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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Friday 13 May 2005

LIBERIA: UN admits funding shortage for rehabilitation after ex-fighters riot

MONROVIA, 13 May 2005 (IRIN) - A further outbreak of rioting by former combatants this week has reminded Liberia and its donors that the United Nations still does not have enough money to provide education, training and other reintegration benefits for more than 100,000 people who were disarmed at the end of the country's 14-year civil war.

Bangladeshi peacekeepers fired over the heads of a crowd of ex-fighters who rioted in the northern town of Ganta on Wednesday to demand the payment of the second tranche of their US $300 resettlement allowance.

Charles Achodo, a UN policy adviser on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, told IRIN the following day that the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was short of cash to provide skills training and education for former combatants in three of Liberia's 15 counties most affected by the 1989-1993 war.

He named them as Lofa County in the northwest, Maryland in the southeast and Nimba County in north central Liberia where Ganta is situated.

“There is a current shortfall of US $39 million right now, Achodo said.

The problem is that before disarmament got under way in April last year, UNMIL reckoned that it would only have to disarm between 38,000 and 53,000 former combatants in Liberia's three armed factions.

However, by the time the disarmament process ended in November it had actually registered twice that number. The money to provide reintegration benefits for all of them has simply run out.

Hundreds of former combatants were turfed out of secondary schools in Monrovia in January after UNMIL failed to pay their fees.

That financial problem was subsequently resolved, but others have arisen.

Achodo said 33,000 ex-fighters were currently enrolled in skills training or donor-funded work programmes.

“12,000 former combatants are in schools, 7,000 have been placed in vocational and other skills training programmes, while some 14,000 are under parallel programmes funded by the US government and the European Union creating work opportunities for ex-combatants in road and infrastructure repairs among other things,” he said.

Achodo was optimistic that Washington and Brussels would soon provide fresh cash that would cover two thirds of the current US $39 million shortfall.

"There are indications that the US government is going to make available $15 million [subject to approval from congress], while the European Union would be committing $13 million,” he revealed.

Relief workers told IRIN that delays in securing funds to help reintegrate former fighters could increase the appeal of mercenary recruiters. They said these have been active in several border areas, including those where UNMIL is currently short of funds for rehabilitation work.

“Nimba, Lofa and Maryland are hotspots where mercenary recruiters from any nearby country can sneak in and secretly recruit former fighters who are not happy over the promised disarmament benefits to join other armed groups in the region,” one international aid worker in Lofa told IRIN.

Many Liberians are worried that if the issue is not resolved soon there will be more rioting.

“There could be more riots if those former combatants are not taken care of by the UN.…[the former combatants] are capable of causing maximum destruction in minimum time,” Ganta resident Johnny Gowen told IRIN.


[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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