Liberian leader agrees to go as fighting in city intensifies

Ending a bizarre game of hide-and-seek in war-torn Monrovia, Liberia's President Charles Taylor finally sat down yesterday with regional representatives demanding his resignation, and promised to step down next Monday.

"On Monday [11 August], I will step down and the new guy will have to be sworn in," Mr Taylor told journalists after the meeting in his mansion by the Atlantic. He refused to say when he would leave Liberia, as he has promised to do previously. His departure has been demanded by President George Bush as well as west African leaders.

"The most important thing is, everything that we have said about resigning and leaving will happen," Mr Taylor said.

On Friday he dodged the high-powered delegation from neighbouring west African countries. Military commanders said Mr Taylor had gone to the front-line 90 miles away in Buchanan, Liberia's second city, although according to some reports he had been in Monrovia all along. But instead of leaving, as Mr Taylor might have hoped, the envoys stayed the night in Monrovia, where heavy fighting again erupted.

As he received the delegation yesterday, the embattled President shook hands with Mohamed Ibn Chambas of the regional Ecowas bloc. Ecowas insisted that Mr Taylor should leave office after a 1,500-strong Nigerian-led peace-keeping mission starts deploying tomorrow, though he has obtained a week's grace. The unusually forceful message from his west African peers is the result of sustained Western pressure and a growing consensus that his departure is the key to stability in Liberia.

As the leaders met, fighting intensified on the streets. The government launched an all-out offensive on the key bridges that have been the focus of combat over the past two months.

According to reports, the attack could signal a government drive to retake the port area of the capital, which rebels have held for the past two weeks. Since the port is also Monrovia's main supply line, any force that holds it will have greater leverage with the arriving peace-keepers.

But there are also signs that what little discipline exists among Mr Taylor's unruly, drugged-up militia forces is starting to break down. On Friday a gunfight erupted near one of the bridges between Sierra Leonean fighters and their Liberian comrades, who said the clash was sparked by rising tensions between the two factions.

The Sierra Leoneans are among thousands of young gunmen who roam west Africa in search of war, the product of Mr Taylor's meddling in foreign conflicts. Some came to Liberia on the heels of Sam Bockarie, a Sierra Leonean war criminal known as "Mosquito", who died violently earlier this year.

Yesterday the "Death Row Crew", a teenage militia in trademark yellow T-shirts, carried the body of a fallen comrade to Monrovia's deserted cemetery.

At the cemetery, the fighters cowered by the roadside as gunfire crackled a few hundred yards up the street. Once it cleared, they hoisted the body into a hastily prepared grave. One fighter led a short prayer: "This is our brother lying here, and he is gone. We pray we will meet him in the Kingdom of Paradise. Dust to Dust. Amen."

Fears are growing about how Mr Taylor's fighters will react when he finally goes. The President has repeatedly warned that chaos and bloodshed will follow in his wake.

Under current plans, about 300 Nigerians will land in Monrovia tomorrow, followed by a much larger contingent, including troops from Ghana, Senegal and Mali.

The Africans will receive some support -- although it is unclear what kind -- from a force of 2,000 American troops sailing in west African waters. A fleet of three US warships was scheduled to anchor off Liberia yesterday. President Bush has said they will play a "support" role to the west African force.

The Liberia mission is hotly debated in Washington. Many Republicans feel the US is already thinly stretched in Afghanistan and Iraq, while black Americans are calling for a muscular intervention.

The juxtaposition of pictures of further civilian atrocities in Monrovia with images of immobile ships stationed offshore could have a powerful mobilising impact on US public opinion.

Sources say it is for this reason that the State Department, which favours intervention, and the Pentagon are debating about whether the ships should be anchored within sight of the coast.

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements