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Monrovia - Leaders of the previously warring factions in Liberia handed over their guns to United Nations peacekeepers on Thursday in a symbolic gesture a day after a nationwide programme to disarm ex-combatants officially ended.
"Collectively, these generals have played significant roles in sensitisation campaigns of ex-combatants to disarm," said General Daniel Opande, the Kenyan military commander for the UN mission in the West African state (UNMIL).
The support of the 48 leaders "made it easy for us to know who we are going to disarm and where. They provided us with information on weapons and ammunition in the custody of their formations.
"These are reasons why they are the last to be disarmed," he said.
Since the disarmament programme resumed in April, more than 96 000 men, women and children have enrolled, handing in about 27 000 weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition, according to UNMIL.
"I am happy with what we have reached thus far. This is a great day for me and I am delighted," said Roland Duo, who had fought for ousted president Charles Taylor, as he handed over his weapon.
The disarmament operation is central to UNMIL's efforts to return a lasting peace to the war-battered nation, considered a linchpin for stability across volatile West Africa.
The disarmed factions included Liberia's two main rebel groups as well as fighters once loyal to Taylor, who went into exile in Nigeria in August last year as rebels fought their way to the capital Monrovia.
Liberia has since been generally calm, but riots that broke out in Monrovia late in the past week left at least 18 dead and hundreds of properties including mosques, churches and religious schools burned to the ground. - Sapa-AFP