LURD's Position Statement at the Ouagadougou Conference
Posted July 10, 2002
We bring you revolutionary greetings from the leadership and the fighting men and women of LURD. The National Chairman, Hon. Sekou D. Conneh regrets his absence from this very important meeting. This is due to serious engagement. He hopes that every participant at this very important conference will demonstrate a high degree of sincerity and honesty. Because it is dishonesty and the lack of love in our dealings with one another in general that has brought us here. Below is a summary of the facts:
On July 19, 1997, SPECIAL ELECTIONS were held under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) pursuant to the peace accord signed in [the] historic city of Abuja, Nigeria. The elections were intended to produce a government that would guarantee the safety and security of the parties in particular and the Liberian people in general. This was in effect, a political settlement that was intended to put an end to seven years of a bloody civil war. It was believed then, that confidence, a necessary element of lasting peace and national reconciliation, would have to be nurtured, beginning with the intent of the parties in good faith to make peace. Evidence in this case may be found in the fact that the first post war government (headed by Taylor) was mandated to restructure the army, police and the various security agencies with a view to reflect neutrality. That is, none of the parties to the agreement was to maintain dominance over the army or any of the security agencies. Section H, Article 9 count 4 of the AKOSOMBO AGREEMENT (which forms a substantive basis of the Abuja Accord) bestowed this trust upon the government thus: "Internal security arrangements including police, customs and immigration will be put in place immediately. Planning for restructuring and training of the AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia) will be the responsibility of the LNTG, with the assistance from ECOWAS, United Nations and friendly governments."
From the plain meaning of this l provision of the agreement, it is clear that the government was placed in a position of public trust. In this scheme, ECOWAS, the United Nations and friendly governments as referred to therein were merely given supervisory roles. Since the government is manifestly the expression of the general will of the governed, the sound exercise of this trust was reasonably and fairly expected to lay the foundation upon which future confidence building exercises would rest. In effect ladies and gentlemen, this was the test to determine whether the hopes and expectations of the Liberian people as raised during the entire peace process would be justified. In other words, the warring parties to the agreement, the Liberian people and the facilitators expected the men who voluntarily affixed their signatures to these sacred documents to be men of honor. Nothing less could have been reasonably expected under the circumstances. These facts consist of some of the fundamental assumptions that provided the basis for the 1997 elections. Now, ladies and gentlemen, fellow Liberians, how did we get here again given these facts? Permit me to revert to the records.
Following the aforesaid elections, Mr. Charles Taylor emerged as president. We thought that his dreams had become a reality. And without regards to irregularities or other questionable practices occasioned during the elections and for the sake of peace, the Liberian people accepted Taylor as president. But, behold a snake is always a snake. Immediately after he assumed the presidency, Taylor declared that he was now the constitutionally elected President. Therefore, it was his duty to form an army and security for Liberia without what he called outside interference, contrary to the spirit and intent of the Abuja Agreement under which the special elections given birth to his government were held.
With respect to ECOMOG, Taylor was bold enough to say that he would not share his power with anyone and that he would use guns to defend (his) democracy. Despite the threats these maneuvers posed to the implementation of the peace accord, no reaction came from the United Nations, O.A.U. or ECOWAS. Everyone remained silent and aloof. This silence and apparent lack of further interest in the matter was construed by Taylor as a signal that he could do whatever he wish with Liberia and Liberians without regards to the peace agreement.
Avoiding the demobilization and rehabilitation plans financed by the international community, Taylor rearmed the NPFL and installed them into the army, police and other securities forces. Other factions that had genuinely disarmed were now left at the mercy of the NPFL, which did not show mercy.
But Taylor did not stop there. He had a bigger plan. Hence, he ordered the ECOWAS to withdraw the Field Commander, Major General Victor Malu. This was done and General Malu was replaced with Major General Timothy Shelpidi of Nigeria. He then decided to take the next logical step: He ordered ECOWAS to withdraw ECOMOG from Liberia and without question, there was compliance. With this, ECOMOG bid farewell to Liberia. In an interview with BBC's Focus On Africa, outgoing Field Commander Malu explained the sentiment at the time when he declared in an interview with Robin White that "my only regret is that the mission has not been accomplished." Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, fellow Liberians, as we now see from hindsight, General SAMUEL Victor Malu's statement was prophetic. That is, our mission to make peace in Liberia and indeed, this sub-region has not been accomplished.
Liberians have not returned home from refugee camps and the country is once again a host to internally displaced persons. The guns are once more in business and we are not here to review a post war reconstruction plan. We will be talking about ceasefire. We will be talking about a new transitional government, etc.
But my dear brothers and sisters, these are not new ideas and this is not our first or second time facing these issues. The only thing that is new here is the absence of some old faces and the presence of some new faces. This is old wine in new bottles.
With Charles Ghankay Taylor enthroned as President of Liberia, darkness fell upon the land. Predictably, rumors of secret killings and horror stories of chilling effect were heard throughout the country. Often, no arrest was made. Hence, no showing of government outrage against crime. But rumors were not enough for Taylor. In a typical satanic manner, Taylor actually decided to take matters into the open and the effective date of commencement was Friday November 27, 1997. On that date, the former Deputy Speaker of the defunct Transitional Legislative Assembly (also former Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Liberia), Hon. Samuel Saye Dokie, his wife Mrs. Jeanet Dahn-Dokie, his sister Serena Dokie, and their nephew Saye Voker were enroute to Sanniquellie, Nimba County to attend the wedding of a family member. At the main check point in Gbarnga, Taylor police arrested and detained them at the police station in Gbarnga, Bong County. After several days of torture, they were brutally murdered and their mortal bodies dumped near a village in Bong County.
Despite these gruesome murders and the overwhelming evidence, only a mock trial was held in Gbarnga of some presidential bodyguards and no one was convicted. And with the NPFL fully rearmed and uniformed in national colors, Taylor released his thugs on the Liberian people and the other factions that had disarmed. Harassment, rape, torture and secret killings as aforesaid became the order of the day. For example, Manna Zaykay and Barwire, former ULIMO-J commanders were arrested and killed in New Kru Town upon orders of the Director of Police, the Late Joseph Tate, Taylor’s first cousin. Also, Nowai Flomo, a member of an opposition Party and a market woman, was arrested torture to death by elements of the Special Security Services. One of the body guards an opposition leader, David Dorado, was murdered and his body dumped on Schiefflin Highway. In these and many other cases, no one was convicted and in many instances, not even an arrest was made. With the general state of insecurity and tensions in the country, many prominent citizens and most opposition leaders fled the country for obvious security reasons.
With fear and tensions mounting in the country, former Combatants now without any benefit of rehabilitation, reintegration, employment, vocational training, etc. made their regular gathering at the residence of former leader of the defunct ULIMO-J on Camp Johnson Road in search of rations. Imagining threats from these gatherings Taylor launched an attack on Johnson and this provoked another military showdown on September 18, 1998. During the battle that followed, Taylor's forces killed hundreds of unarmed civilians because they were the only armed group licensed to carry arms in the country. Johnson fled to the American Embassy with about 30 persons. About two of these were gunned down right on the American Embassy compound. This including the former Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the late Madison Wion. Since that day, the ceasefire that was made to give chance was broken, the cherished Abuja Agreement set aside and abused by Mr. Taylor.
In refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Guinea-Conakry, La cote d'ivoire, Ghana, and thousands in other parts of West Africa, Africa and the Diaspora, the state of affaires for the thousand that escaped Taylor death trap was one of despair and hopelessness. Yet the deteriorating security situation in Liberia in the face of Mr. Taylor's refusal to allow implementation of the Abuja Accord did not seem deserving to attract ECOWA'S attention. ECOWAS remained stone silent while the Taylor Government continued to persecute his fellow countrymen.
Considering that ECOWAS was the Principal Architect and Mid-wife of the Abuja Accord, the community's apparent acquiesce has been viewed as its gravest indicting reality in the Liberian saga. For many Liberians believe that ECOWAS did have a strong duty and responsibility under its brokered Abuja Peace.
Out of these ashes and deep national agonies evolved the "National Will" to return home. We desire to go home in the atmosphere of human dignity and security for all. It is these aspiration that have given rise to the organization of LURD-Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy-and to engage the Taylor Government in the current military campaign to remove him from power.
THE NATIONAL OBJECTIVES OF LURD
Amongst the principal aims of LURD are the following:
1 Removal of Mr. Taylor from power through both military and political means and creating an environment for a democratic beginning with security guaranteed for all. In this connection, the Abuja Accord and all its undertakings shall serve as the Principle guiding instrument for the restructuring and establishment of national security for all Liberians. ECOWAS and the International Community shall play their roles as stipulated in the Abuja Accord.
2. Embark on sustained national dialogue to achieve the following:
a. Formation of a government of national unity to include all political parties and civil society organizations that reflects the nation’s ethnic, religious and gender make up.
b. Repatriation and resettlement of Liberian refugees and the internally displaced persons to original/previous or desired settlements.
c. Help to organize and encourage Community - based national healing and reconciliation activities throughout the country to assist government in healing the deep wounds inflicted on the Liberian people by the civil conflict. This healing program shall involve all segments of the society - from bottom to top and from top to bottom-
2. Dismantle the Taylor infrastructure of terror and put to immediate end the use of Liberia as safe havens for international criminals, stop export of war to Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Sub [region]
3. NOTABLE GAINS MADE BY LURS AND THE WAY FORWAR
LURD began its military resistance to the Taylor Government a few years ago. Since these engagements began, LURD forces have been able to largely reduce and weaken the Taylor War Machines in addition to undermining Taylor’s capacity to create, support and sustain arms insurgency in Sierra Leone, Guinea and the West African Sub-region.
Currently, Mr. Taylor is so busied and burdened in trying to deal with his own back yard military uprising that he has very little, if any time at all, to provide much needed resources to external insurrections. As a result and due to other factors, both the Republics of Sierra Leone and Guinea today enjoy some relative peace with no guns presently being fired by Taylor’s forces on these neighbouring sister states.
It is therefore unquestionable that the " Peace Gains " thus far made in the two Mano River Union Countries are largely attributable to the - ongoing military engagement of Taylor’s Criminal Government. We further wish to underscore here that consolidating and strengthening the current MILITARY RESISTANCE is the way forward. It is certainly the ONLY VIABLE OPTION to rid Liberia of the Taylor Cancerous Gangsterism. Undoubtedly’ it is also the only surest guarantee to lasting peace and stability in Sierra Leone, in Guinéa and in the whole of West Africa.