Taylor's Liberia becoming pariah nation

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IRIN - Liberia, 20 January - Following Liberia's continued support to the Sierra Leonean RUF terrorists and attacks destabilising Guinea, the UN is now considering to impose trade and travel embargos on the country. Charles Taylor, President of Liberia, has been partly responsible for armed conflicts and economic criminality in the region for over a decade.

On Thursday, the US proposed a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that could ban Liberia's diamond and timber exports and stop international flights into the country. The draft resolution refers to an earlier conclusion by the Security Council that "the bulk of RUF diamonds leave Sierra Leone through Liberia, and that such illicit trade cannot be conducted without the permission and involvement of Liberian government officials at the highest levels, including President Charles Taylor."

The American UN Ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, maintains that there is "overwhelming evidence" that "the Government of Liberia is actively supporting the RUF at all levels, including through the provision of training, weapons and related materiel, logistical support, a staging ground for attacks and safe haven for retreat and recuperation." Equally, Taylor's Liberia is accused of giving "financial and military support" for the "rebel groups in Guinea." Presented with this evidence, the UN must conclude with sanctions, say the Americans and the British.

The draft resolution calls on all states to "prohibit the direct or indirect import of all rough diamonds from Liberia to or through its territory." It also bans the export of Liberian timber, as UN experts earlier have found proof that the principals of Liberia's timber industry were involved in a variety of illicit activities, and that "large amounts of the proceeds are used to pay for extra-budgetary activities, including the acquisition of weapons." Further, the draft resolution imposes a flight ban on Liberian-registered aircraft, and broadens the arms embargo first imposed in November 1992. It would also impose a travel ban on senior Liberian officials and military commanders and adult family members. 

Charles Taylor was a warlord himself, managing to grasp power in Monrovia after a cruel civil war in Liberia. The Liberian civil war and Taylor's later Government in Monrovia have been the main reasons behind the nine years of civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone and the current war-like situation in parts of neighbouring Guinea. 

Both the Sierra Leonean and Guinean Governments supported the legal Liberian Government while Taylor was trying to topple it. To eliminate the threat from Sierra Leone, Taylor decided to destabilise the country by training and funding what was to become the RUF, one of the most brutal terrorist armies ever seen. As the RUF got control over the rich diamond mining areas of Sierra Leone, Taylor's Liberia provided the main outlet for the RUF's diamond trade, and keeps providing it also after the UN embargo on Sierra Leonean diamond trade. 

As the situation in Sierra Leone is becoming quieter and the diamond embargo is starting to show some effects, Taylor seems to be focussing on his second historical "enemy", Guinea. Brutal cross-border attacks on Guinean civilians and Sierra Leonean and Liberian have almost depopulated the Guinean south in few months. The RUF and Taylor are held responsible for organising the attacks directly or indirectly. 

By imposing sanctions on Liberia, the UN would treat Charles Taylor as the "African Saddam or Milesovic" - a title not so far-fetched regarding the human misery he has to answer for. Unlike Iraq, sanctions could work in Liberia. The poor are in very little degree connected to the monetary economy and would thus be little affected by sanctions. The warlord regime, though, is enriching itself on the natural resources to come under embargo. 

Scenes of schoolchildren protesting against the possible sanctions have already been masterminded by the Liberian Government and broadcasted, to remind the world opinion on the sanctions against Iraq, so devastating to the Iraqi population. On 12 January, hundreds of Liberian schoolchildren marched in protest against the proposed embargo. The statement of the demonstrators was read by Liberia's Minister of Education, Evelyn Kandakai, documenting who had in reality organised the "protest". 

Sanctions would "retard their growth and development", Kandakai stated. Sanctions might permit growth and development in Sierra Leone and Guinea, the masterminds of the sanctions consider. It is still not clear when the UN Security Council will vote on the issue, but chances are high for its approval.

Source: Based on UN sources, IRIN and afrol archives Texts and graphics may be reproduced freely, under the condition that their origin is clearly referred to, see Conditions.

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