ECOWAS Asks UN to Delay Sanctions

The Perspective
February 13, 2001

When it finally had its chance, ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, asked the Security Council to delay the imposition of new sanctions against Liberia for a period of two months, arguing that this would give the country more time to sever its ties with Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and stop the lucrative trade in guns-for-diamonds that continues to fuel the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, Mr. Lassana Kouyate, a Guinean national and Executive Secretary of ECOWAS said that the regional body , which includes Liberia, didn't not oppose sanctions, but preferred a two-month delay. Kouyate contends that "the threat of sanctions is itself producing some effect."

But this new line of argument and request from ECOWAS head was quickly rebuffed by Britain and the United States, insisting that Liberia has already been given enough chances, and the council should therefore consider their resolution to impose swift sanctions. The US and British ambassadors indicated that there was evidence that Liberia was still engaged in the trafficking of arms to Sierra Leone's RUF rebels and helping the rebel force smuggle diamonds out of the country as recently as last month.

It should be noted that just last month, the government of Liberia sensing the gravity of the threatened sanctions, decided to take pre-emptive steps to undercut the momentum building for sanctions. These steps includes: its promise to "disengage" from the RUF and grounding Liberian-registered aircrafts, among others. The steps have been considered not only inadequate, but too little, too late.

Meanwhile, the head of the UNHCR, Ruud Lubbers, wants for the international community to toughen its actions against Liberia for the role Liberia is playing in what is considered one of the world worst refugee crises. "We are already now in the process of the boycott... and I do not hesitate to make a judgment to the international community to be even tougher on that."

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