Accessibility links

Liberian Rebels Slow to Give Up Weapons - 2004-04-26

A third city in Liberia is now part of the U.N. disarmament campaign as concern grows over the numbers of combatants who are not handing in weapons.

Officials with the rebel movement Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, or LURD, say nearly 1,000 rebels lined up in Tubmanburg, north of the capital, Monrovia, for the first day of the disarmament campaign there.

The United Nations reported that more than 250 former fighters were disarmed within a few hours of the launch but, as in other disarmament sites, not all of the rebels are turning in their weapons.

An analyst with International Crisis Group, Stephen Ellis, says the concern should not be the number of weapons collected but what is being done with the guns that are not handed over.

"Well, I think the fact that fighters are turning up without their weapons in some of the disarmament centers in Liberia obviously means that weapons are being hidden in Liberia or sent abroad," he said. "And, I think the chances of both are extremely high. I am not sure that that necessarily has a very negative affect on the peace process in Liberia, because the essential thing is that people are not going to use the weapons."

Mr. Ellis says there is real concern that some of the weapons being sent out are going to Ivory Coast. He says more should be done to stop the cross-border exchange of combatants and guns to bring peace to the entire west African region.

A former LURD rebel leader, Joe Wylie, says the only reason that some rebels are not turning over their weapons is because they are not allowed to travel with them from their areas to the disarmament sites.

"Now you are not allowed to travel with your weapons from Bomi Hills to Gbarnga, or to any place as a LURD person, but if you leave from Bomi Hills, left your weapon there and went to Gbarnga, for example, to disarm, definitely you are not going to have a weapon, unless you are given one by the local commanders there," said Mr. Wylie. "So, I think the fact that they can show up for the process is a big victory for the process, because they have accepted the process."

Since the campaign resumed on April 15 in the LURD stronghold of Gbarnga, more than 3,000 rebels are reported to have been disarmed. The disarmament campaign is expected to last six months.