Mediators Earmarked Cease-fire Verification Team For Liberia

Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Akosombo, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 14, 2003

West African Mediators seeking a truce to the Liberian armed conflict have earmarked the formation of a joint cease-fire verification team, urging parties to the fighting in the country to be committed to the process.

Briefing journalists in Akosombo yesterday, ECOWAS Executive Secretary Dr. Mohammed Chambas said the joint cease-fire verification team will comprise military officers or representatives of the Government, the two rebel groups together with United Nations and ECOWAS military observers.

The team, according to Dr. Chambas, would be dispatched to Monrovia as earlier as Monday or Tuesday to verify the positions of all armed groups.

He mentioned that other partners on the peace mission were being consulted to contribute the necessary transportation such as helicopter that would convey the team to Liberia in the soonest time possible.

Additionally, the ECOWAS Executive Secretary said the joint cease-fire verification team would have to report to the chiefs of staff or the chiefs of defense staff of the Economic Community of West African on its findings following the visit to Monrovia.

Dr. Chambas hoped that that meeting can be convened on Thursday or Friday in Accra. The meeting, he furthered, would determine the nature and size as well as other details relative to the formation of an international stabilization force or a cease-fire monitoring force or whatever the nomenclature would be.

The peace mediator said he remained hopeful that after the signing of a cease-fire deal, the parties would begin talks on the substantive issues that would culminate into a comprehensive peace agreement.

Each party to the conflict, he averred, was committed to a truce in a bid to silence the guns for the creation of an atmosphere conducive for discussing a peace package.

The parties were expected to have formally signed the cease-fire agreement today, June 14 following careful examination of the document and after which their observations are being satisfied.

The peace negotiations in Akosombo, near the Ghanaian capital, Accra are being brokered by the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and a UN-backed international contact group on Liberia(ICG-L).

Former Nigerian President Abdulsalami Abubakar is chairing the discussions. It is intended to end another round of violence that continues to ravage the country.

Moreover, the fighting in Monrovia has resulted into a growing humanitarian disaster, leaving thousands of people, mainly women and children as well as the elderly without food, medications and other essentials.

A massive brain drain coupled with a significant lost of possessions plus the massive dislocation of people are scars of the fighting.

Many Liberians fear a repeat of the brutal ethnic feuds they witnessed during the civil war in the 1990s that was supposed to have ended with the election of President Charles Taylor in 1997.

As a result of the continuous clamor among others, in the country, President Taylor has offered to resign if that would bring peace to Liberia.

In Monrovia along, relief workers are increasingly concerned about the plight of up to one million people who are said to have fled the advance by the rebels Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

However, there are reports that the city had been quiet since Thursday and that some residents have begun to move cautiously back to the homes that had abandoned since the fighting started near the Capital, Monrovia.

"We only hope that a cease-fire will hold so that we don't have to run again," one of them was quoted to have intimated.

Meanwhile, United States last Thursday reportedly diverted a warship taking part in Operation Iraqi Freedom to help evacuate Americans from Liberia.