Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Liberia’s Unsettled Peace

By; ralph geeplay

It seems the specter of war and Liberia’s march from conflict to peace is still elusive. Nobel laureate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf efforts to the lead the Liberian government after almost two decades of war have received a sharp criticism from a major international organization. It is no secret that Liberia exported war to other West African countries and bred hundred of thousands of child soldiers in the process during the reign of President Charles Taylor. Taylor legacy still haunts Liberia say analysts because, the country teeters on violence continuously, while also threatening the fragile peace of its neighbors. In a stinging indictment by Human Rights Watch (HWR) recently, the globally respected organization accused the Liberian government of doing little to curb crossed border attacks from within the country. The report said the government was harboring mercenaries, while protecting criminals responsible for Liberia's two decade fracas, the report was issued on June 6th of this year.

Liberian mercenaries returning from Cote ivoire 

While the Liberian government was busy denying these reports by HRW, it then suddenly happened, actually two days later on June 8th. Armed Liberian mercenaries ambushed and killed seven United Nations peace-keepers protecting villagers in Ivory Coast, the death toll mounted to about 20, according to NPR

It can be recalled that last year Liberian mercenaries again crossed into Ivory Coast, killing at will. According to IRIN, a UN news outlet, thousands of villagers are fleeing the area near the Liberian border, and UN officials said others many may have been killed or injured. IRIN quoted a local villager: "I have already suffered this situation less than a year ago. This can no longer continue," said Mathieu Glougoueu, 64, a farmer and father of four. "We left food in granaries. We were preparing for the rice planting season. We are wondering whether it is worth returning."

Local and international NGOs said they were unable to verify additional casualties because of the isolation of the areas surrounding the border, but not before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack. He said he was "saddened and outraged." The murdered peacekeepers were all from Niger.

The Liberian mercenaries’ invasion of Tai is hardly coincidental, say pundits, given the Charles Taylor recent indictment.  The militants also are said to be loyal also to former Côte d’Ivoire ousted President Laurent Gbagbo. The International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Taylor was not popular in Liberia, especially amongst his supporters, and so too was Gbagbo’s incarceration there after a hotly contested electoral dispute that saw his grips on power loosened.

The 8th June attack according to analysts exposes the region tenuous peace and Liberia’s inability to control and police its own territory. This is a troubling sign they say, given that some western experts on Liberia are touting the country as a peace haven. Many have accused the Unity Party led government of doing little to fortified the Liberian border while pursuing cosmic reconciliation efforts. For example, a notorious warlord Alahaji Kromah who commanded the feared United Liberation Movement (ULIMO) was recently appointed as a top advisor and minister in the Executive Mansion, the Liberian presidency.

Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said it was the biggest attack on peace-keepers in recent years. To safe face and embarrassment, the Government of Liberia announced it was closing the border area, which has since been reopened, and an  immediate deployment of troops from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Although Liberian mercenaries have always used the border area to carry out armed vandalism and crossed border attacks, it is not clear what prevented the government from deploying its troops there earlier, said a Liberian who is angry that the country could see renew conflict soon because the Sirleaf administration has done “little to advance peace and implement the advice and conclusion” of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. “Until that report is implemented and those responsible for Liberia’s decent into chaos are brought to justice" or some kind of restitution restored, "Liberia is a waiting time bomb that will explode again and again,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government has also suspended all alluvia mining activities and trade along its border with Ivory Coast. The Liberian government in a statement said the closure of the border and subsequent troop's deployment is intended to ensure peace.

ralph geeplay is a former accredited member of the Press Union of Liberia
and a former reporter with several news outlets in the Liberian capital of Monrovia 

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