Liberia: CAFOD fears UN force too small to keep peace

 CAFOD partner, Don Bosco Homes, has urged the United Nations to boost its peacekeeping force immediately to help preserve peace in Liberia. It is hoped that this Sunday, fighters will follow the demobilisation timetable laid down in peace talks and start assembling at United Nations supervised centres in the capital Monrovia and the rebel held towns of Tubmanburg and Buchanan. Under the demilitarisation, demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) process, former fighters will swap their weapons for vocational training and $300 in grants. But the Director of Don Bosco Homes, Allen Lincoln, fears that unless more United Nations troops are deployed in Liberia immediately, the hard-won peace could fall apart and demobilisation will fail. "The UN peacekeeping force is currently only 5,000 strong. Liberia was promised a force of 15,000," said Allen Lincoln. "Unless more troops are deployed immediately everything that has been put together in the Accra peace process could fail. The troops should have been here by now because the situation is very precarious." Just one week ago, the peace deal was in jeopardy when all three armed factions in Liberia walked out of talks following an argument over government posts in the new administration. Fortunately the government, LURD and MODEL forces have since signalled their willingness to participate in the demobilisation process. According to UN estimates, there are up to 15,000 child soldiers in Liberia. Don Bosco Homes is believed to be the only organisation currently welcoming former child soldiers. Staff at its demobilisation centre in Monrovia are currently working with around 100 former child soldiers, aiming to reunite the children with their families and put them back into school. Two further centres are planned for Tubmanburg and Buchanan, held by LURD and MODEL forces respectively, and will open as soon as security allows. Yesterday, staff from Don Bosco Homes travelled to Nimba County in the North East of Liberia to negotiate the release of over 40 child soldiers from government forces.

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