Confusion Over Weapons Claims
and Diamond Links?
July 17, 2000
Sources in Monrovia have confirmed that weapons which President Charles Taylor purportedly presented to ECOWAS as captured weapons from insurgents belong to the UN peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) allies of the Liberian president, have captured hundreds of weapons including armored personal carriers.
An official of an African embassy in Monrovia, speaking on grounds of anonymity, said his sources confirmed that the weapons are those currently used by the RUF in its battle against the UN and Government forces.
Meanwhile, a BBC story detailing Liberia's arms shipment to RUF rebels in exchange for diamonds was uncovered because Sierra Leone Police were tricked by the BBC, Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah allegedly says according to Liberia's President Charles Taylor.
A private Liberian newspaper, The Inquirer, reports that: "President Taylor disclosed that he was informed by President Kabba (sic) that the Sierra Leonean Government did not give the recent story regarding Liberia transporting arms to the RUF to the BBC. According to him, President Kabbah said the Sierra Leonean security officers were tricked by the BBC reporter to give the story".
The story of Liberia's recent backing and arms shipment to the RUF rebels was leaked by many news organs, including The Washington Post and African Confidential, a London-based authoritative newsletter. African Confidential noted that:
"From the frenetic military activity, the arms shipments to rebel-held Kono and the radio rhetoric from Monrovia officials, another major Liberian military operation is in train. Irritatingly for Taylor's government, Kabbah's government and the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone now get good aerial reconnaissance reports of activity across the border. There is also far more human intelligence available from former Sierra Leone Army (SLA) soldiers who fought alongside the RUF and from some recent operations behind the rebel lines, we hear. All this clearly shows trucks loaded with weapons, food and medicine going from Liberia into Sierra Leone along the three major RUF supply routes. One report suggests that a helicopter lent to Taylor by Libya's Col. Moammar el Gadaffi to ferry UN hostages back to safety (500 were captured by the RUF at the beginning of May) had been used to resupply RUF forces.
"Taylor's ambivalent role - negotiator and 'liberator' of the UN hostages and godfather-quartermaster of the RUF - has put him under greater Western scrutiny. In November 1998, the United States State Department's Director for West Africa, Ambassador Howard Jeter, earned Taylor's opprobrium by publicly stating that there was unambiguous intelligence that the Liberian government was backing the RUF. This was later repeated by both the Nigerian and Ghanaian governments following the RUF's blitz on Freetown. The US Embassy in Monrovia, criticised by some Liberians for being soft on Taylor, insists there is no reason to change Jeter's assessment. On 13 June at a European Union meeting, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook produced a new intelligence dossier on Taylor's military support for the RUF. This shows in detail how Taylor benefits from the smuggled Sierra Leone diamonds passing through Monrovia and concludes that the Liberian leader's strategy is to maintain his influence over eastern Sierra Leone through the RUF, amid the breakdown of all state authority in the area".
Prior to this report, The Washington Post, quoting Western Intelligence sources, reported truckloads of arms, medicines, food accompanied by about 200 Liberian troops transported to the RUF diamond held -areas. The paper said Taylor's diamonds supplies were handled in the RUF controlled areas by a lady.
Presidents Kabbah and Taylor are key allies of the Libyan leader Gaddafi. According to the Financial Times, Taylor is currently reimbursing Gaddafi for financing the National Patriotic Front of Liberia which ignited the Liberian civil war that led to the killing of 250,000 people and the destruction of social and economic infrastructure.
In 1999, President Kabbah reportedly alerted Taylor of a possible coup against him (Taylor) by Liberian dissidents in Sierra Leone. A few weeks after, the RUF, with Liberian backing according to ECOMOG and other sources, invaded Freetown, leaving over 6000 dead and the city destroyed.
Liberia has consistently denied involvement in the Sierra Leone war, and if President Kabbah's denial of the story is true, the Liberian Government crusade of denials gains credence.
In the 1960s, a Sierra Leone high court disqualified President Kabbah, then a high-ranking civil servant in the post-colonial government, from holding government office on issues of probity.
There has been no confirmation of Taylor's claims from the Sierra Leone Government of the BBC.
Meanwhile, merely two days after President Kabbah's stop-over at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, "attackers who claim to be RUF rebels" launched a cross-border attack on Sierra Leone from Liberia. Fighting between Komajors (pro Sierra Leone's government forces) and the so-called RUF rebels continued into the weekend. Troops have already been sent from Kenema to reinforce the Komajors. A Defense Ministry official in Monrovia insisting on anonymity, however, said "the forces involved in the attack are combined forces of RUF rebels trained in Liberia and members of the Armed Forces of Liberia." He said the attack was launched to discourage Liberian dissidents who might be thinking of attacking Liberia from Sierra Leone.
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