Relief Aid To Liberia Resumes

News and Press Release
Originally published

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- Relief workers resumed their aid convoys to the Liberian countryside on Friday, despite worries over rebel fighting in the region.

The United Nations and relief agencies this week have been trucking in tons of food to the city of Tubmanburg, about 50 miles north of the capital, Monrovia.

Relief agencies had not been able to reach the city since last February due to clashes between rival militia groups. About 35,000 people there are facing severe hunger and dozens have died of starvation in recent weeks.

U.N. sources had told reporters in Monrovia that aid workers had pulled out of Tubmanburg again on Thursday because armed rebels had abducted civilians at a food distribution center.

Trevor Rowe, chief spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program in Rome, said Friday he could not confirm any abductions and said WFP intended to return to the city. A rebel field commander did warn aid workers Thursday that rival militiamen were in the area and that they should leave quickly, Rowe said.

''We did so even though there was no indication of danger,'' Rowe said.

Aid workers' efforts to reach the northeastern region of Cape Mount County were thwarted Wednesday because of renewed fighting. Reports from other parts of the West African country also indicated that an August cease-fire was collapsing.

Rowe said WFP is negotiating with the factions and is hopeful it can reach an estimated 40,000 people trapped in Cape Mount over the weekend.

''They're living primarily in the bush, surviving on just leaves and what not, so there's great concern that the situation could be as bad, if not worse than in Tubmanburg,'' Rowe said.

The August cease-fire cleared the way for aid agencies to venture out from Monrovia. The cease-fire calls for immediate disarmament and elections by May 1997.

A dozen previous cease-fires have collapsed because of fighting among rival factions. More than 150,000 people have died since Liberia's civil war began in 1989.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press