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West African nation of Liberia sends peacekeepers to Mali

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The West African nation of Liberia is sending 50 troops to Mali to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission. It's the first time Liberia since the conclusion of its 14-year-long civil war that ended 10 years ago. That long and bloody conflict was marked by rival warlords and rampant human rights abuses. The Mali mission marks the first time since Liberia rebuilt its army from scratch.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The 12,000-strong U.N. force, known as MINUSMA, will take over peacekeeping duties next month after France launched an offensive in January to drive Islamist rebels from northern Mali.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize told his soldiers to be professional and disciplined during their mission. "You are the pride of Liberia," Sirleaf told the troops at a ceremony in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.

The peacekeeping deployment is only the second in Liberia's history, after it sent peacekeepers to Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1960s.

Peacekeepers from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS played an important role in returning war-torn Liberia to stability.

"We are going to Mali to help our friends. They helped us during our war. If we are in the position to help, we need to do so," said Emmanuel Minarth, an officer with the contingent.

Former President Charles Taylor, who led Liberia for most of the civil war years, was jailed for 50 years by the International Criminal Court in May last year for helping the RUF rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone commit what the court called some of the worst war crimes in history.

The Second Liberian Civil War began in 1999 when a rebel group backed by the government of neighboring Guinea, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), emerged in northern Liberia. In early 2003, a second rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, emerged in the south, and by June-July 2003, Charles Taylor's government controlled only a third of the country. The capital Monrovia was besieged by LURD, and that group's shelling of the city resulted in the deaths of many civilians. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes as a result of the conflict.

The First Liberian Civil War ended with the Liberian general election, 1997 in which Charles Taylor took power.

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