Talks Delayed, Peace Postponed
By Abdoulaye W. Dukule
For the third time in ten days, Liberian peace talks in Akosombo, Ghana have failed to start due to renewed fighting on the ground in and around Monrovia. Last week, the talks were scheduled to start on Friday but were later postponed to allow for some participants to arrive - MODEL finally arrived on the ground Monday morning at the conference site. However, Model says that its political leaders are still due from the United States and they are expected here in a day or so.
On Monday, in view of the grave situation developing in Liberia, with fighting moving hundreds of thousands from their homes, ECOWAS decided to dispatch a mission to Monrovia and other parts of Liberia to secure a cease-fire. The mission comprised of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas and Mr. Kabineh Ja’neh, leader of LURD delegation at the peace talks. Asked if he were going to Monrovia, Mr. Ja’neh responded, "not Monrovia, Liberia." Dr. Chambas said that there would be no talks until a cease-fire is secured. As far as the peacekeeping force is concerned, it would not be deployed until there is a total cessation of hostilities on the ground. With President Taylor indicted and cornered and the rebels with their eyes set on the Executive Mansion, the immediate future looks gloomy for innocent Liberians trapped in the crossfire. "We are back to 1990, with warring factions killing and looting and innocent people dying," said one conference participant." But unlike 1990, Monrovia is more crowded than ever and unlike 1990, there is no running water and no food, the wars of 1992 and 1996 having destroyed the little infrastructure that left on the ground.
Meanwhile, in Akosombo, consultations continue among Liberians political leaders. Yesterday morning, a group of political parties, led by Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Charles Brumskine signed a petition to the ECOWAS calling on President Charles Taylor to step down as he has promised to do. But in an CNN interview, the Liberian president said he was ready to step aside but would not do so with the guns pointed at his head. Liberians in America are also taking part in the discussions, with Rainey Jackson and Mohamed Kromah representing ULAA and Nohn Kidau representing the Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia (MDCL). Liberians students in exile are also represented in the talks by a group based in Accra.
Many Liberians here are asking ECOWAS to take a stand and put an end to violence by dispatching troops to Monrovia and impose a ceasefire before things get out of hand. Unlike Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone, both countries who benefited from "protection" of big brothers, Liberia cannot count on such interventions. Things may get much worse for the country of Samuel Doe before becoming better. ECOWAS seems to count on the goodwill of rebel armies facing each other. Like in 1990, there are three rebels groups, LURD, MODEL and the AFL, the NPFL that never made the transition from rebel army to national professional army.
The future does not look bright.