Liberian Peace Talks Go to Akosombo Again

By: Patrick K. Wrokpoh

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 24, 2003

The date of the peace talks on the Liberian crisis has been changed from June 2, to 4th June, 2003, while the main conference venue has also been changed from the Ghanaian capital of Accra to Akosombo, in the eastern region of that country.

This disclosure was made yesterday by the co-Chairman of the local International Contact Group on Liberia(ICGL), Ghanaian Ambassador to Liberia, Kwame Amoa-Awua, at a news conference held at the United Nations Peace Building Support Office, located in Mamba Point.

He said the new date is the most situated and convenient date as far as the ICGL is concerned since it has to schedule and serve invitations on some distinguished guests including some African presidents, among others.

Ambassador Awua said apart from the change in the date of the meeting, the discussions will now take place in the Ghanaian town of Akosombo, though the opening ceremony will take place in Accra.

The local ICGL co-Chairman said the change of venue from Accra to Akosombo was predicated upon concerns raised by some parties and stake-holders to the talks .He made specific reference to security concern raised by some of the parties on grounds that their safety in Accra is not guaranteed.

Ambassador Awua said because of this, the ICGL has resolved to take the meeting to Akosombo, which is some 60 kilometers from the capital, and where they believe will be secure for all parties and can accommodate all of the participants during the discussions.

On the format of the talks, the local ICGL co-Chairman disclosed that apart from the general conference where all parties and stakeholders shall deliberate, there will be what he called a "side-bar meeting" that will exclude all other political stakeholders but only the belligerent forces. He said the side-bar meeting will focus mainly on the attainment of a cease-fire.

Ambassador Awua who was flanked by other members of the local ICGL, disclosed that an advance delegation of the Liberian government has already arrived in Accra for the meeting, stressing that the Liberian leader President Charles Ghankay Taylor has overwhelmingly expressed his interest for peace and has promised to accept the necessary compromises to end the conflict.

He pointed out that the Liberian leader however stressed to the ICGL that he would appreciate if the decisions coming out of the talks would be within the confines of the Liberian constitution.

Ambassador Awuah said President Taylor's position has gone down well with the ICGL and as such has resolved that the Liberian constitution be preserved at the meeting.

On the issue of representation at the meeting, he said the ICGL has served two invitations each to all of the 18 registered political parties and other groups such as the civil society, the Mano River Union Women, the Inter Religious Council among others.

He used the occasion to call on all parties to the conflict to give the peace process a chance by cooperating with the ICGL.

In a related development, Mr. Geoffrey Rudd of the European Union who is also a co-Chair of the ICGL Chapter in the country, has disclosed that the United Nations has made available the amount of US$150,000 as its initial contribution towards the hosting of the conference.

Speaking at the news conference, Mr. Rudd refuted claims that the Government of Liberia is formulating the agenda of the conference. He said the agenda for the talks will not be drawn up by any party to the conflict, but stressed that the agenda was being formulated by ECOWAS, based on its interactions with all parties and stakeholders .

Meanwhile, the name Akosombo is not strange in the strive to bring about peace to Liberia. That was one of the numerous venues where peace talks on Liberia were held during the past civil crisis, before the 1997 elections that brought the Taylor-led National Patriotic Party(NPP) to power.

© 2003: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.