Crackdown on Opponents Looms in Liberia

President Charles Taylor has threatened to crackdown on his opponents and impose a state of emergency that gives him sweeping powers because of what he alleged is a plot to unseat his Government from within. He said that there were "agents" on the ground to execute the plot as fighting in the north of the country continues.

"But I am not God to know who these agents are, but by their actions they can be known," he said, according to local press reports.

The threat comes amidst rumors that citizen groups, worried by the renewed fighting and threats of sanctions by the U. S. Government, are planning to ask Mr. Taylor, a former warlord who won the 1997 elections, to step down in order to avoid sanctions against Liberia for his open support to Sierra Leone's RUF rebels. Opposition politician, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, recently called on the country's Legislature to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President for his alleged links with Sierra Leone and theft of that country's diamonds. She added that Taylor should be brought before a UN tribunal to clear the allegations.

With threats of American sanctions hanging, the impact of EU sanctions has already begun to be felt. The EU Humanitarian Office in Monrovia this week announced pullout from the southeast of the country, closing down many rehabilitation and resettlement projects and leaving several persons unemployed.

In a furious mood, Taylor reminded critics that he deserves the right to impose a state of emergency in view of the fighting. He claimed evidence that Liberians in the United States were financing the dissidents under the umbrella of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Taylor claimed that evidence of individuals allegedly backing the dissidents was captured from those rebels killed. He however did not disclose the names but said these alleged "saboteurs" will be known through their actions. He said unnamed University of Liberia professors had established links with J. Laveli Supuwood, one of the alleged dissident leaders and one-time ally turned foe.

Reacting to students who defended their recent statement condemning the high level of mismanagement and corruption within the Government and its claims of the war in Lofa, President Taylor reminded the students and others that they could be arrested "anywhere." He disputed student claims that the University campus was a "sanctuary", warning that any Government opponent will be arrested as an "enemy."

"This is a carte blanche for a witch hunt. Now, every critic or former enemy will be a collaborator. Hell will break lose again," a university student said in a telephone interview from Monrovia,"

Meanwhile, citizens of Bopulu District have demanded the release of their officials arrested on claims of backing the rebels. Local press reports say the citizens have threatened to disrupt business and other activities.

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