30/07/2003

Annan 'outraged' at humanitarian crisis in Liberia

The Secretary-General Kofi Annan has voiced his "outrage" at the continued high incidence of civilian casualties in and around the Liberian capital Monrovia, as the result of "indiscriminate shelling".

He has demanded that all concerned respect the ceasefire agreed to in Accra.

"It is imperative that the siege of Monrovia be lifted, so that desperately-needed humanitarian relief can be brought in, peacekeepers can be quickly deployed and President Charles Taylor can depart," Mr Annan has said.

The Secretary-General has said that those who cause suffering to the civilian population will be held individually accountable for any war crimes they commit.

"By their reckless and criminal behaviour, they are disqualifying themselves from any leadership role in the future of their country," he warned.

The humanitarian crisis in Liberia has deepened in recent days after thousands more refugees were displaced in the wake of the rebel's capture of the country's second city, Buchanan.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) received reports yesterday that over 50,000 people, including some who fled recent fighting in the capital Monrovia, were moving towards an area near the international airport.

Since fighting between government forces and Movement for Democracy in Liberia (Model) rebels intensified around Buchanan late last week, some 9,000 people have fled into the city, adding the 6,000 refugees already there.

Recent fighting on Monrovia’s outskirts has caused displacement as well, and the UN has received reports that thousands of people are fleeing the war in Gardnersville, some 20 kilometres east of the capital and heading towards refugee centres which are already overcrowded.

OCHA has said that the situation in Monrovia has worsened and yesterday mortar shells landed on a church in the city centre killing three people and wounding over 40 others.

Fighting in the capital has overwhelmed health facilities, with nearly all energy devoted to treating the wounded, OCHA has reported.

(GMcG)

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