Renewed Fighting in Liberia: Real or Staged?

(By Our Correspondent)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

February 5, 2003

Copyrighted photo - The Perspective Copyrighted photo - The Perspective
Charles W. Brumskine
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
With the return of exiled opposition politicians to Monrovia in recent months, accentuated by the triumphant arrival of former Senator Charles W. Brumskine, which has captivated heightened public interest in the Oct. elections, President Taylor is reported to be reviewing a number of drastic options.

At the top of his options is doing everything possible to get at leading opposition members such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Charles Brumskine. Taylor's strategy includes branding formidable opposition politicians as members of the rebel Liberians United for Democracy and Reconciliation (LURD). Shortly before departing for the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Taylor said: "It is good that those politicians who support LURD are now in Monrovia." Charles Brumskine is currently in Monrovia, while Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who was recently in Monrovia left the Liberian capital over the weekend.

According to one scenario circulating within the echelon of the security apparatus that has filtered down street level in Monrovia, Taylor has decided to stage a number of bogus rebel attacks in and near Monrovia. Under the guise of going after the rebels and their supporters, he would then get people like Brumskine and other key opposition figures, whom he can then claim were supporters of LURD.

Many sources informed The Perspective that Taylor is convinced that if he allows free and fair elections in Liberia, someone else would be the winner, and he cannot let that happen. So he is prepared to use the various militias at his disposal to stage an artificial war in Monrovia in order to eliminate the "supporters" of LURD in the city.

And this is why there is growing skepticism among Liberians and some Western diplomats about the current rebel attacks on the outskirts of Monrovia. According to news report, Liberian forces occasionally fake attacks to give themselves a chance to loot and to entrench a general state of insecurity that helps them maintain their own positions.

BBC reports, "Monrovia residents believe that the attacks are stage-managed in order to create fears and insecurity among exiled opposition politicians returning home to take on Mr Taylor in the 14 October general elections."

But this time, the poignant promotion of chaos and turmoil takes on an added significance when the regime makes it an official policy to use anarchy to entrench itself in power. All indications are Mr. Taylor is staging the current "rebel attacks" against the Liberian people as the only way by which he can maintain power.

In a related development, the regime ordered all soldiers to report for duty on Wednesday as the army ferried troops to stop rebels from crossing a key bridge on the Po River, some eight miles from the Liberian capital, Monrovia. There are also reports of forced conscription of youths. AFP quoted Philip Tamba, a resident of Gardnersville as saying, "Six youths who were playing football in our area were forced into a militia jeep and taken to an unknown destination."

Meanwhile, the Liberian ruler has returned to Monrovia today from Addis Ababa where he had been attending an African Union summit. All eyes will be on Mr. Taylor to see what kind of trick he will pull out of his bag of shenanigans: Will it be re-imposition of the state of emergency or what else?