Liberia 'not safe for refugees'

From: © BBC News (UK Edition)

Most parts of Liberia are still too dangerous for the hundreds of thousands of refugees to return home, a United Nations official says.A peace deal was signed in August to end 14 years of conflict but all but a few of the 7,000 UN peacekeepers are still based in the capital, Monrovia.

The rest of the country remains unsafe, Mohamed Siryon told AFP news agency. Some 400,000 Liberians remain in camps in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast - all also subject to instability.

Checkpoints removed

"We cannot begin repatriating Liberian refugees in the sub-region when peacekeepers have not deployed throughout the country," Mr Siryon, a UN humanitarian spokesman told AFP. "We would not be certain of their security if they are repatriated in the absence of peacekeepers." Most of the refugees who have returned have gone to the already overcrowded capital, where a third of the population now resides.
On Saturday, 250 Pakistani UN troops, and their tanks, moved into the key Klay road junction, 35km north of Monrovia, held by the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy rebel group. In their first deployment outside the capital, the peacekeepers disbanded rebel checkpoints on the road from Monrovia.
The head of the UN mission in Liberia, Unmil, General Daniel Opande, then headed for the Lurd headquarters in Tubmanburg, 25km further north, where he said peacekeepers would soon deploy.

Power-sharing

The process of disarming some 40,000 fighters had to be suspended earlier this month after rioting by militiamen demanding immediate payment. The programme is due to resume on 20 January.
Unmil is expected to double in size in the coming months until it numbers 15,000 - the biggest UN peace force in the world. Lurd and the other rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, have taken ministerial posts in a power-sharing government, led by interim leader Gyude Bryant.

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  • Tuesday 30th December 2003


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