The world press on Liberia

A Liberian in exile comments on Monrovia's grim waiting game.

By Compiled by Laura McClure

Published July 29, 2003 9:32PM (EDT)

United Kingdom, Article in the BBC News

Kate Wright and her daughter are among some 250,000 refugees in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

She told BBC News Online how she is coping as fighting between rebels and pro-government forces nears the city centre:

We spent Sunday night in a wet and cold building along with about 50 other refugees.

It was raining heavily, we had no food to eat and there was intermittent shelling for most of the night...

Monrovia is a living hell because almost all the basic necessities are difficulty to come by.

I would like to leave Liberia and settle in another country but that is not possible now.

I have no money and I would hate to leave my children in the midst of this chaotic situation.

Everything that we owned has been looted -- even the beds. We sleep on the bare floor.

For now I am hoping that a ceasefire will hold.

We need a ceasefire to hold, it must hold to enable us to live.

The war is senseless.

They are all fighting for their own selfish interests and it is now time that common sense prevailed.

The majority of the residents of Monrovia want the American troops to come in and restore peace.

We are depending on the Americans ... they are our last hope.

The Netherlands, Liberian exile George Yuoh in the New Democrat

It is high time that Liberians accept the fact that America will not do what ECOMOG, especially Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, and Sierra Leone did for us during the 1990s ... I remember that fateful day of August 24, 1990. Taylor's bandits had taken over the entire Freeway area and were in the Freeport of Monrovia fence, firing artilleries in all directions, killing every living thing in their paths to prevent ECOMOG from landing. But our West African brothers, especially the Nigerians and Ghanaians, took the poundings and fought back gallantly. They laid down their lives and fought to prevent deranged cannibals from committing more horror and genocide. I am a witness. Thank God for ECOMOG.

West African leaders made a decision of conscience, and not of interest. They didn't ask what economic, political, or personal interests that would accrue to them, if and when they send troops to Liberia. They did not judge their actions on the effect it would have had on their political ratings. They did not insist that Samuel Doe leave, and that all sides cease fighting before sending in their troops, though they saw civilians dying in the hundreds. They had to do the moral thing first: build a protective perimeter around the dying civilians and give them hope of living to see another day.

They undertook the ultimate sacrifice (laying down your life for another human being) because they knew we were one and the same. They knew we had the same flesh, the same blood, the same God, and the same future. They did not consider themselves as superior human beings, rather, they understood that we all belonged to one race: the human race...

Here we are turning to the U.S. for help, and even as they turn a blind eye to the killings right before their noses, we continue to crave American intervention. And what have they done all through the crying, and the death, and the suffering? While dying Liberians cry for their help, they bring in troops to only protect their people and their embassy in Monrovia. Let the U.S. pack up, shut their "precious embassy" and leave Liberia, never to return. At least then Liberians will accept never to look up to America again.

United Kingdom, Rory Carroll in the Guardian

A church packed with civilians turned into a slaughterhouse yesterday when fresh fighting between Liberian rebels and government forces rained shells on the capital Monrovia.

Entire families were wiped out when mortars hit the Greater Refuge Church, killing 15 and wounding dozens in a dawn barrage.

'People are still crying. Rockets have been falling all around us,' said survivor Kate Wright.

During a lull in fighting, wailing relatives laid out the dead -- among them a husband, wife and their children -- in front of the church.

Few expected the latest rebel ceasefire announced on Friday to be respected but there had been some hope that Washington's dispatch of U.S. troops would encourage both sides to ease the carnage. Yesterday's atrocity destroyed that hope and it was business as usual for Monrovia: civilians digging another mass grave as gunfire crackled across different parts of the city.

Typically for this west African country's chaotic civil war, it was not clear which side had fired at the church, or why...

Monrovia is playing a grim waiting game since President George Bush's announcement that 2,200 Marines would arrive within the fortnight in a three-ship convoy...

Having celebrated several weeks ago over false rumours that U.S. troops had already landed in the country, Monrovia's mood yesterday was sceptical, tinged with anger that fighting has killed several hundred people in recent weeks and that disease, thirst and hunger have worsened.

'You see, everybody is looking to George W. Bush,' said city resident Bill Jacobs. 'But I think it's only God can solve our problem right now, because we have to depend on Bush for a long time, man.'

Nigeria, Yusuph Olaniyonu in the This Day

Nigerian troops will only move into Liberia as part of the current efforts to restore peace in the troubled West African country when a complete ceasefire is achieved among the warring factional groups, Col. Emeka Onwuamaegbu, the army spokesman, yesterday told THISDAY....

It is believed the decision of the Obasanjo administration to await ceasefire before moving Nigerian soldiers into Liberia was informed by the experience of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) troop during the last Liberia civil war between 1991 and 1999 when the peacekeepers landed in the midst of heavy fighting by the forces...

There are also indications that funding may hinder the development of Nigeria troops as the Obasanjo administration does not want to saddle itself with all the financial burden.

"The international community is supposed to join and we are waiting for their input," Remi Oyo, President Olusegun Obasanjo's spokeswoman, said. "There is also the issue of logistics which have to be worked out," she added without giving further details. But a senior foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity Nigeria was waiting for the international community to provide the financial backing for the deployment of peacekeeping troops in Liberia.

"Nigeria spent over US $4 billion on peacekeeping operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone between 1990 and 1998 without any external assistance and can't afford to go into Liberia again without financial help," he said.

ECOWAS officials were meeting US and Nigerian officials in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, last Thursday to thrash out the details of the deployment. ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohammed Ibn Chambers was quoted by international news agencies as saying the United States would contribute US $10 million for the force.

Obasanjo had made it clear when he took office in 1999 that Nigeria's future participation in regional peacekeeping efforts would be on condition that it was funded by the international community, he said.

Apart from the over $4 billion US spent on the operations, hundreds of the nation's soldiers died.

At the end of the war, Nigeria with its huge investments in terms of funds and lives towards restoration of peace did not gain anything from Liberia.

It is as a result of the apparent sense of loss that many Nigerians were vehemently opposed to the current efforts to intervene once again in the war-ravaged country.

Kenya, Chege Mbitiru in the Nation

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's asylum offer is an affront to the United Nations. In fact it can, if generously at all, be described as being in bad taste describable only in unprintable adjectives.

Mr. Taylor has been indicted by the U.N.-backed war crimes court in neighbouring Sierra Leone on charges he armed and trained that country's rebels in exchange for diamonds.

Twelve years ago, there was a large gathering of Africans and their "development partners" in Kampala, Uganda.

In his keynote address, Mr Obasanjo bemoaned "absolute immunity" African governments and leaders confer on themselves to commit genocide and other "monumental crimes".

Mr. Obasanjo urged Africans to set the continent on an "unmistakable trajectory".

This was not only to achieve basic needs and progress, he said, but in the process to restore dignity and honour. He was evasive on how dignity and honour sneaked out in the first place...

If Mr. Obasanjo craves for a dint of honour and dignity restoration, he should have lured Mr. Taylor to a palm-wine drinking party. Commandoes would then whisk the suspect to where he belongs.

Granting Taylor political asylum amounts to giving a golden parachute to a hijacker who is cornered by air marshals.

South Africa, Article in the Mail and Guardian

The rebel group besieging the Liberian capital Monrovia for the past week appears to have little political agenda beyond ousting President Charles Taylor, according to analysts.

When asked this week to articulate Lurd's agenda, even its leader, Sekou Damate Conneh, simply told the BBC: "We want to liberate the country, we want Taylor to go."

Reports by the respected think-tanks the International Crisis Group (ICG) and the Royal Institute of International Affairs suggest Lurd's politics go little beyond this.

"Lurd is no different from those it seeks to replace in Monrovia," says ICG in its most recent report on Liberia. "Lurd is ruthless and interested only in grabbing power"...

Like most 21st-century rebel groups, Lurd has used the internet to put forward its manifesto. One of its commanders, General Joe Wylie, describes Lurd as "an armed, political organisation dedicated to the building of a genuine democracy in the Republic of Liberia through the removal of the repressive Taylor-led government."

It pledges to uphold the constitution, respect human rights and restore basic services to the crippled country.

"They are not united, have no clue what reconciliation is and wouldn't recognise democracy if it bit them in the face," says Theodore Hodge, a journalist with the U.S. based newsletter The Perspective, run by exiled Liberians.

Meanwhile, West African leaders met on Monday to discuss a long-promised and long-stalled peace force for war-gripped Liberia, with Nigeria's army saying the first troops could deploy by Tuesday.

In Monrovia, shelling persisted overnight as Taylor's forces and rebels battled at bridges leading to Taylor's stronghold in downtown.

One rocket, fired by Taylor's forces from a high building, fell short and plowed into the bedroom of a home on the government side, injuring eight civilians inside, eight workers said.

Residents have blamed both rebels and government for bombardments that has killed scores of civilians in neighbourhoods around the bridges, as rebels press their now 9-day-old siege of Monrovia.

Compiled by Laura McClure

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