MONROVIA, LIBERIA — HDDisplaced Civilians Wary Of Returning
THE civil war in Liberia in 1990 forced about half of the country's 2.7 million people to flee their homes, either inside the country or to neighboring states, according to the United Nations.
"This is a very, very dislocated society," says Ross Mountain, Special Coordinator for UN Relief and Rehabilition in Liberia.
One Liberian, who asked not to be named, says he fled Monrovia in mid-1990 to escape the fighting. For nine months he stayed with friends in a rural area under the control of rebels loyal to Charles Taylor.
"If you were educated, they could shoot you," he says of Taylor's rebels. Food was scarce; he planted a garden, and got additional food from friends. "We survived it, somehow, and we're here," he says with a slight smile.
But about 500,000 Liberians are still displaced within the country, many separated from their families, according to a February report by the Washington-based United States Committee for Refugees. Continuing insecurity in parts of Liberia is making it difficult for international relief groups to reach these people, the report says.
Another 663,000 Liberians are refugees in neighboring countries. "Most ... want to return home, but are reluctant to do so until they see definite action to resolve the conflict," says Hiram Ruiz, author of the report.
The largest groups are in Guinea (397,000) and Ivory Coast (240,000), the committee reports. UN and local relief programs in those countries are under-financed; refugees receive "only basic assistance," according to the report.
To help alleviate the situation, the Committee recommends more international pressure and funding to implement terms of the November peace accord between the two sides in Liberia.