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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Liberians 'used as forced labour'
Displaced people flee Totota in central Liberia
The UN has urged Liberian rebels to 'stop intimidating people'

The United Nations have accused rebels in Liberia of using civilians as forced labour.

The UN's humanitarian affairs agency (OCHA) said members of the main rebel group, Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy [Lurd], were forcing women to harvest rice for them in the northern town of Gbarnga, which is suffering food shortages.

According to the agency, recent fighting between Lurd and the government had forced more than 5,000 civilians to flee into nearby Guinea between 29 August and 18 September.

The agency quoted aid workers as saying that another rebel faction, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia [Model], that controls southern and eastern Liberia, was also using civilians as forced labour in the Liberia's second biggest city, Buchanan.

Restrictions

The West African peacekeeping forces [Ecomil] were recently refused permission by Model rebels, to deploy in Buchanan where many people are suffering from malnutrition and disease.

Ecomil were forced to establish a base just outside the city.

The rebels have restricted the freedom of civilians to leave Buchanan, which hosts an estimated 32,000 displaced people.

There are about 3,500 Ecomil troops in Liberia but it operates mainly in the towns and cities.

The force is expected to be replaced by 15,000 UN peacekeepers, which will start deploying next month, to restore stability and disarm more than 30,000 armed militia who are still operating in the countryside.

The UN agency called on armed groups to stop intimidating people and abusing their human rights.




SEE ALSO:
Liberia to get 15,000 UN troops
19 Sep 03  |  Africa


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