UN Give reasons For Suspension Of Disarmament In Liberia, But...
By: I. Solo Kelgbeh
Posted December 17, 2003
Amidst public outcry over the temporary suspension of the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration program(DDRRP), the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) says the suspension is timely. To disappointment of many Liberians, UNMIL recently announced that the cardinal part of the peace process, which is the DDRR, will be temporary suspended as of 2:00p.m. today. The DDRR exercise according to the UNMIL release will resume on January 20, 2004.
Justifying their decision to suspend the process, UNMIL’s Information Officer, Margaret Novikic dismissed rumors that there is not enough money for the program. She said UNMIL has money for every combatant who hands in an arm.
Madam Novikic said initially about three cantonment sites were expected to be opened for the warring parties which include the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and former Government of Liberia combatants.
Against all odds, the UNMIL Information Officer said only the cantonment site for the former GOL was opened on December 7. "We targeted 1,000 combatants at a time. That is exactly the facilities we have at Camp Schieffelin. But the camp now is overstretched", Madam Novikic confessed.
She said over the last two weeks, over 10,000 combatants have turned out for the process. Continuing, the UNMIL information officer said although another site in the same Schieffelin area was established, the facilities are inadequate for the process saying, "the DDRR is not just about guns for money but it is a process which involves demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration.".
According to Madam Novikic, the Schieffelin cantonment site does not have the capacity to demobilize 10,000 combatants at a time.
She said in a demobilization camp, the combatants need to be fed, housed, receive health care, and counseling.
According to her, while the exercise is suspended, the cantonment sites will be upgraded to meet the demobilization needs of the combatants.
She said all of the combatants that have turned out for the DDRR process will receive the initial US$75.00. Up to press time, some of the combatants were still receiving their US$75.00.
Speaking on what will happen to those who may not receive their money by 2:00p.m. today, Madam Novikic said they will be the first people to be served when the exercise resumes on January 20, 2004.
The UNMIL Information Officer said the decision to have a temporary pause in the DDRR program was not unilateral but met the consensus of the Government of Liberia, leaders and commanders of the various warring parties saying, "we met and discussed the issue fully".
She said the temporary pause in the new intake of combatants in the disarmament process is also aimed at giving UNMIL time to revisit and look again at the facilities and see how they can be expanded, and to put some order in the process.
Madam Novikic refuted claims that the suspension would encourage ex-combatants to carry out armed robbery. She said UNMIL has increased its patrol and the police is carrying out patrols. Continuing, Madam Novikic maintained that armed robbers will be treated as ordinary criminals. She called on the public to assist in securing themselves.