Liberia: Exit Taylor, Enter the Peacekeepers

U.S. Marine in Liberia
A U.S. Marine walks along the beach in Monrovia as he is cheered by local residents, Aug. 18, 2003 (Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP-Getty Images).

Johannesburg Business Day (business-oriented), Aug. 12: Former President Charles Taylor’s resignation yesterday promises more than relief for war-weary Liberians. It also reveals a new willingness among African leaders to hold their peers accountable for misrule. Taylor’s 1997 election received universal international recognition, but the regime remained mired in conflict and criminality. Now an African-led intervention backed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has resulted in a regime change. Rebel military success was obviously crucial in overthrowing Taylor, with condemnation by the United States and others playing supporting roles. For African diplomats the big story was that tenacious traditions of noninterference are yielding to collective action against a sovereign deemed unfit to govern his state.
—John Stremlau

Paris Libération (left-wing), July 29: Never has an American military intervention been so desired, with such desperate fervor....But Bush, recently the proponent and champion of “preventive war” in Iraq has turned a deaf ear....The former republic of liberated slaves is the closest thing to a former American colony on the African continent. Its disintegration is a cancer that infects and destabilizes all of West Africa. Its president is a thug, guilty of atrocities and accused of diamond-trafficking that actually benefited Bin Laden. Yet Bush still continues to think that intervening in Liberia is not in the national security interest of the U.S....Bush’s refusal to act has already claimed many more victims than his contested intervention in Iraq.
—Patrick Sabatier

Oslo Aftenposten (conservative), Aug. 4: As in 1990, it is the West African superpower Nigeria that contributes most of the soldiers and financing to ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group). Since the 1990s, a military dictatorship has been replaced by democracy in Nigeria, and there is a hope that the morale of the soldiers has improved. It would help this morale if they, with the aid of the United States and the U.N., receive decent payment for the dangerous operation they are involved in.
—Tove Gravdal

Rome L’Unita (left-wing), July 30: In Liberia, a rapid success of a peace force is possible. There’s a reassuring example of a neighboring country, Sierra Leone, pacified thanks to a decisive intervention of the U.N. with British and Guinea troops. But the mission could be a bloody one....The risk is unacceptable to the White House, which does not have the strategic or economic interests in Africa that it has in the Middle East.

Madrid El País (liberal), Aug. 5: President Bush has resisted until the last minute intervening in a civil war that doesn’t directly threaten the interests of the United States. But Liberia is a clear case of moral imperative. If Liberia’s ongoing tragedy and its close historical links with the United States were not enough, a major argument would be that Liberia is a focus of instability and exports tribal conflict throughout West Africa, from Guinea to Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, the latter a country where Taylor is accused of war crimes.

Nairobi Daily Nation (independent), Aug. 16: In implementing the cease-fire in Liberia, the U.N. has a number of lessons to draw upon. One is that you must have a force that is adequate for all eventualities. Another is that lasting peace depends on a political agreement that both sides accept. Yet another, learned most tragically in Rwanda, is that you must intervene to protect civilian lives. Peacekeeping experiences ...have brought out these lessons and many others that can be used to improve ongoing operations.
—Peter Mwaura

Accra The Mirror (government-owned weekly), Aug. 9: While we look at the peacekeeping aspect to the peace process, there are other areas that would need to be considered in the complex situation that is emerging in Liberia. The first is the status of President Taylor....It is not enough to say that once he is out of power no one cares what happens to him....If a group like Taylor’s Anti-Terrorist unit, the elite fighting force that owes personal loyalty to the president, is disbanded, for instance, it will be a recipe for another cycle of civil war....Won’t the dropping of the indictment ensure a safer Liberia and West Africa?

Port-of-Spain Trinidad Guardian (privately-owned, independent), Aug. 10: With many African countries on the brink of permanent economic and social catastrophe, the issue of reparations must be raised. Not, as [calypso artist] Chalkdust once put it, “my grandfather’s back pay,” but as a concerted global effort to halt the collapse before it is irreversible. The Western countries have an important role because of their historical contribution to the problem and their present wealth. But Caribbean countries have an important role, too, because of our educated populations and ethnic link to the continent.