UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ABIDJAN, 21 July (IRIN) - Efforts to implement a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme for Sierra Leone have taken on added urgency as former rebels continue to arrive in Freetown and other urban centres in the country, local analysts have told IRIN.
"We must not lose momentum," Major Jim Gray, UNOMSIL's military spokesman in Freetown, said on Tuesday.
Analysts said rapid implementation of this aspect of the Lome accord was needed otherwise former rebels might revert to looting villages for food.
Under the agreement signed on 7 July by the government and the rebels - the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) allied to the ousted Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) - the encampment, disarmament and demobilisation of combatants must start within six of the deal, meaning by 18 August.
Gray quoted unnamed government sources as saying that the demobilisation centre in the old army barracks 1.6 km from Lungi International Airport would be functional by Friday.
Arrivals at the Lungi demobilisation facility, able to hold at most 3,000 people, will remain there for three to six months. A Freetown-based adviser for the British Department of International Development, Keith Martin, said rebels will receive counselling to help them overcome the enormity of their crimes before being discharged.
At present, new rebel arrivals are being screened at different centres in Freetown and held temporarily at the site of the former Mamy Yoko Hotel, before transfer to Lungi. Despite their yearning for peace, local analysts said, Freetown residents remained nervous about the arrival of large numbers of rebels in the capital, given the atrocities they committed on city residents in January.
Other demobilisation sites
The next demobilisation camp, Gray said, would probably be opened in Masiaka, about 48 km east of Freetown. UNOMSIL and the government are inspecting possible sites such as the southern and eastern towns of Bo and Kenema, and the northern town of Makeni. These locations would be used to register and disarm the pro-government Kamajor militia.
Reasons for delay in disarmament
Government officials have said delays in the arrival of promised donor cash had held up the disarmament process, Reuters reported.
It will cost some US $35 million to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate the RUF, the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), other paramilitary groups and the regular Sierra Leone Army (SLA). However, Sierra Leone's ambassador to the United Nations, Foday Dabor, told the Pan African News Agency on Monday that US $100 million was required, given that the former guerrillas also needed to be fed and reintegrated into normal life.
Martin told IRIN that Britain had already contributed at least eight million pounds (US $12.52 million) to the programme, six million pounds (US $9.39 million) of which was earmarked for the multidonor trust fund.
"We currently have enough money to create and run demobilisation camps for at least three months, " he said.
Britain, he added, would host a donor's conference on 28 July in London for demobilisation, reconstruction, resettlement and reintegration. Britain's secretary of state for international development, Claire Short, is in Freetown ahead of the donor's conference.
In a related development the executive secretary of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration, Isaiah John, told IRIN that 1,400 former members of the Sierra Leonean army, who were part of the ongoing demobilisation programme which has been running since July 1998, had been discharged in recent weeks.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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