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Liberia: WOA Letter to Clinton
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Liberia: WOA Letter to Clinton
Date Distributed (ymd): 960429
April 26, 1996
President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to join our voice to those of the many
Liberians and friends of Liberia who are urging sustained and
energetic US involvement in restoring the prospects for peace
desired by the vast majority of Liberians.
We applaud your recent decision to allocate an additional $30
million to the West African peacekeeping force (ECOMOG) to
enable it to maintain a level of stability sufficient to
permit longer-term peace efforts, as well as urgent
humanitarian relief, to take place. And we welcome the
assurance that the US will isolate anyone taking governmental
power in Liberia by force. However, our consultations with
colleagues in the churches and other organizations, both with
Liberians and others familiar with that country, convince us
that this alone is certain to be insufficient. Without a
higher level of US engagement, renewed peace efforts will be
vulnerable to violent and perpetual collapse.
The primary responsibility for the war over the last six
years--and for the latest violence in Monrovia--lies with the
leaders of the Liberian armed factions, who have put their
personal quests for power above the desire of Liberians for
peace. The record of the West African peacekeeping force,
which brought some stability to parts of Liberia, has been
mixed, and its failure to react when violence broke out early
this month was a proximate cause of the high level of
But the international community must also shoulder a large
share of the blame for the current disaster. And in the case
of Liberia, with 150 years of close US ties, "international
community" means above all the United States. The US failure
to respond to the initial outbreak of war in 1989-1990 cost
the lives of thousands of Liberians and consumed close to $500
million in emergency aid. Many observers warned that the
latest peace agreement was doomed to collapse without adequate
international support for disarmament of the militias and for
the peacekeeping efforts of ECOMOG. That support did not
come--a failure which invited a costly humanitarian disaster
and set the scene for the evacuation of US citizens and many
other foreign residents earlier this month.
It would be an unacceptable betrayal of our moral values and
abdication of leadership for the US simply to walk away. But
half-hearted efforts to assist are highly likely to sow the
seeds of repeated failure. Our response must be thoughtful,
holistic, and effective. Liberians, other Africans, and the
rest of the world are looking to the US for leadership.
We do not venture to suggest the details of what needs to be
done. But there are several points that stand out as
(1)West African states must continue to play a central role in
peacemaking and peacekeeping, regardless of the shortcomings
of their past involvement. While Liberians want peace, they
are at the mercy of small armed factions. West African nations
are willing to provide the security necessary for Liberians to
survive and to rebuild their country. But these states on their
own do not have the diplomatic clout, the credibility, or, above all,
the logistical resources to do the job.
It follows that:
(a) The US must continue energetic and consistent engagement
in the diplomatic process and be willing to demonstrate its
urgent concern. Africans and friends of Africa perceive a
double-standard in the disproportionate attention which the US
government appears to devote to crises in Europe and the
Middle East as compared with equally serious ones in Africa.
(b) The US must provide promptly the necessary material means
for ECOMOG to be an effective peacekeeping, and, if necessary,
peace enforcing presence. We understand that adequate ECOMOG
engagement may entail costs as high as $12 million a month
over several years, for which the US would have to take
(2)There is need both for immediate action and for long-term
engagement. Even if the latest cease-fire holds, humanitarian
agencies cannot return without some assurance that they will
not need a new rescue operations a few weeks or months later.
And that means the rapid reestablishment of a safe haven in
Monrovia. At the same time, however, the longer-term peace
process needs to be restarted, restructured and provided with
adequate international resources to give it a real chance of
Among the implications:
(a) ECOMOG must be the primary force for interim stability,
first of all in Monrovia. But the US must take a proactive
role in directly and immediately supplying the necessary means
for it to do so. We recognize that, in practice, this may
mean the need to use the US troops already on the scene, in
well-defined roles to deliver logistical and communications
supplies to ECOMOG. Improvements in ECOMOG performance are
imperative. But for that to happen, the support must be
forthcoming without delay. It is essential to avoid the
lengthy delays that have sometimes accompanied earlier
supplies of equipment for African peacekeepers, both in
Liberia and in the case of Rwanda in 1994.
(b) Before Liberians themselves can maintain peace without
the presence of an outside force, a number of steps must take
place, including the disarmament of factions, the election and
installation of a legitimate civilian government, and the
training of at least minimal Liberian security forces,
primarily police. The ECOMOG presence must be guaranteed for
the minimum one to two years that such a process could entail.
During this period the US should help ECOMOG to maintain
adequate force and equipment levels and to achieve greater
professionalism. At the same time, the US should encourage
diversity within ECOMOG, facilitating the involvement of all
willing West African states.
(3)In order to succeed, the peace process must be linked to
plans for demobilization and reintegration of combatants, must
provide political space for the vast majority of unarmed
Liberians and civil society institutions, and must not be held
hostage by any of the leaders of armed factions. The US must
play an active role in providing high-level and consistent
diplomatic pressure and financial resources in support of each
of these prerequisites.
Among the implications:
(a) Continued participation by faction leaders in the
political process should be contingent on their cooperation
with disarmament. To prevent the leaders of armed factions
from holding the process hostage they must be disarmed as
specified in the Abuja peace agreement. This action should be
accompanied by strong and effective pressure on neighboring
countries, particularly Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and
Guinea, to restrict the supply of arms to the factions.
(b) Disarmament of the factions will not be possible without
simultaneous planning for demobilization and reintegration of
combatants and restoration of civilian economic opportunities.
Delays in planning these elements were one of the critical
reasons for the failure to disarm in the period since last
fall. Such a comprehensive plan will be costly. But it is
more practical--and, in the long term less costly--than
responding to repeated humanitarian emergencies.
(c) Additional steps must be taken to guarantee a much more
active role for civilian institutions in the transition
process. Last year's Abuja peace agreement was heralded by
some and criticized by others for making the faction leaders
the key players in the transitional government leading to
elections. This process can only work if prompt disarmament
and international protection for civilians is implemented
simultaneously. Unless new adjustments in the next phase
create space for civilian political activity, the peace
process will again be doomed to collapse.
In closing, we would like again to thank you for your recent
decision to provide more support for ECOMOG and for the clear
stand taken by the Twaddell delegation to Monrovia against any
effort by the armed faction leaders to seize power. We know
that in practice it will be difficult to implement the
necessary high-level US commitment to promote peace in
Liberia. We urge you to stay the course.
Dan Hoffman, President
Imani Countess, Executive Director
cc: Anthony Lake, Warren Christopher, Susan Rice, Brian
Atwood, George Moose, Vincent Kern, John Hick
This material is produced and distributed by the Washington
Office on Africa (WOA), a not-for-profit church, trade union
and civil rights group supported organization that works with
Congress on Africa-related legislation. WOA's educational
affiliate is the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC).