Civic Groups Want Mercenaries Expelled
December 16, 2000

Liberian political, human rights and religious organizations have demanded the expulsion of foreign mercenaries, including officials and loyalists of Sierra Leone rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), from the country.

Although there has been sufficient evidence of foreign mercenaries, including South African neo-Nazis, former members of Apartheid South Africa Defense Forces, Ukrainians, South American death squads in the country since Taylor came to power, this is the first public exposure and demand for the expulsion of mercenaries in charge of President Taylor's security forces and accused of diamond theft. Guinea's President Lansana Conte has accused Burkina Faso of siding with Liberia to destabilize the Guinea. During the Liberian war, Blaise Compaore admitted dispatching a battalion of his troops to ensure Taylor's victory. Observers however believe Compaore, along with Libya's Col. Gaddafi, sent more than a battalion. Cote D' Ivoire also reportedly offered military assistance to Taylor who extensively used Ivorian territory for political and military operations.

According to reports, the civic groups have requested President Charles Taylor to co-operate in identifying all foreign combatants within the security forces of Liberia whose presence are illegal under international law for their "immediate repatriation" out of Liberia.

The groups also want Liberia to "completely and unconditionally disassociate itself" from the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone accused of waging the world's most brutal war in which children are repeatedly amputated. President Taylor has repeatedly admitted ties with the RUF and has joined them in demanding the expulsion of British forces helping to guarantee security out of Sierra Leone.

The civil rights groups said if the services of foreign security advisors are required, such should be formalized and contracted through legal bilateral government-to-government or international organizations arrangement in a manner that does not threaten the security of any country.

The groups, including 11 political parties, along with the country's respected Interfaith Council of Liberia, also said that they want all RUF members, including its former "strongman" Sam Bockarie, his wife and associates to be expelled from Liberia. Students at the University of Liberia have repeatedly demanded the expulsion of the RUF from the country.

According to Sheik Kafumba Konneh, acting president of the Interfaith Council who also serves as deputy chair for the government's Reconciliation Commission, the statement stipulating their demands was made public because since its presentation to President Taylor on 20 November his government has not responded nor acted. The respected Muslim cleric said they also sought audience with Taylor on the prevailing situation in the country and the Mano River Basin, which links Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The statement noted that allegations about Liberia's links to the RUF were leading to the isolation of the government and the country and "bringing disrepute to our sacred heritage and all that the government and our forebears have assiduously laboured to preserve." The Clinton administration is finalizing plans to impose sanctions on Liberia, including banning its diamonds and freezing foreign accounts of President Taylor. A travel ban on the President, his family and officials is already in place.

The statement said it was "perceived" that the current wave of armed incursions into Guinea, blamed on Liberia and its RUF partners, is an extension of the Sierra Leone crisis, and efforts must therefore be exerted, through the Interfaith Council of Liberia, ECOWAS, OAU and the UN to resolve the crisis.

According to the Pan African News Agency (PANA), ECOWAS leaders, who meet Friday in Bamako, Mali, on the question of cross-border attacks between the two countries, have contemplated deploying military observers at the borders of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
PANA said the Liberian religious and civic groups said they would visit the borders of the three countries to "assess and facilitate the process of genuine reconciliation through constructive engagement".

The news agency further stated that the groups said a delegation under the auspices of the Interfaith Council, in collaboration with ECOWAS, the OAU and the UN would also facilitate meetings amongst President Lansana Conteh of Guinea, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and Taylor to find an "amicable solution to the crisis within the Mano River Basin".

They said containment of the situation within the sub- region through "military intervention is not the favoured reconciliatory solution," but rather dialogue and the deployment of ECOWAS troops at the frontiers of the three countries.

"Our nation is presently at the crossroads. What is done now will make an indelible imprint on the annals of history.

"The question of what is right or what is wrong legally should not dictate the stance of this government; rather what is morally necessary . . . in the interest of our peoples in Liberia and the sub-region," the statement said.

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