Clampdown on Liberians in Ivory Coast
November 25, 2000

Authorities in the Ivory Coast have reportedly begun arresting Liberians in the border town of Danane, according to reports reaching The Perspective. According to the reports, not yet independently confirmed, about 13 refugees have been arrested so far. Danane was a key base of operations for Charles Taylor's erstwhile rebel movement National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) backed by the Ivorian Government during the Liberian war.

The reported arrests follow an incursion by dissidents into Liberia from areas bordering Ivory Coast, Guinea and Liberia. The Liberian Government has accused Guinea, not Abidjan. The dissidents' spokesman told the BBC that they were from Nimba and had launched an offensive to remove Taylor because of his abuses. Although the Government claims to have beaten back the insurgents, there are no independent reports. The Government has banned independent reports of insurgencies. Sources say fighting is continuing. "Subsiding is not the word because fighting has just started", defense minister Daniel Chea told journalists.

"The Ivorians are arresting innocent people for Charles Taylor. They are doing to us what they did to us during the war. They helped destroy our country and now they want to turn us over for Taylor to slaughter us", said a beleaguered refugee in the area.

Because of destabilization schemes reportedly hatched in Liberia, Liberians have been subjected to arrests in a number of West African countries, including Guinea, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Several West Africa dissidents formed part of Taylor's rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and many remain in his service.

Some Liberians based in the US have begun organizing to influence the Ivorian embassy in Washington for ending the reported clampdown. "We have a lot of respect for [President Laurent] Gbagbo. But he must realize that Ivory Coast cannot be an island free from Liberia's fire. As long as Taylor is in Liberia fomenting mischief, Gbagbo or any other Ivorian leader can rest assured that the fire will spread to their doors. Taylor has expressed his desire to retake Liberian territory taken by the French during colonial time. After Guinea and Sierra Leone, they will see. To back him now as Houphouet Boigny and Konan Bedie, and lately Gen. Guei did, is a gross mistake. Let him leave our people alone", said a member of the Nimba community in the US.

Nimba fighters loyal to President Taylor are reported to have begun harboring mixed feelings since the insurgents are their kinsmen. "It is a matter of time and defections will follow", claimed a citizen from Nimba residing in the US.

Unlike past insurgencies, the Nimba insurgency provides added dangers for a regime plagued with insurgencies, the fourth within two years. The bulk of Taylor's fighters are from Nimba. Although several dozens of their key political and military leaders have been executed, they remained loyal until now. The controversial death of the Vice President Enoch Dogoleah this year (a Gio from Nimba) and Taylor's failure to produce a promised autopsy on his death have led to deep suspicions within the Gio-Mano community that he was killed on Taylor's orders. Thus any witch-hunt of Gios and Manos, now a norm in such uprisings, will certainly further erode Taylor's already shaky base. There are not too many Americo-Liberians (Taylor's kinsmen and descendents of freed slaves who ruled the country since 1822) capable of fighting to defend the government. The President has in the past depended on the Nimba tribes to sustain his rule. The current Vice President, Moses Blah, a former policeman and moneychanger who was trained in Libya with the late Vice President, is also from Nimba. But many Nimba youths who fought for Taylor have been abandoned. The economic boost promised Nimba has not materialized. "Liberia is not Nimba", Taylor told disappointed Nimba citizens who had expected a series of development projects the president promised.

President Charles Taylor was the first head of state to visit the Ivory Coast's new president Laurent Gbagbo since strongman Gen. Robert Guei was ousted in a controversial election. Sources in Abidjan say the French have intensified efforts to mend fences between Taylor and Gbagbo since Liberian mercenaries reportedly played key role in the electoral bloodbath aimed at keeping Gen. Guei in power. Gbagbo, at the behest of the French, is said to have loaned Taylor his presidential jet during his recent trip to Abuja.