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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 21:44 GMT
Weah urges child troops to disarm
A child soldier in the streets of Monrovia
The prolonged civil war has damaged a whole generation
Amid tumultuous scenes, the star footballer George Weah arrived home in Liberia on Tuesday to campaign for the disarmament of child soldiers.

The former Chelsea and AC Milan player - once seen as the world's best centre forward - is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN's children's charity Unicef.

"The war is over," was his message for Liberia's 15,000 or so child soldiers. "Disarm and get back to school."

His visit coincides with a UN Security Council debate on children in war.

Liberia endured 14 years of civil war until former President Charles Taylor fled the country in August last year.

Brutal reality

Mr Weah - one of the most popular men in the country - returned to a joyous reception.

"My message today," he told the crowds, "is that the war is over, there will be no more war, they [the children] should disarm and get back to school, because it is imperative that we live in peace and harmony for the betterment of our country and the children."

George Weah playing for Manchester City in 2000
Weah was Fifa, European and African player of the year in 95
His return coincides with the release of an optional protocol on the treatment of children in conflicts by Unicef, the UN children's agency.

But the brutal reality is that some militia leaders prefer recruiting children, says the BBC's Mark Doyle in Liberia.

This is because they have less sense of morality than adults, and often do not think twice when ordered to commit atrocities, he says.

The BBC's Juliet Dunlop
"He's in Monrovia to promote the UN's campaign for the disarmament of child soldiers"

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