United Nations and Conflict Management of the Civil War in Liberia
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Chapter one on United Nations and Conflict Management of the Civil War in Liberia
BACKGROUND TO THE OUTBREAK OF CIVIL WAR IN LIBERIA
Liberia became independent on duly 26, 1847 as a small republic of immigrant Americans on the coast traditionally called the “Grain Coast”. Thus it is considered the oldest African independent State except Ethiopia. Liberia is the only state in Sub-Sahara Africa that was never subject to colonial rule1. Before the immigration, which led to the creation of Liberia, the largely forested area now covered by the Liberia state was people by various Ethnic groups that form the overwhelming majority of the population today. Monrovia was founded in 1822 by black America colonists sent by the American colonization society. Monrovia and other settlements founded by the American colonization society were never ruled by the U.S government.
The American Liberia fought war for nearly a century with indigenous people, whom they called “Aborigines or Tribesmen”. Among the America Liberians there was a power struggle between the “Mulatoes” or people of partly white birth, of whom president Roberts and Tubman was the leading members and those of pure African dissent2. In 1944 William U.S. Tubman (1895-1971) a lawyer and senator, became president. He held office for 27 years. President Tubman made considerable progress towards reducing the legal and effective discrimination between America Liberians and “Tribesmen”. Political rights were extended to the latter. But under Tubman the supreme power of America Liberia of their few Aristocratic families, and of the True Wig Party (TWP was left unchanged). There were very few tribe ministers under him.
Tubman died in Britain on July 23 1971 he was strongly anti Communist, though he allowed the opening of relations with the USSR in 1956. On the death of Tubman, Vice President William Tolbert automatically succeeded him. He was re-elected in 1975 and 1979. But announced that he would not stand again in 1983. President Tolbert frequently showed concern for the ordinary people. Among the many official slogans which were a distinguishing features of his regime was “Mat to Mattresses”3. In 1979 Dr Tolbert showed the fairness and sense of justice for which he has come to be reputed by refusing to grant reprieve to two men of top America Liberian elite, son of true Wig Party (TWP) Chairman James Anderson and of former Vice President Yancy Sentenced to death.
From 1977 the close relations between Liberia and Sierra Leone were strengthened by the Mano River Union, under which major projects were agreed on to develop closer link. In 1975 Joined the new Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS). A Liberian Dr A Romeo Horton was managing Director of ECOWAS fund .Relations with other countries were little changed under President Tolbert close relations with the U.S.A were illustrated by the big reception given to president carter on his visit in May 1978.
The 1970 was one such period of economic difficulty it was also a decade that witnessed the initiation of a national discussion of issues of social justice and equality and of the imperatives of democracy. Inquiring opposition groups emerged to engage the government. . The leadership of President Tolbert (1971 – 80) was problematic oscillating between a disposition to change and the maintenance of the status quo. A political vacuum was created.
On April 12 1980, a military coup was staged under the leadership of Samuel Doe, and for the first time the indigenous groups were in power. President Doe filled his ranks with people from his own ethnic group, the Krahns4. Given the unprecedented nature of the coup and the excesses of its violence, as well as the unwillingness of the conservative elements of the old order to accept change, there were many observers who concluded that the act was revolutionary and that a profound social transformation would be sent in train. Others asserted that Liberia has experienced de-colonization from “black colonialism”.
The meaning of this admittedly historic event was that the way was now clear for the replacement of settler minority rule by indigenous majority rule.5 But such a hopeful prospect was not to be, Liberia was too heavy with history to conform to what has proven to be simplistic assumption about it politics and society. Following a period of initial uncertainty by an inexperience military government and it civilian political enablers (the movement for justice in Africa (MOJA) and people progressive party (PPP).
The process of sorting out the imperative of a return to civilian rule was soon under way. Largely in response to pressure from the U.S government which was bankrolling the military regime in keeping with America Cold War requirement, a new constitution was drafted, approved through referendum, and under it election was held on the 15th October 19856. There is ample documentation that the elections were rigged and that the incumbent military leader, Doe, who was declared the winner of the presidency actually stole the election. With the elections fraud endorsed by the American administration on the protest that such was the way of Africa politics.7. Deep disappointment set in. General Quinwonkpa attempted his coup and its failure cost him his life, Brutal and massive repression ensued Liberia of Wimba Origin bore the brunt of Does brutality because of the slaine General Quinwonkpa’s country of origin8.
On December 24 1989 a small group of rebels attacked the border town of Butuo in Nimba County as a first step towards the overthrow of the Doe government. The rebels were the National patriotic front of Liberia (NPFL) headed by Charles Taylor. In February, a split led by Prince Y Johnson a military veteran and a number of the Gio tribe developed with the NPFL. Declaring that he did not want power. Johnson formed independent National patriotic front of Liberia and accused Taylor of being a socialist backed by Libya. All move to peace talks achieve nothing.
The NPFL vowed there would be no cease fire nor ECOWAS peace keeping in Liberia until Doe resigns9. Dr Amos Sawger former professor of the University of Liberia was elected Interim president. Taylor (along with other Liberian forces) refused to work with the interim government and continued fighting. Johnson forces captured and killed Doe on September 9, 1990, while paying visit to general Quinoo at Monrovia freepot. The initial insurgency developed shortly there after into large – scale gang warfare, where groups fought to control the rich mineral resources of the country. Such as timber, diamonds, gold and Iron ore. The warlords used those resources to enrich themselves and the continue access to the resources also enable them to continue waging war. There were eight main factors involved in the civil war, which came to involve intra fractional fighting and splits with several warring factions, all this added to the complexity of this conflicts10. However efforts were made to resolve the conflict, and no fewer than fourteen peace agreements were signed in the period 1990 and onwards. The Abuja 11 peace agreement was the fourteen and was to settle the conflict.
Election followed in 1997 and the former warlord Charles Taylor won over 75 percent of the vote and was elected President of Liberia. However, the period preceding the election was fraught with uncertainty and there have been reports that people were threatened with reprisals if they did not vote for Taylor. In addition Taylor was in control of the only media station in the country, which made it difficult for the political opposition to make it voice heard. He was also in a strong army, which gave the capacity to continue war if it were to lose. One explanation put forward for the massive support given to Taylor in election is that the people of Liberia were war weary after seven years of civil war and gently seeking peace. It is perhaps telling that Taylor in his election campaign successfully used the slogans “He kill my Ma, he killed my Pa, but I will vote for him11. While the elections were reported to have been free and fair according to international observers, voices have been raised claiming that the election process was flawed, and in the post civil war period there have been continue allegation of Taylor striking to his practices of warlordism.
As mentioned above although the civil war ended and Taylor came to power, Liberia continued to experience armed conflict. Taylor’s AFL are engaged in fighting with the rebel group LURD. Ever since dissident of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) launched an attack, to topple the government of Liberia, the whole region was again put on edge. The rebels sprung their invasion from neighbour Guinea, occupying towns and villages in the boarder country of Lofa and giving government forces troops a blood nose. Government of rebel – turned – president Charles Taylor has been faced with growing casualties. The embattled president called on all able bodied Liberians to take up arms and defend the state against it enemies. The call was partly headed by Taylor’s loyalist.
The leader of LURD has been identified as Mohammed Siaboso Jumandy, a Liberian business man whose father is Mandingo and mother Khran, both ethnic groups which are fiercely opposed to Taylor’s regime. LURD members say Jumandy is the movement chairman12. Taylor has ruled Liberia with an Iron fist. His special security services and anti-terrorist unit have terrorized actual and perceived opponents, and many of these cases have been documented by human rights watch and amnesty international. Political opponents have either been killed or forced into exile. But the trouble for Taylor was far Fran over.
Apart from the internal conflict that threatens his administration, the Liberian leader was under international to stop his backing of the RUF13. RUF is a rebel force in Liberia, which traded diamond for weapons and manpower, keep the war going in Sierra Leone. And also there was called for the imposition of travel ban on members of Taylor’s government as well as the freezing of overseas accounts.14 On August 11, 2003 under intense U.S and international pressure President Taylor resigned office and departed in exile in Nigeria. On October 11, 2005 presidential and legislative elections and subsequent November 8, 2005 election were held Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.15
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