UNMIL Team Visits Buchanan
By: I. Solo Kelgbeh
Posted December 23, 2003
The acting commander of MODEL forces in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, has expressed their readiness for the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) exercise in their controlled areas, but with some concerns.
Gen. Payne Nyanwleh, alias "Master P", says MODEL has no problem with the DDRR program except that it should be done only upon the deployment of peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in Liberia(UNMIL).
"Master P" made the assertion last Friday, when a delegation that included officials from the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCDDRR) and the UNMIL paid a sensitization visit to the port city of Buchanan.
Gen. Nyanwleh said once UNMIL and NCDDRR get approval from the Movement’s high command in Monrovia and the international peacekeepers are deployed in the port city, then there will be no problem for his forces in the area to fully partake in the DDRR exercise.
He said, though the disarmament package is good, he is demanding UNMIL peacekeepers deployment to avoid what he termed as retribution and revenge on the men especially those who might have offended some civilians in the area.
Earlier, the NCDDRR’s Consultant, who led the delegation, Dr. Isaac Roland praised the MODEL forces under acting Commander Nyanwleh for the warm reception given his delegation. He said NCDDRR’s only concern is to bring sanity and peace to Liberia.
He expressed UNMIL and NCDDRR’s objective to seek the well-being of the warring parties provided they disarmed. Dr. Roland used the occasion to call on all factional fighters in the country to live in harmony and peace with the civilians in their controlled areas.
Also speaking during the meeting held at the port city’s administrative building on Tubman Street, UNMIL’s deputy Chief of Information Patrick Coker explained the full package of the DDRR including benefits each combatant is to receive upon disarming and going through the entire program.
Mr. Coker then distributed leaflets carrying various messages on the DDRR as part of awareness campaign on the program.
He propounded to the MODEL fighters how the coming of UNMIL in their controlled areas will bring about job opportunities for the people there.
"We are going to set up local offices and build cantonment sites. Its only your people who are going to work along with UNMIL to do the work. They will be paid for whatever work they are hired to do", Mr. Coker iterated.
The delegation’s deliberations was attended by MODEL’s commanders, WIPNET and UNMIL’s military observers.
The visit by the UNMIL/NCCDDRR delegation brought about a joyous mood, not seen for several years in Buchanan.
Meanwhile, residents of Buchanan are said to be subjected to hardship including harassment and intimidation coupled with continuous armed robbery.
The residents said elements of the MODEL have continued to deny them peace as they(MODEL) harass and reduce them to mere slaves.
Our reporter who visited Buchanan last Friday, was told by some civilians that the fighters of MODEL usually take away their belongings at will.
A man who only identified himself as George Daniels, walked to our reporter to inquire saying, "excuse me, can people pass this way?" Our reporter said he replied "I am a stranger."
When Mr. Daniels was quizzed as to why he asked the question, he responded by saying "there are certain areas where when you pass on Tubman Street, the soldiers can molest and treat you beyond imagination".
The citizens in proving that robbery was the order of the day in Buchanan, said on Thursday night, armed robbers broke into a business center. They said the robbers made away with 75 bags of rice, L$40,000 and several United States dollars.
Our reporter who went along with the United Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said while the MODEL’s leadership in Buchanan was discussing with UNMIL, a group of boys were rounded- up by MODEL’s soldiers.
The boys were accused of being thieves thereby received severe beating. The wailing and crying of the boys disrupted the meeting for sometime before the MODEL military high command put things under control.
Buchanan residents who had lined the route to give UNMIL a rousing welcome, called for the immediate deployment of UNMIL peacekeepers in the city.
According to the citizens, they are being inhumanely treated because the MODEL military commanders on the ground in the city, are not from Buchanan and therefore do not have any feeling for them.
A MODEL commander, ‘Jungle Tiger’, however, described all the accusations of harassment as false and misleading.
He rather pointed fingers at former GOL militias whom he accused as perpetrators of robbery in the area.
"I think you saw those who were crying a while ago. They are all rogues. They act as soldiers only to spoil the name of MODEL", Jungle Tiger maintained.
The citizens who were thrilled by the beautiful performance and entertainment by Crusaders for Peace said last Friday was best thing that ever happen to them recent. They called on UNMIL representatives who have gone there on sensitization mission to deploy immediately.
Although the civilians have complained of harassment, intimidation and inhumane treatment couple of unwanted robberies, normalcy seems to be returning to the city.
The markets were all crowded with people busy transacting.