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Liberia: General improvement marred by Nimba clashes

Briefing notes

Liberia: General improvement marred by Nimba clashes

7 November 2003

While the security situation in most of Liberia continues to improve, intermittent clashes over the past weeks in Nimba County in Central Liberia have forced some 6,000 people to flee to Saclepea, 230 km north-east of Monrovia. Reports from that area this week were very worrying, although military and defense officials said this morning that the interim government had managed to defuse the situation there.

Our office in Saclepea had earlier reported that troops of the armed group MODEL, or Movement for Democracy in Liberia, had been battling government forces deployed in the town. An air reconnaissance on Monday by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said that some 80 armed men were advancing toward Saclepea and that villages along the route had been burned.

We have been attempting to join an inter-agency humanitarian mission to Saclepea but have not been able to secure travel clearance. We did manage to send some supplies with a two-truck convoy of MSF Switzerland that went to Saclepea on Thursday. We are also making available our own limited supplies of jerry cans, soap and towels and kitchen sets in Saclepea to aid agencies operating in the area.

Elsewhere in north-eastern Liberia, the situation is continuing to improve since the departure of former president Charles Taylor into exile in August, ending 14 years of civil conflict. At Zwedru in Grand Gedeh County, local authorities say that some 4,500 people in 900 Liberian families were on the Côte d'Ivoire side preparing to move back to Liberia as soon as food and medicine become available in the area.

Several thousand Liberians have gone back to their homes in the area in recent weeks from Côte d'Ivoire. However, humanitarian activities remain limited until the full deployment of 15,000 UN peacekeepers, expected in the coming months. Around 257,000 Liberian refugees are in the neighbouring countries, including 147,000 who fled the June-August fighting.