Liberia: FOL Report, 12/23/96

Liberia: FOL Report, 12/23/96

Liberia: FOL Report, 1 Date Distributed (ymd): 961223 Document reposted by APIC

This and the following posting contain a summary of Liberia: Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, a report by Friends of Liberia (FOL. The full 43-page report is available by e-mail by contacting Kevin George at Please specify whether you would like the report in Word Perfect 6.1 or ASCII (DOS) format. A report on the "Conference on the Demobilization and Reintegration of Combatants," sponsored by The New African Research and Development Agengy (NARDA) in collaboration with Friends of Liberia, is also available from


Liberia: Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, A Report on the Abuja II Peace Process December 1996

Friends of Liberia, 1616 North Fort Myer Drive, 12th Floor, Rosslyn, Virginia 22209 (Mailing Address: P.O. Box 28098, Washington, D.C. 20038). Tel: (703) 528-8345; FAX: (703) 528-7480; e-mail:


Liberia's seven-year civil war has been characterized in the media as a macabre battle of bewigged combatants and power-hungry factional leaders. Lost in the sensationalism and the shuffle of thirteen broken peace agreements is the nature of the human tragedy. At least 200,000 civilians, or almost one-tenth of the population, have died. Fifty thousand children are dead, 30,000 to 50,000 abandoned or orphaned, 15,000 drugged and forced to carry arms, and another 300,000 uprooted from their homes. A third of the population lives in refugee camps in neighboring countries and another third lives as refugees in their own country. A capital city ravaged three times by competing warlords. Churches, hospitals and schools burned to the ground. These are the true dimensions of a war that was never welcomed by the vast majority of Liberians. Yet, the war has taken the largest toll on the unarmed civilians.

The hopes of Liberians for a peaceful future were dashed in April 1996 when fighting erupted in Monrovia between factions whose leaders had been entrusted with a role in the transitional government created by the Abuja Accord of August 1995. The umbrella of security for Monrovia provided by ECOMOG, the West African peacekeeping force, collapsed. For the next two months the city lapsed into anarchy. In June, when the combatants had virtually completed their looting of Monrovia, ECOMOG began reestablishing a semblance of security.

In April, warring faction leaders seized upon an unchallenged opportunity to enhance their military and political positions. Even they appeared surprised by the fury of violence that ensured. What created this opportunity, however, was the atrophy of a peace plan because of the failure of the international community to support it with strong leadership and the resources for implementation.

Now a new plan, hammered out in August 1996 at Abuja, Nigeria by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has produced new, but uncertain, prospects for peace in Liberia. The hallmarks of the Abuja II plan are a new civilian chairman of the power- sharing Council of State, an abbreviated timetable for disarmament and elections, and the threat of sanctions against faction leaders who obstruct the peace process.

Does this new peace plan present opportunities that will prevent it from becoming the next failed peace plan for Liberia? Are there obstacles that must be overcome if the Abuja II plan, unlike its predecessor, is to be successfully implemented? Clarifying the issues surrounding these questions is the primary focus of this report.

Liberia: The Opportunities and Obstacles For Peace will concentrate on three critical components of the peace plan: (1) peacekeeping and security, (2) disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, and (3) domestic and international political support of the process. This analysis of the opportunities and obstacles for peace under the Abuja II plan is based on a October 1996 fact- finding mission organized by Friends of Liberia (FOL) and the ongoing study of the peace process by FOL's ten-member Working Group for Peace. The members of the FOL fact-finding team, and the primary writers of this report, are Kevin George, President of FOL, and Victor Tanner, a relief and demobilization specialist from Creative Associates International, Inc., a US-based consulting firm. The views expressed in this report are those of Friends of Liberia.

In conjunction with the fact-finding process that led to this report, FOL and the New Africa Research and Development Agency (NARDA), an umbrella organization for Liberian NGOs, sponsored a two-day "Conference on the Demobilization and Reintegration of Combatants." The conference, which took place on October 15 and 16 in Monrovia, was attended by over 120 representatives of domestic and international NGOs, international organizations, Liberia's transitional government, and a broad range of Liberia's religious, ethnic and traditional groups. Funding for this conference was provided by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and FOL.

FOL gratefully acknowledges Creative Associates International for its valuable contribution of Mr. Tanner's time to the Liberia fact- finding mission. We also recognize the many persons in Liberia who cooperated in the fact-finding process. High ranking government officials and representatives of international organizations provided opportunities to discuss complex issues thoroughly. The extraordinary openness of ordinary Liberians, offering their hospitality and candid views, added an important dynamic to this report. This project would not have been possible without the generous financial support of FOL's membership, and the ongoing commitment to peace and democracy in Liberia by the members of FOL's Working Group for Peace.

Summary of Findings and Recommendations -

The failure of thirteen peace agreements make Liberians and the international community skeptical about the country's latest plan for peace. The anarchy and humanitarian crisis that followed the collapse of last year's peace plan is a grim reminder of the consequences of failure. Will the Abuja II Accord follow suit or will this plan move through the stages of a successful peace process?

A partial foundation for peace exists in Liberia. There is a detailed timetable for implementation, provision for sanctions against those who obstruct the peace, a power sharing transitional government, a cease-fire that is generally but not completely holding, a civilian population with an extremely strong desire for peace and democracy, and a fledgling peacekeeping force.

It is, however, the similarity of the initial stages of the Abuja Accord to previous failed peace plans that raises concern. There is no strong plan, nor the resources to support it, for comprehensively disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating combatants. Though the capabilities of ECOMOG have been lately enhanced, its troop strength and other internal weaknesses make it unlikely that it can deter violations of the cease-fire or maintain a level of security necessary for disarmament or elections. Dragging the entire process is the failure of the international community to fully provide resources and leadership. The lack of strong momentum that threatens the Abuja II process, epitomizes a reoccurring problem in Liberia: a failure to match planning and resources with the negotiation of a peace agreement.

Security and Peacekeeping -

The minimum standards for success under the Abuja II process should be that faction leaders relinquish control over territory and fighters, combatants are demobilized and reintegrated into society, and an election is held under conditions that permit it to be judged "free and fair." Peacekeeping therefore is a vital element of this process because a stable security situation is a prerequisite to each of these objectives.

Grave questions must be raised about whether the current security situation in Liberia is stable enough to permit the transition from war to peace. ECOMOG, the West African peacekeeping force, has regained overt control of Monrovia and Buchanan, the two largest cities in Liberia. However, it is clear that the extent of this control is tenuous and limited to these urban areas. There are no guns on the streets of Monrovia, but combatants roam the city. While a cease-fire is holding in some areas of the country, fighting continues in the southeast and northwest. Armed robberies are on the rise and citizens continue to suffer from organized corruption on the part of factionalized police and immigration officials. The security of most areas of the country relies less on the strength of ECOMOG than on the good faith of the warring factions not to engage in acts of war.

The material support provided by the Netherlands, Germany and the United States over the past several months has improved the logistical capabilities of ECOMOG. A new commanding general has instilled a fresh assertiveness in the force. ECOMOG, however, continues to face severe constraints including unclear objectives, inadequate troop strength and qualitative deficiencies such as inconsistent pay and inadequate training.

The ultimate objective of ECOMOG, and the donor countries supporting it, are an important element of the interplay of security, disarmament, demobilization, and elections. This objective has not been fully and clearly explained to the people of Liberia.

It appears that the immediate goal of ECOMOG is to deploy to the more heavily populated areas of the country and create "safe havens." These safe havens would serve as launching points for programs to disarm and demobilize combatants, and areas in which voting could take place. Motivated by the apparent desire to withdraw ECOMOG by the end of 1997, ECOWAS appears to be satisfied with a solution that would leave the ultimate question of comprehensive security in the hands of an elected government. Whether conditions exist for an electoral process that is not significantly flawed, appears to be of less concern to ECOWAS than the goal of creating a government in Liberia that has the appearance of legitimacy. This overall scheme appears to have the support, if not encouragement, of the United States.

The international community does not have a history of providing strong support to ECOMOG. At times it has branded ECOMOG as part of the problem rather than the solution, yet, international humanitarian assistance providers deploy mostly in ECOMOG- controlled areas and rely on ECOMOG escorts. At a higher level, western policy-makers are content to consider ECOMOG as the appropriate solution for Liberia, but are not willing to fully commit resources to the peace-keeping effort. Some consider ECOMOG a black hole and a foregone failure, yet their lack of support makes this a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The options are fairly clear. Either the international donors fully support the needs of peacekeeping through ECOMOG or a new peacekeeping force is created to wade through the rubble of another failed peace plan. The following actions are recommended as a means to improve the existing peacekeeping force and undergird security.

Expand the objective of ECOMOG: The objective of ECOMOG must include a deployment strategy that is broader than the creation of safe havens. Deployment must deter violations of the cease-fire and promote an atmosphere for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all combatants.

Increase troop strength: Resources should be provided for transporting and equipping the additional 5,500 troops pledged by ECOWAS nations.

Supplemental salary for peacekeepers: International donors should consider underwriting a supplemental salary for ECOMOG troops, administered by a third party such as the U.N., as a way to improve morale, avert corruption, motivate increased participation by governments in the region, and increase international leverage over ECOMOG.

Credible police force: A credible national police force is an important part of Liberia's transition from war to peace. International assistance for developing this force should be conditioned on Liberia's Council of State completely disbanding both the existing factionalized police force and the "so-called" national army (AFL).

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DD&R)

The demobilization and reintegration of combatants is critical to any peace process. This may be even more true in Liberia where the violence has engulfed society. Yet, the nature of the war (numerous factions, no standing armies, "casual" fighters, porous borders, external support) and the nature of the peace (no clear winner, a weak peace accord coupled with an unrealistic schedule, regional meddling, international skepticism) make Liberia a difficult candidate for a successful DD&R process. Not only is Liberia a difficult environment for DD&R, but the international community's lack of engagement further undermines the prospects for a meaningful DD&R process. The danger is that a failure now of this process would definitively kill in the minds of donors the concept of disarming the fighters, and with it the very idea of peace.

The level of planning for DD&R is frighteningly inadequate. The peace agreement negotiated in Abuja, only four pages in length, makes no substantive reference to the modalities of DD&R or the requirement for post-agreement negotiation of these details. Its only reference to DD&R is a schedule that requires completion of the process by January 31, 1997.

The implementation of DD&R has been left to several unprepared agencies of the United Nations that lack both resources and expertise. Just weeks before the Nov. 22 start date there was no comprehensive plan for disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating combatants. The lack of planning, coupled with a void in international leadership and meager resources, make the completion of a comprehensive DD&R process by the Jan. 31 deadline an impossible proposition.

Disarmament operations began in five weapon-collection sites on Nov. 22, in keeping with the Abuja II schedule. The exercise consists of a 12-hour process that amounts to little more than registration and initial screening. Initial reports indicate that organization is poor, numbers are low and that many of the weapons handed-in are old or unserviceable. Given the logistical and security constraints to the implementation of programs in Liberia, it is unlikely that the reintegration process will begin in the short term. In the absence of political will to measure DD&R in the strictest terms, it is feared that external actors and warring faction leaders will claim a successful completion of DD&R even though large number of fighters remain outside the process.

The prospects for a successful DD&R process in Liberia are regrettably not very promising. This lack of promise, however, should not become a reason for the international community to disengage. To the contrary, anything short of a thorough and successful DD&R process will allow the factions to resume their struggle for power and keep Liberia's citizens dependent on costly international humanitarian assistance. This outcome can be avoided if there is immediate and sustained corrective action that increases the likelihood of a successful DD&R process.

(continued in part 2)


Liberia: FOL Report, 2 Date Distributed (ymd): 961223 Document reposted by APIC

This and the previous posting contain a summary of Liberia: Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, a report by Friends of Liberia (FOL. The full 43-page report is available by e-mail by contacting Kevin George at Please specify whether you would like the report in Word Perfect 6.1 or ASCII (DOS) format. A report on the "Conference on the Demobilization and Reintegration of Combatants," sponsored by The New African Research and Development Agengy (NARDA) in collaboration with Friends of Liberia, is also available from


Liberia: Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, A Report on the Abuja II Peace Process December 1996

Friends of Liberia, 1616 North Fort Myer Drive, 12th Floor, Rosslyn, Virginia 22209 (Mailing Address: P.O. Box 28098, Washington, D.C. 20038). Tel: (703) 528-8345; FAX: (703) 528-7480; e-mail:

(continued from part 1)

These actions, broken into three categories, are as follows.

Operational Recommendations:

Leadership: Reinforce leadership on the ground by appointment of a high level person with sole responsibility for coordinating the political and operational aspects of the U.N.'s important role in DD&R.

A comprehensive DD&R plan: The U.N., U.S. and other donor countries should invest in the resources and planning necessary to produce a comprehensive DD&R process.

Encampment: Even though the DD&R process has ostensibly started, plans should be made for the short-term and tightly controlled encampment of combatants. Adding this component to the process will facilitate the monitoring of disarmament and delivery of reintegration programs, improve security conditions by limiting the movement of combatants, and engage the commitment of the factions leaders by requiring them to take a proactive role in the process.

Broad sensitization program: Invest in broad sensitization programs aimed at both the fighters and the communities, enrolling the help of local NGOs, religious organizations, and traditional institutions such as the tribal councils, chiefs and zoes.


Maintain momentum: Even though the existing schedule is unrealistically abbreviated, it is important to maintain pressure on the warring factions to disarm and demobilize.

Buttress reintegration component: At the same time, work to buttress the process beyond demobilization through the planning of both demobilization activities and reintegration programs (e.g., labor-intensive community-based projects, food-for-work, etc.).

Political Recommendations:

The U.S. government (USG) and the governments participating in the International Contact Group for Liberia (ICGL) should make the resources available to strengthen the DD&R process and use this assistance, and other political influence, as leverage to encourage:

The United Nations to:

* strengthen both the operational plan for DD&R and its leadership of the process; * increase levels of cooperation and coordination between U.N. agencies involved in DD&R; * enhance UNOMIL's capability to engage in the very complex and difficult task of monitoring disarmament; * invest resources and personnel to strengthen UN-HACO's (i.e., DHA's) capabilities; * bring war crime charges against those who obstruct the peace process.


* make the 1996 Abuja Accord more specific and realistic on DD&R; * commit 5,500 additional troops to ECOMOG; * implement "personal sanctions" on persons who obstruct or fail to cooperate in the DD&R process; * tighten border controls and restrict the flow of arms into Liberia.

The Council of State and/or the Faction Leaders to:

* respect the cease-fire and disengagement agreements; * support and facilitate DD&R politically, logistically and financially; * take the lead in public awareness campaigns by sending clear messages to the fighters on the need to disarm; * insist on real disarmament objectives, rather than hailing piecemeal token shows of compliance.

Political Aspects of the Peace Process

A striking feature of the peace process is the absence of international leadership. The low level of engagement by the United Nations and the United States is of particular concern.

The role of the United Nations has declined over the past 18 months due to a lack of resources, leadership and Security Council interest. The Special Representative of the Secretary General is viewed as ineffective in bringing the weight of the UN to bear on the peace process.

The U.S. nurtured the growth of the ICGL and its recent assistance for peacekeeping has significantly raised the capabilities of ECOMOG. Yet, U.S. diplomacy, despite the appointment of a Presidential Envoy, is not at a level that complements the United States' considerable investment in humanitarian assistance. The flaw in U.S. policy is that it is not comprehensive. There is a history of the U.S. limiting its diplomatic, material and logistical support to only selective components of the peace process. The result is that important issues are not addressed and left to undermine the entire process.

Generally, the U.S. government and the U.N. seem content to let ECOWAS drive the political and diplomatic process, but ECOWAS itself suffers from severe constraints. Other western countries, with the exception of the Dutch, continue to view the process from the sidelines.

While ECOWAS appears to have a desire to address broad political issues, it does not seem to be sensitive to the intricacies of DD&R. This may be due to its lack of experience in this area. It seems willing to defer to the United Nations and the international community on DD&R issues, but there is little linkage of these issues to the political aspects of the peace process. Questions also remain whether Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire, both ECOWAS member states, are permitting the flow of arms and ammunition or the export of faction-controlled natural resources.

The faction leaders' political will for peace remains at best unclear. Serious cease-fire violations continue to occur, with fighting in the northwest (ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K) and in the southeast (NPFL and LPC). Tensions appear to be fueled by the quest to exploit and market natural resources (diamonds, timber, rubber), as well as by the desire to control as much territory as possible in view of the up-coming elections. Faction-leaders do not trust one another. The key ministries and agencies of the Transition Government are heavily factionalized. The Council of State is paralyzed by internal rifts and offers virtually no Liberian leadership for the peace process.

The resilient spirit of the Liberian people and, paradoxically, their mounting anger at the lack of progress contrasts with the wavering commitments that the warring factions and external actors have to the process of peace. The fact-finding team was repeatedly struck by the new sense of assertiveness in civil society. Most ordinary Liberians view the April 6 disaster as the ultimate betrayal. Faction leaders are no longer welcome to visit many neighborhoods in Monrovia. Tribal chiefs and elders refuse to meet with the warlords. Peace groups, whose massive peace marches in 1996 were canceled by ECOMOG, are making efforts to mobilize civil society as a force in the peace process. There is even talk of boycotting elections if the warring factions continue to hold territory or arms.

Many communities have organized "vigilante" groups that are not unlike the "community watch" programs in the United States. The "vigilantes" patrol at night with flashlights and sticks to ward off armed groups. Having lost their homes and property, they are not prepared to surrender their dignity.

Civilians are not afraid to speak out about their anger and their views about Liberia's future. There is widespread agreement on two objectives: (1) the warring factions must relinquish control over combatants through a comprehensive disarmament and demobilization process and (2) the civilians will settle for nothing less than a freely and fairly elected government.

It is clear that the Abuja II process cannot succeed if based predominantly, as it is now, on the good will of the warring factions. A combination of pressure from the civilian population, coupled with stronger leadership and closer cooperation among the external actors, can provide the political and diplomatic leverage to produce results. The following steps should be considered as part of the political and diplomatic "action plan."

Strengthen leadership and cooperation among external actors: International cooperation must be enhanced to address weaknesses in the peace process and ensure compliance by the warring factions. The ICGL can help strengthen leadership and cooperation by (1) creating ICGL subcommittees responsible for key elements of the peace process and (2) establishing a ICGL liaison team in Liberia. The U.N. Security Council should insist that the Secretary-General appoint an exceptionally skilled special representative as part of a revitalized engagement by the U.N. Liberia.

Increase international pressure on the warring factions and Council of State to take a proactive role in the peace process: The faction leaders and the Council of State should be actively engaged in activities that promote the transition to peace. The Council of State should be pressured to reform the elections commission, the judiciary, and the police force. Faction leaders must be required to commit to an encampment period for demobilized fighters.

Determine a schedule of sanctions against obstructors of the peace process: If ECOWAS is unable or unwilling to apply its own sanctions against obstructors of the peace, then the U.N. Security Council should be requested to impose a schedule of tough sanctions.

Monitor, investigate and report illegal commerce by the warring factions: The U.N. Security Council should adopt and enforce a strict embargo against all commercial activity by factions leaders or their associates, and dedicate a team of experts to monitor, investigate, and report incidents of illegal commerce involving the warring factions.

Harmonization of policies by ECOWAS nations: ECOWAS should lead the way by censuring any of its members states that pursue economic or military activities at cross-purposes to the peace process in Liberia.

Empower Liberia's non-combatants to speak out: Breaking with a practice of prohibiting "peace marches," ECOMOG should make the security arrangements to accommodate peaceful demonstrations if requested by Liberia's civilian peace groups. The donor governments could enable Liberia's peace groups through programs that provide training, contact with international support groups, technical assistance, and office equipment.


The current Liberian peace process, fruit of the August 1996 Abuja II accords, is under strain. The weakness of this process is due to factors, such as: the nature of Liberia's war, the ambiguity of the peace accord, a lack of political will by the warring factions, ECOMOG's lack of resources and cohesiveness, unclear objectives by ECOWAS, the ambivalence of the international community, and the absence of planning and resources for the demobilization effort.

These factors aside, the bleak prospects of the peace process can largely be traced to two elements: (1) lack of clarity on most aspects of the transition from war to peace and, (2) the international community's lack of resolve to address the root causes of the conflict. The United States' flight from responsibility in Liberia stands out in particular.

At this point, two scenarios can bring lasting peace and stability to the country. The first is an outright victory by a warring faction, followed by a true experiment in the transition from war to peace, and political instability to democratic governance an improbable prospect in all respects.

The second is real political engagement by the international community. To bring this war to an end, the larger international community must commit to help Liberians implement an effective solution to their conflict.

Specifically, this includes the need to:

* neutralize the economic aspects of the civil war; * hold the faction leaders personally accountable for compliance to the peace process; * achieve agreement on the details glossed over by Abuja II: elections, power-sharing, access to economic resources, disarmament and demobilization, and a future national army; * identify the resources to fully implement the accord; * ensure that the U.N. shows greater political leadership in the peace process; * elicit a true commitment to peace by ECOWAS; * determine once and for all whether ECOMOG is a viable peacekeeping force: if so support it all the way; if not, create an alternative.

It is perhaps time for new players to intervene as helpful stewards of the peace process. In particular, the OAU, keen to demonstrate Africa's crisis-solving capabilities as it forwards its claim to another U.N. Secretary-General, can show that a regional solution need not confine itself to West Africa.

Yet, it is still up to the U.S. to show true international leadership. America has good reasons to do so: its historical responsibilities in Liberia, a difficult relationship with Nigeria that must be managed, and a costly flow of tax dollars to Liberian relief operations. It is time for U.S. diplomacy to match its considerable humanitarian commitment. Relief aid, so far generously provided, can no longer serve as an excuse for the lack of political action.

The Abuja II peace process urgently demands attention to prevent it from becoming the next failed peace plan for Liberia.

- Message-Id: <> From: Date: Mon, 23 Dec 1996 21:20:52 -0500 Subject: Liberia: FOL Report

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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