Liberia: "Living conditions still terrible"

Source: MISNA

Liberia is no longer in the headlines - but living conditions there are "still terrible" the Missionary News Service reported on Saturday. Unemployment affects young people in particular and there is little chance of going to school. This social exclusion stimulates the search for 'easy' routes such as prostitution, armed abduction and summary justice according to a document sent to MISNA by the diocese of the capital Monrovia. The diocese says: "The disarmament process must not be interrupted or manipulated by 'warlords', by the various militiamen or combatants. We repeat our appeal for the transition government to honesty and transparency and repeat that the United Nations and various non-governmental organisations must not forget why they are in Liberia." "Finally, while we are prepared to collaborate fully in the peace process in the country, we reiterate the importance of a truth and reconciliation commission and think it necessary to create a special war crimes tribunal." Liberia is currently in a shaky transition phase after almost 15 years of civil war and the fighting of last summer, which led to the departure of President Charles Taylor. The government of national unity, which includes representatives of civil society, the two rebel groups and members of the old Taylor administration, now has the task of leading Liberians to new elections and restoring peace to the country. UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) now almost fully deployed, with 14,500 military personnel on the ground out of the authorised 15,000 (31 March figures) has the task of disarming the tens of thousands of combatants still present in the country. Mission sources report that the results of the disarmament process are encouraging. But some commentators are concerned: according to the official figures, almost 20,000 ex-fighters from all the factions (including the two main rebel groups) have handed in around 11,000 weapons. And there is said to be an increase in the number of civilians with arms (60,000 against the original estimate of 40,000). UNMIL insists that the process is going well.

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