Liberia: UN still needs $10 million for ex-combatants

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

MONROVIA, 10 June (IRIN) - The international community still needs to dig into its pocket for another US $10 million so that thousands of ex-combatants can be eased back into civilian life, UN officials said on Friday.

Almost two years after Liberia's peace deal, around 43,000 former fighters who have been disarmed are still waiting for funds to go back to school or begin vocational training.

UN officials said the United States had recently stumped up $15 million to help reintegrate ex-combatants and Sweden had handed over $3.6 million. The European Commission, meanwhile, has pledged 7 million euros (US $8.5 million).

"(This) has helped us reduce the funding shortfall... but we still need about $10 million," Abou Moussa, the acting head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), told reporters on Friday.

"We are confident that other donors will follow through and help us breach this critical gap," he said.

Liberia is struggling to recover from 14 years of civil war, and with crunch elections just four months away, international experts are worried about ex-combatants kicking their heels on the streets, creating a ready-made recruiting pool for anyone wanting to disrupt the democratic process.

Analysts point to the fact that a flawed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process in Liberia in the 1990s was a key reason behind the West African nation's spiral back to war.

"DDR failure was an important part of the lost chance in 1997, facilitating the re-recruitment of fighters for the armed groups that tore the country apart between 1999 and 2003," the Brussels-based think tank, International Crisis Group, noted in its latest Liberia report.

"This process is already reoccurring in Monrovia and northern and eastern Liberia," it added.


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