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Liberia: Situation tense ahead of new government

Briefing notes

Liberia: Situation tense ahead of new government

10 October 2003

The situation in Liberia remains tense in the lead-up to the inauguration of the Interim Government on October 14. There are reports of displacement in northern Liberia, around the towns of Totota and Salala.

However, an inter-agency mission that visited the central Liberia town of Gbarnga on Wednesday reported that there had been no major incident in that area since a team went there on September 30, when the town was practically empty. On Wednesday, however, around 2,000 people, mainly women and children, were gathered in the town during the team's visit. Leaders of the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy appealed for assistance and promised aid agencies they will have access to areas under their control. The team found the UNHCR office and guest house in Gbarnga had been looted and there were indications that civilians were being mistreated by LURD soldiers. Heavy fighting broke out in central Liberia in mid-September prompting several thousand Liberians to flee into Guinea, but the situation has improved since.

In Monrovia, incidents of looting and robbery have been reported despite efforts by UN peacekeepers to collect weapons now in the hands of civilians and armed groups in the Liberian capital. An inter-agency effort in Monrovia is continuing to decongest internally displaced people - estimated at more than 150,000 - from 62 sites (schools, a stadium, houses and abandoned buildings). This is hampered by constant IDP movements, however. Often, displaced people move into places from which we have just relocated others in a sort of desperate game of musical chairs. But we are optimistic that the situation will improve once the 15,000 peacekeepers begin deploying throughout the country. On Wednesday, we began to help move hundreds of IDPs from six of 10 schools in Monrovia to an IDP facility in Fendell, about 15 km north of the capital. We are constructing a building there that will accommodate 3,500 people.

In an ongoing effort to maintain an appropriate level of aid supplies in Monrovia, the UNHCR-chartered vessel Overbeck arrived this morning with blankets, jerry cans, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, and soap for 10,000 people. Containers with stocks for over 75,000 people are being shipped from Accra, Copenhagen and Freetown. UNHCR has so far distributed emergency relief for 40,000 people in Liberia.