SLUG: 3-761 Ryu/Liberia
BYLINE= ALISHA RYU/AL PESSIN
INTRO: Liberia's President Charles Taylor resigned Monday at a ceremony in Monrovia, attended by several other African leaders. V-O-A's Alisha Ryu attended the ceremony and described it for V-O-A's Al Pessin in London.
PESSIN: Alisha, I know after some delay, President Taylor has now stepped down. You were in the room. Tell us what it was like.
RYU: It took nearly three hours, it was actually three hours later than when he was supposed to have stepped down, but he has indeed stepped down. His vice-president, Moses Blah, has taken power from Charles Taylor, and this is ending what many, many Liberians hope will be the final chapter in a very bloody and complicated political situation here. Mr. Taylor was combative in his exit statement, as he was in his speech last night to the Liberian people, which, by the way, has never aired here yet. Because of fuel problems, they never had the chance to put it on the air. Many of the stations are lacking fuel to start up their generators. But, what basically, Charles Taylor said, that he insisted that he was going as the sacrificial lamb. He called himself the whipping boy, and said that if the international community wants Charles Taylor out, he is leaving. And, before he left, he said there were a few things that he wanted to say. One thing that he insisted was, the Ghana peace talks that are taking place right now should be moved to Monrovia -- this is the peace talks that are to determine the next transitional government -- he insisted that that process should be moved to Monrovia, and let the Liberians have a say in how that one goes. He also was a bit more conciliatory toward President Bush, than he was in his speech last night. In his speech yesterday, he said that President Bush was to blame for much of the pressure, and he accused the United States, of course, of backing one of the rebel groups. But, today, he said he thinks President Bush is a Christian. He says he believes that he has been misled and has been fed lies, and says that Mr. Bush is essentially a good man who will see the light and will help Liberia. And, in his parting words, he reiterated what he said in his speech last night and basically that, "God willing, I will be back."
PESSIN: Alisha, you mentioned that the television stations in Liberia have a fuel shortage. Was the ceremony broadcast? Do most Liberians know that President Taylor has resigned?
RYU: It's very unclear at the moment. I saw some radio broadcasters who appear to have been reporting live, local broadcasters, and they were doing, you know, the live broadcasts right next to me. But, it's not clear if the television stations are up and running. It's not clear if the radio stations are up and running. I do know that they are having severe fuel shortage crisis here in the capital, especially in the government-held area of the capital. And, so I'm not sure how many Liberians really know that Charles Taylor has stepped down.
PESSIN: Alisha, there were several other African presidents attending this ceremony in Monrovia, and some of them had some interesting things to say. Can you summarize that part of the event for us?
RYU: Charles Taylor went to the airport early this morning to greet several African dignitaries. He greeted Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, John Kufuor, the president of Ghana and the current chairman of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, and Joaquim Chissano, the president of Mozambique and who is now the chairman of the African Union. Mr. Kufuor, the president of Ghana, made an announcement during the speech saying that there will be a handover on the second Tuesday of October, and that Moses Blah will hand over power to a transitional government that is being currently formed in Accra, the capital of Ghana. And, a few minutes later, Mr. Mbeki, the president of South Africa, announced that he is going to deploy South African troops. He's going to contribute South African troops to the multi-national U-N-backed peacekeeping mission that is to deploy here, and to replace the ECOMIL, the West African peacekeepers, that are here. And, that should be towards the later part of this year.
PESSIN: Now, what about the newly sworn in President Blah? The rebels have said that they will not accept him. Has he actually agreed, do we know, to step down on the second Tuesday of October?
RYU: We don't know if he is agreed, but he has indicated to me when I spoke to him a few days ago, that he is going to serve out what he says is the rest of Charles Taylor's term, which ends in October. And, he said that he is ready to hand over power. He is in for a transitional period. He said that, even though his rule is going to be brief, he would still like to use that time to try to unify the rebel groups. He's going to call them and appeal to them to try to come to a negotiating table, and to get some sort of a cease-fire deal (that) will be long-lasting, as well as try to create a government incorporating the LURD and the MODEL rebel groups that have been fighting to oust Charles Taylor. Whether that will happen or not is a matter of speculation, because, of course, the rebel groups have vehemently opposed Mr. Blah. Mr. Blah is an ally of Charles Taylor and has been one for many, many years, and they do not trust him as they did not trust Mr. Taylor. So, it will be interesting to see what the rebel groups say now that Mr. Blah has taken power.
PESSIN: All right, Alisha, thank you very much. That's V-O-A's Alisha Ryu in Monrovia at the ceremony where Charles Taylor has just resigned. And I'm Al Pessin, V-O-A News in London.
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