Liberian Belligerent Forces Clash Near Monrovia
Posted October 3, 2003
A planned meeting between the Liberian leader, Pres. Moses Blah and the national chairman of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy(LURD), failed to be on October 1st as a result of clashes that broke out between forces of the two opposing sides.
The incident disrupted normal business activities in the area and resulted to the death of five persons as several residents took to their heels for dear life.
Our Executive Mansion reporter, Patrick K. Wrokpoh, who was on his way to the Omega Tower residence of the Liberian leader to cover the scheduled meeting between the two men, arrived at the Red Light market grounds just before the incident erupted.
According to his report, the incident occurred when about seven vehicles carrying fighters of LURD arrived at the Red Light area.
The LURD fighters who numbered over a hundred, were heard chanting "we’re tired fighting, we want no more war!" Some of them shouted, "no monkey tries it", an apparent reference that no fighter of the government forces should try to do anything to the contrary.
Their chanting was greeted with mixed reactions by the marketers some of whom jeered at them (LURD forces), while others gave them an applause. Others threw missiles at the LURD fighters.
Just at about that time, the LURD fighters stopped their vehicles to interact with the crowd. Some of them quickly spread into the crowd. It was at this time that some fighters of LURD beheld two generals of the government forces identified as Peter Duo and another as Mark.
During the interaction between them, one of the LURD fighters attacked General Mark, a situation which triggered the ensuing clashes between the two sides.
When the government forces tried to retaliate, LURD forces quickly ran to their vehicles with the notion that they were about to be attacked by the government troops. It was at this time that the two sides exchanged fire thus resulting to the death of a LURD fighter and four civilians. It was not clear as to who fired first. A boy whose body could not be identified then, died from a grenade explosion. A mother and her baby also died.
As a result of the incident, UNMIL forces mainly from the Malian and Nigerian battalions, quickly moved in to quell the situation.
The peacekeepers however could not easily deal with the angry crowd some of whom were government sympathizers and militiamen. They were blamed for the incident as the crowd wondered how the LURD forces traveled from Tubmanburg to the Red Light area with arms. As a way of showing their dissatisfaction, the angry crowd set up road blocks and burned tires to prevent the peace-keepers from doing their job. They also burned a DAF truck marked TT-0141 which was said to be carrying a 20ft container alongside the LURD forces vehicles. They were also seen holding sticks and other objects in readiness to deal with any LURD fighter or supporter.
However, the peace keepers managed to contain the situation by setting up a buffer zone between the two opposing sides. As a result of the situation, the LURD chairman could not travel through to the President Blah’s residence as he was allegedly prevented by the peace-keepers from going towards the Red Light area to forestall further violence.
Many looters took advantage of the situation as they broke into warehouses and other business centers. Our reporter saw some of the looters taking away pepper, beans, peanut bags and other items.
In a related development, a spokesman of LURD said the attack was an assignation attempt on the life of its chairman who was on his way to President Moses Blah residence when the shooting started. The LURD spokesman told the BBC that it was government forces that started the shooting. At the same time, the government has blamed LURD for the incident saying it was a ploy to kill the Liberian leader. The GOL has called for an investigation of the incident.
Meanwhile, journalists who attempted crossing the Bushrod Island area were prevented by UNMIL soldiers assigned at the Vai Town checkpoint on grounds that LURD fighters were heavily armed.
Our reporters later managed to reach the Freeport of Monrovia where hundreds of LURD fighters had positioned themselves in combat readiness, while UNMIL and the United States Embassy officials were in close contact with LURD Deputy Chief of Staff, Mohammed Sheriff on the possible withdrawal of his men from Gardnersville and other parts of the Bushrod Island.
The UNMIL and US Embassy officials later drove to the Stephen A. Tolbert Estate security checkpoint where several dozens of LURD fighters were apparently waiting for instructions from their commander to advance towards Paynesville.
Following the meeting, the LURD COS Sheriff ordered all of his fighters to leave the estates and return to their control headquarters.
Similar instruction to the fighters was made by Gen. Sheriff at the Freeport and other parts of Bushrod Island.
However, despite Gen. Sheriff’s call on the LURD fighters to withdraw, some commandeered and took away vehicles that belong to some people. However, some of these vehicles were retrieved by Gen. Sheriff and returned to their respective owners in the presence of local and international journalists.
Several vehicles belonging to the LPRC, Brideway Corporation and CEMENCO were also taken away by fighters of LURD.
Interestingly, most of the LURD fighters that were rounded up by their Chief of Staff were placed in an UNMIL truck marked SV224 which took them to their Po River control point for LURD.
At the chicken soup factory general market, a hand grenade allegedly thrown by LURD fighters killed seven persons and wounded six others. This situation forced all businesses to close for the day. The injured victims, who included female and male, are being treated at a local clinic in the area.
During reporters’ tour of the Freeport area, several looters were arrested by LURD COS Sheriff in the premises of CEMENCO. They were arrested with one Gibson Air-conditioner and several pieces of panel door locks.
Apart from these items, more than dozens new computers and air conditioners that were in the CEMENCO promises were looted including drums of fuel oil. Due to the situation, UNMIL soldiers have been deployed at CEMENCO to provide security to the company’s remaining properties.
In a brief chat with journalists, the LURD Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Sheriff accused government frontline commander, Gen. Roland Duo of ordering government militiamen to attack his men at the Red Light.
He said Gen. Duo was spotted in the building housing the local police substation giving instruction to his fighters to attack LURD fighters.
He said he want the quick intervention of ECOWAS, UN and International Community to resolve the Liberian conflict to stop the continued killing of innocent people to allow peace to prevail.
When our reporter visited the residence of Gen. Roland Duo at 72nd Paynesville, he was informed that the General was at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), but one of his close aide assured that he would contact this paper when he returns home.
LURD Chairman Sekou Damate Conneh has attributed Wednesday’s skirmishes to the work of what he called hidden hands.
He said these individuals are exploiting every opportunity to tarnish the reputation of his organization in the international community.
Mr. Conneh however, said the enemies will not succeed because the Liberian people are tired of war.
Speaking to ELBC News in Tubmanburg, the rebel leader re-affirmed his commitment to lasting peace in Liberia and the Accra peace agreement which he described as the best framework.
Meanwhile the LURD leader is calling on his forces not to engage in act of lawlessness against innocent civilians.
He said anyone caught looting or hijacking cars will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
LURD chairman Sekou Damate Conneh is calling on Liberians not to lose hope in the peace process as a result of Paynesville incident.
He said the problem was caused by improper planning, coupled with the activities of certain people bent on stirring up confusion.
Speaking in an interview with ELBC’s Bockarie Musa in Tubmanburg on October 2nd afternoon, Mr. Conneh said the enemies of peace will not succeed because the people are tired of war.