Taylor Woos Old Enemies to
Fight New Ones
Amidst Dissidents Victory Claims
July 13, 2000
With the military situation between Liberian Government forces and dissidents battle for control of key areas in northern Liberia yet unclear, the Government has announced plans to recruit fighters of former rebel factions which fought Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front for seven years.
At the same time, the dissidents, under the umbrella of "Liberians United for Peace and Reconciliation," said they have taken the provincial city of Voinjama, and key towns, including Zorzor, Namah, Bellefani, Salayea, and Bakedu. For the first time, the group's military spokesman, Captain Emmanuel Moore, said their aim is to overthrow President Taylor because he has "committed genocide against our people." There has been no independent confirmation of their claims. Asked as to whether there was any truth to the dissidents' claims that they control Voinjama, Zorzor, Bellefani, Salayea, Namah, and Bakedu, Mr. Taylor said, "not to my knowledge." Mr. Taylor has, however, acknowledged that the government has "lost a few individuals."
In a related move, exiled opposition politician Fahnboy Dakinda, who was Taylor's first minister of health, announced that "Taylor must ago", but disapprove the methods now used. He said within few weeks, Taylor will be removed from power because he is an obstacle to peace in the sub-region and the return of hundreds of thousands of Liberia refugees.
In a frantic mood to defeat the dissidents, the Liberian press reported Monday the Government was making plans to meet leaders and former fighters of the erstwhile United Liberian Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO-J & K) and the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) in order to repel the dissidents.
Taylor said, "this war is a national cause therefore all should join This is our motherland and as such, our intention for this call is to get every segment of the society involved in protecting the sovereignty of the country."
The Government said it would seek help from the religious community, chiefs and elders. They will also be invited to provide an alternate solution in quelling rebel incursions in the country, according to press reports.
But the main leaders of the competing armed factions have since left the country fearing elimination. Several top members of ULIMO-J of the exiled Roosevelt Johnson were killed in September along with over 300 of their civilian kinsmen, the Krahns. ULIMO-K leader Alhaji Kromah left the country and now resides in the United States, while LPC leader Dr. George Boley also left after the elections along with some of his key lieutenants. Samuel Dokie of the NPFL-Central Revolutionary Committee, a splinter group of the NPFL, who remained after elections, was killed along with his wife and two other family members. Their corpses were mutilated and burnt after the women were sexually assaulted.
Although the Government's multiple security forces are said to number more than 20,000, only 200 ex-fighters assembled at the main military barracks in the city following Government appeal. The NPFL boasted of having 60,000 fighters during the war. After elections, many of the fighters, lacking integration programs, drifted into society. They have staged several violent demonstrations in Monrovia and elsewhere demanding promised benefits. Although the UN Secretary-General Special Representative in the country, the Gambian Felix-Downes Thomas, promised his organization would address the ex-fighters needs, they remain largely abandoned.
Prior to the incursion, the Defense Ministry warned that many soldiers were deserting due to lack of benefits. The Ministry further warned that it should not be blamed if these soldiers turned on the civilian population to address their needs. Civilians were legitimate targets of the war in Liberia, and after elections, Government soldiers continued atrocities against the population.
Meanwhile, Guinea has denied an involvement in the incursion, but the Liberian Government insists Conakry is backing the dissidents. "The mere presence of armed men coming out of Guinea shows a threat to its own security," Taylor told reporters. Last year, NPFL fighters attacked Guinean villages, killing over 28 people, on allegation that Guinea had backed the 1999 incursion.
On the other hand, a pro-Government Liberian newspaper has quoted Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tijan Kabbah as saying his country is prepared to meet "force with force", and that no one has the right to dictate who should train Sierra Leone armed forces. President Taylor has condemned British training of the Sierra Leone Army, accusing London of flooding West Africa with arms now responsible for the incursion. "We want to know how a brand new rifle got into the hands of these insurgents out of Guinea,'' implying that London is arming dissidents to destabilize West Africa. Taylor made this remark at the Roberts International Airport when he met with the naïve Sierra Leone leader who stopped over enroute to Freetown from the OAU Summit. London described the accusations as "fanciful," blaming Liberia for backing the RUF rebels who continue to commit atrocities against the people of Sierra Leone.
Moreover, fresh reports emerged last week linking Liberia to arms, food, and medicines shipments to the RUF in diamond areas. A recent report by the BBC also refers to training for the Sierra Leone rebels taking place at the military camp in the Liberian town of Gbartala, just north of Monrovia," Doyle said. "Gbartala Camp was said to be controlled by President Taylor's elite anti-terrorist unit."
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