Senegalese peacekeepers began deploying in restive southeastern Liberia Tuesday to help curb arms smuggling and looting along the border with Ivory Coast.
The first group of over 100 peacekeepers from Senegal is being sent to the southeast region of Liberia Tuesday. Their first town of deployment is Harper, which was formerly controlled by rebels from the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL).
The deputy special representative for the United Nations mission in Liberia, Souren Seraydarian, says the full battalion (about 650 soldiers) will be deployed by the end of next week.
"The Senegalese battalion arrived partially already to Monrovia and they are on their way today to Harper," he said. "The last part of the battalion will be coming next week, not in the Harper area actually but the southeast as a whole. So, we will have completed the closing, if you want, of the area previously under MODEL control and on the border with Cote d'Ivoire."
The U.N. missions in Liberia and Ivory Coast have been working together to prevent gun-running between the two countries. Mr. Seraydarian says the southeast region is key to preventing the cross-border smuggling of weapons and combatants.
"We have to start disarmament of combatants in that region, which we have started already in other parts of the country and we have to ensure agreement also in cooperation and harmonization with our mission in Cote d'Ivoire to ensure that there are no movements of combatants and weapons and other trafficking across the borders," said Mr. Seraydarian.
Liberia has been rebuilding after two decades of civil war, but former combatants in the town of Harper continue to harass civilians. The U.N. says its Liberian peacekeeping contingent is in place except in the southeastern region where the arrival of peacekeepers has been slow.
In Ivory Coast, the faltering peace process and skirmishes between government troops and northern rebels, have raised concern at the United Nations that the country could plunge back into civil war.
Ambassadors from 14 of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council are due to arrive in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on Thursday to assess the progress of the U.N. mission there.