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UN mission disarms over 18,000 ex-rebels in Liberia

UN mission disarms over 18,000 ex-rebels in Liberia

With more than 10,000 weapons collected from over 18,000 ex-fighters, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is winding down the first phase of its programme to demobilize and disarm the war-torn West African country's three main warring factions.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of 28 April more than 18,415 combatants from the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and the Liberians United for Democracy and Freedom (LURD), as well as former Government militia, have surrendered some 10,653 weapons since the programme originally began in December.

More than 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition and 5,300 other pieces of ammunition, including mortars and hand grenades, have also been collected. The second phase of the disarmament exercise will begin after the construction of six additional cantonment sites in other locations around the country, OCHA said.

The disarmament process originally began on 7 December but was suspended one week later to allow time for better organization. Following the programme’s relaunch in mid-April in Gbargna, Buchanan and Tubmanburg, the exercise is expected to wrap up at a cantonment site located at the sprawling VOA camp, 25 kilometres north of the Liberian capital, Monrovia. Some 8,000 ex-combatants have been disarmed since the programme’s restart.

Meanwhile, the head of Liberia's disarmament commission, Moses Jarbo, is estimating that there are some 60,000 combatants that are expected to be disarmed in Liberia, 33 per cent more than the initial projected figures being used by UNMIL. The disarmament commission's projection is reportedly based of preliminary figures that were generated from meetings with leadership of the warring factions in Monrovia.