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Efforts to ensure peace, stability in Liberia

Top UN envoy continues efforts to ensure peace, stability in Liberia

In the uneasy calm that has settled over battle-scarred Monrovia, the top United Nations envoy for Liberia continued his meetings with local and regional players to cement the fragile peace, while UN agencies continued helping people in and around the capital, gradually trying to reach deeper into the country's interior.

As part of his efforts to hold discussions with a wide spectrum of Liberian society, Jacques Paul Klein, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for the country, today met with the Liberian Senate and with the Secretary-General of the Liberian Press Union. Mr. Klein, who retuned to Monrovia last Friday after a week-long series of meetings with West African leaders in neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Yesterday, Mr. Klein met with visiting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji, the former UN Special Representative for Sierra Leone. Mr Klein thanked the Nigerian government for its support of the vanguard force of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and encouraged it to support a strong mandate for a follow-on UN stabilization force in Liberia.

In mid-August, ECOWAS sent the peacekeepers, mainly Nigerians, to help secure areas in and around Monrovia and to allow international aid agencies to assist a people traumatized by years of war. But despite a cease-fire peace deal signed by Liberia's government and two rebel factions in Ghana last month, fighting has continued outside the city where rebel factions still hold sway and UN agencies report that thousands of civilians may once again be on the move.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that in Monrovia's "uneasy calm," it has been continuing its efforts to assist people in and around the capital. Over the weekend, two planeloads of relief supplies arrived from Copenhagen with blankets and jerry cans for 10,000 persons, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting for 20,000, water bladders, and four light vehicles.

Meanwhile, the agency is trying to reach deeper into the country's interior. UNHCR led a mission to Bo Waterside, on the border with Sierra Leone last week to again examine the possibility of using the land route for convoys to and from the neighbouring country. The agency also tried to reinforce its dialogue with Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels controlling the area.

Further inland, UNHCR travelled to Buchanan, south-east of Monrovia, last Friday as part of an inter-agency field mission to assess health and protection needs. The city is controlled by rebels of the MODEL (Movement for Democracy in Liberia) and the situation there remains very tense despite the peace agreement.

Cases of extortion, harassment and abductions are reportedly rife in Buchanan. Some 30,000 people are believed to be displaced there, many with immense needs, especially for food. Armed groups are reportedly preventing civilians from moving around freely, demanding heavy tolls to pass the checkpoints, even when they are simply in search of food. Looting of possessions and occupation of private properties are also frequent.

In other news from outside Monrovia, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) together with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) other partners, have begun a mass measles vaccination campaign in Tubmanburg, a town northwest of the city, home to thousands of internally displaced persons. In the seven-day campaign, UNICEF alone is targeting 42,000 children.

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