Breakthrough At Peace Talks - Govt, LURD, MODEL Declare Ceasefire
Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
It seemed the happiest moment in the lives of scores of Liberian refugees including women groups who thronged the M-laza Hotel in Accra when both the Government and belligerent forces finally affixed their signatures to a ceasefire agreement.
The agreement, which toke effect as of 0001 hours GMT today, June 18, is expected to end hostilities in the country.
Defense Minister Daniel Chea signed on behalf of the Liberian Government while Kabineh Janneh and Tiah J. D. Slanger signed for the LIberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy(LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia(MODEL) respectively.
Former Nigerian Head of State Abulsalami Abubakar, ECOWAS' Executive Secretary Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the UN Special Representative to Liberia Abou Moussa, a representative of the African Union, Ms. Adwoa Coleman and Amb. Giancarlo Izzo, representative of Mr. Hans Dahlgreen, Co-chair of the ICGL as well as Ghana's Foreign Minister Nana Dankwa Akufo Addo also affixed their signatures as witnesses to the agreement.
The signing of the truce followed nearly a week of delay, especially from the dissident factions over their demands for President Taylor to step down before signing a document. However, yesterday's ceremony was the result of intense consultation and appeals from West African Mediators and Liberia women as well as others for a ceasefire agreement It also marked a joyous occasion to parties to the conflict as they hug and shook hands.
According to the document, the Government, LURD and MODEL agreed to refrain from committing any act that might constitute or facilitate a violation of the ceasefire.
They also agreed to a Joint Verification Team(JVT) led by ECOWAS to be comprised of two representatives from each of the parties plus representatives of the UN, AU, and the ICGL.
Among other things agreed to is the deployment of an international stabilization force - the parties to the agreement have committed themselves to cooperate with the stabilization. The accordance of a complete freedom of movement to the Force at all times in the execution of their duties was also agreed upon.
"The parties shall provide security guarantees for safe and unhindered access by humanitarian agencies to vulnerable groups, free movement of persons and goods, as well as for the return and resettlement of refugees ad internally displaced persons."
The establishment of a joint monitoring Committee (JMC) to supervise and monitor the ceasefire was also part of the agreement.
Besides, the formation of a transitional government, which will not include President Charles Taylor, in accordance with his June 4 2003 declaration in Accra, made at the inauguration of the peace talks was, among other things, part of the document.
The Government, LURD and MODEL in separate remarks, expressed their commitment to sustaining the agreement.
Following the signing ceremony scores of Liberian refugees, wearing white T-shirts were seen dancing.