Thousands of disarmed former fighters from Liberia’s 14 year civil war are still roaming the country without training or reintegration into society, threatening Liberia’s chances of future stability, the head of the Liberian government's disarmament and reintegration commission warned on Thursday.
"It is very important that the 23,000 ex-combatants based on the data available to the commission should be trained. If this is not done, it will pose a very high security risk to the peace of this country," Jarvis Witherspoon, head of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCDDRR) said at a press conference.
A United Nations commissioned independent nation-wide survey of ex-combatants reintegration conducted last year recommended a continuation of a skills training programs for those who are yet to benefit.
"There is a major risk of leaving behind a very vulnerable grouping of ex-combatants - those who have disarmed and demobilised, but have yet to receive training," the survey said. It recommended that "international intervention should ensure the continuation of the program.”
Witherspoon blamed the lack of skills training for the remaining former fighters on a curtailment of donor funding. "The commission has realised that... a sense of donor fatigue developed when it comes to support to have these 23,000 ex-combatants trained," he said.
The commission wants US$18 million dollars to embark on the provision of skill training for those remaining fighters.
At the start of the disarmament in Liberia, cash benefits of US$300 were given each disarmed and demobilised former fighter. They were allowed to chose which form of training they would prefer either academic or vocational skills development.
At the end of the country-wide disarmament program in November 2004, official statistics from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) which supervised the exercise reported that 101,495 fighters were disarmed and demobilised.
But so far, only 75,000 of the former fighters have been placed in donor-funded training programs to learn skills like plumbing, carpentry, and masonry. Others have been enrolled in secondary schools and other higher learning institutes. A further 3,500 are enrolled in programs that are yet to start.
The reintegration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants, which was previously controlled by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was handed over to the NCDDRR earlier this month.