Sanctions Now!

Jan 5, 2001

A pressing challenge awaiting the global community is whether swift moves will be taken to comprehensively implement the recommendations of the UN Panel of Experts on war and diamonds in Sierra Leone.

We are however disappointed at the callous argument of the OAU Secretary General that sanctions will not only hurt the RUF and their sponsors, but ordinary people. Doesn't Mr. Salim know how the ordinary people are being destroyed because of those he is defending? Doesn't he know that thousands of Sierra Leoneans have died because Taylor wants their diamonds? Doesn't Mr. Salim, the man who ran once without success to head the United Nations, know that tens of thousands of Sierra Leone's children are today without limbs, without a future, because they were born in a country eyed by Charles Taylor for its diamonds? Is he prepared to subject his own children and his people of Tanzania to such barbarities? Has he forgotten that Tanzania, under the farsighted and compassionate Julius K. Nyerere, went to war against Uganda to preserve its dignity against a Taylor-like dictator Idi Amin? It is such hypocrisy that has carried Africa down the drain of evil leaders and it is unfortunate that Salim is endorsing it. If we had listened to such argument, in the case of South Africa, that sanctions would only hurt the poor, we would have still had apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, would have still be in jail.

Those injecting the self-serving argument against sanctions for Liberia because the poor will be affected only show their insensitivity and callousness regarding the death and amputations of mass of innocent children undertaken by "democratically elected leaders" in the name of diamonds.

But if the United Nations is serious about arresting the rapid human, political and economic decay within West Africa, then it must see reason to stop those bent on seeing crime as a way of life through politics.

Reports that the Clinton administration, in its eleventh hour, is working to impose sanctions on Liberia are encouraging, although Mr. Clinton had abundant opportunity to have paraded his humanitarian credentials in West Africa years ago. But confused and misled by key Democrats eager to announce the birth of a pariah as a "continental leader", Clinton gave the Liberian diamond warlord Charles Taylor the benefit of doubts.

He had to. The voices of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Donald Payne, Herman Cohen, etc., told him that Charles Taylor, who was spearheading the amputation of children in Sierra Leone and arming those in Liberia to fight his war of loot, was indeed a candidate for African continental leadership deserving American support. Because President Clinton listened to such individuals, America indirectly contributed to the death and anarchy spreading in West Africa.

In Guinea, where this "continental leader" is now preoccupied in applying his virus of death and poverty, rural communities are being uprooted and reduced to infinite poverty. Said a Missionary who fled from the Liberian-Guinean border:

"There's no way to call the area of the Forest Region safe at this moment. And I think the proof of that is in the way the Guineans have moved. And that in itself, what's it like if you see the situation where the refugees are surrounded by completely empty villages, empty towns. Do you stay trapped inside there and say it's not safe to move these somewhere else? I don't think so. I ran for my life. I find it impossible to think of saying to someone, you stay here and wait while I find myself a safe haven."

We believe the immediate application of sanctions is justified by the findings of the UN Panel on how Taylor is at the center of the horrors consuming the region. The Report revealed that:

"The RUF has received regular training in Liberia at Gbatala near Gbanga and elsewhere. Hundreds of ex combatants and many former RUF leaders have confirmed this in oral testimony and in writing. Sufficient corroborative documentary evidence in the form of written reports of RUF commanders to Foday Sankoh is also available. RUF soldiers have been trained alongside Liberia's Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU), and RUF combatants are frequently used by President Taylor for his own personal security details. Liberian officers and men are also actively assisting the RUF in Sierra Leone, serving as combatants, trainers and liaison officers.

"The panel received information on the presence of Ukrainian, Burkinabe, Nigérien, Lybian and South African nationals in Liberia for training purposes. The training was given to non-Liberian nationals for deployment in RUF-territory in Sierra Leone, and for action in recent clashes on the Guinea border. Early in 1999, a significant improvement of tactics and use of weapons by the RUF rebels was noted in Sierra Leone. It was more than a coincidence that this happened immediately after foreigners started training these elements in Liberia.

"In addition, the police interrogation statements of some of arrested RUF officials and the oral statements of former rebels interviewed by the panel confirm the presence of foreign mercenaries including South African and Ukrainians training and fighting alongside RUF.

"Virtually all of the weapons shipped into RUF territory are transhipped through at least two other countries between their point of origin and RUF territory in Sierra Leone. In virtually all cases, the last transit point before shipment into Sierra Leone is Liberia. The weapons reach Liberia in a variety of ways - occasionally by sea but most frequently by air."

This detailed Report on how the region is being transformed into a criminal incubator with devastating consequences for its population.

In the report, the Panel made "a variety of specific recommendations that deal with diamonds, weapons and the use of aircraft for sanctions-busting and the movement of illicit weapons. Many of these recommendations and the problems they address are related to the primary supporter of the RUF, Liberia - its President, its government and the individuals and companies it does business with. The Panel notes with concern that Security Council resolutions on diamonds and weapons are being broken with impunity. In addition to the foregoing, the Panel offers the following recommendations".

To give the children and people of West Africa an opportunity to live, the Panel has asked the world community to institute the following actions against Charles Taylor's Liberia:

"A travel ban similar to that already imposed on senior Liberian officials and diplomats by the United States should be considered for application by all UN member nations until such time as Liberia's support to the RUF and its breaking of other UN sanctions ends conclusively.

"The principals in Liberia's timber industry are involved in a variety of illicit activities, and large amounts of the proceeds are used to pay for extra-budgetary activities, including the acquisition of weapons. Consideration should be given to placing a temporary embargo on Liberian timber exports, until Liberia demonstrates convincingly that it is no longer involved in the trafficking of arms to, or diamonds from, Sierra Leone.

"Consideration should be given to creating capacity within the UN Secretariat for on-going monitoring of Security Council sanctions and embargoes. This is imperative to the building of an in-house knowledge base on current issues such as conflict diamonds..., but it is even more important to creating awareness and capacity on problems, which are not likely to be solved in the near future, such as the illicit trade in weapons and related matériel".

In the name of humanity, the UN must act and act now. We urge sanctions now!

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