UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

LIBERIA: Fighting continues in Monrovia despite ceasefire calls

MONROVIA, 7 June 2003 (IRIN) - Rebels continued fighting their way into the western suburbs of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on Saturday despite a ceasefire announced by their representatives at stalled peace talks in Ghana.

The US embassy issued a statement condemning the onslaught and urging rebel fighters to return to the positions they occupied at Kleh junction, 38 km outside Monrovia, before the start of peace talks in Ghana on Wednesday. It also urged President Charles Taylor to step down to make way for a government of national unity.

Taylor, speaking on local radio, appealed for calm. He urged government soldiers to avoid looting and accused rebel infiltrators into the city centre of killing, maiming and raping innocent civilians.

In attempt to restore discipline to his unruly troops, the Liberian leader said: "Any of our soldiers who are caught looting or in acts of vandalism will be dealt with drastically."

Most shops in the city centre remained shut and the streets were virtually empty of civilian traffic as the crackle of small arms fire and the boom of mortars echoed from the western suburbs. Pick-ups and private vehicles packed with soldiers and militia men patrolled the city constantly.

Relief workers said fighters of the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel movement advanced into the suburbs of Duala and New Kru Town during Saturday morning, but were pushed back to the St Paul's bridge that separates Monrovia proper from suburbs on the western outskirts of the city in the afternoon.

Tens of thousands of destitute inhabitants of camps for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Monrovia, continued to flood into the city centre to seek safety. Relief workers said most of the 200,000 people in eight camps for the displaced around Monrovia had fled to the city centre.

Meanwhile, foreign residents, including many of the Lebanese who control most of the commercial activity in Monrovia, prepared to leave on any available flight. Robertsfield airport to the southeast of the city remained technically open, but no flights were expected to land there on Saturday.

In the Ghanaian town of Akosombo, where peace talks between the government and rebels were due to have started this week, the LURD delegation said it had ordered its combatants on Friday to cease all hostilities immediately.

"Ceasefire orders have again been issued out to our troops. The national chairman (Sekou) Konneh has re-instructed our forces not to return fire from government troops. They are to remain calm and restrain their emotions so that peace talks can resume," LURD Spokesman Kabineh Jan'eh told IRIN.

Jan'eh, who is leading the LURD delegation to the stalled talks at Akosombo, 100 km north of the Ghanaian capital, Accra, said LURD fighters had been ordered to observe a ten-day unilateral ceasefire in support of the peace process. The escalation in fighting over the past 48 hours, he said, was started by government troops.

"Our men have no instructions to move on Monrovia. Our positions were attacked and rightly they had to defend themselves. However, even under those circumstances of unprovoked attacks, we are still instructing our troops to remain at their positions and not to return fire. We want to see how far things develop from here," Jan'eh said.

Jan'eh told IRIN that LURD still stood by its decision not to hold talks with the government because "we don't believe at the moment that Taylor can implement any decision, which is arrived at here, because he is an indicted war criminal and he will be arrested any moment."

On Wednesday Taylor was indicted by Sierra Leone's Special Court that is trying those mainly responsible for atrocities committed during the country's 10-year civil war. It accused Taylor of supporting the rebel Revolutionary United Front, which was notorious for killing and maiming civilians.

West African mediators at the Akosombo peace talks have said negotiations will only resume if all warring factions initiate an immediate ceasefire and if the Movement For Democracy In Liberia (MODEL) rebel group, which controls most of southeastern Liberia, joins in next week.

Diplomats say LURD, which has been fighting Taylor's government for four years, is heavily supported by Guinea. They say MODEL, which has captured most of southeastern Liberia since it appeared on the scene three months ago, is backed by Cote d'Ivoire.

Meanwhile, parallel discussions at Akosombo between 18 Liberian political parties and several civic organisations pressing for peace, were marred by confusion over who was eligible to attend. Some political delegates were barred from entering the conference hall because they did not have the necessary accreditation documents to represent their parties.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict



The material contained on this Web site comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post any item on this site, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All graphics and Images on this site may not be re-produced without the express permission of the original owner. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2003

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list