Several Hundred Fighters Start Disarming In Liberia
Posted December 9, 2003
The process of disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) of Liberian combatants got off on good foot on Sunday, December 7th with several former Government of Liberia (GOL) militias turning in their weapons.
With enthusiasm, the ex-GOL militias lined the routes from the ELWA junction towards the Camp Schieffflin barracks. They were then picked up by UNMIL vehicles and taken to the first designated cantonment site at the Camp Schiefflin barracks.
The fighters among whom where men, women and child-soldiers (boys and girls), said they are tired of war and so were turning in their weapons to UNMIL to begin a new and better life.
The process started as early as 8:00 a.m., with the registration by assigned UNMIL peacekeepers at Camp Schieffelin. The combatants turned in to UNMIL several AK 47 rifles, RPGs, M-1s, and G-3s among other brands, most of which were rusty, and several rounds of ammunition.
These first group of disarmed fighters received multiple food ration yesterday.
Though the exact number of soldiers that disarmed was not disclosed till press time yesterday, we observed over 2,000 combatants in readiness for the exercise yesterday.
The UNMIL authorities had hoped to start the process at other designated areas including Buchanan in Grand Bassa County for the MODEL fighters, and in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, for fighters of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), but that accordingly had been postponed to later dates.
However, speaking at the formal DDRR program at Camp Schieffelin yesterday, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Liberia, Mr. Jacques Paul Klein lashed at LURD for what he termed as "its failure to cooperate with the program."
He opened his address with the saying of one of America’s past president, John F. Kennedy, thus: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind".
Mr. Klein lauded the efforts of the former GOL and its fighters for beginning the process, saying, "today, Liberia is putting an end to 14 years of war".
He pointed out that the men and women that are disarming will receive health care, counseling, vocational training, schooling, apprenticeship, and a modest stipend to help them on their way to resettlement and reintegration into civil society.
As the DDRR program failed to get underway in Tubmanburg, Mr. Klein blamed the authorities of other factions for putting personal interest above their people’s thus trying to undermine the DDRR program.
"Sadly, some of their misguided leaders have tried to hamper and undermine this process. They table unreasonable demands; they want jobs for themselves; yes, they refuse to cooperate, they walk out of meetings, thereby mortgage the future of Liberia and its people", Mr. Klein noted.
Despite the lack of cooperation as mentioned by Mr. Klein, the UNMIL boss maintained that the process will continue saying, "shortly, we will open a camp in Buchanan for MODEL personnel".
He said attempts to establish a cantonment site in Bomi has been sabotaged by some of LURD’s leadership working on personal agendas against the best interests of their own people.
Mr. Klein however, assured the public that a cantonment site for LURD fighters will be opened this month in Gbarnga.
The UNMIL envoy cautioning fighters of LURD to disarm said, "if I were a LURD combatant, I would be asking those leaders who are never here: Now that you have taken care of yourselves, what about us? Who is actually going to take care of us? And why are you undermining the international community’s efforts to do so?"
Mr. Klein said he and along with the international community denounce and reject the behavior of the leaders who are undermining the DDRR.
The DDRR program was attended by Chairman Gyude Bryant, Gen. Mohammed Sheriff, LURD’s Chief of Staff, and Thomas Yaya Nimley of MODEL, Archbishop Michael Francis, Amb. William Blaney, representatives of the European Union, ECOWAS among others.
For his part, NTGL Chairman Bryant commended the ex GOL fighters and the international community for commencing the DDRRP.
He used the occasion to reiterate LURD and MODEL’s commitment to cooperate.