Uncertainty Beclouds Cease-fire Agreement

Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 17, 2003

West African mediators brokering peace for Liberia have failed to secure a cease-fire agreement between the Government and belligerents despite assurances that it would have been signed Monday.

Moreover, it was a moment, full of disappointment for scores of overzealous Liberians including women who converged in front of the Conference Hall at the M-Plaza Hotel in Accra, Ghana, on Monday when the warring parties left the Hall without signing the cease-fire agreement.

Both the Government and rebels have at least on three occasions, failed to sign the document, dashing the hopes of thousands of Liberians at home and in the Diaspora who are eagerly praying for the return of peace to the country.

Additionally, the peace negotiations have been greeted by uncertainty owing to the apparent intransigence of the dissident factions attending the talks.

Despite earlier pronouncements of commitment to the peace process, the two rebel groups, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) are insistent on three “key” demands which they said must be part of the peace deal before affixing their signatures to the agreement.

The rebels’ demands were one of unanimity. In separate statements Saturday, they called for the unconditional resignation and departure of President Charles Taylor from the presidency.

Among other demands were the subsequent dissolution of the Taylor-led Government and the formation of a transitional government comprising all Liberians, no matter their social and political lineage coupled with the deployment of a U.S.-led multinational stabilization force.

But the head of the Liberian Government delegation to the negotiations, Lewis Brown, told journalists that the Government has consented to all terms of the revised cease-fire agreement, and as such, is willing and prepared to sign it in a bid to bring relief to the Liberian people.

Mr. Brown was quick to mention that the conditions set by the dissident factions were unrealistic, unfair and were not part of the draft agreement.

However, the man behind the peace deal, Gen. Abdusalami Alhaji Abubakar, briefed reporters Saturday that representatives of parties to the conflict have concluded talks for a truce, following nearly 13 hours of a search for common ground.

Gen. Abubakar said during these hours, the parties managed to resolve some of the grave issues. He disclosed that the government and rebel groups had completely perused the draft agreement and only requires their signatures.

Consequently, the truce agreement is expected to be signed on today, Tuesday.

Further, the rebels’ contention for President Taylor to resign, according to him, was a political issue and would be considered when discussing a comprehensive agreement.

Critics say any attempt by the dissident factions to delay the signing of the agreement could prove their alleged insensitivity to the plight of the people and could spell further dangers for thousands of people including women and children as well as the elderly who are currently without food, shelter, medications and other essentials.

In a related development, the venue of the ongoing Liberian stakeholders meeting has been transferred from the Eastern Ghanian town of Akosombo to the M- Plaza Hotel in the capital, Accra. No reason has been given for the change in the venue but the mediators have said the rest of the meetings will be held there.