Liberia: UN Envoy and sports star visit disarmed child soldiers

22 April 2004

The head of the United Nations mission in Liberia, Jacques Paul Klein, and a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador, Liberian-born former international soccer star George Weah, today visited demobilized child soldiers at an interim care centre in the West African country and encouraged them to rejoin their families and go back to school.

At the UNICEF-supported interim care centre (ICC), run by non-governmental organization (NGO) Christian Children's Fund, more than 100 children who had given their weapons to the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in Gbarnga, Bong County, entertained the visitors with songs and theatre.

"All of you who have given up your weapons, who want a future in Liberia, who want an education, who want to contribute to rebuilding this country, we love you," Mr. Klein told the children, whom he called heroes. "We will reunite you with your families. We want you to have a home, we want you to be loved, we want you to be safe."

Other heroes were Mr. Weah, who "has never let fame or fortune deter him from doing what he can for Liberia and its people," as well as UNICEF workers, the NGOs running the ICCs and the Bangladeshi peacekeepers providing security, the UNMIL chief added.

Mr. Weah said what had made him successful in sports was discipline and a peaceful environment.

"Your responsibility is to disarm and to call all your friends forward to disarm. You must have the discipline to go back to school. You must respect your parents. Tomorrow, somebody in this group will be another George Oppong Weah," he said.

The delegation, which included UNICEF Representative in Liberia Angela Kearney, presented sports equipment to the children. Mr. Weah then played in a soccer match between teams of children from the ICC and from the local community, while Mr. Klein visited the disarmament and cantonment sites in Gbarnga.

 

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