Ex-President Accuses Regime of Attacks
December 14, 2000

Former Interim President Amos Sawyer has accused President Taylor's security forces, including the Army, of the recent attacks on his Executive Director in which the latter sustained serious injuries.

Veteran pro-democracy activist Commany Wesseh, now Executive Director for the Center for Democratic Empowerment CEDE), was seriously injured when over 300 men attacked CEDE offices late November. "I know Mr. Taylor is behind this. Let him come and finish me. All I know is that this country is not for person. Everything has an end", Mr. Wesseh told journalists from his hospital bed in November.

Dr. Sawyer, resigning his post on a presidential commission for ex-fighters, said, "I have always said the attacks were linked to the state security, including the armed forces of Liberia, therefore attempts to link them to the ex-combatants commission is one of the reasons I am resigning from the commission."

The former president, who has been living in the country since Taylor's election when most prominent opposition figures have fled, said he was "very disappointed" by the manner in which President Taylor was handling the attacks, pointing out that, "I am not convinced that he (Taylor) is doing all he can or should do to justify that this is a country of laws and not men."

He added that, "I must be frank, as a result of the in-action or action of the state, I feel very vulnerable and insecure. I am not determined to stay here in an atmosphere that does not provide protection," Sawyer said, indicating a possible exile option as most prominent Liberians have.

Sawyer, one of the key pro-democracy activists in Liberia arrested and imprisoned by late military dictator Samuel Doe, questioned the seriousness of the Justice Ministry when it reduced the charge against the attackers to "aggravated assault" despite the use lethal weapons which resulted into armed robbery and attempted murder.

Sawyer expressed fears for safety of his colleagues under the prevailing security atmosphere. "I also feel a growing sense of vulnerability, security wise, associated with my own effort to volunteer my time and talent in trying to solve a major problem essential to the consolidation of peace in Liberia," he said.

He accused the authorities of confusing his membership on the ex-fighters' commission with the attacks, adding, "If my willingness to work for such a cause (ex-combatants reintegration) can be manipulated to expose me to violence, then it is natural that I remove myself from that cause as a measure to help enhance my security and safety."

Sawyer, who helped to institute normalcy in Liberia at the height of the Liberian war in 1990, restoring government services and enhancing security within the capital and surrounding areas then protected by the West African peacekeeping force ECOMOG, accused the President of joining "less thoughtful" persons in declaring the attackers as ex-combatants when, he added, a full investigation is needed. .

Defending the attackers in a recent interview, President Taylor said they have been abandoned, and that while there is an outcry against the attacks on Sawyer and his colleagues, the plight of the attackers was ignored. Mr Taylor recruited tens of thousands child soldiers during his quest for power as members of the Small Boys Unit. They were known to have committed many atrocities under the influence of drugs and upon command. Many have been abandoned since the end of the war while their leaders, living in luxury, periodically send on "missions", meaning to attack or kill targeted "enemies" of the government or stage demonstrations in support of the President's policies.

In less than three years of Taylor's presidency, scores of pro-democracy activists, journalists, human rights campaigners, women leaders, and opposition figures have suffered similar fates with promises of never carried out investigations. The killers of opposition politician Samuel Dokie, his wife and two family members, were acquitted with the president's promise of "leaving no stones unturned" to apprehend the killers, all members of his bodyguard unit. Journalists and human rights campaigners have fled the country following incidents while others have simply disappeared. The President's promised autopsy in the death of vice president, believed to have been flogged to death on suspicion of being an enemy, has never been produced.

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