Several Civilians, Soldiers Flee MODEL Attack In Liberia Port City of Harper

By: J. Moses Gray/ Editor

The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 21, 2003

As the rebels of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), intensify their attacks on government positions in the Southeast, their onslaught on the administrative seat of Maryland County, that is the port city of Harper, ...thousands of fleeing persons including civilians and retreating government soldiers have arrived in Monrovia.

The fleeing persons arrived in Monrovia yesterday after a sea voyage on board the ship, “Benty Vessel”.

According to statistics obtained from the Liberian Refugee Resettlement and Repatriation Commission (LRRRC), over 1000 newly arrived persons have so far been registered, though others were in the process of registering at the time of our visit.

The commission’s program coordinator for IDPs, Mr. Zolu B. Seh disclosed that about 1,400 are said to have been on board the Benty Vessel that docked at the Bong Mines Pier at the Freeport of Monrovia yesterday.

According to Mr. Seh, the vessel left Harper last Sunday due to the intense fighting in Maryland County between government forces and the rebels, and arrived in Monrovia at about 11:15a.m. on Monday.

He said about 90 percent of the fleeing persons have sought shelter with relatives while the rest have been taken to displaced centers in Monrovia.

Mr. Seh quoting the fleeing persons said hundreds of thousands of residents of Maryland have had to flee in all directions including neighboring Ivory Coast.

He told The INQUIRER that the LRRRC regional director, Wah-mle Elliott and others were forced to escape into Ivory Coast, as MODEL advanced on Harper and other areas.

At the Bong Mine Pier yesterday, our team of reporters saw large numbers of government soldiers from onboard the Benty Vessel being screened and registered, while others were also seen boarding a truck.

Vice President Moses Blah and some top security officials as well as officials of the Finance Ministry were also seen at the Bong Mines pier. However, none of these personalities could be reached as they were seen preoccupied with making arrangements for the new arrival of IDPs.

The scene at the Bong Mines pier was very pathetic as several Monrovians who had thronged the port with the hope of receiving fleeing family persons and friends openly wept due to the appalling condition of some of the new arrivals.

Frustration was written on the faces of the fleeing persons, apparently reflecting on the unfortunate encounters in Harper on the vessel. Some of the civilians arrived in Monrovia eventually without anything.

At one point, a group of elderly persons and tender -aged children sat desperately on the grounds as several persons stood around them. One of the displaced said the situation in Harper was very tense and desperate.

A gentleman who also spoke to The INQUIRER said the only way out from Harper on Sunday, was to board the vessel, saying that the MODEL rebels took control of the escaping routes from the port city.

Another Marylander told this paper that the scene in Harper on Saturday and Sunday was chaotic, adding that the fighting between government forces and MODEL rebels was very tense, forcing the residents of the area to run in different directions.

He said while they were leaving the Port of Harper on the Benty Vessel, they saw the County Superintendent H. Dan Morais and some government officials trying to flee the city.

The gentleman who identified himself as Johnson Smith said, "we saw the Superintendent and others at the Port of Harper, calling in another vessel which was miles away from the pier to dock at the port.

Meanwhile, reports from the Southeastern region say the MODEL rebels have captured Maryland and other surrounding areas, following intense battles.

Accordingly, the county fell to the MODEL rebels on Saturday. The rebels have claimed to have killed 400 government soldiers and allegedly captured about 39 others..

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