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After 14 Years Liberians Return Home To Key Areas

After 14 Years Of Displacement, Liberians To Return Home To Key Areas With UN Aid

Six counties in Liberia are ready for the return of people who had been forced to flee up to 14 years previously when fighting engulfed the West African nation, the United Nations peacekeeping mission there has announced.

Some 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are expected to participate in the return process, which UN officials say will give these citizens the chance to begin a new life and participate in elections scheduled for 2005.

Each individual who returns will get a two-month food ration as well as home supplies like blankets, soap, sleeping mats and a family cooking set. Transportation and a small cash grant are also provided.

The aid is deliberately structured to avoid creating dependence on outside help, according to Abou Moussa, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Deputy Special Representative for Liberia.

“We are gradually moving away from the usual hand-outs that we give at the beginning of any emergency operation in terms of food and what we call non-food items,” he told the UN News Service from the capital, Monrovia.

In order to help the returnees improve their long-term economic prospects, the UN and its partners are providing seeds and tools while working to upgrade Liberia’s infrastructure by rehabilitating hospitals and rebuilding schools damaged during the fighting.

The counties of Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu, Margibi, Bong and Rivercess are ready for returns thanks to Liberia’s growing stability. “We can easily say that the guns have been silenced,” said Mr. Moussa.

He attributed this to the fact that UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has received nearly its full complement of 15,000 troops. “The physical presence of the military will secure the environment.”

In addition, the progressive return of humanitarian workers “reinforced security,” while the rehabilitation of facilities and distribution of food encouraged displaced people to go back home, he added.

Their return is being timed with Liberia’s agricultural cycle. “We don’t want them to lose the planting season,” he noted.

Looking to the broader issue of peacekeeping, Mr. Moussa observed that having adequate troop strength is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. “Providing resources for peacekeeping is not enough,” he said. “Unless we also support other activities which facilitate the return and stability of the population, the dynamism in the economy, we have not completed the assignment.”

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