Political Bickering At Peace Talks - As NPP Sets Pre-conditions For Discussions

Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 22, 2003

Liberian political parties attending the peace summit in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, could not reach a consensus Thursday on the formulation of an agenda that would impel discussions on the issue of governance.

Already, there are indications that the signing of a truce between parties to the armed conflict in Liberia will eventually culminate into the formation of a transitional administration, which will not include the country’s current president Charles Taylor.

West African Mediators seeking peace for Liberia have given Liberian stakeholders including the 18 political parties together with both the Government and belligerent forces a period of 30 days to dialogue and seek a comprehensive peace agreement for the country.

But attempts by the stakeholders to draw up an agenda for political discussions ended in a deadlock Thursday, thus prompting political bickering at the conference.

The contention stemmed from demands by the ruling National Patriotic Party's (NPP) for the inclusion of President Taylor’s indictment and the UN travel ban placed on him and some government officials as items on the agenda.

The demands by the ruling party created factions in the discussion as other welcomed the idea, while it was at the same time diametrically opposed by other political parties.

NPP Chairman Cyril Allen told journalists Thursday that his party will not take part in any further political discussion unless these conditions are met.

Also, ruling party maintained that it would not participate in the political discussions unless there was general amnesty for all of the fighters including the Government and the two dissident factions, LURD and MODEL.

The consideration of these conditions as part of the agenda, he said, were precedent to further discussions on political matters.

Chairman Allen argued that the issues of President Taylor’s June 4 indictment and the travel restriction as well as the granting of general amnesty were crucial to the attainment of peace in Liberia, and as such, conferees at the ongoing Accra peace summit must discuss them as a way of genuine restoring peace to Liberia.

These, he says, are conditions that must be met before his party joins other Liberian political parties and stakeholders to discuss the possibility of establishing a transitional government to replace President Taylor and his administration.

But other political parties opposing the demands said the issues of indictment and travel ban on the president and his government officials is more legal than political and transcend the capacity of the conference to delve into them.

The NPP chairman emphatically holds the view that the two issues were “politically motivated” and must be unconditionally eradicated.

Sources close to the eight collaborating parties that are opposed to the NPP’s proposal said the UN travel restriction could be ineffective immediately after the Taylor-led government ceases to exist, because by then, they would have been out of state power.

The Liberia Unification Party (LUP), the New DEAL Movement, Unity Party(UP), United People’s Party(UPP), Liberia Action Party(LAP) and the Free Democratic Party of Liberia(FDPL), among others said the argument by the ruling party could stall progress at the talks.

According to our sources, the All Liberian Coalition Party (ALCOP), the “grand old” True Whig Party (TWP) among few political parties are in agreement with the NPP.

However, West African and Western mediators had been meeting whether or not to consider the demands by the NPP.

It would seen that the facilitators have two available options, either to convince the ruling party chairman to drop his demands or include on the agenda what he had put forward.

In the face of the growing political bickering, political analysts here said this could delay attempts by West African and Western mediators to broker a comprehensive peace agreement for Liberia.

At the same time, while the stakeholders are arguing over these issues, other politicians and belligerent parties are continuously increasing their efforts to lobby for jobs in the transitional administration.