Statement Issued on October 2, 2003, By Jacques Paul Klein on the Paynesville Incident

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 8, 2003

Yesterday, a serious incident occurred at Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, involving a convoy carrying the chairman of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Mr. Sekou Conneh, for a meeting with the President of Liberia. The LURD violated arrangements for its entry into the city, negotiated by ECOMIL prior to its integration into the UN force. ECOMIL was integrated into the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on 1 October.

It had been agreed that ECOMIL and the LURD convoy would meet at the Po River crossing point at 10.00h where a maximum of 15 LURD vehicles would be permitted to proceed under ECOMIL escort to the meeting with the President and that the vehicles would be searched to ascertain that they were arms-free. Security for the President was also provided by ECOMIL.

The LURD convoy approached the meeting point with in excess of 50 vehicles. While the ECOMIL battalion commander on the scene was in the process of informing the LURD chairman that such a number of vehicles could not proceed into Monrovia, a LURD vehicle raced ahead of the convoy towards Paynesville. The commander responded immediately by deploying armored personnel carriers to close the Po River bridge behind them.

A convoy of approximately 10 vehicles carrying the LURD chairman was permitted to proceed under ECOMIL escort. As it proceeded, some of the LURD vehicles raced ahead. As the convoy approached Somalia Drive, other vehicles were noticed joining the convoy.

At the Red Light market area of Paynesville, meanwhile, individuals from the LURD vehicles that had advanced ahead of the convoy became involved in a confrontation with the local population. A grenade was thrown by a LURD combatant, killing two civilians. Government militia members then opened fire, killing a LURD combatant. Further shooting by LURD and government militia occurred at Red Light.

At this point, ECOMIL blocked the further movement of the convoy and also blocked the access road to the President’s residence. The LURD convoy was turned back to Tubmanburg. ECOMIL brought the situation under control at Red Light.

Throughout the night, sporadic shooting was heard in different areas of Monrovia and its suburbs. The United Nations Mission in Liberia deplores the events of yesterday and strongly reminds all parties to observe the ceasefire and desist from engaging in any acts which might derail the peace process. It further wishes to emphasize that it will not tolerate any unilateral importation of weapons into Monrovia and areas in which it is deployed, bearing in mind that the Joint Monitoring Committee, at its second meeting on 29 September, agreed that central Monrovia and Bushrod Island should be weapons-free. Any such actions will be met with swift response.