West Africa's War: None Without Blame
Tackling Liberia is first step to ending dangerous regional conflict
(A Press Release Issued by the International Crisis Group)
Freetown/Brussels, 30 April 2003: A new report published today by the International Crisis Group (ICG) unravels the complex involvement of many West African leaders in the worsening conflict in their region. ICG has consistently identified President Charles Taylor of Liberia as the key to regional instability but the conflicts in the Mano River Union (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) and Côte d’Ivoire are now so interwoven that they cannot be treated separately.
In Tackling Liberia: The Eye of the Regional Storm, which includes detailed analysis from hard to reach battlefields in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and of little known insurgencies, ICG warns that West Africa shows many traits of Central Africa, which has been devastated by regional war. A comprehensive strategy, including a much stronger United States role though the International Contact Group on Liberia and the UN-mandated Follow-up Committee in Côte d’Ivoire, is needed if West Africa is not to suffer the same fate.
When the UN Security Council reviews sanctions against Liberia in early May, the focus should initially be on condemning that country’s continued support for insurgents throughout the region. However Presidents Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire, Conté of Guinea and Compaoré of Burkina Faso should also be warned that they face sanctions if they continue to undermine regional peace.
ICG Africa Program Co-Director Fabienne Hara said: “The international community must deal with the growing tendency of West African leaders to sponsor rebellions abroad to protect interests at home. While Taylor’s support for Côte d’Ivoire rebels is well known, there has been reluctance to acknowledge that Côte d’Ivoire itself sponsors Liberian rebels (LURD-MODEL), Burkina Faso supports rebels in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea provides a base and transit route for anti-Taylor forces”.
The effectiveness of a regional strategy to tackle West Africa’s war before it spreads even further depends on coordination among the key external players, namely the U.S., UK, France, the UN and ECOWAS. While two permanent members of the Security Council, (the UK and France), play leading roles in the closely connected peace processes in Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire respectively, no one is leading on Liberia.
ICG’s West Africa Project Director Comfort Ero said: “The missing link is the United States. It has historical ties to Liberia and most Liberians argue that no peace process is sustainable without its involvement”.
Neither Taylor - nor those fighting him but who share many of his traits - offer Liberia a solution. A phased approach is needed to get a ceasefire and press Taylor to postpone elections and stand down within the next few months. The Security Council should prepare a peacekeeping mission to monitor the ceasefire and help establish an interim administration, and make standby arrangements for a more robust multinational force if the ceasefire collapses. But if there is no ceasefire, it should invoke tougher measures including wider sanctions and steps to bring Taylor and others before a war crimes tribunal such as the Sierra Leone Special Court.
Contacts: Katy Cronin (London) +44 (0)20 7981 0330 firstname.lastname@example.org
Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32 2 536 0065
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1 202 785 1601
Read the full ICG report on our website: www.crisisweb.org