LURD Suspends Participation in Peace Talks, Wants Chambas Recused

By Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 24, 2003

One of Liberia's belligerent parties attending the ongoing peace talks in Accra has announced a "temporary suspension" of its participation in the talks. The group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy(LURD) said its delegation will stay away from all formal sessions of the talks until ECOWAS' Executive Secretary Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas recuses himself from the Liberian peace negotiations.

Addressing a news conference at the M-Plaza Hotel in Accra today(June 23), LURD's spokesman Cllr. Kabineh Ja'neh said his group's latest stance to stay away from the talks is in response to statements by Dr. Chambas on the BBC Sunday. According to him, the ECOWAS Executive Secretary is said to have told the BBC that the departure of President Charles Taylor from the Liberian presidency, within a period of 30 days as of the signing of the truce agreement between the government and rebels on June 17 is still a subject of material condition stipulated in the agreement.

By his alleged statement, Cllr. Ja'neh said Dr. Chambas has violated the duty of his office to "impartially conduct" negotiations in the ongoing Liberian peace talks.

Furthermore, the LURD spokesman claimed that the peace mediator became a spokeperson for President Charles Taylor, much to the injury of LURD because the issue of the Liberian leader quiting the presidency within 30 days had been a key demand put forth by his group.

Moreover, in a letter of June 23, addressed to Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Facilitator of the Liberian Peace Talks, the group views Dr. Chambas as a "an obstacle to peace", noting that his assertions has created what it called "a state of apprehension, fear and distrust" in their minds, especially as to his ability to be impartial in the peace talks.

In the letter, LURD maintained, "we demand that Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas recuse himself from the rest of the ongoing negotiations in the Liberian peace process."

They want him recused in the interest of what they termed, "an expiditous resolution of the current armed conflict in Liberia.”

Unless it gets a satisfactory assurance that no attempt will be made to circumvent the ceasefire agreement, LURD said it will stay away from all proceedings of the peace talks.

Cllr. Kabineh Ja'neh told journalists on Monday that the action of his rebel movement should not be construed as a boycott, but rather a temporary suspension of its participation of its delegation.

He however said they will remain engaged in the peace process but not on an active level. Asked whether or not the action could stall the talks, he said they had informed their headquarters about the development and are waiting to be advised accordingly.

"We will remain talking peace but not actively unless ECOWAS adequately addresses our request," Cllr. Ja'neh hinted.

Neither Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas nor Gen. Abdulsalmi Abubakar has responded to LURD's demand. However, Gen. Abubakar told our reporter that the mediators would have addressed the issue appropriately.

However, other conferees view the latest demand, midway into peace negotiation, as a preamble of stalling and undermining efforts to restore peace to Liberia.

The demand comes barely few days after President Taylor's ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) threatened to stay away from political discussions unless the issues of its standard bearer's indictment, the UN travel ban and the granting of general amnesty to all fighting forces were included as items on the political agenda.

Holding all negative variables constant, these undue demands do not augur well for the peace process and could further tie down advances at the talks. The more talks are delayed, the more dangerous it becomes for Liberians, especially women and children and the elderly who are without food, drugs and other essentials.