With funds scarce and unemployment out of control, Monrovia is on the brink of another downward spiral into violence Rioting has rocked Liberia's crumbling capital, Monrovia, in the last few days as dozens of ex-soldiers demand the government live up to its promises. The former soldiers had laid down their guns in exchange for cash payouts and the chance to go to school. 'Every day in Liberia there is rioting because the combatants want to get into school, but we don't have the money we need for funding,' said Molley Paasewe, spokesman for the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration. Since a peace accord was signed last year, the commission's programme has taken weapons and ammunition from 83,000 ex-combatants. In exchange, the soldiers are supposed to receive US$300, formal schooling, and training in skills such as carpentry and electronics. So far, the programme has paid only 30,000 of the ex-fighters. Although 12,500 were supposed to start school this month, tuition fees and placements had been secured for only 2,500 people. The ex-fighters, most of them men aged 27 to 29, have responded with demonstrations and picketing that has devolved into looting and rioting. UN aid agencies have warned staff to limit travel within the city. Money promised by the Norwegian, Swedish and US governments, as well as the European Union and two international aid organisations, has not materialised. Of US$43 million pledged, only about $10 million has actually reached Liberia, and Mr Paasewe said it had already been spent. 'The tension is there,' Mr Paasewe said. 'There is real apprehension that if the funding is not there, we could slide right back to ground zero.' Liberia is at a crucial stage in its slow recovery from a devastating, 14-year civil war. Almost 400,000 of Liberia's 3 million people were killed in the conflict; another 300,000 fled to neighbouring countries. Three warring factions worked their way towards Monrovia, the country's tiny capital, ransacking and looting along the way. Entire towns were eventually burned to the ground, and whatever foundations remained were quickly covered by jungle growth. Since ex-president Charles Taylor was ousted from office in August last year, Liberia has been patrolled by a United Nations peacekeeping mission and run by a UN-appointed transitional government. Elections are slated for next October and the UN, which has secured only four of the country's 15 counties, could leave soon after. Last week, almost 200 refugees returned to Liberia from Ghana and Sierra Leone, the first phase of a three-year repatriation process intended to see more than 300,000 people go back home. It is the third time refugees have returned home. Each previous time, they have been forced out of the country by renewed fighting. 'This is our last opportunity, and if we miss this opportunity we're doomed,' said Wesley Johnson, vice-chairman of the transitional government. 'This is extremely important because it symbolises that peace, real peace, has come to our country.' The refugees who returned to Monrovia will face an uphill battle in a city without running water, where the electrical grid is only partially repaired and whose unemployment rate is a staggering 85 per cent. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees, which organised the refugees' return, will provide household items like tarpaulins, blankets, pots and jerry cans, but not money. That worries Alvin Kpoto, who has to feed his wife, Jeannette Browne, and their two children, Massa, 12 and Teddy, five. The family fled Liberia in 1990 after rebels torched their home. They returned in 1997, only to flee again when the fighting became too intense. Mr Kpoto ran a foreign exchange bureau and sold rice before the war. He then sold fish and fresh water at a refugee camp in Ghana. He is not sure what he'll do now. 'If they give me a loan, I'll be able to pay it back,' he vowed. Finding work for the city's desperately hungry citizens is paramount for the many groups working to bring peace to the beleaguered West African nation. 'The tendency for people to regroup is very high, and the country is still going through a transitional phase,' Mr Paasewe said. 'A combatant who has spent five days in a [disarmament] camp, his mentality has not changed. You can take away his gun, but he'll find other means,' he said.