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Demobilization & Disarmament In Liberia: Will 40,000 Fighters Give Up Their Weapons? - 2003-12-09

More than two thousand combatants have turned in their weapons since Sunday as part of Liberia’s disarmament process. But there have been problems. Each day disgruntled soldiers have fired their weapons in the air upon learning they would not immediately receive a $150 stipend.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is supporting the demobilization effort. From Geneva, spokeswoman Delphine Marie spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the agency’s efforts. She says, “We are ready to support with relief material of which we have a lot in stock already. We have about 4,000 blankets and plastic sheeting. We have thousands of bars of soap and kitchen sets, utensils and a whole package of relief items.” Ms. Marie say the UNHCR is also “prepared to help with camp management should the need arise.”

She says the agency will also be involved in the repatriation of ex-combatants from Sierra Leone, Guinea or any other country that are found in Liberia. The UNHCR spokeswoman says it’s estimated there are 40,000 combatants in Liberia, and it’s hoped they will all will present themselves for demobilization. The first to begin handing in their weapons have been fighters who supported the government. However, disarmament sites are expected to open soon in rebel held areas.

The UNHCR continues with other aid operations in Liberia. This includes resettling thousands of people who took shelter in public buildings in Monrovia earlier this year to escape fighting.