The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia today launched a programme to provide formal education to 20,000 disarmed former combatants as part of efforts to reintegrate into the mainstream the West African country's former belligerents who ended their civil conflict in 2003.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Alan Doss commended the youth who attended the launch for their participation in the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) programme, which paved the way for the successful recent elections in Liberia that ended a political transition.
"Your return to school is a vital part of the DDRR process. You owe it to yourself, your family and your country to make use of this opportunity," Mr. Doss, who heads the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), said.
"Education can make a great difference in your lives. It will help you get a job and it will give you a chance to be part of a better future for Liberia," he added.
UN Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director Steven Ursino urged the students to stay in school, succeed in their course work and conduct themselves with discipline and dignity.
The programme administered by the UNDP Trust Fund and the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCDDRR) involves 353 schools, colleges and other tertiary educational institutions.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a message to the Security Council saying he intended to appoint Lt. Gen. Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor of Nigeria force commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), succeeding Gen. Joseph Owonibi of Nigeria, who has served as UNMIL force commander since January 2005.
If accepted, General Obiakor, a graduate of the National War College in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, would assume command next 1 January.
UNMIL, in collaboration with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, today started a two-day workshop in the capital, Monrovia, on the prevention, control and clinical management of avian influenza and viral haemorrhagic fevers, including lassa fever.
"Lassa fever is endemic in West Africa but cases have been reported as far away as the US, UK, Netherlands, Japan and Israel. In short, it affects us all and medical personnel and the general public must be well-informed and ready to deal with this potentially deadly disease," Mr. Doss said at the opening of the workshop.
UNMIL also reported that, in accordance with the UN's zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse, Mr. Doss ordered an immediate investigation into rape accusations levelled at a UN peacekeeper. The probe is being conducted in cooperation with the Liberian authorities, it said.