BY BRIAN TAYLOR
Washington is stepping up its probes for direct military intervention in Liberia. United Nations officials "are strongly proposing that Liberia be taken over by the U.N. as a trust territory," James Jonah, former UN undersecretary-general for political affairs, said May 16.
Meanwhile U.S. battleships have moved in close to the Liberian shore over the last few weeks, and increasingly U.S. politicians, commentators, and the big-business media are pressing for direct intervention in the West African country. A May 12 New York Times article asserted that "many in West Africa feel that the United States, long the dominant foreign influence over Liberian politics, has badly skirted its duty to help the crisis." One senior West African official reportedly told the Times, "There is no substitute for a strong American role in a situation like this."
Even Liberian celebrities are being used to call for U.S. intervention. "The United Nations should come in and take over Liberia, not temporarily, but for life," said international soccer star George M. Weah. "The alternative is just letting us die as a people."
Tens of thousands of refugees have fled Liberia since an upturn in fighting in a six-year civil war.
Two major forces are at war in Liberia -the National Patriotic Front, led by Charles Taylor and currently in power, and the forces lead by Roosevelt Johnson, a member of the former national army under the previous regime of the late Samuel Doe.
A "peacekeeping" force called ECOMOG, made up of soldiers from nine West African nations, was started with a stated task of demobilizing and disarming both Liberian groups and to create stability. The 8,000-member force has not brought peace. Reports from civilians in Liberia show that ECOMOG, if anything, is an integral part of the violence, corruption, and gangsterism in Liberia.
While Ghanaian deputy foreign minister Mohamed Ibon Chambas described ECOMOG as "doing everything possible to create a safe haven" for devastated civilians, an article in the Washington Post stated that during recent fighting reporters saw "the peacekeepers loading one of their trucks with clothing removed from a downtown shop." Some Liberians say the word ECOMOG stands for "Everything that Could Move is Gone."
ECOMOG troops have also been accused of selling arms to rival camps, looting food, and generally harassing civilians. A UN official described the troops as "not motivated, not rotated and not paid enough." The Nigerian government, which provides a substantial percentage of forces in Liberia, has not paid its soldiers in four months.
"For the longest time, we watched as ECOMOG robbed our country and we just accepted it as the price of peace," said George Boley, Liberia's vice-president of the Council of State, "They have not been able to keep the peace and they still want to rob us. Maybe they should just go back home."
Refugees kept at sea
The civil war, in which some 150,000 have died, has caused a massive exodus from Liberia. Thousands have boarded fishing boats and barges hoping to get asylum elsewhere in the West Africa. One overcrowded boat with 2,000 refugees remained at sea for ten days. In country after country it was rejected, urged to return to Liberia, and left adrift on the Atlantic. This vessel, the Bulk Challenge, has one toilet. Disease and sicknesses were rampant aboard the ship and since the ship was not a passenger vessel there were too few accommodations.
Refugees kept at sea
Passengers said they were forced by ECOMOG to pay $75 to board the ship. The times aid was given to those aboard the boat it was immediately seized by ECOMOG and sold at very high prices. In Ghana, ten days after the boat set sail and the brutal ordeal began, under much international pressure, those refugees who the government deemed "eligible" were granted asylum.
In another development involving imperialist military
intervention in Africa, about 1,000 French troops along with tanks
spread across the capital of the Central African Republic May 20.
Three French soldiers were killed as Paris sought to crush an army
revolt. The French troops were mobilized from bases in the Central
African Republic and other neighboring countries to rescue the
regime of President Ange-Félix Patassé.
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