Letter: Liberian peace process grounded

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The Independent Online
Sir: The people of Liberia should have gone to the polls on 7 September for national elections to end a civil war which has claimed 150,000 lives. Not only have the elections been postponed, but no new date has been set and the UN-supervised peace process has drifted alarmingly out of control.

For more than a year, the aid agencies have been trying to extend their operations to reach all civilians in need of assistance. We have been repeatedly thwarted by insecurity, harassment, and the deliberate denial of access to people in need, totally against the spirit and letter of peace agreements signed by the factions.

Save the Children, for instance, has been attempting to distribute food aid to around 60,000 of the most vulnerable people living close to the front lines. This operation has been continually interrupted and for the last month has been suspended entirely. It has also been impossible to extend our health and social welfare programmes, which included plans to reunite 1,000 unaccompanied children with their families.

Liberia is the first post-Cold War peace process in which the UN has delegated peacekeeping functions to an African force, Ecomog. Unfortunately, Ecomog's own partiality has led it, rather like Unosom in Somalia, to become merely one more powerful faction in the conflict.

In the last few days the war has seemed close to restarting in earnest. The appalling precedents of Angola and Rwanda illustrate all too clearly what may happen when a peace process runs into the sand and there are no contingency plans to survive it.

Yours faithfully,

NICHOLAS HINTON

Director General

Save the Children

London, SE5

6 September

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