Liberia

Liberia: Peace Delayed is Peace Denied

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Washington, DC - Monrovia in the last few weeks has faced what is now known as a "semblance of peace." But war-wearied Liberians want more than a semblance of peace, they want the real thing: lasting and durable peace, an opportunity to put their lives back together.
Liberia, perhaps more than any other nation in West Africa, has suffered sufficiently. After more than six years of a brutal civil war that has left more than 200,000 dead, 800,000 others as refugees and more than a million displaced, Liberia deserves the good-will of people everywhere to end their nightmare. They deserve a special support from the United States of America government.

That is why when the United States reportedly committed additional funding for the peace efforts in Liberia, that pronouncement was greeted with gratitude. But the U.S. still has not delivered. This delay in delivering the promised required resources to ECOMOG has historically compounded the suffering of the Liberian people.

Following the signing of the Abuja Accord in August 1995, a donor conference was held in New York in October at which time the United States promised $10 million in support for peace keeping activities. Less than half of that money was disbursed before the April 6th flare-up in fighting. All along, the urgency for the delivery of the funding was established but the U.S. would not act speedily.

It has been at least three weeks since a degree of calm has returned to Monrovia. A partial disarmament of some of the fighters who were holed up at the Barclay Training Center has taken place. The momentum towards more disarmament is greater given the following variables:

A. The largest warring faction, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) is in retreat. Mr. Taylor is reported to have set up a new military post in Totota. To coerce Mr. Taylor into disarming his men while he is in retreat is more likely than after he has regrouped and is re-supplied.

B. Some of the most hard-core fighters of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), United Liberation Movement for Democracy- ULIMO/J faction is in Monrovia and more accessible. They can therefore be more easily disarmed and encamped but if they are allowed to return to the rural area, something which is now being allowed, it would be more difficult, if not futile, to disarm when they are in the bush.

C. Peace keeping soldiers have been patrolling Monrovia effectively and have set up check points around Camp Schiefflein and the Pynesville intersection. This has enabled them to partially monitor movement into and out of Monrovia.

D. A seeming crack is occurring between the two allies - Taylor of the NPFL and Kromah of the ULIMO-K faction who visited upon the Liberian people their most recent rendezvous with deaths, mayhem and destruction. Whereas Taylor has stated that he wants elections in August come hell or hot water, Mr. Kromah has stated that disarmamment should take place before elections.

This momentum must be built upon. The peacekeepers need to be provided the necessary logistics they have continuously requested and have been promised on countless occasions but never delivered. These logistics including all-terrain vehicles, communication gears, field hospitals, and adequate funding must be delivered as a matter of urgency, if the United States is really serious about assisting the Liberian people end the war.

Additionally, the augmentation of the peacekeeping force must be pursued expeditiously. Perhaps one reason why April 6 occurred was because Liberian warlords were convinced that given ECOMOG lack of an overwhelming force in Monrovia, they could get away with whatever they wanted. They must not be provided with that option again. ECOMOG must have the strength it needs to deter any behaviour on the part of the Liberian warlords which would jeopardize the safety of Liberians in the country.

Liberia's porous border with its neighbors, especially Guinea and La Cote d'Ivoire is cause for concern. The June 7 cross border raids by forces believed to be NPFL soldiers into Toulepleau, la Cote d'Ivoire, resulted in the death of 14 Liberian refugees. During the week of June 17, ULIMO-K forces, on an apparent foraging mission for food, over-ran the town of Yaragbara in Guinea wounding at least a dozen Liberian refugees. The death toll is yet to be announced. Earlier, on March 15 at least 35 persons were killed, several homes were burned down by the same group. The Guineans have now said that they will begin to pursue the rebel soldiers into Liberian territories.

In order to prevent these cross border raids and the continuous flow of arms into Liberia, these borders need a more effective monitoring. Guinea and La Cote d'Ivoire have to be persuaded and supported to achieve that.

ECOMOG's ability to return Monrovia, Buchanan and Kakata to their former safe haven status can only come about if a successful disarmament takes place. This will have the desired effect of convincing Liberians that they need not take to sea in unworthy sea vessels which are repeatedly denied docking rights by neighboring countries. No amount of condemnation from the rich nations of the world will make West African government take in these refugees, especially when these very rich nations are not perceived as urgently and concretely assisting the movement towards a peaceful settlement of the Liberian war. It is high time then, that promised assistance for the Liberian peace process be delivered immediately. For many Liberians, peace delayed is peace denied.

For more information, contact the Africa Faith and Justice Network, a group of people of faith working towards positive change for the peoples of Africa, at PO Box 29378, Washington DC 20017; telephone 202 832 3412; fax 202 832 9051; e-mail afjn@igc.apc.org.

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