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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Liberia: FOL Report, 2
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Liberia: FOL Report, 2
Date Distributed (ymd): 961223
Document reposted by APIC
This and the previous posting contain a summary of Liberia:
Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, a report by Friends of
Liberia (FOL. The full 43-page report is available by e-mail
by contacting Kevin George at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
specify whether you would like the report in Word Perfect 6.1
or ASCII (DOS) format. A report on the "Conference on the
Demobilization and Reintegration of Combatants," sponsored by
The New African Research and Development Agengy (NARDA) in
collaboration with Friends of Liberia, is also available from
Liberia: Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, A Report on
the Abuja II Peace Process -- December 1996
Friends of Liberia, 1616 North Fort Myer Drive, 12th Floor,
Rosslyn, Virginia 22209 (Mailing Address: P.O. Box 28098,
Washington, D.C. 20038). Tel: (703) 528-8345; FAX: (703)
528-7480; e-mail: Liberia@FOL.org
(continued from part 1)
These actions, broken into three categories, are as follows.
Leadership: Reinforce leadership on the ground by appointment
of a high level person with sole responsibility for
coordinating the political and operational aspects of the
U.N.'s important role in DD&R.
A comprehensive DD&R plan: The U.N., U.S. and other donor
countries should invest in the resources and planning
necessary to produce a comprehensive DD&R process.
Encampment: Even though the DD&R process has ostensibly
started, plans should be made for the short-term and tightly
controlled encampment of combatants. Adding this component to
the process will facilitate the monitoring of disarmament and
delivery of reintegration programs, improve security
conditions by limiting the movement of combatants, and engage
the commitment of the factions leaders by requiring them to
take a proactive role in the process.
Broad sensitization program: Invest in broad sensitization
programs aimed at both the fighters and the communities,
enrolling the help of local NGOs, religious organizations, and
traditional institutions such as the tribal councils, chiefs
Maintain momentum: Even though the existing schedule is
unrealistically abbreviated, it is important to maintain
pressure on the warring factions to disarm and demobilize.
Buttress reintegration component: At the same time, work to
buttress the process beyond demobilization through the
planning of both demobilization activities and reintegration
programs (e.g., labor-intensive community-based projects,
The U.S. government (USG) and the governments participating in
the International Contact Group for Liberia (ICGL) should make
the resources available to strengthen the DD&R process and use
this assistance, and other political influence, as leverage to
The United Nations to:
* strengthen both the operational plan for DD&R and its
leadership of the process;
* increase levels of cooperation and coordination between
U.N. agencies involved in DD&R;
* enhance UNOMIL's capability to engage in the very complex
and difficult task of monitoring disarmament;
* invest resources and personnel to strengthen UN-HACO's
(i.e., DHA's) capabilities;
* bring war crime charges against those who obstruct the peace
* make the 1996 Abuja Accord more specific and realistic on
* commit 5,500 additional troops to ECOMOG;
* implement "personal sanctions" on persons who obstruct or
fail to cooperate in the DD&R process;
* tighten border controls and restrict the flow of arms into
The Council of State and/or the Faction Leaders to:
* respect the cease-fire and disengagement agreements;
* support and facilitate DD&R politically, logistically and
* take the lead in public awareness campaigns by sending clear
messages to the fighters on the need to disarm;
* insist on real disarmament objectives, rather than hailing
piecemeal token shows of compliance.
Political Aspects of the Peace Process
A striking feature of the peace process is the absence of
international leadership. The low level of engagement by the
United Nations and the United States is of particular concern.
The role of the United Nations has declined over the past 18
months due to a lack of resources, leadership and Security
Council interest. The Special Representative of the Secretary
General is viewed as ineffective in bringing the weight of the
UN to bear on the peace process.
The U.S. nurtured the growth of the ICGL and its recent
assistance for peacekeeping has significantly raised the
capabilities of ECOMOG. Yet, U.S. diplomacy, despite the
appointment of a Presidential Envoy, is not at a level that
complements the United States' considerable investment in
humanitarian assistance. The flaw in U.S. policy is that it is
not comprehensive. There is a history of the U.S. limiting its
diplomatic, material and logistical support to only selective
components of the peace process. The result is that important
issues are not addressed and left to undermine the entire
Generally, the U.S. government and the U.N. seem content to
let ECOWAS drive the political and diplomatic process, but
ECOWAS itself suffers from severe constraints. Other western
countries, with the exception of the Dutch, continue to view
the process from the sidelines.
While ECOWAS appears to have a desire to address broad
political issues, it does not seem to be sensitive to the
intricacies of DD&R. This may be due to its lack of experience
in this area. It seems willing to defer to the United Nations
and the international community on DD&R issues, but there is
little linkage of these issues to the political aspects of the
peace process. Questions also remain whether Burkina Faso and
Cote d'Ivoire, both ECOWAS member states, are permitting the
flow of arms and ammunition or the export of
faction-controlled natural resources.
The faction leaders' political will for peace remains at best
unclear. Serious cease-fire violations continue to occur, with
fighting in the northwest (ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K) and in the
southeast (NPFL and LPC). Tensions appear to be fueled by the
quest to exploit and market natural resources (diamonds,
timber, rubber), as well as by the desire to control as much
territory as possible in view of the up-coming elections.
Faction-leaders do not trust one another. The key ministries
and agencies of the Transition Government are heavily
factionalized. The Council of State is paralyzed by internal
rifts and offers virtually no Liberian leadership for the
The resilient spirit of the Liberian people and,
paradoxically, their mounting anger at the lack of progress
contrasts with the wavering commitments that the warring
factions and external actors have to the process of peace. The
fact-finding team was repeatedly struck by the new sense of
assertiveness in civil society. Most ordinary Liberians view
the April 6 disaster as the ultimate betrayal. Faction leaders
are no longer welcome to visit many neighborhoods in Monrovia.
Tribal chiefs and elders refuse to meet with the warlords.
Peace groups, whose massive peace marches in 1996 were
canceled by ECOMOG, are making efforts to mobilize civil
society as a force in the peace process. There is even talk of
boycotting elections if the warring factions continue to hold
territory or arms.
Many communities have organized "vigilante" groups that are
not unlike the "community watch" programs in the United
States. The "vigilantes" patrol at night with flashlights and
sticks to ward off armed groups. Having lost their homes and
property, they are not prepared to surrender their dignity.
Civilians are not afraid to speak out about their anger and
their views about Liberia's future. There is widespread
agreement on two objectives: (1) the warring factions must
relinquish control over combatants through a comprehensive
disarmament and demobilization process and (2) the civilians
will settle for nothing less than a freely and fairly elected
It is clear that the Abuja II process cannot succeed if based
predominantly, as it is now, on the good will of the warring
factions. A combination of pressure from the civilian
population, coupled with stronger leadership and closer
cooperation among the external actors, can provide the
political and diplomatic leverage to produce results. The
following steps should be considered as part of the political
and diplomatic "action plan."
Strengthen leadership and cooperation among external actors:
International cooperation must be enhanced to address
weaknesses in the peace process and ensure compliance by the
warring factions. The ICGL can help strengthen leadership and
cooperation by (1) creating ICGL subcommittees responsible for
key elements of the peace process and (2) establishing a ICGL
liaison team in Liberia. The U.N. Security Council should
insist that the Secretary-General appoint an exceptionally
skilled special representative as part of a revitalized
engagement by the U.N. Liberia.
Increase international pressure on the warring factions and
Council of State to take a proactive role in the peace
process: The faction leaders and the Council of State should
be actively engaged in activities that promote the transition
to peace. The Council of State should be pressured to reform
the elections commission, the judiciary, and the police force.
Faction leaders must be required to commit to an encampment
period for demobilized fighters.
Determine a schedule of sanctions against obstructors of the
peace process: If ECOWAS is unable or unwilling to apply its
own sanctions against obstructors of the peace, then the U.N.
Security Council should be requested to impose a schedule of
Monitor, investigate and report illegal commerce by the
warring factions: The U.N. Security Council should adopt and
enforce a strict embargo against all commercial activity by
factions leaders or their associates, and dedicate a team of
experts to monitor, investigate, and report incidents of
illegal commerce involving the warring factions.
Harmonization of policies by ECOWAS nations: ECOWAS should
lead the way by censuring any of its members states that
pursue economic or military activities at cross-purposes to
the peace process in Liberia.
Empower Liberia's non-combatants to speak out: Breaking with
a practice of prohibiting "peace marches," ECOMOG should make
the security arrangements to accommodate peaceful
demonstrations if requested by Liberia's civilian peace
groups. The donor governments could enable Liberia's peace
groups through programs that provide training, contact with
international support groups, technical assistance, and office
The current Liberian peace process, fruit of the August 1996
Abuja II accords, is under strain. The weakness of this
process is due to factors, such as: the nature of Liberia's
war, the ambiguity of the peace accord, a lack of political
will by the warring factions, ECOMOG's lack of resources and
cohesiveness, unclear objectives by ECOWAS, the ambivalence of
the international community, and the absence of planning and
resources for the demobilization effort.
These factors aside, the bleak prospects of the peace process
can largely be traced to two elements: (1) lack of clarity on
most aspects of the transition from war to peace and, (2) the
international community's lack of resolve to address the root
causes of the conflict. The United States' flight from
responsibility in Liberia stands out in particular.
At this point, two scenarios can bring lasting peace and
stability to the country. The first is an outright victory by
a warring faction, followed by a true experiment in the
transition from war to peace, and political instability to
democratic governance -- an improbable prospect in all
The second is real political engagement by the international
community. To bring this war to an end, the larger
international community must commit to help Liberians
implement an effective solution to their conflict.
Specifically, this includes the need to:
* neutralize the economic aspects of the civil war;
* hold the faction leaders personally accountable for
compliance to the peace process;
* achieve agreement on the details glossed over by Abuja II:
elections, power-sharing, access to economic resources,
disarmament and demobilization, and a future national army;
* identify the resources to fully implement the accord;
* ensure that the U.N. shows greater political leadership in
the peace process;
* elicit a true commitment to peace by ECOWAS;
* determine once and for all whether ECOMOG is a viable
peacekeeping force: if so support it all the way; if not,
create an alternative.
It is perhaps time for new players to intervene as helpful
stewards of the peace process. In particular, the OAU, keen to
demonstrate Africa's crisis-solving capabilities as it
forwards its claim to another U.N. Secretary-General, can show
that a regional solution need not confine itself to West
Yet, it is still up to the U.S. to show true international
leadership. America has good reasons to do so: its historical
responsibilities in Liberia, a difficult relationship with
Nigeria that must be managed, and a costly flow of tax dollars
to Liberian relief operations. It is time for U.S. diplomacy
to match its considerable humanitarian commitment. Relief aid,
so far generously provided, can no longer serve as an excuse
for the lack of political action.
The Abuja II peace process urgently demands attention to
prevent it from becoming the next failed peace plan for
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