Liberian Rebels Terrorize Civilians, Hijack Vehicles On Monrovia-Gbarnga Highway

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 9, 2004

Even though fighting in Liberia has ceased and the guns are now silent, inhumane treatment of unarmed civilians is still prevalent, as fighters of the belligerent groups are terrorizing travelers and residents outside Monrovia with impunity.

The situation is on the increase in areas outside the controlled zones of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Presently, the UN has a force of over 13,000 peacekeepers in the country, but peacekeepers are yet to take complete control of happenings in areas under their control.

Latest report gathered from Bong County have revealed that combatants of the rebel movement-Liberians United for reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) are still terrorizing and harassing residents of the county and travelers.

A group of LURD fighters numbering about 300 on April 4 hijacked several vehicles on the Monrovia/Gbarnga highway and held commuters on the vehicles at gunpoint, demanding that the passengers and drivers of these vehicles give them all the cash that they were traveling with.

According to report from the area, some of the commuters complied with the rebels’ demands, while those who reportedly refused to meet-up with the demands were manhandled.

The LURD fighters then proceeded to loot the belongings of the commuters after which they fled the scene before the arrival of the UN peacekeepers.

The incident has created some level of fear in travelers and vehicle operators plying the major highways in the country.

Meanwhile, residents of other counties including Sinoe, River Cess, River Gee, Maryland and Grand Kru seeking sanctuary in the outskirts and areas surrounding the capitals of these counties are the most vulnerable to the forces of the armed groups in the country. The armed groups include LURD, MODEL and loyalists of Charles Taylor, the deposed leader of Liberia.

Several residents especially men are said to be forcibly rounded up on a daily basis, in some cases severely flogged and forced them to carry items for the armed groups on their heads from one area to another.

On some occasions, the fighters are said to have raped women. The fighters also arbitrarily harvest rice farms cultivated by the suffering civilians living in these counties.

In short, most of the residents sheltering outside the administrative seats of the Southeastern counties are subjected to a brutal form of slavery, report from the areas reveals.

Some of the young girls, the report said, have reportedly been forced to marry to the fighters, while those who refuse to comply are on some occasions subjected to humiliation.