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Liberia: Churches Call for Peace Support
Africa Policy E-Journal
June 1, 2003 (030601)
Liberia: Churches Call for Peace Support
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Peace talks on Liberia are scheduled to begin on June 4 in
Akosombo, Ghana, under the sponsorship of the International Contact
Group on Liberia, as Liberian religious leaders and others warn
that the humanitarian situation and the risk of escalated conflict
in Liberia and neighboring countries are "extremely alarming." This
posting contains a press release from Church World Service relaying
a call for support by Liberian churches, and the executive summary
of a background report from the International Crisis Group
stressing the significance of the conflict in Liberia for the West
African region. Liberian churches, Ghana, and ECOWAS are among
those pushing for successful peace talks, but greater support is
needed from influential members of the International Contact Group,
particularly the three permanent UN Security Council members the
U.S., UK, and France.
28 May 2003
Liberian Churches Work for Peace, Plead for Americans to
Church World Service(CWS) - USA
Jan Dragin, firstname.lastname@example.org; 781-926-1526
Carol Fouke, email@example.com; 212-870-2227/2252
Ann Walle, firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-870-2654
Peace Talks Are Scheduled for June 4, Humanitarian Situation is
May 28, 2003, New York City - Liberia's churches are pleading with
American Christians to help them as they seek to bring emergency
assistance, peace and hope in a nation battered by more than 13
years of civil war and whose situation seems only to grow more
desperate every day.
Church leaders report a proliferation of armed groups, forced
recruitment of children aged 12 to 18 years and amputations of men,
women and children by the belligerent forces. The fighting has
uprooted hundreds of thousands from their homes, driving them into
overcrowded camps where the fragile shelters provide inadequate
protection in the rainy season, which now has commenced.
Today, fighting has rendered 80 percent of the country inaccessible
to relief agencies, according to United Nations sources.
"The humanitarian situation is extremely alarming. Because there
are no safe corridors, relief (supplies) are unable to reach the
affected," said Benjamin D. Lartey, General Secretary of the
Liberian Council of Churches, in a May 23 situation report. The
World Food Program has stopped distributing food to an estimated
200,000 displaced people in camps around Liberia because the
rations were being seized systematically by armed raiders as soon
as they were handed out, according to the United Nations.
"As a result," Mr. Lartey said, "people are dying from starvation
and diseases. Help is urgently needed to save the lives of
The global humanitarian agency Church World Service is striving to
enlist U.S. churches and government leaders to take an active
interest on behalf of Liberia's beleaguered people, who feel
forgotten by the United States, Liberia's long-time ally.
CWS is funding the participation of five Liberian church leaders in
peace talks scheduled for June 4 in Ghana, and has sent food,
blankets and personal hygiene supplies for displaced Liberians.
Concerned Christian Community, a CWS partner agency in Liberia,
said the latest aid shipment was "like manna from above" and helped
nearly 3,600 pregnant and nursing mothers, children and elderly in
six internally displaced persons (IDP) camps near Liberia's capital
city of Monrovia.
But both Church World Service and its Liberian partners emphasize
that the great magnitude of the crisis will require much more in
the way of humanitarian and political intervention.
CWS fields requests from its partners in more than 80 countries,
then issues appeals for financial and material support from its 36
U.S. member denominations and the public. "U.S. church support for
Liberia has not been what we'd hoped in the past year or so," said
Donna Derr, Associate Director of the CWS Emergency Response
Program. "We are talking with our Liberian partners about how we
can keep Liberia in the forefront of people's minds," she said. "We
continue to be incredibly concerned that the desperate situation
there and that the tremendous needs haven't generated the funds to
support the basic needs of all these displaced people."
Civil war broke out in Liberia in 1989 and has never really let go,
scattering people and spilling arms across Liberia and into
neighboring countries. The war officially ended with the 1997
elections and inauguration of President Charles Taylor. But in
1999, fighting broke out again, this time between government forces
and rebels calling themselves Liberians United for Reconciliation
and Democracy (LURD).
In April of this year, a new fighting group emerged in southeastern
Liberia - the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). On May 20,
MODEL rebels took control of the Harper seaport and airport in
Now a third force, the Grebo Defense Force (GDF) has emerged in the
southeast and is fighting MODEL in River Gee County. "This group
has been organized to protect their county from rebel incursion,"
said Mr. Lartey, a lay leader in the African Methodist Episcopal
Zion Church. "This is a serious development, for if peace does not
come soon, this could be the new trend for many armed groups to
Said Mr. Peter Kamei, a United Methodist who is general secretary
of the YMCA of Liberia, "If nothing is done, a bloodbath like that
in Rwanda or Burundi could result." He added, "Whether Americans
accept it or not, they are looked to as Liberia's most precious
ally." Liberia was founded by freed U.S. slaves, fought alongside
U.S. troops in both world wars, supplied Firestone with rubber and
- until the end of the Cold War - was the site of a strategic
communications center."There is a need for America's voice to be
Peace Is Top Priority; Talks Scheduled for June 4
Liberia's 2.7 million citizens are pinning hopes on talks between
government and rebel leaders, now scheduled for June 4 in Ghana
after several postponements. The talks result in large part from
the persistent diplomacy of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia
(IRCL), which comprises the Liberian Council of Churches and
National Muslim Council of Liberia.
"All stakeholders are expected to be in attendance including the
Government of Liberia and the rebel forces," said Mr. Lartey, an
That will be a hard-won achievement. To lay the groundwork for the
talks has required engaging literally dozens of parties. The IRCL
has met repeatedly with all of them, beginning with the Liberian
government and leaders of LURD and MODEL.
The IRCL also has maintained dialogue with the Economic Community
of West African States (ECOWAS); the European Union; the United
Nations; Liberian civil society organizations and women's groups;
all 18 registered political parties, including the ruling party,
and the governments of the United States, Great Britain and France.
To ensure that all obstacles to the June 4 talks are minimized, the
IRCL was scheduled to convene a meeting in Freetown, Sierra Leone,
May 25-26 between LURD, MODEL and the designated Chief Mediator of
the Liberian Peace Process, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar,
former Nigerian head of state.
Travel within West Africa is expensive, and Church World Service is
helping the IRCL see the process through by covering travel costs
for five of its members to the talks in Ghana. ECOWAS and the
International Contact Group for Liberia are funding the
participation of two additional IRCL representatives. Roman
Catholic Archbishop Michael K. Francis is expected to lead the
delegation "It is important that Liberia's religious leaders be
able to see the talks through," said the Rev. John L. McCullough,
CWS Executive Director."The stakes are very high. Liberians'
suffering must end Indeed, the peace and well-being of the entire
sub-region depends on a resolution of the conflict in Liberia."
Churches Struggle to Meet Overwhelming Human Need
In the meantime, Liberian churches' humanitarian service among the
displaced is nothing less than heroic. The Rev. Kortu Brown, a
Pentecostal who directs Concerned Christian Community, a Liberian
faith-based humanitarian service organization, has confirmed the
successful distribution of the goods airlifted to Monrovia by
Church World Service in mid-April.
The 1,500 CWS logo blankets, 1,000 health kits and 4,296 cans of
processed beef helped 3,583 persons in Seigbeh, Jartondo Town,
Wilson Corner, Ricks, Perry Town and Blamacee IDP camps near
Attacks on the Jartondo Town and Wilson Corner camps on April 9 led
the World Food Program to suspend food deliveries there, the Rev.
Brown reported, and other non-governmental organizations are
providing only limited services."So CWS-donated items were (so)
very much appreciated by the displaced that they couldn't express
it in words," he said.
Due to the constant harassment by armed men at the various IDP
camps, the Rev. Brown noted, the Liberian government is requiring
72-hour advance notice"so as to make arrangement for security
protection. This was the case with CCC."
As CCC was distributing the CWS beef at Jartondo Town IDP Camp, one
Liberian police officer"wanted to forcefully collect some of the
food, also putting fear in the displaced, but he was quickly
disarmed by plain clothes security personnel assigned to the
distribution," he reported.
"Also in Wilson Corner displaced camp, some IDP boys connived with
the security assigned in the camp to take away some beef but (it)
was later retrieved. Thereafter, security was guaranteed to the CCC
personnel assigned to the distribution."
CWS has a second, identical shipment of blankets, health kits and
canned beef in process, and still needs $100,000 toward its goal of
$150,000 in support for three more projects, including a joint
Liberian Council of Churches/United Methodist Church nutritional,
health care and educational project for 3,000 displaced families in
Liberia's Bong region.
The funds also will support two special outreach programs -
Concerned Christian Community's program assisting 750 women
refugees and returnees who have been victims of rape and other
abuse, and a YMCA leadership training program for displaced
children and youth, who are the most vulnerable to sexual
exploitation and military recruitment.
Mr. Kamei said the latter program is struggling to serve 2,000
children and youth with only about one-third of the funding
requested for 600 participants. The program provides both emergency
food aid and leadership training for Liberia's rising generation.
The civil war has broken down Liberia's social structure and
values, he explained, and"young people see no meaningful living.
The YMCA program tries to get young people to recognize their own
importance, and make them feel they are important to contributing
to what society becomes." It engages them in discussion of the
strengths and weaknesses of their society, and what it means to be
a good leader."
Mr. Kamei, in his 40s, said that"if there's anything that keeps me
going," it's the young people with whom he works."In spite of the
circumstances they are smiling. There's so much life in them."
A postscript: since the Church World Service goods arrived in
April, Concerned Christian Community has received more than 75
requests from non-governmental organizations, orphanages and
daycare centers and IDP camps in Montserrado, Bong and Bassa
counties, the Rev Brown reported.
"Since the distribution," he added,"there have been requests from
IDPs who were not opportune to benefit because of the limited
relief materials to register them for the next distribution of
items - if there is any."
Contributions are needed and may be directed to: Church World
Service, Attn. Assistance for Liberia IDPs and Refugees, P.O. Box
968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone pledges/credit card donations:
1-800-297-1516. On-line contributions: http://www.churchworldservice.org
CWS acknowledges with thanks the following denominations, which
supported the initial $150,000 Liberia appeal and then followed
with support for this spring's emergency airlifts: American Baptist
Churches in the U.S.A., United Methodist Church, Presbyterian
Disaster Assistance, United Church of Christ, Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ) and Church of the Brethren.
Liberian Council of Churches Letter to U.S.Christians*
May 23, 2003
Greetings in the name of Jesus.
Once again, I bring to your attention that the situation in Liberia
continues to be desperate! The security, health and humanitarian
situation is rapidly deteriorating with many dying daily from
starvation and diseases, particularly the women, children and
The Council of Churches is gravely concerned by the alarming and
explosive situation in which we find ourselves. We need your help
in the following areas:
- Pray for Liberia and its people. Call for special prayers by the
ecumenical community for June 4 - the start of peace talks.
- Fund relief such as food, clothing and medicines. With the rains
now starting, the temporary shelters/huts that are housing the IDPs
are a health hazard. We need plastic roof sheeting or tarpaulins to
stop the rain and protect the occupants.
- Bring the current situation to the official attention of your
government and organizations. Appeal to them to bring the matter to
the attention of the United Nations. Issue official statements from
your organizations drawing attention to the Liberian situation.
Thank you for your continuous support and solidarity.
Benjamin Dorme Lartey, General Secretary, Liberian Council of
* An edited version of Mr. Lartey's May 23 Update on Emergency
Situation in Liberia and Status of Current Peace Process," shared
with Church World Service and other partners of the Liberian
Council of Churches.
Tackling Liberia: The Eye of the Regional Storm
April 30, 2003
International Crisis Group
Executive Summary and Recommendations
There is a critical need for further international action to end
the civil war in Liberia - and to halt the spread of chaos beyond
its borders that has both inflamed the Cote d'Ivoire crisis and
threatens wider military conflict and humanitarian disaster in much
of West Africa. The key mechanism in this respect is the
International Contact Group on Liberia (hereafter Contact Group),
established in September 2002. And the central players within that
body, whose cooperation is essential if effective action is to be
taken, are its three permanent members of the Security Council: the
U.S., UK and France.
Liberia's conflict has continued to spread and consume its
neighbours. The Mano River Union war that originally encompassed
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has now expanded east to Cote
d'Ivoire. A small area in the western part of that country has been
dragged into Liberia's struggle, much as was Sierra Leone a few
years earlier. The Liberian contenders are using the Ivorian
crisis, which broke out on 19 September 2002, as a proxy
battleground. All indications are that no one is in control of the
situation on the Cote d'Ivoire-Liberia border.
Both sides of the Ivorian crisis have used Liberian fighters in
their struggle. President Taylor increasingly employs rebel troops
in western Cote d'Ivoire, which he treats as a second front against
the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)
insurgency that threatens his rule. Ivorian President Laurent
Gbagbo is paying and arming just about anyone to balance Taylor's
support for his foes. His largesse enabled the formation of a new
LURD faction, which calls itself the Movement for Democracy in
Liberia (MODEL). It is advancing against Taylor at the same time as
it challenges, for primacy in the rebellion, both the LURD
leadership based in Guinea and its military wing fighting on
Western Cote d'Ivoire has become a magnet for mercenaries of many
nationalities. The failure of the international community to devise
a regional disarmament program has given the hard-line Sierra Leone
fighters who fled to Liberia another chance to sell their skills.
While international attention is focused on Iraq, a regional
humanitarian crisis is raging throughout Liberia and western Cote
d'Ivoire. Neither the Ivorian government nor rebel groups have
allowed the UN or other donors access to assist the tens of
thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons who are
trapped by two brutal conflicts. The international community must
act before Liberia's conflict spreads to other West African
countries. Sanctions and containment policies have not stopped
Charles Taylor from supporting rebellions beyond Liberia's borders.
Whether he has grand regional designs or simply cannot control his
ill-disciplined forces, he remains a regional security problem.
Neither Taylor nor the LURD is interested in peace, except on
each's own terms, and both have stalled on proposed peace talks.
The recent appearance on the scene of LURD-MODEL has further
muddied the prospects for peace. Liberia is scheduled to elect a
new president on 14 October 2003. If President Taylor goes ahead
with elections that are deemed unfair, they will perpetuate the
status quo. ICG has consistently recommended increased
international pressure for a ceasefire; insistence that Taylor step
down once his term is over so that an internationally assisted and
perhaps administered interim government can be established; and
postponement of the October elections until conditions can be
established for an open campaign unhindered by violence and
The Contact Group has been unable to produce a ceasefire. Its
diplomatic pressure has, however, pushed Taylor to admit that
conditions for free and fair elections do not currently exist in
Liberia; to agree to an (unspecified) delay of the ballot; and
probably also to a joint assessment mission of the UN, EU and the
regional mission ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States)
to determine what would be needed to create the appropriate
conditions. Before elections could take place, a ceasefire with the
LURD (including LURD-MODEL) would surely be required, as well as a
transition period during which human rights were respected and the
opposition was able to campaign freely. Ideally this would be
backed by a UN peacekeeping force on the ground during the
transition period and the elections. However, the prospect of
Taylor stepping aside to allow genuinely free and fair elections is
still remote. The Contact Group, with a strong lead from the U.S.
and prior Security Council backing, must make clear to Taylor, LURD
and LURD-MODEL that if a commitment to achieve these conditions is
not demonstrated by the middle of the year, substantially more
serious measures will be taken.
There are two critical and interlinked elements for a successful
resolution of Liberia's crisis: the conflict must be recognised as
a wider regional one and addressed on that basis, and there must be
effective coordination among the key external players, namely the
U.S., the UK, France, the UN, the EU and ECOWAS. While two
permanent members of the Security Council, the UK and France, play
prominent roles in the closely connected peace processes in Sierra
Leone and the Cote d'Ivoire respectively, no one has taken the lead
on Liberia. The missing link is the United States. It has
historical ties to Liberia, and most Liberians argue that no peace
process is sustainable without its involvement. It must be
encouraged to work more actively - and in close partnership with
the UK and France, who are already deeply engaged in related
aspects of the regional problem - to preserve the effective UNAMSIL
mission in Sierra Leone and establish a similarly comprehensive
peace process for Liberia that would ensure neither LURD,
LURD-MODEL, nor Taylor's political and military barons fill the
vacuum if he is forced from power.
The U.S., UK and France, working through the Contact Group, should
also devise a strategy to prevent Taylor's assets from being used
by his henchmen to continue the war. It should be made clear to the
government, LURD and LURD-MODEL that war crimes will be pursued
either at home or through an international tribunal - but also
indicated that cooperation on the peace process could earn them
West Africa now bears most of the traits of Central Africa, which
has been devastated by a regional war. To address the regional
dimension, ECOWAS and the wider international community must deal
with the growing tendency of leaders in West Africa to sponsor
rebellions abroad to protect their positions at home. Burkina Faso,
Guinea, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire have all employed rebel groups
either to get rid of their domestic enemies or to remove
neighbouring leaders they do not like. The mandate of the UN Panel
of Experts on Liberia, which will be reviewed in May 2003 along
with the sanctions on Liberia, should be expanded to cover the
entire region, and Guinea's President Lansana Conté, President
Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire and President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina
Faso in particular must be warned of sanctions - and their own
potential exposure to war crimes prosecution - if they continue to
undermine peace in Liberia.
To the Members of the International Contact Group on Liberia:
1. Address the continuing violence within - and associated with -
Liberia by taking the following immediate steps:
(a) Insist (in the context of the full package of measures,
immediate and future, here set out) that President Taylor, the LURD
and LURD-MODEL end the fighting and conclude a ceasefire that
includes a timetable for comprehensive disarmament, demobilisation
and reintegration of combatants.
(b) Recommend to the Security Council that a UN peacekeeping
mission be mandated to monitor, supervise and verify the ceasefire
agreement once made.
(c) Recommend to the Security Council that standby arrangements be
made for a multinational force to enforce the peace in the event
that the ceasefire agreement breaks down. Such force - modelled on
the role of the UK in Sierra Leone and France in Cote d'Ivoire -
would ideally be led and primarily constituted by the U.S., but
might also be constituted by ECOWAS countries (other than Sierra
Leone, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso).
(d) Recommend to the Security Council that the mandate of the Panel
of Experts be expanded, authorising it to investigate other West
African leaders suspected of fuelling conflicts in the region, and
encouraging it to name and shame those found in violation of
sanctions and to work more closely with ECOWAS to improve its
capacity to properly address the flow of arms in the region.
(e) Recommend to the Security Council that the sanctions monitoring
regime be expanded to cover Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire and
Burkina Faso as well as Liberia, and enhance it significantly by
increasing the Panel of Experts' staff and budget to enable it to
report every three months to the Council on all countries and
individuals that fail to comply.
(f) Issue a clear public condemnation of Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire
for their continued financial and military support for the LURD and
LURD-MODEL insurgents and warn both that they face sanctions if
they continue to break the UN arms embargo.
(g) Issue a clear public condemnation - with documentation - of
Liberia's continued support for regional insurgencies.
(h) Work with the UN-mandated Follow-Up Committee in Cote d'Ivoire
to develop an international strategy to stop the violence in the
western part of that country and disarm the protagonists.
2. Address the problem of governance within Liberia by taking the
following immediate steps:
(a) Seek a clear commitment from President Taylor that he will step
down at the end of his term in October 2003 and not contest any
(b) Seek clear agreement from President Taylor and the Liberian
government that elections be postponed, and an internationally
assisted - and, to the extent necessary, administered - interim
administration be established, until such time as conditions for
their free and fair conduct exist.
(c) Seek full cooperation from President Taylor with a joint
UN/EU/ECOWAS assessment mission to determine what is needed to
create the appropriate election conditions.
(d) Initiate planning of an internationally assisted - or,
depending on circumstances, administered - interim government that
brings together all stakeholders in Liberia's conflict, including
civil society and opposition groups, to begin implementing domestic
reforms, including a start on justice and accountability mechanisms
for addressing years of impunity, and preparing for free and fair
(e) Recommend to the Security Council that the UN peacekeeping
mission proposed to monitor the ceasefire also assume
responsibility for the supervision of the postponed elections.
3. In the event that by July 2003 President Taylor does not agree
to step down, or that no progress is made in achieving a ceasefire
between the warring Liberian parties, or both, recommend to the
Security Council that the following steps be taken:
(a) Broaden the sanctions to include timber, rubber, gold and the
maritime industry as well as an expanded list of individuals whose
assets would be frozen and visas revoked.
(b) Adopt an explicit Chapter VII provision requiring all UN member
states to comply with measures of the Sierra Leone Special Court,
and if it indicts President Taylor, call on any government
harbouring him to extradite him to Sierra Leone.
(c) Establish a new war crimes tribunal for crimes relating to the
Liberian war, it being made clear to the Liberian government, the
LURD and LURD- MODEL that they face prosecutions for war crimes but
that those who cooperate by promptly laying down their arms and
entering constructively into a peace process would gain relevant
credit (though not necessarily immunity).
(d) Extend the jurisdiction of the Liberian war crimes tribunal to
those outside Liberia who are responsible for crimes committed
within the country, with it being made clear to the leaders of
neighbouring countries that they may potentially be exposed to
To the United Nations Security Council:
4. Adopt in full the recommendations of the International Contact
Group on Liberia as proposed above.
To the Secretary General of the United Nations:
5. On Liberia:
(a) Plan a possible UN peacekeeping mission to implement the
ceasefire monitoring, election supervision and other tasks
identified by the Contact Group.
(b) Plan for a standby enforcement force, as recommended by the
Contact Group, in the event that the ceasefire breaks down.
6. On Cote d'Ivoire:
(a) Appoint a senior resident humanitarian coordinator to achieve
better protection of civilians in the refugee transit camps
throughout Cote d'Ivoire and humanitarian agency access, including
through establishment of "safe areas" and safe passages for
delivery of humanitarian assistance.
(b) Make such arrangements if possible by negotiated agreement with
the government of Cote d'Ivoire for areas controlled by loyalist
forces, especially in the western part of the country (Toulépleu,
Blolékin, Zouan-Hounien and the Tai Forest); and with Ivorian
rebels controlling Danané, Man and other border areas in the far
western part of the country.
To the French and ECOWAS force in Cote d'Ivoire:
7. Protect "safe areas" and safe passages for the delivery of
humanitarian assistance in western Cote d'Ivoire - if possible
through the negotiations described above with the government and
Ivorian rebels, but if not by whatever means are appropriate.
Freetown/Brussels, 30 April 2003
Date distributed (ymd): 030601
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+ +US policy focus+
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