Monday, 1 October 2012

Liberians reluctantly reactivate army

MONROVIA, Liberia — Liberia is embarking on its first large-scale army operation since the end of its civil war almost a decade ago, with troops being deployed to the border with Ivory Coast in a mission to root out militants that officials also hope will revamp the military's image at home.

Liberians are wary of any buildup of their armed forces because the West African country was riven by civil conflict from 1989 to 2003. Under President Charles Taylor, paramilitary troops dubbed the "Demon Forces" launched a campaign of killing and torture across the country.

A U.N.-backed tribunal at The Hague convicted Taylor this year of war crimes for his involvement in clashes in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

The U.S. stepped in to help build a new Liberian army after Africa's first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to power in 2006, but unease about the fighters remains.

"People feel that most of the guys who did cause harm and atrocity in the war times are the same guys within this military," said Cpl. George S. Greene, one of the first of Liberia's newly trained army recruits. "All I can do now is to ensure them that this military is a new kind of military. We'll try to [change] their minds."
Unrest in Ivory Coast has forced the Liberian government to take military action.

A joint force made up of the army, police and immigration officials has been deployed for Operation Restore Hope, a mission to take control of dense forests that observers say are used by rebel Ivorian fighters as a base to launch attacks on the Ivorian army and civilians seen as loyal to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Washington Times website.

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