August 4, 2003 - The Athens News: Husband of Lesotho RPCV Karen Dahn works to end civil war in his native Liberia

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: August 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: August 4, 2003 - The Athens News: Husband of Lesotho RPCV Karen Dahn works to end civil war in his native Liberia

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Husband of Lesotho RPCV Karen Dahn works to end civil war in his native Liberia

Read and comment on this story from the Athens News on Lesotho RPCV Karen Dahn and her husband Marcus Dahn who works to end the civil war in his native Liberia at:

Local man works to end civil war in his native Liberia*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Local man works to end civil war in his native Liberia
By Nick Claussen
Athens NEWS Associate Editor

While rebels fight with government soldiers in the streets of Liberia, a former Athens resident is working to bring peace to his war-torn country.

Marcus Dahn, whose family still lives in Athens, is currently in Ghana working on the peace talks to end the fighting in Liberia, which is located on the west coast of Africa, in the northern half of the continent.

Last year, he was preparing to run for the presidency in Liberia. Elections were scheduled to be held this coming October, but the war has changed everything.

Karen Dahn, who works at Ohio University, on Friday discussed what her husband is doing in the peace talks and how it has affected his country.

Marcus Dahn could not be reached for this article, but may be able to discuss the situation in the near future.

"Marcus has been in Ghana since the beginning of the peace talks," Karen Dahn said. "He has been involved intensely, I would say."

The peace talks have had several ups and downs, and have included many different players, Dahn said. In addition to her husband, the talks have also included private organizations, people who want a role in the new government, representatives of the rebels and representatives of President Charles Taylor. Dahn referred to Taylor's representatives as "henchmen."

The situation is tense and much of it hinges on what the United States decides to do in Liberia, Dahn said.

"That will impact what everybody else does," Dahn said.

Over the weekend, President Taylor announced that he would leave the presidency on August 11, but he has not said if he will leave the country or not. U.S. President George W. Bush has stated that Taylor must leave Liberia.

Although the rebels are involved in the negotiations, they originally said they only wanted to remove Taylor from power, Dahn said. Now, they are saying they want to have a role in the interim government, but others in the peace negotiations are resisting that idea, Dahn said.

"They should not be rewarded for killing all of these people," she said. The demand by the rebels to be part of the interim government is causing some problems in the peace talks and is one reason the recent cease fire agreement failed, she said.

The peace talks in Ghana are tense, but Ghana is a safe place and Karen Dahn is not worried about her husband being in danger there. Liberia is a different place, though. After 14 years of war, the country "is in absolute chaos," Dahn said.

There has been no running water and no electricity in much of the country for the last 10 years, she said.

"You cannot imagine the squalor and the conditions that people are living in," she said. "The roads are completely overgrown by jungle." Hospitals and schools have closed, much of the infrastructure has been destroyed and the country is in disarray, Dahn said.

Marcus Dahn, who was born and raised in Liberia, has been involved in politics there since he was a teenager. He helped found the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) political party in 1974. In 1979, he and other party leaders organized and carried out mass demonstrations in the streets of the capital city of Monrovia to protest the decision by then President William R. Tolbert Jr., to increase the price of rice in the country. Tolbert charged Marcus Dahn and other party leaders with treason, conspiracy and espionage, and listed them as wanted dead or alive with a reward of $5,000, according to information on his web site.

Marcus Dahn has been thrown in jail several times over the years for his political views and attempts to change Liberia for the better. He met Karen Dahn in when he was working for the United States Agency for International Development in Lesotho, South Africa. Karen Dahn was working for the Peace Corps at the time. Marcus Dahn came to Athens for the first time in 1988 and studied at Ohio University where he earned a master's and a doctoral degree. In 2002, Dahn announced his campaign for the presidency of Liberia while in Athens at Ohio University.

Although he still wants to be president, or at least have a strong role in the government, it is unlikely that Marcus Dahn will have a role in the interim government, his wife said. As it stands now, the interim government will be in office for 12 months, and no one in the interim government would be able to run for office in the new government, Karen Dahn said.

"Many now are stepping back. They don't want to be restricted from future participation," Dahn said. She added that Marcus Dahn is also stepping back.

"At one point he was toying seriously with the idea of really trying to play a role in the interim government," Dahn said. She added that now he feels like he will not be a part of the interim government because it would limit is future opportunities for leading and working for the country, Dahn said.

Liberia has several questions and very few answers currently, Dahn said. No one is sure yet what the U.S. will do, what actions the rebels will take, if President Taylor will leave the country, who will lead the interim government or when a new government would take over, Dahn said. Marcus Dahn, though, is working on all of these issues and more as he tries to help bring peace and stability to Liberia.

July 8, 2003 - Friends of Liberia issue a Call to Action

Read and comment on this Press Release from July 8, 2003 from the RPCV Group Friends of Liberia calling for immediate action by the United States to help establish peace and stability in Liberia and the region. The Friends of Liberia also call for a strong, proactive leadership role of the United States in the international community to help guide the cease-fire and the transition to a democratic government; support for the Ceasefire Agreement signed by the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL and for the ongoing peace talks in Ghana to result in the establishment of a transitional government; and the establishment of a multinational stabilization force led by the United States in coordination with the United Nations, ECOWAS, and African Union. Read the story at:

The Liberian Crisis: A Call to Action*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

The Liberian Crisis: A Call to Action

Friends of Liberia (Washington, DC)

July 8, 2003
Posted to the web July 8, 2003


FRIENDS OF LIBERIA is deeply concerned by the escalating crisis in Liberia. Immediate action by the United States is required to help establish peace and stability in Liberia and the region.

The crisis is the result of the failure of the Liberian leadership and the international community to satisfactorily resolve fundamental issues of governance and national security that were the basis of the first civil conflict. The hope of many Liberians, nations, international organizations, and FOL that the government established by the 1997 elections would return Liberia to peace and stability and the rehabilitation of its economy and society has never been realized. Today Liberia is once again plunged into a political and humanitarian crisis that threatens not only the existence of the Liberian state and its people, but also the stability of the West African region.

Liberians have been driven from their homes and subjected to a level of suffering, misery, and deprivation that is beyond comprehension. Desperate Liberians have limited confidence in the commitment and ability of the government and the armed factions to provide security and basic needs. They are calling upon the international community, and especially the United States, to come to their assistance. The goal of Liberians and the international community must be the establishment of a government in Liberia under which all Liberians can live productively and securely.

To achieve this goal, FRIENDS OF LIBRIA advocates the following:

* A strong, proactive leadership role of the United States in the international community to help guide the cease-fire and the transition to a democratic government. Liberians and the international community look to the United States to assume this role because of the long historic relationship between the United States and Liberia and the strong support offered by Liberia to the United States during the world wars and the Cold War.

* Support for the Ceasefire Agreement signed by the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL and for the ongoing peace talks in Ghana to result in the establishment of a transitional government.

* The establishment of a multinational stabilization force led by the United States in coordination with the United Nations, ECOWAS, and African Union. This force will be responsible for ensuring that the ceasefire is observed by all parties and that the humanitarian community can work safely and freely throughout the country. The force would also have the responsibility of working with the Liberian government, the International Contact Group for Liberia, the UN, ECOWAS, and African Union in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of all combatants.

* A call to all countries in the region to immediately desist from providing military support to the Government of Liberia and the armed factions.

* Facilitation of Charles Taylor's exit from Liberia and his surrender to the Special Court in Sierra Leone to face the judgment of international law.

* The establishment of a broad-based civilian transitional government from which all leaders of LURD, MODEL, NPFL/NPP and other armed factions would be excluded, with a tenure of two to three years, to be headed by a president and vice president who must declare and agree that they will not be a candidate for presidency or vice-presidency in the future election.

* That such a government would be established to accomplish the following mandates: (1) to restore peace and stability to Liberia and build the confidence of the Liberian people in their government, (2) repatriate and resettle refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP), (3) lead efforts to reconcile Liberia's peoples, (4) restore Liberia's international credibility, (5) restore basic institutions and infrastructure, (6) prepare the country for free and fair elections.

* That the United States, the United Nations, the European Union immediately mobilize resources to address the humanitarian crisis in Liberia, assist in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), and in the repatriation and resettlement of refugees and IDPs.

* Support for reconciliation initiatives by civil society that seek to improve the capacity of grassroots and nongovernmental organizations in Liberia to promote conflict resolution and restore civil order. Special attention should be paid to addressing the needs of child soldiers.

* Assistance to the transitional government in paving the way toward free and fair elections through the restructuring and retraining of security forces, repatriation and resettlement of the population, restructuring the elections commission, and the education of voters. Consideration should be given to the holding of legislative and local elections at least 3 months prior to presidential elections.

FOL remains committed to working with the Liberian people to achieve a peaceful and stable society. Along with Liberians, FOL is concerned and dismayed that Liberia, the first republic in sub-Saharan Africa that played a critical role in the formation of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, has been transformed into a failed state known best for anarchy and violence. In particular, FOL supports the call of the Liberian people for an end to the cycle of violence by warlords and the establishment of a democratic civilian government so that Liberia can once again be an honorable member of the international community. FOL calls upon the US government and the international community to provide necessary support and resources in this critical transition.

Friends of Liberia is recognized internationally as a non-governmental and non-profit organization leading in caring for Liberians' education, human rights, community development and good governance. Founded in 1986, FOL has approximately 800 members including returned Peace Corps Volunteers, diplomats, missionaries, scholars, business people, and Liberians.

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