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Vol 43 No 4

Published 22nd February 2002

New rebels, new danger

Guinean-backed war in Liberia may backfire on sponsors and unravel the Sierra Leone peace process

Both sides want to play up the recent rebel offensive against President Charles Taylor's regime. The rebels, calling themselves Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, are mostly Taylor's old Krahn and Mandingo foes and, like previous such armed gangs, call the BBC to claim their victories. The United Nations reckons more than 60,000 people have been displaced by the fighting. Taylor plays to the gallery, hoping to shore up support, justify repression and win sympathy as a victim under attack. This is just what his predecessor, Samuel Kanyon Doe, tried to do when attacked by Taylor's own National Patriotic Front of Liberia a decade ago. The hostilities could grow fiercer, to threaten Taylor and, spilling over into eastern Sierra Leone's diamond fields, unravel the fragile ceasefire there.

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