2003 - THE POST TAYLOR CEASE-FIRE


On 11 August 2003 Liberian President Charles Taylor arrived in Nigeria, where he was granted asylum after he relinquished the Liberian presidency. Former President Taylor was met at the airport in the Nigerian capital of Abuja by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Charles Taylor handed over power to his Vice-President Moses Blah in a historic ceremony, attended by the presidents of South Africa, Mozambique, and Ghana. Blah is expected to serve out Charles Taylor's term, which ended in October 2003. Ghana's president, John Kufuor said Mr. Blah will be then replaced by a new interim leader and government, currently being formed in talks taking place in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. Efforts were made by African leaders notably Presidents Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, John Kufuor of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria to resolve the crisis. President Obasanjo intervened with the timely deployment of Nigerian peacekeeping troops, and the former Nigerian Head of State, General Abdelsalami Abubakar, facilited the Accra talks.

Liberia's main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, which had been fighting to topple the Taylor regime, declared the war is over.

The leaders from the 16 Liberian opposition political parties in the nation, as well as leaders from religious and women's organizations, have been meeting in Ghana to draw up a peace plan and establish a transitional government expected to run the country for 18 to 24 months before new elections can be held.

Over 40,000 former fighters are potentially waiting to be demobilized and reintegrated into civilian life after 14 years of fighting. At the cantonment camps, the combatants receive health care, counselling, vocational training, schooling and apprenticeships. Two additional cantonment sites are set to open one in Buchanan for combatants of the rebel MODEL Movement for Democracy in Liberia), the other in Gbarnga for the rebel LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy). All disarmed and demobilized combatants receive an initial payment of their transitional safety net allowances of $75, and the intake of soldiers would be restricted to a maximum of 400 per day. Previously they had been entitled to the $150 stipend only after a three-week demobilization training programme, followed by another $150 three months later.

On 07 December 2003 more than 2,000 former soldiers in war-torn Liberia started to turn in their weapons with start of a disarmament campaign, but a spate of banditry, looting of humanitarian supplies and random shooting by ex-combatants seeking immediate payment of a stipend marred the process. The influx of combatants at Camp Schieffelin, the disarmament site 56 kilometers east of Monrovia the capital, well exceeded capacity and large numbers were continuing to arrive. Camp Schieffelin was intended for a capacity of one-thousand combatants at a time. But in a very short period over a week over nine-thousand combatants came in to disarm.

On 15 December 2003 UN peacekeepers in Liberia suspended the disarmament program for one month to better organize the process.

As of December 2003, UNMIL's troop strength stood at 5,900 military personnel out of an overall authorized strength of 15,000. More contingents were expected from Bangladesh, Namibia, Pakistan, Sweden and Ukraine in the near future. The armed groups had yet to demonstrate their full commitment to the peace process, as is apparent from the ongoing skirmishes, the continuing serious violations of human rights and the selfish pursuit of lucrative posts in the Government and public corporations.

By February 2004 about 15,000 blue helmets were deployed in Liberia.

By 20 April 2004 the UN disarmament program in Liberia had expanded to the port city of Buchanan, five days after the process began in the central city of Gbarnga. Officials said the program was now going well, after problems forced it to be suspended in December 2003. The UN reached its goal of disarming 250 former combatants each day in Gbarnga, which is a stronghold for the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, or LURD. The disarming of former rebels from the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, or MODEL, was also going well. combatants have been told that they will remain in the camps for one week before they receive 150 dollars and transport back to their communities, where the reintegration process will begin. When the reintegration is completed, the former rebels are to receive an additional 150 dollars to start their new lives.

By early the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was winding down the first phase of its programme to demobilize and disarm the war-torn West African country's three main warring factions. 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 began in mid-April. The second phase of the disarmament exercise would begin after the construction of six additional cantonment sites in other locations around the country. Following launches in Gbargna, Buchanan and Tubmanburg, the exercise was expected to wrap up at a cantonment site located at the sprawling VOA camp, 25 kilometers north of the Liberian capital, Monrovia. The process originally began in 7 December but was suspended one week later to allow time for better organization. The head of Liberia's disarmament commission, Moses Jarbo, estimated that there were some 60,000 combatants expected to be disarmed in Liberia, 33 per cent more than the initial projected figures being used by UNMIL.


© Robert W. Kranz (2005) 
Information courtesy of: www.GlobalSecurity.org