Liberia Becoming a Superpower in West Africa?
By George H. Nubo
December 14, 2000

Perhaps it is naivete, insincerity or simply a "don't care attitude" on the part of West African leaders when it comes to the way Charles Taylor is terrorizing the sub-region. Hundreds of West African troops (ECOMOG forces) were slaughtered during the Liberian civil war launched by Mr. Taylor in his efforts to become president of Liberia. In the process, 250,000 Liberians were killed. Elections were arranged by Abacha for Taylor's victory, and as planned, Taylor achieved his life-time objective - he became president of Liberia.

Having achieved his objective with the help of the West African super power, Nigeria, he vowed to "keep them [Nigerians] busy in Sierra Leone" via the RUF. Accordingly, he unleashed his RUF forces on Freetown - killing over 6,000 innocent civilians and several ECOMOG forces. One would think that West African leaders could act against this brute and his Burkinabe counterpart, Blaise Campoare, for sponsoring the RUF that amputated thousands of innocent civilians including babies. Instead, they opted to lobby the UN to lift the arms embargo against Liberia as if to say Mr. Taylor does not have the requisite weapons he needs at his disposal to continue to terrorize the sub-region.

This is clearly an irony! Liberians and other West Africans who have fallen prey to Taylor's abuses have been quite disappointed in the Nigerian President, Olusegon Obasanjo, whose role has been accommodating to Mr. Taylor. If Sierra Leone is the whipping boy in Taylor's inferno, Guinea may become the Guinea Pig in spreading his anarchy to rule the West African sub-region.

Guinea is one of the nations that provided troops for ECOMOG peace keeping efforts in Liberia. The presence of ECOMOG in Liberia denied Taylor a victory during the Liberian civil war. Taylor has vowed never to forgive Guinea for its participation in ECOMOG. He is training and supporting Guinean dissidents to overthrow the Guinean government thereby extending his sphere of influence. Mr. Taylor skillfully negotiated the November 10 Abuja cease-fire agreement because he needs the help of his ally ­ the RUF. With the cease-fire holding, RUF forces joined Taylor to "teach Guinea a lesson". Last week, Guekedou, a town of 30,000, became theclassroom for Taylor's lesson. Several hapless civilians and about 94,000 people fled the area.

As IRIN recently observed, "The attacks have coincided with a relative lull in fighting between the RUF and the Sierra Leone army, suggesting the rebels have redeployed their forces to confront another enemy: in this case Guinea. This could be a likely scenario if the RUF is a Liberia proxy - as has been claimed - given the hostility between Monrovia and Conakry."

Though this is no secret, West African leaders care less! They have given him everything he wants. As one of his confidantes recently commented, the Liberian leader is the one running things in the sub-region. " Nigeria may be considered a superpower when it comes to manpower and resources, but in terms of influence, Liberia is the regional power," he said.

Underscoring this point, he said the recent attack on Guinea is geared towards two things - "1. To teach Guinea a lesson and 2. To provoke West African leaders to send forces that will police the borders. This means that we will be insulated from dissidents' attacks." In a sense, the Liberian ruler wants for ECOMOG forces that he chased out of Liberia to come back so that they will protect him while he perpetuates anarchy in Liberia.

If we haven't seen anything yet, the real Taylor is yet to come. One of his gun-runners and diamond smugglers, Leonid Minin, was recently arrested in Italy with one million dollars worth of diamonds found in his hotel room. Minin is a Ukrainian with Israeli passport. He resides in Monrovia and heads a shady company known as Forum. It is believed that Minin has arranged some arms purchases from several Eastern block countries including Russia. These weapons are being used by Mr. Taylor's thugs and his RUF ally to terrorize the sub-region.

Meanwhile, Taylor and RUF want UN observers out of their diamond fields in Siarra Leone. They decreed yesterday that "Effective immediately" UNAMSIL 'observers' be barred from entering RUF fields of operations until certain conditions have been met." The conditions include the release of the Sankoh and reinstatement of RUF and Taylor as the caretakers of Sierra Leone's diamonds. Perhaps, they will soon be caretakers of Guinea's iron ore. West African leaders must wake up!

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