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Liberia: former top aide to Taylor surrenders weapons to UN peacekeepers

Liberia: former top aide to Taylor surrenders weapons to UN peacekeepers

Liberia's immediate former President, Moses Z. Blah, who took over from exiled President Charles Taylor in August last year, today surrendered his weapons to United Nations peacekeepers in the capital, Monrovia.

The arms were turned over to Lt.-Gen. Daniel Opande, Force Commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), five days after senior UN envoy Jacques Paul Klein had announced the that the disarmament programme would wrap up within two months.

Mr. Blah, a long-serving Vice President under Mr. Taylor, was Liberia's President for just over two months, until the inauguration of the National Transitional Government headed by Charles Gyude Bryant on 14 October as part of a peace deal brokered among the country's three warring factions.

Turning over his weapons as well as those of his bodyguards, Mr. Blah said after 14 years of war, Liberians could boast of no winners but only losers. "Since the United Nations is here to bring us the much needed peace through disarmament, it is no longer necessary to keep arms," he said.

"I have emptied this house of weapons. All around me, we have disarmed to you today," said the former President. "Our security now is in the hands of the United Nations and the Transitional Government."

Receiving weapons from the former leader, Lt.-Gen. Opande urged all former fighters in the country to emulate Mr. Blah's example and surrender their weapons to the UN. "I think it is a good opportunity for former President Blah to show the people of Liberia that having been a fighter himself, having been in leadership position, he has shown that all the leaders also must disarm, not only the ordinary combatants."

UNMIL has so far disarmed over 71,000 former fighters and collected and destroyed more than 20,000 weapons and over 5 million rounds of small arms ammunition. Disarmed soldiers are offered vocational training and formal education as part of the efforts to reintegrate them into mainstream society and offer them a second chance at civilian life. The disarmament programme will come to an end on 30 October.