Taylor Recaptures Sawmill

The Perspective

January 30, 2002

During the past few days there have been reports of dissidents of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) efforts to take their war to the front door of Mr. Taylor. The fighting during recent days is taking place in Sawmill, about 80 miles from the Liberian capital.

But Jonathan Paye-Layleh reported on BBC that the government forces had the upper hand in Sawmill and had driven the dissidents from Sawmill. He stated that the fighting is now taken place in Bopolu located in the newly established Gbarpolu County. Mr. Paye Layleh said that Sawmill is burned down and that several thousand people were left homeless by the fighting.

According to the Liberian government official estimate, about 100,000 civilians fleeing the renewed fighting are stranded at the Klay junction. But the government has (since Sunday) denied aid workers access to the Klay junction.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Carolyn McAakie, has asked to Liberian government to make sure that humanitarian workers "have safe, unhindered access to conflict-affected civilians without fear of being deprived of their means of transportation." Those at the Klay Junction also include refugees from Sierra Leone who were stationed in Gbarpolu County, but had to flee the county due to the fighting in that county.

LURD is fighting to unseat the former warlord Charles Taylor who can to power in a special election held in 1997. But thousands of innocent civilians have become victims of this see-saw war in northwestern Liberia. Villages are burnt, civilians harassed, and/or sexually abused. Amnesty International has accused both the government forces and LURD dissidents of harassing civilians.

The war itself has no casualty figures and independent reporting on the the fighting is banned by the Taylor regime, while LURD has not allowed the press to enter the territory under its control. Just last week, Mr. Taylor turned over purported fighters of LURD allegedly captured at the war front to the United Nations, Red Cross, and the Mano River Union. But LURD’s spokesman, Charles Bennie, denied that the ten boys were fighters of LURD. He said that they were forced recruits who refused to fight for the Taylor government.

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