Wednesday, 23 July 2003

Monrovia (Fides Service) – “Up to five minutes ago we could hear the sound of shelling coming from the port and the east side of the city” a missionary in the Liberian capital Monrovia, whose name we withhold for security reasons, told Fides Service. “The cease fire announced yesterday, 22 July, by the LURD rebels (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy), lasted only a few hours and Monrovia was abruptly woken from its sleep this morning at three when heavy fighting resumed with two solid hours of shelling” the missionary said. People are more and more desperate because of the lack of food and because of ruthless sacking which continues, striking even missions, like the raid yesterday on the Salesian mission. “The Mission’s three Salesian Fathers, Irish, American and Indian, are unhurt” said Father Francis Preston, English provincial of the Don Bosco mission, on which the mission in Liberia depends. “One of our two houses in Monrovia was sacked but our priests were unarmed and not much damage was done to the structures.”
To complicate the situation the other rebel group fighting President Taylor MODEL, Movement for Democracy In Liberia, has threatened to walk out from peace talks being held in Ghana. MODEL wants more say in the appointment of the president and vice-presidents of the future national transition government which should replace Taylor. The international community has not yet reached an agreement for sending peacekeeping troops to the tormented African republic, as recommended in a joint appeal signed by Liberian and Sierra Leone Catholic Bishops. In a statement issued yesterday Archbishop Michael Francis of Monrovia, Bishop Giorgio Biguzzi of Makeni (Sierra Leone), and Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma of Kenama (Sierra Leone) said: “We believe that the path to lasting peace lies in the immediate deployment of an international peace keeping force. Without this intervention we fear the escalation of violence in Liberia will only increase dragging the whole of west Africa once again into war. The imposition of a cease fire, followed with total disarmament monitored by an international force is the only way to let Liberia start its journey to peace. Only this intervention will allow the children of Liberia to look at the future not with terror but with hope”.
The humanitarian situation is serious. Humanitarian organisations report that hundreds have been killed, thousands injured, and more than 250,000 displaced from their homes. LM (Fides Service 23/7/2003 EM lines 37 Words: 452)