Wednesday, 18 June 2003

Monrovia (Fides Service) – Liberia awoke with surprise, uncertainty and hope following the announcement of a cease-fire agreement and the resignation of President Charles Taylor. On June 17 at midnight the Liberian government and rebel groups, meeting in Ghana, reached a cease fire agreement which should lead within a month to a lasting peace. What is more, President Taylor has said he will resign once the peace agreement is signed.
“It would seem almost impossible for Taylor to make such a promise” a local source tells Fides. “Many Liberians are uncertain whether to hope or to doubt. Taylor is an old wolf and we are used to his surprises and sudden changes of allies. We fear this may only be another move to gain time and reorganise his troops.”
For days the rebel forces have kept the capital under siege: water and electricity supplies have been cut, food is running short.
Moreover Taylor is under strong pressure from the international community which has accused him of war crimes. The special UN Court for Sierra Leone says Taylor supported Sierra Leone refugees of the United Revolutionary Front RUF, in exchange for diamonds smuggled through Liberia. The court has issued a warrant of arrest for the President of Liberia on the grounds of crimes against humanity and serious violation of international law.
“This makes it difficult to see whether the agreement reached in Ghana lay the foundations for Taylor’s definitive exit from the scene and the end of the war” local sources tell Fides. “In any case one element which inspires cautious optimism, is commitment demonstrated by the international community to try and solve the crisis”.
The Community for Economy and Development in West Africa CEDEAO, charged with monitoring the cease-fire, will deploy a peace-keeping force in Liberia. The United States, The United Kingdom and France have also been asked to supply troops for the peace-keeping mission. LM (Fides Service 18/6/2003 EM lines 30 Words: 351)