Refugees flee Liberian fighting

Thousands of civilians are again pouring out of Liberia’s second city of Buchanan, fleeing from fresh fighting just as caretaker President Moses Blah seeks to implement a peace agreement ending 14 years of civil war.

    ECOMIL's arrival has brought some calm to the war-scarred country, though whether it will last remains to be seen

    A tide of refugees reportedly streamed along the main road leading from the port city to Monrovia, the troubled country’s capital, on Friday.

     

    Men carried bundles on their heads and women had babies strapped to their backs. The thud of mortar fire could be heard, Reuters reported.

     

    “There was terrible shooting. We could hear mortars. Boom, boom," Benjamin Garkpley, who walked empty-handed towards Harbel outside Monrovia, told Reuters.

     

    Skirmishes in the north

     

    Battles were also raging around the northern town of Ganta.

     

    The reports of fresh fighting less than two weeks after former president Charles Taylor stepped down highlights the fragility of the peace deal signed by Blah's government with the two main rebel groups.

     

    "They told us that peace was coming, but there is no peace for us"

    Liberian refugee

    Both the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and a smaller faction known as Model were fighting to depose Taylor, who went into exile in Nigeria on 11 August.

     

    They declared a ceasefire after Taylor left the country. 

     

    Militias

     

    Government positions near Buchanan were reportedly attacked by Model.  

     

    But peacekeepers who visited the area Saturday said they were told the shooting was carried out by pro-government militias to scare civilians.

       

    "Model were still in their positions," said Col. Theophilus Tawiah, a spokesman for the force, known as Ecomil. "There's been no advance by Model forces."

       

    The appointment of Blah as provisional head of state was opposed by the rebels who say he is just as guilty as Charles Taylor of plundering resources and stoking civil strife.

     

    “They told us that peace was coming, but there is no peace for us,” Jacalane Telor screamed as she hurried along near Cotton Tree some 48 km southeast of Monrovia, Reuters reported.

     

    “Where is Ecomil ?” she pleaded.

     

    Civilians

     

    Since Taylor arrived in the resource-rich country in 1989 and launched a rebellion against the government, some 250,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed.

       

    Still, in signs that all is not lost, dozens of Liberian child soldiers who fought in the country's civil war have started to demobilise of their own accord, a United Nations spokesman said Saturday.

     

    As many as 80 children had sought UN assistance and are currently being lodged in Monrovia, AFP reported.  

     

    "The number is definitely growing. Some of the children have come from as far as Lofa county," Liberia's most northerly province, the spokesman said.

     

    Regional experts estimate that some 80% of soldiers fighting the war were children.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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