Liberia Threatens War with Guinea

As dissidents opposed to President Taylor launch their third incursion since the 1997 elections, Liberia has vowed to take the war to Guinea, which it claims is backing the rebels. The government says that Liberian dissidents from Guinea launched an attack on the village of Koryama in Lofa County on Saturday morning.

In 1999, the Liberian government forces launched a series of attacks on Guinean soil (on Macenta and other villages) killing 28 villagers after the Liberian government accused Guinea of supporting Liberian dissidents of Joint Forces of Liberation for Liberia (JFLL). "The Liberian soldiers attacked three villages in the area around Macenta with guns and machetes on Friday and killed 28 people, including two who were burned alive," the governor of the Nzerekore region in southern Guinea, Alikaly Fofana, told reporters. But President Charles Taylor classified the Guinea's 1999 accusation of a cross-border attack on its soil as "complete nonsense."

On Monday, Liberia's Information Minister, Joe Mulbah, told the BBC, "we are going to exert all efforts to ensure that these sporadic incursions are stopped. Our people must live in peace We are going to ensure that we chase them to their hideouts and destroy their hideouts completely, threatening to "chase" the dissidents to their "hideouts" this time.

Liberia and Guinea have traded destabilization accusations recently, with Conakry charging that Guinean dissident forces were training in Liberia under the supervision of President Taylor. Reports indicate that the late President Sekou Toure's son, an ardent opponent of the Guinean government, is based in Liberia. Detained Guinean opposition leader, Alpha Konde, was accused by a witness in a recent trial of recruiting Guineans to be trained in Liberia for the overthrow of President Lansana Conteh.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, the Liberian authorities have accused former warring factions, ULIMO-J, and ULIMO-K, respectively the Mandingo and Krahn factions of the defunct United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia.

Our sources, however, say the insurgents are independent of the two groups (ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K) whose leaders are now in exile in Nigeria and the United States respectively. Reports indicate that the dissidents are from dissatisfied groups among the various armed factions, many of them from Taylor's own National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) who feel cheated in the sharing of the spoils of war. Under intense pressure in 1999 during RUF offensive to take Freetown, Taylor admitted that Liberians, including his own fighters, were fighting on all sides in the Sierra Leone war.

In 1999, the RUF helped in battling the insurgents after President Taylor announced that he was calling on his "allies" to defend Liberia. RUF fighters captured Kolahun, the original town taken by the JFLL. Recent reports say the Liberian Government has been arming its forces.

Thousands of fighters have been abandoned with no integration programs since the elections. Many roam around the West African region in search of food. Senegal's President Wade recently accused Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees of swelling the ranks of his own rebel groups in the Cassamance.

Meanwhile, on Taylor's order, hundreds of former NPFL rebels reported to the Barclay Training Center yesterday for Briefing. Observers believe that the current incursion is more serious than the one launched last year. The dissidents are said to have captured Voinjama, the capital of Lofa, within less 24 hours. Koryamah, and other villages are also said to be under dissidents' control.

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