04/06/2003
Press Release
SG/SM/8735
AFR/633



SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS LIBERIA ‘TORN APART BY DISASTROUS CONFLICT’ FOR TOO LONG;

GHANA CONFERENCE AT LAST OFFERS HOPE FOR PEACEFUL RESOLUTION


Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the opening session of the Liberian peace conference, delivered by Abou Moussa, Representative of the Secretary-General in Liberia, in Accra, Ghana, on 4 June:


For too long, Liberia has been torn apart by disastrous conflict.  Your meeting today offers hope that a peaceful resolution may at last be reached.  I congratulate all those who have agreed to take part.


We should all be grateful to the Government of Ghana for hosting the meeting, and to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for its role in organizing it.  I would also like to acknowledge the presence of several heads of State or government.  That reflects the great importance that Africa and the international community attach to bringing to an immediate end this conflict, which affects prospects for peace and progress throughout the region.


Six years ago, when elections were held in Liberia following a protracted civil war, we all hoped that this would usher in a brighter future of genuine national reconciliation, democracy and development.  Yet, Liberia slid back into civil turmoil, and is now perilously close to all-out collapse.  More than half the population is now internally displaced, and most of the country has become inaccessible to humanitarian operations.  We must forge a common front to avert an even greater disaster, which would disrupt or destroy hundreds of thousand of innocent lives.


As a first step forward, all parties need to agree on a ceasefire and an end to violence.  Not only would such a step alleviate the suffering of the people, it would also create a favourable environment for negotiating a solution to the country’s multiple challenges.  Indeed, the events of recent years have demonstrated the high cost and utter futility of the military option.


The United Nations remains strongly committed to working closely with Liberia, ECOWAS and the rest of the international community to reach a peaceful resolution to the Liberian conflict.  But lasting peace cannot be imposed from the outside.  Liberian leaders must demonstrate a genuine and concrete readiness to restore peace and stability to their country.  It is they who must uphold this responsibility, make the compromises and difficult choices needed for peace, and respond to the overwhelming pleas of the Liberian people for peace.  I hope they will take full advantage of the window of opportunity offered by this gathering.


* *** *