Liberia Accuses UNHCR of Supporting Dissidents
Sept 18, 2000
Killings and abduction of relief workers in the wake of increasing cross border incursions from Liberia and Sierra Leone into Guinea, are likely to surge as fighting intensified. In the recent attack over the weekend, Mensah Kpognon of Togo, head of the Macenta center of the UNHCR, was killed and his home burned. Another UNHCR worker, Sapeu Laurence Djeya of Ivory Coast, was abducted by armed men believed to have entered Guinea from Liberia.
Barely two days before the killing and abduction of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) workers in the town of Macenta, the Liberian Government, quoting "reliable sources", accused the agency of backing dissidents fighting the Government.
The Government's publication, The New Liberia, in a story on September 15, 2000, headlined "UNHCR Supports Dissidents?" reported that:
"Reliable sources from the Guinean capital Conakry have disclosed that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other international organizations operating from Conakry are staunch supporters of dissident activities in Lofa County.
"The sources who begged for anonymity, told this paper recently in Monrovia that the cardinal aim of this group is to discourage Liberian refugees and further empower them to destabilize the nascent economy and the entire national reconstruction programs of their motherland.
"Our sources further disclosed that several workers of local Guinean NGOs were also recruited by the Guinean securities to carry out plans of the UNHCR for reasons best known to them. Our sources also mentioned that the UNHCR has partially succeeded in discouraging Liberia refugees from returning home.
"Our sources explained that these organizations, including the UNHCR have on several occasions received funds intended to be used to repatriate all refugees in Guinea, instead, said money has been used to plot against Liberia and its citizens.
"The sources further stated that the recent attack against Guinea was carried out by former mutineers and citizens of Guinea, not a single Liberia took part in the attack. They said up to now, President Lansana Conteh has changed his sleeping place; he now sleeps in the military barracks instead of his luxurious state house.
"When asked as to how they got their information, the sources said they were senior staff at the Conakry-based UNHCR and were not forbidden to handle all documents coming into the offices of the UNHCR for dissemination to local as well as international NGOs and out of Conakry.
"The sources then vowed to reveal any and all movements undertaken to destabilize neighboring countries of the Mano River Union. They said they have their relatives in Liberia and will not sit idly and see Liberia destroyed by evil men.
"The sources have meanwhile returned to Guinea by air to gather more information for the consumption of the Liberian people."
Macenta is the biggest Guinean town so far attacked by the insurgents who Guinea says are coming from Liberia. The Guineans are now convinced that the attacks are well coordinated with the involvement of their own dissidents.
For years now, Conakry has been accusing Liberia of training Guinean dissidents to destabilize the country using the Sierra Leone model. The London-based Africa publication Africa Confidential, in its July edition, reported that: "Liberia has been hosting the late President Touré's son, Ahmed, who wants to build a movement to oust Conté."
At stake is the plight over 126,000 Liberian and 330,000 Sierra Leonean refugees who have been living in Guinea for almost 10 years. Thousands of Guineans demonstrated last week in Conakry requesting arms to defend their country.
Previous cross border attacks have killed about 80 Guineans within less than three weeks. This led to a reprisal against Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in which refugees were detained, raped, or beaten. The latest attack which came just a day after the ECOWAS Ministerial meeting held in Mali to find solution to the conflict in the Mano River region appears to be a foretaste of the bitter days ahead.
Similarly cross border attack was launched last year by armed men from Liberia on three villages in the Macenta area killing 28 villagers, including two who were burned alive.
Meanwhile, Liberia's Charles Taylor told officials this week flushing dissident from the north of the country is proving to be a difficult affair. He said 50 soldiers have been killed in recent weeks in fighting dissidents of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
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