Liberia: May 1, 2004

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The original estimates of armed men wandering around the country were 38-40,000. But last month, a more complete list of all the armed men has been compiled, which produced the larger number. Some 19,000 thousand men have turned in their weapons, and received cash ($300) and goods (tools, training) for that. This virtuous bribery is being subverted, however, by many men who are turning in order, or defective weapons, while hiding a working weapon away. So far, 11,000 weapons and four million rounds of ammunition have been turned in.

The disarmament program was supposed to start last December, but confusion and lack of preparation delayed it until April 15th. Now that disarmament has got going again, it turns out that about half the rebels "disarming" are unarmed. Last year, peacekeepers estimated that there were three weapons for every fighter in the country. It is suspected that some families, or groups, will try and send as many people through the disarmament program as possible, to collect the cash and resalable goods. The population of Liberia is estimated to be 3.3 million, with over half a million adolescent and adult males who could potentially claim to be gunmen eligible for disarmament payments. The 15,000 peacekeepers are trying to avoid more of this by insisting that only men enrolled by one of the government or rebel militias are to be "disarmed." But corruption is widespread, and the lists are still subject to tampering.

Many of the rebel and government gunmen are also bitter that the promises of their leaders, for a better life, have not been fulfilled. If many of these men hold back a weapon, the seeds of a another civil war have been planted. This is how the just ended civil war got started, and the cycle seems to be repeating itself.

 

 

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