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Liberian Police Training Begins

Liberian Police Training Begins, More Ex-Combatants Disarm, UN Says

The head of the United Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the chairman of the West African country's transitional government have launched a training programme for new police and a repair project at the university's law school, the mission said today.

UNMIL's Civilian Police (CIVPOL), in collaboration with the Transitional Government, aims to train a 3,500-strong police force within two years and to have 1,900 new officers ready for the field by the time national elections are held in October 2005.

"It is the beginning of a new day for policing in Liberia," UN Special Representative Jacques Paul Klein said at the launching ceremony yesterday, recalling the 14-year civil war during which the police function was "abused, exploited and politicized," becoming "very much part and parcel of the great tragedy that Liberia has suffered for many years."

He thanked the United States for $500,000 in support for training facilities, equipment and logistics at the Police Service Training Academy in the Paynesville district of Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

Calling for more women recruits, Chairman Gyude Bryant told the initial 150 cadets, "This is a wonderful opportunity to take on the values of courage, to be trained in all the good values and good virtues that make a good police officer."

Meanwhile, the 50-year-old law school in Liberia's capital, regarded as the oldest in West Africa, was getting a $15,000 face lift," boosting the school's efforts to rebuild the country's judicial system.

The law school has trained most of the Justice Ministry's senior staff. It currently has 397 registered students and 24 teaching staff.

By yesterday, 558 ex-combatants from the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) had handed over their weapons to UNMIL in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, about 400 kilometres southeast of Monrovia.

The disarmament and demobilization began on Friday when MODEL's Deputy Chairman Boi Bleaju Boi turned over weapons to UNMIL Force Commander Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande.

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