ECOWAS Endorses Taylor, Condemns LURD

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 1, 2002

The ECOWAS Mediation and Security held a one-day meeting yesterday in the aftermath of the Abuja conference and slapped LURD in the face and discarded any recommendation from the opposition. This was to be expected. The messenger from Abuja was none other than the Executive Secretary Ibn Chambas.

In a communiqué released in Dakar, the Council of Ministers of ECOWAS, after receiving the report from the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat decided to “slap a travel ban to and residence within community member states against the leadership of the Liberian United for Reconstruction Democracy (LURD)”, because, the communiqué adds, “the group has renewed hostilities against the government of Monrovia and forced President Charles Taylor to declare the state of emergency”, reports PANA, the Pan African News Agency in Dakar.

In an ironic twist of fate, the ECOWAS Mediation Committee set up a committee comprising Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Senegal and the Secretariat of the ECOWAS to monitor the sanctions against the LURD leadership.

This means that LURD leaders, Joe Wylie and others will now have no choice but declare a unilateral cease-fire, abandon the armed struggle, leave Guinea or face arrest, detention and possible deportation to, most likely Nigeria, where ECOWAS seems to have build a special guest house for Liberian “trouble-makers” while Taylor carries on his agenda.

Regarding the many demands of political leaders in Abuja, the communiqué reduced it to zero, saying simply that ECOWAS “applauded the first preparatory meeting of the National Reconciliation Conference held in Abuja, Nigeria, 15 - 16 March 2002 and strongly encourages all parties to attend subsequent meetings.” Taylor could not have written the communiqué any better. Officially, for ECOWAS, the meeting in Abuja was and remained what Taylor called it: a preparatory meeting for his national reconciliation conference in July. So much for those who expected ECOWAS to put together a security stabilizing.

There was no mention of the so-called position paper written and signed by political leaders. Taylor won the political war. It gets better. The ECOWAS Ministers also expressed satisfaction at the resumption of dialogue between Lansana Conteh, Charles Taylor and Tejan Kabbah.

The Ministers expressed their satisfaction at the completion of disarmament in Sierra Leone as well as the transformation of the RUF into a political party. This all opens the way to the lifting of sanctions by the United Nations.

All of this comes as the crackdown on human rights institutions, the press and politicians in Monrovia by the police intensifies. It is rather strange that while the human rights organizations released a statement condemning the arrest and calling for the release of those arrested, political leaders remain silent. The group known as The Friends of Brumskine released an emotionally charged statement, calling for the release of the victims and calling for the enforcement of constitutional law. But that was a lonely voice in a crowded field.

Perhaps this is the new way of doing politics. Is this silence the result of fear of confronting Taylor? Can politicians convince us that they are really worth taking any risk on their behavior if they can't even condemn an illegal act of police intimidation? Tipoteh became the lone voice in the wilderness after the imposition of the state of emergency. With the exception of the statement issued by New Deal representatives in Ghana, [up to the time this article was written] we had not heard from New Deal representatives in this country. Are the people in Monrovia on their own? May be we should not be surprised that ECOWAS threw out every recommendation made by them in Abuja.

The government is embarked on a campaign of intimidation inside while conducting an effective media campaign outside, helped by LURD, whose game is becoming clearer and clearer. We were among the first to see through that group and said that they did not have any fighting power against Taylor’s army. We called on them to come out and speak out against being given credit for acts they have not committed. Whatever they thought they were trying to achieve will now start to haunt them.

What remains to be done is what we advocated here last week: beyond sanctions by the international community imposed because of the Sierra Leone situation, Liberians must not expect anything else. The political problems on the ground must and can only be solved in Liberia. Liberians will have to go home and confront Taylor and work with human right groups and other organizations on the ground to reach an agreement on security, elections commission, communication and all other matters. Politicians vying for position must be ready to fight on the ground, earn the respect and admiration of the Liberian people by being part of the process of change and not just expect others to do the work so they can reap the benefit.

Liberians now need to go back to the drawing board. ECOWAS is showing not only its fatigue with the Liberian crisis, but as an organization of governments, it is also expressing its solidarity with Taylor.

Only 15 months to elections. Go to Monrovia, find a residence, start a business or find a job, get involved in the transformation process, and then start running a campaign. Don’t just land with few boxes of t-shirts, return air ticket and expect people who suffered for years to hand you the presidency. The intimidation will go on, there will be many more nights defenders in jail, vandalism, lies and the culture of fear will all be there, on the daily basis, along with the mosquitoes, the lack of running water and the hundreds of impoverished relatives and political operatives. That’s all part of what Liberia has to offer today in the political arena.

© The Perspective
P.O. Box 450493
Atlanta, GA 31145