"All Calm in Voinjama," Dissidents
August 4, 2000
A spokesman for Liberian dissidents fighting to overthrow President Charles Taylor has contradicted Government claims of intense fighting in the provincial city of Voinjama in the north of the country.
"The people never left home. Our policy is to encourage people to stay. We have established good relations with them. We want to create conditions for refugees to return home, so we can't be seen as terrorizing them. There has been no influx of people into Gbarnga or Monrovia because people are fleeing to safe areas. They know what happened to them in 1999 when they fled to Government held areas. They were butchered and their belongings looted by RUF and Taylor's forces," he said in a telephone interview from an undisclosed West African city.
He said forces of his organization, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) on 26 July ambushed a convoy of Government reinforcement in Zorzor, the next largest town to Taylor's wartime capital of Gbarnga. "Our men are in control of Zorzor. They (the Government) lost several men," he said. He added that several arms and ammunitions were captured from Government troops and that death toll of Government troops is higher than announced. "We know their tactics. We fought together before", he said.
Last month, dissidents stormed Lofa County and occupied Voinjama along with key towns in the area. Liberia's Defense Minister Daniel Chea later announced that the dissidents had been dislodged, but President Taylor discounted this, describing the fighting as "serious." He accused Guinea of backing the dissidents, but Conakry has denied the charges, describing the Liberian leadership as "war mongers" who cannot be trusted.
"We are tired of war. But those who condemn us must find time to also condemn the man that has been doing all the killings before and after he was made President. People are not suggesting that we, and our children die in exile. We have the right to return home and protect ourselves", he said.
There has been no independent report of the fighting, neither has there been any independent confirmation of claims on both sides. The Government banned independent reports of the war, now leaking bits of its information to Monrovia heavily censored and pro-Taylor media.
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