20 September 2012

Liberia: Unmil Concerned About Reports of 'Mercenary' Activities

Photo: Glenna Gordon/UNHCR
An Ivorian refugee gets a lift on a motorbike taxi to Zwedru in southeastern Liberia.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has expressed serious concern over reports of "mercenary" activities at refugee camps in Grand Gedeh County. Grand Gedeh County is located in Southeastern Liberia. The refugee camps in Grand Gedeh are: Dougee, Solo and PTP.

It can be recalled that recently, Grand Gedeh County Superintendent, Mr. Peter Solo, alarmed over "mercenary activities" at the camps. Among other things, Mr. Solo asserted that "there were suspicions of possible recruitment of dissident forces at the three (3) camps".

According to the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) of UNMIL, Madam Karin Landgren, the mission is concerned about reports about former combatants, militias as well as Liberian "mercenaries" involvement into the situation in neighboring La Cote D'Ivoire.

She disclosed that reports concerning the allegation have also been provided by the Joint Task Force (JTF) which includes personnel from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP).She spoke Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at UNMIL's regular press briefing held at the Pan Africa Plaza in Monrovia.

Speaking further, Madam Landgren pointed out that the Government of Liberia (GOL) has a commitment to prevent its territory from being used for attack on neighboring countries, stating: "the security of border points is the responsibility of the Liberian security agencies."

Since the launch of "Operation Restore Hope" by the GOL at the border, Madam Landgren recalled that UNMIL has provided "just minimum support" to the Liberian soldiers assigned at the border. The UNMIL new boss indicated that the safeguarding of Liberia's border points is something that needs great attention.

She said measures must be put into place to ensure that those she called "negative elements" are not seeking refuge in the country. "Many of those who crossed the border from La Cote D'Ivoire into Liberia are refugees and in fact, the number has quite reduced because many of them had to go back home. Liberia has been a generous host to the refugees.

They continue to be refugees while they are here and there should be no rumors on who is actually crossing the border. We are concerned about former combatants, militias and Liberian mercenaries," she emphasized. She continued: "These concerns about mercenary activities linked to some of the refugees have also been reported by the task force.

We see many measures that can be taken to strengthen the security of the border and also try to ensure that those coming into Liberia are not the negative elements. Guiding the border is really a serious issue." However, the UNMIL boss disclosed that several measures have been taken to ensure that the border points of Liberia is safe and secured.

Madam Landgren said the renewal of "Operation Restore Hope," deployment of 50 unarmed LNP officers at refugee camps in Grand Gedeh County and the screening of the refugees as some of the steps taken towards the reports. The UN official said the deployment of the officers and the screening of the refugees will help strengthen the security of the camps.

"More can be done to make sure that this kind of activity is not taking place and we have also seen in recent months that some of the suspected mercenaries have been arrested and charged. We will be working closely with our UNOCI colleagues in Ivory Coast.

Three (3) helicopters previously based here are going to be based in La Cote D'Ivoire and be used in the interest of cross border fight," the UNMIL chief stated. She urged Liberia and La Cote D'Ivoire to put in place what she calls a "share border strategy" to guarantee the safety of the border.

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