LURD Forces in Control of Taylor's Wartime Stronghold?

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 10, 2002

According to reports from Liberia, forces of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) are in control of Gbarnga, President Taylor's wartime stronghold. Students from Cuttington University College near Gbarnga have already been trucked to the Liberian capital - about 140 miles from Gbarnga, while displaced people who fled the fighting in Lofa County to Gbarnga (last year) are said to be on the run again. Casualty figures are not available.

In a Press Release issued yesterday (May 9, 2002), LURD's spokesman announced that their forces were in control of Gbarnga and surrounding areas. LURD claimed that Gbarnga was captured without any resistance from Taylor's forces.

Below is excerpt from LURD's Press Release issued on May 9, 2002:

"Gbarnga City And Other Strategic Towns In Central Liberia Fall To LURD's Forces.

"With no much military resistance, the central Liberian city of Gbarnga, provincial capital of Bong County, along with a number of well placed strategic towns in central Liberia have fallen to the gallant and decent forces of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). Gbarnga city fell last night to the strike force of LURD. Several of the boys conscripted in Monrovia to fight for Taylor have turned themselves over willingly to their brothers and sisters of the LURD saying: 'we have been awaiting your arrival, and now we are very happy to join you in freeing our country from Taylor.' However, there are some of the ruthless ATU rebel soldiers of Taylor who are fleeing ,leaving behind destruction in their path as usual. At the moment, there is widespread jubilation throughout Gbarnga city. Civilians, members of LURD's forces and their brothers who joined them this morning from the Taylor side are all celebrating.

"Meanwhile, the National Executive Council (NEC) of LURD through the National Spokesman, assures the civil authority of Bong and Nimba Counties that they will remain in place and receive the full protection of LURD while carrying out the affairs of civil administration in their respective areas to serve the needs of the civilian population.

"We in LURD want to reassure all Liberians and the international community that the ongoing liberation struggle is not against any tribe, group or individuals. All we want is for Charles Taylor to vacate the political leadership of the country because he has outlived his usefulness and has no constitutional legitimacy. His (Taylor) apparent failure to comply with the mandate of the Abuja Accord through which he was selected by ECOWAS to serve as "President" of the country can no longer be condoned by the Liberian people who he continues to victimize.

"We call on all our Liberian brothers and sisters to rally their support around our just struggle, engage us at all levels, so that we can together shape the future of our country democratic and economic development process after Taylor's destructive regime of torture, rape and loot."

On Thursday Mr. Taylor acknowledged the presence of LURD's forces in Gbarnga. He said that LURD forces attacked Gbarnga on Thursday at about 6:00 am local time, but offered no detail as to who is in control of Gbarnga - his wartime stronghold.

In 1999, dissidents believed to be from Guinea launched the first attack on Liberia. The spokesman for the group that launched the attack - Joint Forces of Liberation for Liberia (JFFL), called himself Mosquito Spray. The group was later driven out of the country. Then came the year 2000 when the current group known as Liberians United for Reconciliation and democracy (LURD) launched its first attack. Following the attack, President Taylor gave his defense officials 72 hours to flush the dissidents out of the country. The then spokesman of LURD, Gen. Joe Wylie reminded Mr. Taylor: "I want Mr. Taylor to know that it will take 100 years to drive our forces out of Liberia." Mr. Taylor then threatened to raise a 15,000 man-force to flush the dissidents out. But it seems that the dissidents were in Liberia to stay. Following Mr. Taylor's 72 hour-ultimatum, LURD fought back with their own threat - Gen. Wylie said that President Taylor was going to be out in about 90 days. This was in the year 2000!

The war has been like a dogfight. But the LURD dissidents have suffered severely in recent months due to their habit of taking credits for all the gimmicks Mr. Taylor is said to have designed in his bid to persuade the UN to lift the arms embargo against the Liberia.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused both LURD and the Liberian government forces of committing atrocities against the hapless Liberian people.

The Lofa war has been used by Mr. Taylor to clamp down on the opposition. He has effectively used it to drive or keep opposition leaders out of the country and silence those who remain in the country. He used the war as reason for imposing the state of emergency in that West African nation. Since the imposition of the state of emergency several journalists, human rights defenders and opposition leaders have become its victims. Some people even opine that Mr. Taylor intends to have the state of emergency extended so that he will use it to postpone the Liberian general elections slated for 2003.

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