Liberian Diplomacy: Too Little, Too Late

The Perspective
Jan 26, 2001

As the United Nations Security Council considers the recommendations from the UN-appointed Panel of Experts on Sierra Leone's diamonds and arms, charged with investigating violations of the UN arms embargo against Sierra Leone and the link between trade in diamonds and weapons, the government of Liberia, through its Foreign Minister, Mr. Monie R. Captan, has launched its own diplomatic initiatives to counter any action by the UN Security Council. Captan is in New York to take part in the council debate on Sierra Leone.

In recent days, the government of Liberia has announced that it has expelled Sierra Leone rebels for whom it has provided sanctuary (though it is reported that Sam Bockarie, former commander of RUF, still resides in Monrovia), claimed it has grounded all Liberian registered aircrafts and has requested UN monitoring of its airports and diamond exports.

In a further attempt to avoid sanctions, Liberian President Charles Taylor has sent a personal letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, requesting that the UN set up a "Blue Ribbon Panel" to investigate allegations that he is involved in the diamond smuggling and gunrunning by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has also told the UN he would resign if it can prove that he profited from the sales of "blood diamonds" from Sierra Leone.

Taylor, who during the civil war was believed to have had account with Paris Societe Generale and another account under Grace B. Minor/CGT at a different bank, has offered to "waive all rights of non-disclosure to all banking institutions", adding that if the allegations against him were substantiated, "I shall resign my position as president of the Republic."

Despite these last minute moves being made, and the idea of resignation that has been dangled, majority of the members of the security council are not convinced that this suggest a real policy shift or change on the part of the Taylor government involvement with Sierra Leone.

Introducing the panel's report to the Security Council, Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh, who is the chairman of the Security Council's Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee, stated that the Panel of Experts recommendations should not end up "on the proverbial shelf, gathering dust." He said that "all of the recommendations contained in the report should get full, due and thorough consideration."

Deputy U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations, James Cunningham, has told the council that Liberia's initiatives were "unconvincing and not sufficient." Commenting further, he said: "We are concerned that these last-minute announcements, in the face of imminent council action after months of discussion, are a calculated ruse designed to divide the Security Council rather than to signal any genuine change of policy."

Deputy British Ambassador, Stewart Eldon, has called for swift adoption of the U.S.-British-drafted resolution that would impose new arms embargo on Liberia, a ban on its diamond and timber exports, a take off and landing ban on Liberian-registered aircrafts, and a travel ban on senior Liberia government and military officials. "There can no longer be a shadow of a doubt that President Taylor has callously been prolonging the conflict in Sierra Leone for personal gain," said the Ambassador.

But there has been few dissenting voices coming from Russia and Ukraine, both of whom have been criticized in the report, accusing panelists of exceeding their mandate. Ukraine, is said to be a major weapons producer and supplier of arms to the RUF rebels.

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