The Terror Continues in Monrovia
By A Correspondent
July 21, 2003
The thrust by the Liberians United for Peace and Reconciliation (LURD) rebels for the control of Monrovia continues. They rebels are in control the areas from Brewerville to the Gabriel Tucker and Waterside bridges, including the strategic Freeport of Monrovia. At the two bridges, remnants of Taylor fighters who are still loyal to him are putting up resistance. This has become a do or die situation for the loyalists . For his part, President Taylor has told residents of Monrovia that he would not leave. He said he would prefer to die with them.
But the rebels’ attack on the city continues despite claims by government yesterday that its (government) forces were in control of the two bridges. “People are running helter shelter in Monrovia. This morning a rocket hit Twelve Street, people don’t know where to run. It is a very terrible situation. I want to leave but I don’t know where to go”, said a Sinkor residence.
Displace people are everywhere. The SOS Village in New Matarda is hosting almost five thousands displaced people. The have not security. Some people, however, decide to remain in door while the fighting rages.
Yesterday the Rebels started fighting their way through Gardnersville in order to open a new front in Paynesville. They rebels are heading to Paynesville cutoff Mr. Taylor, his forces and residents of central Monrovia - leaving them with only the James Spriggs Payne airstrip or by way of canoe to escape from the city.
The fighting has reached as far as Stephen Tolbert Estate in Gardnersville. Thousands of people are trekking from Gardnersville to the Red Light area in Paynesville. Though the American govewrnment asked LURD forces to withdraw from the city, LURD forces say they cannot do so. They say they will remain at the Gabriel Tucker Bridge, but this will be very dangerous for the residents of Monrovia.
Every part of the city is affected. The Trinity Healing Temple in Tobo Village (Gardnersville) headed by Esther Davis has been hit - fifty displaced persons wounded (the number of fatalities at the church is not known). International journalists are said to have left their Mamba Point hotel for the American Embassy. But despite the heavy protection at the Embassy, rocket just landed near the embassy.
Like today, Sunday was a terrible day in Monrovia. There were several explosions in which rockets killed innocent civilians on Ashmun, and Broad streets in central Monrovia. Civilians were also killed at the Jallah Compound near Ducor International Hotel. Capital Bypass, Jallahtown, etc have been deserted. All radio stations with the exception of ELBC are off the air. Mr. Taylor’s radio station, KISS FM, which is based in Congotown is off the air due to mechanical problems. ELBC, the only station operating, is doing so intermittently due to shortage of fuel.
Amid the shelling and terror, massive looting continues in Monrovia. On Saturday, looters broke into LOIC near Matarda Estate. In Fiama, a little boy was killed yesterday because he resisted looters who attempted to take his bicycle. The bicycle was subsequently taken away after the little boy was murdered. This morning, a lady with a new born baby was sexually assaulted in Paynesville by government soldiers who are going from house to house looting and harassing people.
Enough Blame to go around
Many blame the current fighting on the recent US government, stating that the timing of the US position paper presented in Ghana, which rules out the possibility of LURD or MODEL heading the interim government is not right. They feel that the statement was issued prematurely. The best time, in their view, would have been after the arrival of the peacekeeping forces. They conclude that because of the wrong timing, LURD is now capitalizing on it to seize power by force – since it is not possible to do so under the US plan.
For his part, Mr. Taylor blamed US President George Bush for the latest LURD’s assault on Monrovia. He claims that the statement by president that he (Taylor) must step down and leave the country undermines his government. Some of Mr. Taylor’s fighters are saying that they are reluctant to fight because Mr. Taylor had said that he would step down and leave the country. Besides, the fighters have not being paid for months.
Some also blame their plight on the political leaders who are bickering among themselves. It has been almost two months since the Ghana Peace talks started, but they political leaders together with the warring factions have not come up with any solution or an interim leadership that will replace the Taylor government. Others blame ECOWAS because of the slow pace at which they are moving to send Peacekeepers to Liberia.