Getting Together for Peace
(A Statement Issued by of LURD)
November 4, 2002
The conflict in Liberia is not along lines of ideology. And although there are those who say that we are fighting along ethnic lines, the truth is that all ethic groups in Liberia are represented on any side of the conflict. That leaves the question of why we are still fighting.
We are fighting because Liberia is much worse off than it was when some people felt a need for a change so urgent that they started a war to bring about that change. Well, the change is here, but it is a change that is much worse than our previous situation. And this is according to those who forced the change on us by way of a war that killed over 220,000 mostly innocent Liberians. So we now have a situation from which we must change in order to have a chance of reversing Liberia's regression of the past 12 years. This is why we all feel there should be another change.
Some say that the next change should come about as result of a round of elections. Well, that's part of how we got the change we now have but which we clearly can't afford. It is not that we have lost our faith in the electoral process; it is that the process is itself crippled by the atmosphere under which we made our last attempt to restore democracy to Liberia.
It is not a matter of the opinion of those of us who are running the group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). It is also the opinion of the world that Liberia's first problem is also its president - Charles Taylor. The international community wants us to get rid of Charles Taylor as president of Liberia. But we are not fighting Taylor because we are told; we are fighting to remove him because a brighter future for Liberia depends on it. So, this is what we are doing at LURD.
However, true to our name, reconciliation is an important part of how we hope to achieve our goal of removing Charles Taylor as president of Liberia. If we can do it through negotiations and reconciliation, we will do so. But we cannot pile one election on top of another in an atmosphere in which trust cannot grow because confidence has not taken roots five years after the previous round of elections. So the problem does not lie with the elections as a means to a democratic rule, but rather the conditions under which the elections have taken place.
We therefore have to change the conditions before we can fairly expect a change in the results of our electoral exercises. To chart the course for the change for which LURD has been fighting for the past three years, we need to come together regardless of which side we support in the current conflict. If we don't come together, anyone who wins militarily may have a much harder time piecing Liberia back together.
We don't want to go down this same road in search of a purposeless military victory. But this will likely happen if we don't come together to end the conflict right now.
LURD has not wavered in its determination to remove Charles Taylor by force. But for the sake of the innocent population of the Liberian capital, negotiations are worth being given a chance. So let us see if we can come together to end the conflict peacefully before LURD settles on force as the only remaining option for getting rid of Charles Taylor before the next round of elections.
We are asking members of the Liberian opposition parties to join us in this endeavor. And we say this with the foreknowledge that some members of the Liberian opposition parties and notable Liberians of other persuasions had convened conferences as a means of settling the Liberian crisis. Some were frank enough to state their reasons for not inviting LURD; others invited us but the invitation arrived too late to be of any use; and still others completely skirted us in their search for peaceful solutions. But no matter how one looks at it, each group was searching for a lasting solution the best way it knew how.
We don't believe that earning credit should be any trickier than it currently appears. We in LURD believe that some of the people who have criticized us and those who actively sought to discredit us have, by their actions, demonstrated their concern for Liberia. Even if they are wrong in their analyses, they have not fallen short of showing their love for Liberia. So, by any measure, these active folks, no matter what their motivations, deserve more credit than those who have done nothing to help or hurt the drive toward peace in Liberia.
These, by the way, are not new revelations. LURD has been willing to negotiate from the very beginning. But we are not willing to negotiate everything under the sun. To save time and energy, we have narrowed the issues down to one: Charles Taylor. Negotiations must therefore focus on how and when he should leave Liberia and/or the presidency.
We believe that we all have examined the issues closely enough since the first attempt to talk our way out of the crisis. We should know by now that talking, though necessary, is not sufficient to end the conflict. There has got to be some combination of verbal suasion and military pressure to get Charles Taylor out. We believe that members of the Liberian opposition parties and other citizens share our belief that we cannot start rebuilding Liberia as long as Charles Taylor is around. We used to say this about Liberia only; now it is equally true of the whole of West Africa: We cannot have peace in West Africa as long as Taylor is in power anywhere in West Africa.
All we have accused Taylor of is murder of Liberians and the forced amputation of the limbs of Sierra Leoneans. But it was the United States, Great Britain, and the United Nations that said that Taylor was a suspect in international terrorism. It was the United Nations, following the leads provided by the United States and Great Britain, that undertook the massive efforts of documenting how Charles Taylor helped the terrorist group Al Qaeda hide their assets through rough diamonds mined in Sierra Leone and transshipped through Liberia to crooked dealers abroad.
So, it is not for shortage of proofs that we are still talking about Taylor after more then 12 years of terror in Liberia and now in the rest of West Africa. It is for the lack of a will to unite that we are still talking about talking. With the Ivory Coast now in turmoil, all of Liberia's immediate neighbors have contracted the Charles Taylor virus. But the good news is that this is not a terminal case, unless we do nothing. We can destroy the virus.
We, therefore, plan to convene a conference shortly to bring together all Liberians willing to work for peace at home. We at LURD see this conference as the forum at which we will determine whether there is a chance for any collaborative efforts toward peace, or whether LURD must complete its mission without the aid of those who are nonetheless equally convinced that we will never have peace in Liberia as long as we have Taylor as president of Liberia.
We hope that all the Liberian politicians and interest groups will view our overtures positively and quickly enough so that they may have due influence on a collective conference agenda toward freeing Liberia from the grips of tyranny. It will take nothing short of the group efforts that we are suggesting to create anything close to a leveled playing field for Liberia's next attempt at bringing democracy home to the people.
We will make the date and place of the conference known as soon as we have indications that freeing Liberia from tyranny will not be left solely with LURD. If it is not possible to unit for a common cause, then LURD will press along and alone with the rest of our agenda.
Chief Political Representative for
Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)
Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)
cc: National Chairman
National Executive Committee (NEC)