news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
C˘te d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

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.

+++++++++++++++++end summary/introduction+++++++++++++++++++++++

28 May 2003

Liberian Churches Work for Peace, Plead for Americans to Help

Church World Service(CWS) - USA

Media Contacts:
Jan Dragin,; 781-926-1526
Carol Fouke,; 212-870-2227/2252 Ann Walle,; 212-870-2654

Peace Talks Are Scheduled for June 4, Humanitarian Situation is "Extremely Alarming"

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 thousands."

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 southeastern Liberia.

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 emerge."

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 heard."

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 IRCL leader.

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 Monrovia.

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:


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 elderly.

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:

  1. Pray for Liberia and its people. Call for special prayers by the ecumenical community for June 4 - the start of peace talks.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Churches

* 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 Liberian soil.

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 intimidation.

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 credit.

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 subsequent election.

(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 elections.

(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 prosecution.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Date distributed (ymd): 030601
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+ +US policy focus+

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

URL for this file: