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Liberia Starts Reintegrating Combatants - 2004-06-28

Liberia has started reintegrating former combatants back into the country's work force as part of the last phase of its national disarmament program.

Former fighters in Liberia are starting to enroll in training programs designed to help them re-integrate back into society after the country's 14-year civil war.

Over the past few days several hundred fighters from all of the country's opposing factions have started registering for job training and education programs at a newly opened vocational center in Monrovia. An additional center is set to open in the coming weeks on the outskirts of the capital.

Participants are signing up for training in agriculture, construction and other fields. Others will get simple cleaning jobs, while still others will enroll in formal classes to begin in September.

A spokesman for Liberia's Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration, Moses Jarbo, says the reintegration process will help Liberia rebuild after war and will give former soldiers opportunities to become constructive citizens.

"They will not go out and be misled and engage in self-destructive behavior," said Mr. Jarbo. But a spokesman for the eastern-based former rebel group Model, Boi Bleauju Boi, complained that the program is both behind schedule and not as complete as he had anticipated.

"It's very slow, it's not moving fast, and we don't know what the problem behind the slowness is," said Mr. Boi. "We were told after the disarmament, demobilization, there would be rehabilitation of the fighters that have been traumatized, they should be taught how to live in a society, how to be effective in the community and all the things that they need to do to move their minds from war to living with the people."

A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Liberia, Clive Jachnik, says the reintegration process marks the final step in the country's disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program, which needs time to be thoroughly completed.

"Phase three is a rolling process and will continue, we foresee, for several months," he said. "And, we will continue until the caseloads are fully completed, we're not going to cut off the program in its prime, we're going to see it through to the end and we're going to deal with every armed person in this country."

Tens of thousands of former combatants are taking part in the program. According to Liberia's government, the total number of former fighters ranges from 50,000 to 100,000, with many fighters from rural areas not yet reached by any of the disarmament programs.