- Moses Blah, an ex-President of Liberia and a former top aide to the wanted war criminal Charles Taylor, has surrendered his weapons to UN peacekeepers. The 57-year-old surrendered his arms as part of Liberia's national disarmament programme, and made a rare public statement supporting the ongoing peace process.
Mr Blah is Liberia's immediate former President, who took over from exiled President Taylor in August last year. Today, he surrendered his weapons to UN peacekeepers in the capital, Monrovia, according to a UN statement.
The arms were turned over to Lt.-Gen. Daniel Opande, Force Commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia (UNMIL), five days after senior UN envoy Jacques Paul Klein had announced that the disarmament programme would wrap up within two months.
Mr Blah, a long-serving Vice President under Mr Taylor July 2000 - August 2003), was Liberia's President for just over two months, until the inauguration of the current national transitional government headed by Charles Gyude Bryant on 14 October 2003 as part of a peace deal brokered among the country's three warring factions.
While ex-President Taylor has been indicted by the war crimes court in Sierra Leone for brutal crimes against civilians, Mr Blah stepped down from power in Liberia with all honours. During his short presidency, Mr Blah even made an official visit to Liberia's ex-foe Sierra Leone, where he was received heartily. As Vice-President, Mr Blah however was strictly loyal to President Taylor.
Turning over his weapons as well as those of his bodyguards, Mr Blah stated that after 14 years of war, Liberians could boast of no winners but only losers. "Since the United Nations is here to bring us the much needed peace through disarmament, it is no longer necessary to keep arms," he said.
- I have emptied this house of weapons, said ex-President Blah. "All around me, we have disarmed to you today. Our security now is in the hands of the United Nations and the transitional government," the influential leader added.
Receiving weapons from the former Liberian leader, Mr Opande urged all former fighters in the country to emulate Mr Blah's example and surrender their weapons to the UN. "I think it is a good opportunity for former President Blah to show the people of Liberia that having been a fighter himself, having been in leadership position, he has shown that all the leaders also must disarm, not only the ordinary combatants."
UNMIL has so far disarmed over 71,000 former fighters and collected and destroyed more than 20,000 weapons and over 5 million rounds of small arms ammunition. Disarmed soldiers are offered vocational training and formal education as part of the efforts to reintegrate them into mainstream society and offer them a second chance at civilian life. The disarmament programme will come to an end on 30 October.
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