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Vol 41 No 13

Published 23rd June 2000


Liberia

Godfather to the rebels

Dealing with Charles Taylor is key to any peace settlement. The question is, how?

The latest spate of sabre rattling between Monrovia and Freetown signals the final unravelling of the Sierra Leone peace accord signed in Lomé last July. The governments of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and Charles Taylor are each accusing the other of preparing an invasion force. Both sides have been moving troops towards their common border for 'security reasons'. A key plank in the Lomé accord was that Liberia and its President would play a constructive role in persuading Corporal Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front to abide by the accord, surrendering its arms in exchange for jobs in a power-sharing government. That element of the accord, at least, relied heavily on mutual self-delusion. That has been stripped away since the collapse of the accord and Sankoh's arrest last month (AC Vol 41 No 12). Yet Taylor remains, whatever Freetown says, key to any settlement in Sierra Leone. The end of diplomatic-speak between Monrovia and Freetown won't have an immediate bearing on the military situation. Neither side is ready for a massive escalation of the proxy war between Taylor's forces and Sierra Leone that has raged for nine years, two years longer than Liberia's own civil war. Of the two, Taylor's forces still have the means and the men to face down Kabbah's shaky coalition of pro-government forces in a border war. Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea is accurate in his claim that Sierra Leone could not, currently, win a war with its neighbour.

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