West Africa's Call for Delayed Killingfields

The Perspective
February 14, 2001

Despite justified global anger directed at Liberia for its platform of disintegration in West Africa, West African foreign ministers want the UN Security Council, now debating sanctions on the country, to give President Charles Taylor more time for presumed repentance.

"We are not against sanctions. We are for a very efficient implementation of the sanctions when Liberia fails to implement the commitments made within two months. I think the council will continue to want to consider what kind of measures should be taken against Liberia in the near future", ECOWAS Secretary General Lansana Kouyateh said in New York. "We need very urgent action from Liberia [to more words] to show they have cut off support to the RUF", the British Ambassador to the UN argued.

We see the usual African double talk here. Just weeks ago, Kouyateh was defending Taylor in Monrovia. He told Liberians after emerging from a meeting with Taylor that the UN's decision to impose sanctions, and charges against Liberia, were an "absurdity." Now, after claiming "absurdity", he is saying Liberia has promised to "disengage" from the RUF and must therefore be given chance. Which Kouyateh are we therefore to believe? The one wearing the "absurdity" gown or the one admitting Taylor's complicity and therefore pleading for more time for the Diamond Prince?

Fans for the Liberian dictator amongst callous Africans are many. The chair of the moribund Organization of African Unity Salim A. Salim, in Monrovia, said Taylor had "legitimate interests" in pursuing his violent policies against neighbours. Thus the agenda of some African politicians is to kill sanctions and reward Taylor for the horrors he is causing in West Africa as refugees multiply by the hour.

These double-dealings make it clear to us that some West African politicians are determined to rescue Taylor, and by so doing, plunge the region into further anarchy. On the other hand, Liberia is convinced that its like-minded "African brothers" will stand by it even if sanctions are imposed. Its foreign minister, Monie Captan, hints a planned sanction bursting when he says that:

"If you want an effective sanctions regime, you need the cooperation of the region, cooperation of the neighbours. If ECOWAS is to play an important role as a partner to the United Nations, I think it is important to listen to what ECOWAS has to say." In short, he is saying key countries named in the UN Panel of Experts report, as conspirators in diamonds and gunrunning will oppose the UN sanctions when imposed.

Hence the onus is now on the world body to challenge these co-conspirators in death and destruction. Liberia's trade with fellow West African states is almost non-existent. The diamonds and timber are directed towards Europe, and America. Taylor's key technicians in crime are Europeans and Americans. Therefore, without America and the European Union, his empire, already in shambles, will crumble to halt the export of terror.

As ECOWAS pleads for more time based on Taylor's new and never ending promises, we must ask: how much more time does this man need to complete his circle of death and destructions? When 11 UN ambassadors from various countries visited him in Monrovia before sanctions were contemplated, Taylor offered promises and more promises of leaving Sierra Leone diamonds alone. He told the ambassadors that he would instruct the RUF rebels to turn the diamond creeks over to the Sierra Leone Government. He did not! To the contrary, he re-deployed the RUF and his rebels, along with Liberian trained Guinean dissidents, in Guinea to cause more destruction and produce more refugees. When the former US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Pickering led a delegation to Monrovia to express US disgust over his regional meddling, Taylor issued counter warnings, telling the Americans that no power on earth could twist his hands and disengage him from Sierra Leone. When Nigerian President Obasanjo and other ECOWAS leaders urged him in Abuja some months ago to end his RUF backing, he lectured them on the need to free RUF chief Foday Sankoh because as a rebel leader, based on his own successful experience in Liberia, must be allowed to operate in normal society to instruct his followers.

In several documents, he has defended his warpaths within the region. In Sierra Leone, he claims that 50% of Sierra Leone soldiers trained by the British were Liberians trained to topple him. For this, he warned, he cannot abandon the RUF, and that the British must leave Sierra Leone if there is to be peace on his terms. He called for "African Solution", a solution now sold by his friends within ECOWAS. In Guinea, he claims the Guinean Government is backing his opponents. "If President Lansana Conte thinks he can destabilize Liberia and get away with it, he must know that the baby who says the mother cannot sleep cannot also sleep." On several occasions, he has warned that in case of war with Guinea, Liberia would win.

If Taylor's verbal or formal commitment to peace were enough to halt the ongoing horrors in West Africa, then wars would have long ended. There would be no need for a UN investigation and sanctions. The fact however is that for almost 10 years, there is a litany of promises and pledges from Liberia on Taylor's so-called commitment to peace. The reality is that the wars have expanded to engulf about a million refugees in a situation now described as the world worst refugee crisis. To wait longer for tangible solutions, such as sanctions against the rogue regime in Monrovia, is to endorse the intolerable suffering of millions of people uprooted from their homes. ECOWAS, which lost out in Liberia by endorsing the erection of the foundations of terror now consuming the region through christening anarchy as a democracy, has no moral authority to persuade civilized mankind. Let the sanctions come and now!

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