechanisms not to repeat the mistake of misinformation.

Maj. Gen. Owonibi said NTGL Chairman Bryant addressed commanders of the various groups of combatants over the weekend, on the decision of the break, and they (commanders) are expected to pass the information on to the combatants so it would not look like the end of the program or that UN is not prepared.

He disclosed that at the onset, combatants who had to receive money were only 400, but that sharply increased to 1000 daily and it will continue at that rate on tomorrow at which time it will expected that 6,000 will be paid before the break.

Maj. Gen. Owonibi said to present, the UNMIL has not yet fully deployed throughout the country, therefore the break will also give them the opportunity to receive more troops to beef up their strength already on the ground as well as get in additional resources for the troops.

He said though the UNMIL headquarters was able to provide security at the camp to handle any problem, they also have to contend with the expected huge numbers of combatants who have been gathering daily to move the process forward.

Maj. Gen. Owonibi said the designated cantonment site at Camp Schieffelin was to accommodate 1,000 combatants and facilities that were put in place were meant to cater to only 1,000 combatants, but because of the misinformation they started receiving over 3,000 combatants which has caused congestion at the camp.

He said however, some lessons have been learned, mistakes have been made but the basic thing is that the DDRR is an embracing program which calls for the total involvement of all stakeholders.

For their part, the NTLA thanked UNMIL for their information and urged them to get fully involved in the program by encouraging a stabilization force to avoid any reoccurrence of such incident.

In a related development, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone(UNAMSIL) has moved a large number of troops close to the Liberia / Sierra Leone border.

Reports monitored late yesterday said the move is intended to prevent fighters mainly from Liberia crossing into Sierra Leone with weapons.

© 2003: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.