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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
18 January 2006

LIBERIA: Recruitment drive for new army kicks off

MONROVIA, 18 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Queues of hundreds of young wannabe soldiers began forming from early morning on Wednesday as authorities kicked off a countrywide recruitment drive for Liberia’s new national army.

Men and women aged over 18 massed at a former military barracks in Monrovia to register to join the first national force to be set up, with US help, after 14 years of civil conflict.

But before signing up, successful applicants will have to show they have a clean human rights record and minimum education.

Liberia's 2003 peace accord, enshrined by this week’s swearing-in of the country’s first post-war head of state, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, called for the restructuring of the armed forces, which fell into disarray after the start of civil war in December 1989.

In 2003, the US government pledged US $35 million to recruit and train the new military force of 2,000 men and women to be recruited and trained by Dyncorp, a US-based company. Liberia had originally planned a 4,000-strong army but lack of funds forced a scale-back earlier this year.

DynCorp, which specialises in security and aircraft maintenance services, has been hired over the past three years by the US government to train new police forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The firm said on Wednesday that the army would comprise new recruits and former soldiers, but that volunteers would have to go through a vetting process, including having completed minimum secondary education requirements and being free of human rights abuses.

A Dyncorp statement said any allegation raised by the public against an applicant would be thoroughly investigated.

"Liberians who have been witnesses to or victims of any of the applicants can call hotline numbers that will be published so that international background investigators can investigate those allegations," DynCorp said.

"All new recruits into the new AFL [Armed Forces of Liberia] will be on one-year probation to help facilitate their vetting process," it added.

Recruits will learn basic military rules and regulations, and have classes on military skills, the constitution, human rights and gender issues while receiving further education.

"I have long dreamt to join the army, but the civil war could not afford me the chance to do so,” University of Liberia graduate in accounting Lawrence Hilton told IRIN. “Now I am certain that I will pass the vetting to join the army that will be professional and trained."

During the civil war there were a number of failed attempts to overhaul the armed forces.

Under the Abuja peace accord, which led to a break in fighting in 1996 and general elections in 1997, the West African peacekeeping force ECOMOG was to retrain a new national army based on fair ethnic and geographical representation.

But Charles Taylor, who won the 1997 elections, sidelined the proposal by setting up a commission that recommended a 6,000-strong army.

It had not been set up however when in 1999, civil conflict erupted again. Taylor then placed his confidence in his onetime rebel fighters, who formed militia groups that battled rebel insurgents until 2003 when Taylor fled into exile.



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 2006

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