Liberia

OCHA Liberia Weekly Situation Report: 08 - 15 Mar 2003

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Posted
Originally published
Overview
MILITARY/POLITICAL SITUATION

Security update

The fighting in northwestern Liberia was reported to be continuing. There were reports of serious exchanges between government forces and LURD rebels at Kley Junction (40 km from Monrovia) for the last two days. Front line is reported at Abojah in Suehn Mecca district in Bomi county. The way towards Bopolu is a no go area, it is believed that LURD is using the town as a reinforcement terrain for the Tubmanburg area. Tubmanburg is still under LURD control. Government forces are stationed around Po River (20 km from Monrovia), however, there are reports of pockets of LURD fighters occupying the Guthrie Rubber Plantation. In addition the LURD are based in Tienne and Bo-waterside on the border with Sierra Leone. They are using the Palm plantation of Charles D.Sterman as a base for the Tienne and Bo-water area.

Meanwhile, Bong County was reportedly being encircled by armed activity at the north and northwestern side due to the fighting in Zorzor. During the period, the fighting was reported to be moving southwards towards Gbalatuah some 65 km north of Gbarnga. Sporadic gunfire could be heard in Bellefanai, about 40 km away. There were also reports of armed activity in Sanoyea about 50 km west of Gbarnga. As of 13 March, no further advancement reported from these areas.

As a consequence of the Toe's Town attack of 28 February, three aid workers that were reported missing during the incident were later found dead. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) confirmed the deaths of Kaare Lund, a Norwegian and two Liberian nationals, Emmanuel Sharpulo and Musa Kieta, who at the time of the attack were visiting ADRA supported projects and paying salaries of their workers. It is now confirmed that 31,500 USD in cash, and a laptop computer are also missing.

The United Nations, in a press statement, expressed deep concern about the protection of aid workers in the country who, in an effort to bring emergency aid and protection to individuals were caught in the on going conflict in Liberia. The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on 11 March, urged the government of Liberia to investigate the incident to determine the exact circumstances under which the aid workers died and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The government, in a press statement also demanded the immediate investigation and the prosecution of those responsible for murder and blamed the killings on LURD mercenaries. In another statement, the Liberian government welcomed the arrest and disarmament of some 110 suspected Liberian fighters by French peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast indicating that this was further proof of earlier claims of hostile Liberian forces fighting along side of the Ivorian government.

Unspecified number of civilians that were forcefully conscripted allegedly by pro-government militia in Ganta were reported released on instruction of government authorities that earlier disassociated itself from the acts. The "Citizen's Action Committee" called for the reopening of schools and commercial activities in Ganta following a week's closure in protest of the disappearance of over a dozen teachers, nurses and students as young as 8 years old.

During the period the Panel of Experts visited Liberia to introduce its four members to the government following their appointment by the United Nations Secretary General, Dr. Kofi Annan on 19 February. The introductory meetings would follow a returned mission to hold consultations with the government aimed at reviewing Liberia's compliance with UN Resolution 1434 that instituted a sanctions regime on the importation of arms and the sale of diamonds from Liberia. The regime also includes travel restrictions on top officials of the Liberian Government.

A five-member regional delegation of the ECOWAS Parliament headed by Mr. Aliuon Nouhoum Diallo of Mali, in consultation, urged President Taylor to accept recommendations of the February 28 meeting of the International Contact Group on Liberia that was held at the UN headquarters in New York. Prominent among the decisions was an immediate negotiation of an unconditional ceasefire between LURD and the Government with a possible UN Security Council involvement in monitoring such ceasefire and that Mali be accepted as mediator on behalf of ECOWAS. The Contact Group also recommended security, a process of national reconciliation, respect for Human rights and electoral reform, as conditions necessary for the holding of free and fair elections in Liberia. In response, President Taylor urged that the ICGL worked along with ECOWAS that has the mandate to restore peace to Liberia.

Meanwhile, a peace meeting of all stakeholders is schedule to convene in Bamako, Mali prior to which the ECOWAS Parliamentary delegation would present a report of its sub-regional peace mission to President, John Kuffor, Chairman of ECOWAS.

HUMANITARIAN

Following the Toe's Town attack, returnees, refugees and Third country Nationals that were in transit centers at that location fled. Aid agencies operating in the area also withdrew due to insecurity. However, upon returning to Zwedru, MSF-F reported that most of the population of Toe's Town had moved to Sanawien and Zleh Towns south of Toe's Town. Others have fled into villages in the area. Prior to the incident, about 3,000 returnees, refugees and Third country Nationals were residing at the transit center.

As a consequence of increased armed activity near the St Paul River Bridge, north of Bong, hundreds of residents living in Gbalatuah and Bellefanai moved into Gbarnga during the week of 9 March. LWF/WS reported about 1,000 IDPs fleeing the Gbalatuah and Bellefanai areas had moved into all of the Bong camps during the period. However, as at 13 March, movement into the camps had reduced due to the return of calm along the St. Paul River Bridge that is the border between Bong and Lofa CONCERN reported movements into Miamu 1 IDP camp in Totota.

Health

UNICEF is supporting Africare in a mass measles campaign in three districts in Nimba. The exercise would be conducted in collaboration with WHO and the Ministry of Health. MSF-F began vaccinating the population in Grand Gedeh due to an increase in incidence of Measles in the county. The suspected cases of Measles were reported among refugees and returnee settlements in Nimba and Grand Gedeh.

Merlin recovered its vehicle that was taken by militia forces following the attack on Toe's Town and was considering resuming its activities in Zwedru hospital.

Food/Food Security

WFP began lifting food ration to IDP camps in Montserrado for distribution to previous IDP beneficiaries. The food assistance is expected to benefit some 111,525 IDPs in eight camps. A planned verification of new arrivals by the LRRRC was expected to begin soon. Following the completion of the exercise, WFP would be in a better position to target food rations to the newly arrived beneficiary caseload.

ACF reported returning to Grand Gedeh where the agency resumed its food security screening of the population.

Shelter & Non Food Item

As a result of recent security development in the southeast, UNHCR says it will focus on supporting return and reintegration activities as well as relocating refugees and TCNs in Grand Gedeh to either Harper or Saclepea, depending on the result of discussion it is holding with the government of Liberia. Before the recent armed incident in Grand Gedeh, UNHCR and the government selected a site in Fish Town, River Gee County to relocate refugees in Grand Gedeh County. The decision was taken against growing insecurity in Grand Gedeh County. UNHCR also says it will work with the IOM to ensure the speedy repatriation of TCNs to their original countries.

There were indications that due to insecurity, most of the TCNs preferred returning to their countries of origin. OCHA, IOM and UNHCR were working together to ensure that funding requirement for the implementation of the relocation exercise was forthcoming. A funding proposal developed by the IOM was submitted to donors for their review. A series of meetings were also held with embassies to seek their support for the relocation of the Third country Nationals.

Education

The Norwegian Refugee Council began the training of 40 teachers in preparation for NRC's Rapid Response Education Programme in three of the Montserrado camps. Two school shelters, one in Blamasee and the other in Seigbeh were nearing completion. Identification and registration of some 1,000 pupils was on going in Wilson, Blamasee and Seigbeh camps.

Protection

The first of a series of two-day training programmes with the Joint Security forces namely, the Police, the Anti-Terrorist Unit and the Armed Forces of Liberia stationed near all IDP camps, was conducted on the 10 and 11 of March in Monrovia. The workshop looked at general protection issues for IDPs, international humanitarian law, national laws and the Liberian Constitution, Child Protection and SGBV issues. Organizations and institutions that were involved in the facilitation of the training included UNICEF, ICRC, IRC, WFP and UNDP. Additional facilitators included officials from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defense and the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia.

The training for each set of workshop participants is planned to take the form of three separate activities. The two-day workshops will be followed by further dissemination of materials on general protection for civilians by the police and armed forces and on basic international humanitarian law and thirdly, there are planned discussion forums to include IDPs and the workshop participants and focusing on protection and security concerns.

Following the increasing protection concerns in IDP camps especially with regards to security for IDPs due to the incidents of armed presence in the IDP camps and allegations of forced recruitment, the protection monitors held a one-day briefing session at OCHA office in Monrovia. The briefing was an opportunity to discuss a work plan for the protection monitors that would enable a more comprehensive monitoring and reporting of protection concerns. Other agencies and organizations that took part in the briefing were UNICEF, LRRRC, the Ministry of Justice and IRC.

Events

  • On 11 March, the Taiwanese Embassy in Monrovia donated two sets of "Blue Trunk Library" to the Ministry of Health. The items were a mini reference center developed by the World Health Organization. Each set contained 100 books on medical and health sciences that would contribute to the capacity building of health workers in Liberia.

  • ICRC supported the Liberian National Red Cross Society in the training of volunteers as Emergency Response Teams (ERT) in the 15 counties in Liberia. The training would prepare volunteers to respond adequately to providing relief assistance for people in emergencies.

  • The European Commission on 11 March dedicated a water Kiosk in the New Kru Town suburb of Monrovia. The water Kiosk was valued at USD29,000 and would provide safe drinking water to the community in that part of the city during the dry season when the water level is low.
Missions

Mr. Magnus Carlquist, Dep Head of Division, Division for Humanitarian Assistance and Conflict Management SIDA, is expected to visit the country from 20 - 24 March 2003.

Finish Committee for UNICEF is expected to visit Liberia on 15 March on a two day mission.

For more information please contact:

Mr. Muktar Farah, Head of Office, OCHA-Liberia
Tel.: 377 47 550571
Fax: 00-31-20-5407-281
E-mail: farah.muktar@undp.org

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.