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Vol 41 No 15

Published 21st July 2000


Liberia

Cross-border crisis

Guinea and Sierra Leone are paying back the Taylor regime for its rebel sponsorship. But their operations could spin out of control

Self-proclaimed guerrilla maestro Charles Taylor is in a bind. The border wars between Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, stoked by the Liberian President, are rebounding on his government. Variously-named Liberian rebel groups have crossed from Guinea into Liberia's north-west Lofa County, capturing the main provincial town of Voinjama. Presidents Lansana Conté of Guinea and Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone have lost patience with Taylor and the Liberian-sponsored dissidents and are tolerating, if not actively encouraging, Liberian rebel groups operating from their countries. Taylor accuses Britain and the United States of orchestrating a rebellion against his regime. There are, of course, denials all round. There has been heavy fighting around Voinjama and Taylor's forces have had trouble pushing back the rebels. Lofa County is Liberia's bread-basket and the main transit route into Sierra Leone for Taylor's allies in the Revolutionary United Front. Lofa's refugee camps host several thousand Sierra Leoneans and Guineans, including RUF fighters and their families. Liberian military sources claim that SLR rifles, supplied by Britain to the pro-Kabbah forces in Freetown, have turned up in the hands of anti-Taylor rebels.

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