September 10, 2003 - New York Times: Friends of Liberia send message to Bush pleading for a major intervention to save the nation

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By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 11:23 pm: Edit Post

Friends of Liberia send message to Bush pleading for a major intervention to save the nation





Read and comment on this op-ed from the New York Times that some American officials argue that the United States has an abiding interest in this nation's fate, beyond teaching soldiers to salute and shoot straight. "You can talk about a strategic interest here, and you should," one said. The White House has expressed little desire to spend the years and billions needed to rebuild Liberia, much less to commit more troops. A sense of obligation haunts a group of some 800 former United States diplomats, Peace Corps workers, missionaries and other Americans. The group, called Friends of Liberia, recently sent a message to the Bush administration pleading for a major intervention to save the nation. Read the story at:

Realpolitik: How Much Does Liberia Matter?*

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



Realpolitik: How Much Does Liberia Matter?

By TIM WEINER

ONROVIA, Liberia For a generation, says T. Esau Carr, his nation has been a living hell. But he remembers when Liberia was "an island in Africa, an island of affluence, of openness."

Mr. Carr, 65, a retired oil company manager, said the good life flowed from "our exposure to the American system, our experiences with Americans."

America has been here since Liberia's 19th-century beginnings. The question is what it will do now. After 23 years of conflict, this is a totally failed state by most measures, the poorest country in the world.

When 200 United States marines landed here on Aug. 15, they were met with joy and profound relief. The chaos receded and a rebel siege of the capital, Monrovia, was lifted. Three-quarters of the troops have since returned to three warships anchored offshore, with the remainder scheduled to withdraw by October. The few marines still here get smiles and waves when they pass through town.

The marines here represented the first significant American military presence in Liberia since the reign of Samuel K. Doe, the Army master sergeant who seized power in a 1980 coup and ruled throughout the decade. Under President Reagan, Mr. Doe received half a billion dollars in American aid from 1981 to 1985, along with an engraved invitation to the White House.

But the coup began a cycle of violence and revenge that has destroyed the country, and killed perhaps 250,000 people in a nation of three million. "We made some kind of goal-line stand," said a senior American official here. "Exactly what else we will do now remains to be seen."

At the moment, Washington seems eager to hand off the ball to the United Nations. Jacques P. Klein, the United Nations envoy here, will ask the Security Council to dispatch up to 15,000 peacekeeping soldiers to Liberia from around the world, to arrive by year's end. None of those blue-helmeted troops would be Americans.

Mr. Klein, and American officials here, strongly suggested that any future American military role could be limited to restructuring and training a small Liberian army. The costs of humanitarian programs to rebuild the country will run to uncounted billions, and where that will come from is anyone's guess.

Some American officials here argue that the United States has an abiding interest in this nation's fate, beyond teaching soldiers to salute and shoot straight. "You can talk about a strategic interest here, and you should," one said.

Liberia has become the epicenter of instability in West Africa, spreading war and misery across its borders. The misrule of Charles Taylor, the president who fled from here on Aug. 11, helped make Monrovia an open city for weapons, drugs, diamonds, dummy companies and stateless warriors.

Some fear that Liberia's anarchy could threaten Americans. "Unless the free world comes in and helps re-establish some form of democracy and a government, it could quickly lapse into a haven for terrorism," Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said during a quick visit to Monrovia last week. "That terrorism could be transferred from here to any place in the Western world, and indeed to the United States."

Does that constitute an American strategic interest? The White House has expressed little desire to spend the years and billions needed to rebuild Liberia, much less to commit more troops.

"A national interest?" asked the Roman Catholic archbishop of Liberia, Michael Kpakala Francis, 67. "They had one during the Second World War," he said. "They had one during the cold war." Now, he said, "they see no national interest but they have a moral obligation."

That sense of obligation haunts a group of some 800 former United States diplomats, Peace Corps workers, missionaries and other Americans. The group, called Friends of Liberia, recently sent a message to the Bush administration pleading for a major intervention to save the nation.

"Americans made Liberia and Liberia has been loyal to America since the 19th century," the message said. "It is simply right and just to step up now in this small tragic place to project the ideals and values of America."

But some Liberians say they have learned not to count on the United States too much.

"All my friends think the American government is going to transfer a massive amount of funds here to help build roads and schools and such," said Chauncey Cooper, 66, a former Liberian diplomat.

"They say America recognizes a moral debt to Liberia," Mr. Cooper said. "I know that it's not necessarily true."



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





Read and comment on this Press Release 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)

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

Washington

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.
April 26, 2002 - Friends of Liberia Calls For Release of Human Rights Activist and Reopening of Independent Newspaper



The Friends of Liberia have a long history of involvement in Human Rights in Liberia. Read and comment on this previous statement issued by the Friends of Liberia in 2002 calling for the release of a Liberian Human Rights activist and reopening of an independent newspaper at:

Friends of Liberia Calls For Release of Human Rights Activist and Reopening of Independent Newspaper

Friends of Liberia Calls For Release of Human Rights Activist and Reopening of Independent Newspaper

(A Statement Issued on April 26, 2002)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted April 29, 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Friends of Liberia (FOL), a non-profit non-partisan advocacy group, has urged the government of Liberia to immediately release human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe and allow the independent Analyst newspaper to reopen. FOL is also urging the government to stop its harassment of the Movement for the Defense of Human Rights (MODHAR), whose office in Monrovia was surrounded by police after the group put out a press release condemning Gongloe's arrest. FOL views the arrest and beating of Gongloe Wednesday (April 24), the closure of the Analyst on Thursday (April 25), and the move against MODHAR as blows against freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Liberia. Such violations of basic human rights only serve to further destabilize the country already suffering from a guerilla war in its north and west and from international sanctions. They also make it even less likely that international donors and investors will provide the money and support Liberia sorely needs to rebuild its economy following the full-scale civil war of 1989-1997.

"I believe it will be difficult for the Government of Liberia to gain the respect and assistance it needs to direct Liberia's development, if agents of the state continue attacks on basic liberties such as freedom of the press and on well-known and respected human rights advocates," said FOL Vice President Jim Gray. "I urge President Taylor and other officials of the Government of Liberia to free Mr. Gongloe and to allow all newspapers to exercise their freedom to publish."

Gongloe was arrested late Wednesday and placed in a prison cell where he was reportedly beaten so severely that when his lawyer, James Zotaa, arrived, Gongloe could no longer stand up. Police later took Gongloe to a hospital for treatment of cuts, bruises, loss of hearing in one ear, and pain that may indicate internal bleeding. Police Chief Paul Mulbah told the Associated Press that Gongloe was detained for making a statement that was "inimical to state security," but gave no further details. We understand that the Government of Liberia asserted in a press release April 25 that Gongloe insulted President Taylor in Gongloe's March speech to the Mano River Union Civil Society Movement in Conakry, when he is alleged to have said that the Liberian civil war, launched by Taylor, resulted in region-wide conflict. According to a transcript of the speech, however, Gongloe said, "...since December 24, 1989, when a group of Liberians launched an attack on Liberia from the Ivory Coast, the Mano River Basin has seen no peace and therefore no development."

It may be left to the rule of law to determine whether Gongloe's remarks justified an arrest when President Taylor is not even mentioned in the "offending" statement. To our knowledge formal charges have not yet been filed. In any case, his immediate release from custody by either dropping the matter or, at least, making the mandatory charge and allowing his release on bail should be immediate. At this point, we urge the Government of Liberia to demonstrate their sincerity in regretting the beating of Gongloe while under the protective custody of the Government by insuring that he has the best medical care available as determined by his family.

The Analyst newspaper was shut down Thursday by police. The government has not given a reason for what Police Chief Paul Mulbah said was a permanent ban, but, according to the Associated Press, Analyst Managing Editor Stanley Seakor said Mulbah told him it had something to do with the state of emergency. On Thursday the Analyst ran the latest in a series of articles criticizing a state of emergency the government declared in February. The Analyst also ran the text of Gongloe's speech.

Friends of Liberia, whose 800 members include former Peace Corps Volunteers, missionaries, U.S. government officials, business people, and scholars who have worked in the country, and Liberians, seeks to promote democracy and development there. FOL sent a team to observe the 1997 elections that brought President Charles Taylor to power and since then has urged his government to foster reconciliation and respect human rights. The arrest of Gongloe and the closure of the Analyst are the latest in a series of human rights violations by agents of the Liberian government.

About Friends of Liberia: FOL is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to Liberia. It is recognized by the U.S. Agency for International Development as a private voluntary organization and is a member of InterAction, the association of international humanitarian organizations.

CONTACT: For further information, please contact Friends of Liberia, 4300 16th Street, Washington, DC 20011, email Liberia@FOL.org.

Friends of Liberia (FOL) is dedicated to helping Liberians achieve peace, democracy and the reconstruction of their nation. The fourteen-year old organization, with the support of its 800 members, has conducted fact?finding missions, provided relief and medical assistance, implemented community?based reconstruction projects, brought representatives of warring factions together in public forums and conflict resolution workshops, and advocated for effective policies on Liberia. Friends of Liberia's 34-member delegation observed the July 1997 election in Liberia.

Friends of Liberia's most recent projects have trained Liberian teachers and built the capacity of Liberian Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

Friends of Liberia is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is recognized and registered by the U.S. Agency for International Development as a private voluntary organization (PVO). The organization is a member of InterAction, the association of international humanitarian organizations, and affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association.

Friends of Liberia may be contacted at 4300 16th St., NW, Washington DC 20011
Telephone/FAX: (202) 545 0139
Email: Liberia@FOL.org Website: www.FOL.org
© The Perspective
P.O. Box 450493
Atlanta, GA 31145
Website: www.theperspective.org
E-mail: editor@theperspective.org




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