Monday, 1 September 2003

Monrovia (Fides Service)- “The people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, after so many years of war and desperation” Consolata Missionary Sisters in Harbel tell Fides Service. Harbel lies 50 km south of Monrovia the capital of Liberia. “Since the arrival of the UN peace keeping force (ECOMIL), the situation in Monrovia is calm” the missionaries say. “At the moment ECOMIL is trying to penetrate the interior and to do so it has started talks with the different guerrilla groups present in Liberia. It is not always clear who is the leader of these groups and so it is difficult to find people to talk to establish agreements to guarantee the passage of aid to help the suffering people”.
“The situation in Monrovia is slowly returning to normal” Father Mauro Armanini, a missionary of the Society of African Mission confirms to Fides Service. “But fighting continues in some parts of the country as I myself have seen. I have just come back from an area about 100 km from Monrovia, where I saw thousands of people in flight. In fact the main rebel group LURD, is still fighting a number of other groups which want their share in the booty before the situation is stabilised. More than guerrilla warfare this is banditry and as usual the ordinary people are the ones who suffer.”
With regard to humanitarian aid Father Armanini says supplies are arriving. “The World Food Programme and several other NGOs have resumed food distribution although very slowly due to lack of security. There are still thousands who have not seen even a grain of rice. It is months since these people received aid”.
On 18 August the Liberian government and to two main rebels groups LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) and MODEL (Movement for Democracy in Liberia), signed a peace agreement which led to the formation of a transition government to prepare elections within the next two years. The transition government will start to operate on 14 October. In the meantime Moses Blah has assumed power. The agreement was signed a week after resigning president Charles Taylor went into exile in Nigeria. Taylor, who was elected in 1997, has been charged with crimes against humanity by the international court for Sierra Leone. To help the peace process an international peace keeping force of 3.250 men is being deployed. The troops come mainly from member countries of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWS/CEMAC). (L.M.) (Fides 1/9/2003 lines 34, words 435)