IRC Urges Review of Liberia Demobilization Plan; Says Inadequate Planning, Troops and Funding Threaten Peace
This week's deadly riots in Monrovia by ex-combatants dissatisfied with the new U.N. disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan underscore the urgent need to rapidly review and modify the program.
"We see value in moving ahead with demobilization efforts as quickly as possible," says Robert Warwick, the IRC's regional director for West Africa. "But the renewed violence is an example of what happens when such a complex process is implemented prematurely."
Before fighters can disarm, there needs to be a drastically expanded security presence, designated and secure demobilization sites away from civilian settlements, protected interim care centers for children, adequate supplies of food and other emergency items and ready-to-implement reintegration programs. These include vocational training and support, education, counseling and special services for child soldiers and women.
"Unless this program is done right and all of these components are in place, then the entire effort will be in vain," said Warwick. "A successful demobilization program is crucial to lasting peace in Liberia."
· Rapid expansion and deployment of UNMIL forces in Liberia. The deployment schedule must be expedited. Donor countries should immediately commit and deploy troops to the U.N. peacekeeping mission so that security is provided at a level that will ensure a successful disarmament and reintegration program, protect civilians, and enable humanitarian access to populations in need. The United States government should intensify its ongoing efforts to facilitate and support this process.
· Review and modification of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) plan. The Liberian interim government, the United Nations, donor nations and local and international aid organizations should engage in an immediate review of the DDR campaign in order to effectively replan demobilization and reintegration efforts. The program should be quickly restarted in a safe and secure environment. Key recommendations include the need for sufficient UNMIL deployment in and around neutral "cantonment sites" where ex-fighters are to demobilize and disarm, coordinated and simultaneous disarmament of all factions during each phase of the demobilization process, effective registration of combatants and identification of vulnerable persons, the separation of women and children from male soldiers in camps, the separation of military activities from humanitarian services, consistent and clear information on the DDR process, including details on rehabilitation packages and reintegration services, and programs that meet the special reintegration and protection needs of women and child soldiers.
· Funding shortfall must be met. A significant increase in funding is required to successfully implement the DDR program and provide emergency health, water, sanitation, nutrition, education and protection services for hundreds of thousands of uprooted Liberians. It is critical that donor nations meet the UN appeal for $137 million for Liberia. We also urge that the U.S. should immediately release a significant portion of the $200 million of funding for Liberia recently appropriated by Congress.
The IRC continues to implement education and other programs for war-affected children in Liberia. As part of the DDR process, the IRC is expanding services to children associated with the fighting forces in Lofa, Nimba and Grand Jeddeh Counties. Protection coordinators will be present at demobilization sites to identify former child soldiers and other vulnerable persons in need of specialized care. The IRC is setting up interim care centers for children where they can receive health care, emergency assistance, counseling and other psychosocial support, and informal education to help them make the transition from military to civilian life. The IRC will be engaged in active tracing of the children's families and will facilitate family reunification. The IRC will also be working with the communities receiving the children and preparing them for reintegration. In these communities, the IRC will be assisting with vocational training, school support and agricultural projects.
For more information, contact:
New York--Melissa Winkler, 212-551-0972, melissa@theIRC.org
Washington--Sandra Mitchell, 202-822-0166, extension 10, sandram@theIRC.org
Monrovia--Patrick Mwangi, 377 47 530 463, programliberia@theIRC.org