UN Warns Against Illegal Road Blocks In Liberia
By: I. Solo Kelgbeh
Posted February 6, 2004
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has expressed serious concern over the setting-up of illegal roadblocks coupled with the harassment and intimidation of peaceful civilians by the various warring factions.
UNMIL has subsequently sent out a strong warning mainly to fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) to desist from such actions or be forced to comply.
Addressing journalists at its regular weekly press briefing yesterday, the UNMIL deputy force commander, Gen. Joseph Owonibi disclosed that fighters of both rebel groups, MODEL and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), are in the constant habit of erecting illegal road blocks where they harass and intimidate harmless civilians.
He dismissed claims by the fighters that the roadblocks are for security purposes saying, "these roadblocks are used to extort money from drivers, commuters and peaceful civilians."
Gen. Owonibi, in a very frank mood, then called on authorities of the two rebel groups to tell their men to desist from setting up such roadblocks and also refrain from extorting monies and other personal effects from peaceful persons.
In a special warning to MODEL fighters, Gen. Owonibi called on them to stop the arbitrary and sporadic firing of guns.
The UNMIL deputy force commander maintained that failure on the part of anyone to comply to the warning, the military wing of the Mission will force such individuals to adhere to it. He said if need be, such persons will be turned over to the police.
Meanwhile, the deputy force commander said the mission has received up to 11,000 soldiers. Gen. Owonibi said more peacekeeping soldiers have been arriving in the country on a daily basis to augment the strength of the international force.
He said Pakistan is sending another battalion to add to its contingent serving in UNMIL, and added that the mission is conducting regular patrols throughout the country and borders but will soon be fully deployed throughout the coumtry.
On the DDRR program in the country, Gen. Owonibi could not say whether or not the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration will resume as scheduled, but only said that the mission will be at full strength by mid-March.
Earlier, UNMIL suspended the resumption of the DDRR process for about a month to allow for proper sensitization on the entire exercise and also to facilitate the construction of cantonment sites.
UNMIL also said that the DDRR will also restart when it has deployed all over the country. Regrettably up to press time, cantonment sites are yet to be erected. The DDRR which began last December 7 was suspended until January 20, 2004, but later postponed for about a month.