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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: JPC Update
Any links to other sites in this file from 1996 are not clickable,
given the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date links in old files.
However, we hope they may still provide leads for your research.
Liberia: JPC Update
Date Distributed (ymd): 961002

JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMISSION
NATIONAL CATHOLIC SECRETARIAT
P.O. Box 10-3569, 1000
Monrovia 10, Liberia
Phone: (231) 224010/225930/223050
Fax: (231) 225217

September 11, 1996

BRIEFING PAPER ON LIBERIA

POLITICAL SITUATION

On September 3rd, the head of Liberia's New Transitional
Government, LNTG III, was formally inducted into office. She
is Mrs. Ruth Sando Perry, the first female to lead Liberia and
the first female Head of State in Africa. She replaced the
former Chairman of Liberia's Six-Man Ruling Council LNTG II,
Professor Wilton Sankawolo. Every member of the former council
was retained except the Chairman who was apparently replaced
for his lack of independence and leadership. With the
installation of this new leadership, it is expected that
Liberia would finally obtain the long awaited peace. There
have been cautious optimism regarding this latest political
arrangement given the lack of good-faith and insincerity which
attended the more than thirteen peace accords over the past
six years. A new cabinet has not been announced but some
changes are expected.

Hope for peace continue to rest on the commitment of the
International Community to assist Liberia's Civil Society in
pressurizing the warlords. Mere assurance by the warlords will
not suffice. The latest accord signed in the Nigerian Capital,
Abuja, specifies punitive measures for violators which is
characteristically different from previous ones. The measure
include among other things, sanctions, travel restrictions for
violators and their families expulsion of family members from
countries of abode, freezing of accounts and business interest
and threat of the setting up of a war crimes tribunal for
Liberia. It is also expected that changes will be made in the
already factionalized elections Commission, judiciary and
security forces.

The Field Commander of the West African Peace Keeping Force
(ECOMOG) was replaced. This change is significant. We think it
is intended to accelerate much-needed reforms to improve the
performance of the Peacekeepers. the new Field Commander is
General John Victor Malu. He once served as Chief of Staff of
ECOMOG during the infamous Octopus Operation launched by the
National Patriotic Front of Liberia in 1992.

Recently the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL)
unilaterally ordered the re-opening of Liberia's International
Airport. It was realized that the airport was being used
illegally by the Leader of the NPFL and there were suspicions
that arms were being brought into the country through that
route, Malu was quick to order his men to search all planes
landing at the airport and that process has begun. Malu is
well-respected and considered a "No-Nonsense General".

Under the terms of the Abuja Accord, all factional enclaves
should disappear by January and elections held in May next
year.

SUPPORT FOR DISARMAMENT

There have been some positive signs of support for the
disarmament process and support for ECOMOG. The Dutch
Government which have made numerous humanitarian assistance
available during our civil war recently presented 62 trucks to
the peace-keeping force with another 20 expected. The Dutch
Minister for Development and International Co-operation
visited Liberia and personally turned over the consignment to
the Field Commander. The United States Government has also
committed 30 million to the process Already new checkpoints
are being constructed through their assistance.

MILITARY SITUATION

The military situation remains fluid. There have been reports
of fighting in the Northwestern and southeastern portion of
Liberia. Reports of massive destruction and loss of lives
abound. Full scale disarmament has not begun. On September 9,
the Leader of ULIMO-K, Alhaji Kromah, led what was referred to
as the first disarmament initiative since the war. He was
accompanied by the Chairman of the Council and others where he
presented about 166,000 pieces of ammunition, 100 pieces of
Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) and other military hardware
manufactured in the United States, Cuba, China, etc. This is
a welcomed development as we intensify demands for the
demonstration of good-faith regarding the latest accord.

Statements have been made by the other factions but no
practical action taken. On August 25th, the NPFL Leader,
Charles Taylor, issued an Executive Order to his fighters to
begin the disarmament of 500 fighters but nothing has been
done. Generally, the cease-fire has bean holding in Monrovia
and parts adjacent.

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

The humanitarian disaster continues in Liberia. In the Western
Liberia, horror persists particularly in Grand Cape Mount and
Bomi Counties, it has been reported that more than 4,000 young
children are suffering from severe malnutrition and about
20,000 persons referred to as "walking skeletons." Due to
hostilities, food and other humanitarian assistance have not
been taken to this region since December last year.
Humanitarian organizations did not have access to these areas
due to fighting and the looting of humanitarian supplies
[including] vehicles. Individuals have been surviving on
roots. It was reported that fifteen persons die daily in these
areas. The Southeastern Region is undergoing similar
experience. On Saturday, September 7, the roads leading to the
[western] region was finally opened through the initiatives of
the Field Commander of ECOMOG, and relief supplies are being
delivered to the starving population.

HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION

Respect for human rights is unimpressive. However, when one
reflects on the events of April 6 and its attendant
consequences, there is a marked difference. The courts are
gradually reopening though in a prevalently corrupt
environment. Law and order has not been stabilized to the
extend that wrongdoers are accorded due process and punished
for crimes committed. There have been threats against the
press for publishing pictures of the events of April. The
Inquirer Newspaper has reported threats against them twice.

Three persons were killed under [strange] circumstances but
the killers were never apprehended and no reports of arrests
made. On August 8, a member of the Legislature, Seh Vincent
was killed by unknown gunmen. His stolen vehicle was later
found at the border with Guinea. Two young ladies were also
found dead in Congo Town just outside Monrovia. Christiana
Cheeks and Josephine were killed by unknown gunmen. Their
bodies were discovered on August 5th. Suspects were identified
but the Justice Ministry has been reluctant [to make arrest]
inspite of repeated calls [from] members of the public.

The general lack of confidence in the local security apparatus
- police, army, etc.- is contributing significantly to this
problems. All of the agencies have become appendages of [the
various] factions thus making it difficult to provide
guarantees for the respect for human rights. Constant calls
are being made to have [the various security organs]
defactionalized.

The various courts are fraught with factional appointees
thereby compromising the independence and impartiality of the
judiciary in the dispensation of justice. There are reports
that some factions are operating their individuals [prison]
cells outside the framework of [the unity] government.
Escapees have reported gruesome experiences [at] these illegal
imprisonment cells. Only Mr. Francois Masssquoi of the Lofa
Defense Force has denied this. One escapee from the NPFL
illegal [prison] cell, Mr. Edwin Johnson, reported that he was
arrested by Men loyal to Taylor's NPFL on July 18 this year
and was freed on September 2nd after bribing the wardens. He
reported that more than fifteen persons were left in there and
nothing has been done about them.

OTHERS

I finally arrived in Monrovia on August 22 after an earlier
fact- finding mission in June and July. Since my arrival, I
have been cleaning the debris and commenced the setting up of
the Justice and Peace Office. All of the programs [including]:
fact-finding missions & documentation, legal aid, radio
programs, and conflict resolution workshops will continue.
Every information, equipment, and our only vehicle were all
looted and destroyed. Our offices were targeted but we are
determined to continue. I am settling to milk the wounds of
what has been left in the office. It is bare. Books, documents
looted and destroyed. We will be launching an appeal for
assistance to rebuild. We will need books, used computers, a
vehicle, etc. There is presently no direct means of
communicating. Attempts are being made to solve this problem.
I can however be contacted by: Tel. 231-227657 or 231-223224.
Fax 231-225217 or 231-226005 Due to the present situation I
would appreciate that important contacts be made by fax rather
than telephone.

Samuel Kofi Woods, Director
Catholic Justice and Peace Commission-Liberia

Reprinted and distributed by: Africa Faith and Justice
Network, 401 Michigan Ave. NE, P.O. Box 29378, Washington,
D.C. 20017 Tel. 202 832 3412; Fax. 202 832 9051; Email:
afjn@igc.org

************************************************************
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational
affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and
individuals.

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URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs96/lib9610.php