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Liberia's new leader faces tough task of rebuilding
( 2003-10-14 09:37) (Agencies)

Gyude Bryant takes office as Liberia's new leader on Tuesday and will seek to disarm roving bands of fighters and rebuild the West African country after nearly 14 years of war.

Tens of thousands of people swamped the streets of the battle-scarred capital Monrovia on Monday to welcome home Bryant, a businessman who was picked by warring factions after ex-President Charles Taylor flew into exile in August.

Businessman Gyude Bryant waves to the crowd as he arrives in Monrovia on Oct. 13, 2003 to be sworn in as head of a government designed to rebuild Liberia after 14 years of war.  [Reuters]
Bryant, 54, is due to be sworn in at 11 a.m., guarded by troops from a United Nations force that is building up into the world's biggest U.N. peacekeeping effort.

Leaders of two rebel factions are expected at the ceremony, though officials said it was not certain they would attend after a shootout between rebels and Taylor loyalists left four dead this month.

Rebels, Taylor loyalists and civilian politicians will all find a place in the government, which Bryant has yet to name.

The new government will seek to disarm thousands of young fighters inured to murder, rape and pillage; get hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians home and pave the way for elections in 2005.

More than 200,000 people have perished during fighting since 1989 in the country that was founded by freed American slaves more than 150 years ago as a haven of liberty.

Bryant, who had been in Ghana since being chosen in August, drove straight from the airport to church through cheering crowds when he returned on Monday.

"Thank you for your energy," he told people at the service. "I hope you will use this energy to help me turn this country around."

Liberia has been given hope since the departure of Taylor, who handed over to his former deputy Moses Blah as caretaker president.

Taylor is in exile in Nigeria, a fugitive from a U.N.-backed court in Sierra Leone that wants to try him for crimes in a civil war linked to Liberia's own struggle.

Former officials were philosophical about the end of his era. Former cabinet director, Blamo Nelson, said: "The lid of the pot has been blown off. The steam is out. Now Liberia has to simmer down."

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