Liberia: Displaced increase to 7,000

MONROVIA, 10 February (IRIN) - The Liberian government said on Saturday that it was searching for land from private owners near the capital, Monrovia, to settle at least 7,000 people displaced by renewed fighting between its troops and rebels.
The executive director of the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, Sam Brown, told IRIN that all existing camps were full, but new IDPs continued to flock to them. IDPs at the Jah Tondo and Ricks camps, 15 and 13 km west of Monrovia respectively, told IRIN that shelter and accommodation were inadequate and some of them slept in makeshift shelters.

Fighting between government troops and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels resumed last week in western Liberia after a weeks-long lull. It has cut off humanitarian access to large numbers of displaced people, mainly women and children, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Friday.

"With access to humanitarian staff and goods cut off, aid agencies already in these camps have been left to deal with the influx. The numbers are increasing," OCHA said. Teams led by representatives of non-governmental organisations and aid agencies were continuing to register new arrivals and provide them with food and non-food items, health care and family-tracing services.

OCHA reported that some Sierra Leonean refugees and Liberian IDPs had fled their camps, reportedly due to harassment by militias who also robbed fleeing people of their valuables. OCHA also said that retreating rebels had reportedly abducted a number of people.

Meanwhile, the rebels, who have fighting to oust the government of Charles Taylor since 1999, reportedly agreed on Sunday to hold talks with Taylor to find a peaceful solution to the Liberian conflict, various media organisations reported.

The rebels, who met a regional delegation of parliamentarians in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, dropped their demand for Taylor's resignation, sources said. On Wednesday, Taylor had said that he accepted dialogue and invited the LURD to talks to be convened in the Malian capital, Bamako.


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