Liberia

Liberia: 5,000 displaced in renewed fighting

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MONROVIA, 5 February (IRIN) - At least 5,000 people have fled fighting in western Liberia between government troops and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels, humanitarian sources in Monrovia said.
The sources said the new internally displaced persons (IDPs) had sought refuge at IDP camps in Montserrado County, which includes the capital, Monrovia. Most come from around the towns of Kley and Tubmanburg, northwest of Monrovia.

The government has massed heavily armed troops near the two towns. Defence Minister Daniel Chea confirmed the capture by LURD of Tubmanburg, 60 km west of the capital, and Bopolu, some 100 km northwest of Monrovia. The capital was calm but with more roadblocks.

Humanitarian sources said fighting on Tuesday spread from three major fronts; These include the Tubmanburg-Kley junction, which lies west of Monrovia along the road to Sierra Leone, and the area between Bopolu and Arthington, northwest of Monrovia. The third front was in the northern county of Lofa, extending from St Paul's Bridge on the border with Bong county to Gbalatuah.

On Monday, humanitarian agencies held meetings to draw up contingency plans to respond to the situation, especially in Montserrado which already hosts four camps for Sierra Leone refugees with a total population of 17,000 people and seven IDPs camps holding an estimated 117,000 persons.

On Tuesday, two opposition leaders called for an immediate international intervention to help end the conflict. Rodolph Sherman, leader of Liberia's oldest political party, True Whig Party, told reporters that the US government should get actively involved in ending the war which, he said, continued to cause hardship and to destroy innocent lives.

Another political leader, Charles Brumskine, called on Nigeria, the United States and other members of the International Contact Group on Liberia to ensure the establishment of a stabilisation force, take urgent action to end the fighting in Liberia, and provide a secure environment for the holding of elections.

The International Contact Group on Liberia was established in 2002 following a July 2002 recommendation by a conference of exiled Liberian politicians and civil society activists in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The group includes Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and the United States.

In a related development, the Liberian parliament said in a release that a delegation of parliamentarians from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, for consultative peace on Wednesday with LURD representatives to try and kickstart dialogue between the government and rebels. The President of the ECOWAS Parliament, Alioun Nouhoum Diallo, who headed the delegation was due to travel from Freetown to Monrovia to meet Liberian government officials.

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