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Liberia: UN Extends Disarmament To Heart Of War

Liberia: UN Extends Disarmament To Birthplace Of Country's Long Civil War

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has brought its efforts to restore peace to the very region where the prolonged civil war first began 15 years ago, launching its latest disarmament and demobilization program in the strife-torn West African country's remote Nimba county.

More than 200 ex-government soldiers who fought for former President Charles Taylor surrendered their weapons to UN peacekeepers yesterday in the town of Ganta on the first day of the campaign.

"We have progressively moved with our disarmament plans and from Nimba we will branch to the northwest and southeast of the country," UNMIL Force Commander Lt.-Gen. Daniel Opande said of the nationwide operation which has disarmed more than 66,000 combatants from various factions since it began in December.

"Once we have done that, we would have covered the whole country," he added, describing the current phase as critical to "dispel the notion" that there were cross-border movements of weapons into neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.

More than 16,000 troops and police are participating in UNMIL's operations to support implementation of the ceasefire and peace process between former President Taylor's forces and two major opposition groups in preparation for elections to be held no later than the end of next year. They are also supporting humanitarian and human rights activities while assisting in national security reform, including police training and military restructuring.

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