Hope for peace in Liberia

Karl Maier
Sunday 18 July 1993 23:02

LAGOS - Failure has been the result of all previous peace agreements in Liberia's civil war, and much work remains if a new deal approved at the weekend has any chance of success, writes Karl Maier.

The ceasefire scheduled to take hold on 31 July could save thousands of lives in central and northern Liberia where fighting and aid blockades by the West African intervention force have caused widespread hunger.

But the new accord was thin on details about the critical issues of disarmament, demobilisation and the shape and composition of a new transitional authority. The rebel leader Charles Taylor called for a state council of five people in which neither he, the interim President, Amos Sawyer, nor Alhaji Kromah, leader of the rival United Liberation Movement, would participate.

'I must confess it is a potential for disagreement. There is no question about that,' said Lamini Waritay, the interim government's Information Minister.

A week of United Nations- sponsored negotiations in Geneva among the two warring factions and the interim government, produced agreement on a ceasefire, a transitional authority, a ceasefire monitoring committee and the stationing of UN observers. Elections would be held in seven months.

The final agreement is to be signed at a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) on 24 July in Cotonou, capital of Benin. Although details were sketchy, Mr Taylor appeared to have won his argument for diluting Nigerian dominance of the 16,000-strong West African intervention force with troops from other African countries.

Neither Mr Taylor nor Mr Sawyer attended the Geneva talks, but both have accepted the agreement.

The war, one of Africa's most brutal civil conflicts, has killed 150,000 people since it began in 1989, according to UN estimates, and forced at least 750,000 to flee the country.

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