The official said he did not know exactly how many members of the former Civil Defence Forces (CDF) went to the centres to disarm, but according to a report by the BBC on Tuesday, they amounted to some 3,500.
The CDF was made up of pro-government militia groups that fought against the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. The most famous of the militias were the Kamajors.
"We welcome the influx and see it as a manifestation of their sincerity to the disarmament process," said Danderson Smith of the government-managed NCDDR programme. He said the majority of ex-combatants who arrived at the camps were CDF as Kenema District is "overwhelmingly" militia territory, even though some parts of the region were also occupied by Foday Sankoh's RUF.
It is not clear why the militia members suddenly started arriving in such numbers particularly as the RUF is not reciprocating in the eastern districts of Kono and Kailahun. "It's a strange but welcome move," Smith said, "we hope that the RUF may now come out in equal numbers."
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah visited Bo in southeastern Sierra Leone some two weeks ago and witnessed the disarming of some 400 CDF forces, Smith added.
Responding to a BBC report that the centres were overwhelmed by the number of former combatants arriving at the weekend, the executive secretary of the NCDDR, Francis Kaikai, said that more staff were being sent to the region to ensure that the ex-combatants are processed, the Sierra Leone News Web reported on Tuesday.
As of 7 March some 18,344 former combatants had disarmed, according to the NCDDR.
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