Liberian Demobilization Camps Continue Work Despite Violence

Despite sporadic violence that broke out in Liberia's capital city of Monrovia in recent weeks, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) continues to demobilize former soldiers without interruption.

“Demobilization is critical in stabilizing and reintegrating ex-combatants who, through Liberia's years of turmoil, may have known little outside of life as members of a violent fighting force,” UMCOR reported. The term ex-combatant refers to former soldiers as well as to cooks, porters, and others who accompanied them, often by force, during the civil crisis in Liberia.

The camps, established in March with a grant from the United Nations Development Program, are designed to prepare residents for next steps in their return home. Following their stay at the camp, participants move on to job and skills training and other aspects of their reentry into community life. The United Methodist humanitarian aid agency also won a UN grant to offer vocational training to about 1,300 former soldiers.

Since the establishment of the camps, UMCOR has supervised activities leading to the reintegration of some 23,000 combatants who fought in the 14-year civil war. While activity at one camp has concluded, UMCOR officials said a second camp is to remain open until March 2005.

The agency invites donors to respond to its appeal for funds to sustain this and other efforts in Liberia. Contributions can be made to UMCOR Advance #150300, Liberia Emergency, and mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115. Donors making credit card donations may call toll free 1-800-554-8580.