Signing the Peace Agreement NOW Will Pave the Way To Peace and Stability in Liberia


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 28, 2003

Since June 4 Liberian stakeholders, which include the Taylor regime, rebel factions and political parties, assembled in Ghana to put together an interim political arrangement that would stop the human tragedy unfolding in Monrovia. On June 17 the parties signed a cease-fire agreement with provisions committing the parties, among other things, to choose an interim governing body within 30 days that will run the country until elections are held.

But it has been more than 30 days since the parties initialed the original cease-fire agreement yet these key players have failed to sign a final document that would bring an end to the killing frenzy in Monrovia.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) facilitator, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, had submitted a draft document based on various points of view presented to him by the participants. Now it’s time for these influential Liberians to sign this important agreement and move the peace process a step forward.

We applaud the international community for its resolve and commitment in seeking a peaceful resolution of the Liberian crisis. However, we urge the facilitators to remain firm in their decision not to reward those who use guns to shoot their way to power. The future of the Liberian people should not be ransomed to those who have held guns to their heads. The mistakes of the 1990s that rewarded Taylor and other warlords with political power must not be repeated. If the international community is resolute in removing this incentive, which has fueled and strengthened the cycle of violence, then gun-toting vultures and their benefactors, as well as other human predators, would think twice before engaging in future arms conflict in Liberia.

Over the past few years, most Liberians, including members of the rebel factions, blamed the Taylor regime as being an obstacle to peace, law and order and the democratic process in Liberia. Today, we have an opportunity to end the madness that has characterized regimes by terror in Liberia, and put in place a government freely chosen by the people, which will usher in the dawn of a new day of freedom for all Liberians.

In any political arrangement, which is the outcome of negotiations by individuals or groups with vested interests, everybody does not get what he or she wants. However, what is important is that the outcome is perceived to be in the best interest of the greater community, or the people that the groups purport to represent. Political bargaining is a give-and-take exercise that should produce tangible results to benefit the constituency as a whole, not a faction.

The bargaining phase in the Liberian political debacle is over and the parties must now sign what is the result of that process. Any attempts by any group to further delay signing the document put forward by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar would inevitably prolong the horrific carnage in Monrovia, which would lend credence to Mr. Taylor’s argument that his exit prior to peacekeeping forces arriving in the country could create chaos and anarchy.

Naturally, what we see unfolding in Liberia clearly unmasks the real motives of the marauding thugs whose only goal is to supplant and replace another maniacal ruffian at all costs. Undoubtedly, the veil of deception is being removed to expose the frauds that the rebels have used to mislead the Liberian people. Ostensibly they claimed they were fighting Taylor in order to liberate the Liberian people. But in reality, they and Taylor share a whole lot in common. Evidently, they believe and behave, as Charles Taylor does, in killing innocent people for power. Both scorn and loathe human rights, international humanitarian laws as well as disdain the rule of law and the paradigms of good governance.

How can the rebels say they are fighting to save the people when they are targeting innocent Liberian civilians seeking shelter? Their cynical behavior has prompted some political analysts concluded - and there seems to be increasing evidence to support this view - that the rebels are only interested in seizing power as a means of enriching themselves at the expense of national interest. It is quite obvious that these warring factions are still stuck in the 1990s mindset when pillaging warlords saw Liberia as a gold mine to be exploited, and a sort of trophy to be awarded to the most vicious killers. Liberians are fed up with scoundrels posting as liberators, whose primary aim is to control national resources for selfish purposes and impose themselves on the population by acts of terrorism.

Those who want to run Liberia must be prepared to go the people and explain what they would do to improve the precarious conditions in the country. If given this chance, our people are capable of making the right decisions based on what they consider to be in their best interest. And we can safely assume that Liberians will choose democracy, with all the qualities of good governance, over the kind of virulent cycle of violence that has bedeviled them for more than two decades.

Frankly speaking, the day of reckoning is at hand for our country, and especially for those who vehemently opposed the Taylor regime for its brutality and undemocratic policies to step up to the plate, and practice what they have been preaching by letting Liberians choose their own destiny. Signing the peace agreement advanced by Gen. Abubakar would be a first step in the right direction in restoring sanity and civility to a beleaguered citizenry.

We are deeply concerned that the international community is allowing the rebels to dictate the terms of the negotiation and manipulate the whole process in Ghana by engaging in delaying tactics to strengthen their bargaining power. And while seeking their own selfish interests in Ghana, rebel leaders also have authorized their forces on the ground to go on the offensive against all targets, including shelling refugee and other civilian centers. As a result, we’re seeing horrific images of Liberians running helter-skelter for survival and being blown into pieces on TV. And to add insult to injury, we are bombarded by indifferent and insensitive remarks about the mayhem in Monrovia by LURD’s chief spokesman, Kabineh Jai’neh, which show that the rebels are only interested in power by any means necessary.

This charade of publicly saying one thing and then doing something different must stop. Liberia’s situation is desperate. Our people cannot afford and the facilitators should not accommodate an endless exercise in which some participants put their own greedy interests over the safety of the Liberian people.

Any equivocation now, or attempt to continually hold the country hostage to gain power, squarely places such perpetrators in the same category with Mr. Taylor and other enemies of freedom who view violence as a legitimate way to power. We believe power belongs to the people, and those who seek it must submit themselves to the people. In that vein, we urge all parties who are seeking power to lead Liberia to sign the peace agreement right away to pave the way for peace and stability in Liberia.

For the rebels, it is a question of international credibility. They cannot say Taylor is a ruthless dictator who has used the gun to entrench himself in power and at the same time resort to the same mindless methods to obtain power. Either they have been lying about their real motives, or are afraid of the democratic process that they once professed to believe in, or both. They cannot have it both ways and expect to be credible players on the world scene. To close this credibility gap, they must end Liberia’s deadly nightmare now by signing the peace agreement.