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Liberian soldiers hand over guns
From: Jonathan Paye-Layleh
© BBC News (UK Edition)
Hundreds of soldiers handed in their weapons on Sunday at the official launch of a UN-sponsored disarmament programme in
More than 1,000 soldiers of ousted President Charles Taylor laid down their weapons. UN forces are expected to oversee the
disarmament of around 40,000 troops, including child soldiers. As part of the programme, the soldiers will be given $300,
counselling and vocational training.
The UN launched the nine-month disarmament scheme on 1 December, although Sunday's handover outside the capital Monrovia was
the official launch. Kalashnikovs, grenades and mortars were among the weapons handed in.
UN envoy Jacques Klein said: "This is Liberia's last chance. Liberia must put an end to war, or war will put an end to
Liberia." Some of the soldiers who handed in their weapons were children, including 13-year-old Richard Jack, once an
"officer" with President Taylor's feared Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU).
Holding an AK-47, he said: "I started fighting at the age of six. I decided to turn in my gun because I want to go back
The disarmament deal was drawn up after President Taylor's departure into exile in August paved the way for a peace deal
between government forces and the main rebel factions. That followed a 14-year civil war which killed more than 200,000
Disarming and reintegrating the fighters into society is regarded as crucial to draw a line under the bloody conflict.
Rebel fighters are due to assemble in camps before the end of the year to hand in their weapons.
A total of 15,000 UN troops are expected to form a peacekeeping force in Liberia to monitor the disarmament, although there
are only 4,500 in the country at the moment.
Sunday 7th Sunday 2003