DETERIORATING SITUATION IN LIBERIA DEMONSTRATES FACTION LEADERS' LACK OF COMMITMENT TO PEACE, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD19960528 Speakers Express Support for Secretary-General's Proposal to Extend Mandate of UNOMIL for Three Months
The deteriorating situation in Liberia demonstrated the faction leaders' lack of commitment to peace and jeopardized international support for peace efforts there, speakers said this morning, as the Security Council met to consider the situation in that country. Those leaders were urged to put the need of the Liberian people before their own personal ends, in order to avoid the sort of situation which prevailed in Somalia.
Meeting three days prior to the expiration of the current mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), Council members expressed support for the proposal to renew UNOMIL's mandate for three months, to enable the parties to demonstrate respect for their agreements under the Abuja accords of August 1995, which were seen as the foundation for a political settlement of the Liberian civil war.
Speakers urged the faction leaders to abide by the conditions for reactivation of the Abuja Agreement, as stated at a 7 May meeting at Accra of the Foreign Ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Among its provisions, those conditions called on all factions to restore the cease-fire, withdraw from Monrovia and restore its safe haven status, allowing unimpeded deployment there of the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG).
The Accra meeting also called for ensuring inclusiveness of the National Transitional Government, resumption of the disarmament and demobilization of the combatants and a return to the programme for democratization, leading to free and fair elections. It was declared there should be no international recognition for any government which seized power by force.
The United Nations Charter must be amended to ensure that any subregional peace-keeping operation sanctioned by the Security Council would be financed by the United Nations, the representative of Liberia said. Such a measure would support the pioneering effort of ECOWAS in the Liberian conflict. It was crucial that efforts be undertaken to strengthen ECOMOG, to enable it to fulfil its mandate under the Abuja Agreement.
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The continued flow of weapons to Liberia, despite the Council's arms embargo, was scandalous, the representative of Chile said. The main weapon- producing countries -- many of whom sat at the Council table -- must implement stronger measures to make that arms embargo a reality. He suggested that alternate means of financing ECOMOG might be arranged under the Bretton Woods institutions.
"The time for this Council to act is now, to secure unconditional logistic and financial support for ECOMOG, coupled with humanitarian and development assistance to Liberia, to get the job done", the representative of Ghana said. A solution now would be cheaper in terms of human lives and material resources, than it would be after ECOMOG was compelled to withdraw, as a result of inaction by the international community.
The international community could not yield to despair in the face of the deteriorating situation in Liberia, Algeria said. It had a political and moral responsibility to help end the suffering of the Liberian people. The representative of Guinea-Bissau was among those stressing that all factions must respect the status of humanitarian workers. Egypt said the withdrawal of ECOMOG from Liberia could affect the entire subregion.
Statements were also made by the representatives of the United States, Honduras, Botswana, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Italy (for the European Union and associated States), United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The meeting, which was called to order at 11:15 a.m., was adjourned at 2:25 p.m.
The Security Council meets this morning to consider the situation in Liberia. It has before it a progress report of the Secretary-General on the situation (document S/1996/362), dated 21 May, which contains the recommendation that the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) until 31 August. During that period, the Mission's strength, which currently consists of 25 civilian and military personnel, would remain approximately at its present level, depending on the security situation on the ground.
The Secretary-General states that since the outbreak of fighting on 6 April the faction leaders in Liberia have clearly demonstrated their disregard for the aspirations of the Liberian people for peace. They have shown wanton disrespect for the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the international community and have forced most international personnel to relocate to other countries.
The Liberian civil war has engaged ECOWAS for over six years, he continues. At their 7 May meeting in Accra, the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers reaffirmed that the Abuja Agreement was the only basis for peace in Liberia and agreed on a number of steps necessary to resume its implementation. The ECOWAS warned the faction leaders that if they did not implement those steps, it would reconsider its involvement at it summit meeting in early August. The withdrawal of the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) could be catastrophic for the country and the subregion, he stresses. Should that occur, UNOMIL would have no choice but to do the same. He urges the faction leaders to consider carefully the consequences of their actions.
The Secretary-General goes on to say that the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers agreed that the transitional Government must be inclusive and the Council of States must resume its work as envisaged in the Abuja Agreement. In that regard, the Secretary-General has requested his Special Representative to encourage greater input into the political process from a broader spectrum of civilian leaders and to continue to urge the transitional Government to restore the atmosphere necessary for the democratic process to flourish. In the absence of functioning institutions to organize the electoral process, he notes that it is unlikely that the elections called for in the Abuja Agreement could be held in August.
He states that following the August ECOWAS summit, he will submit to the Council recommendations on the role, if any, that UNOMIL can play after 31 August. Those recommendations will depend on the decisions that ECOWAS takes regarding its own role in Liberia. They will also be contingent upon implementation by the faction leaders of the concrete steps necessary to restore basic law and order in Monrovia and elsewhere. The steps must begin
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with the strict observance of the cease-fire, the withdrawal of fighters from Monrovia, the deployment of ECOMOG throughout the city and the restoration of its status as a safe haven. The willingness of the faction leaders to engage in genuine negotiations will no doubt be a critical factor in determining the continued involvement of the international community in Liberia.
The involvement of UNOMIL in Liberia marked the first time the United Nations had deployed a peace-keeping mission in parallel with that of a regional organization, the Secretary-General adds. The role foreseen for UNOMIL was predicated upon the assumption that ECOMOG would be in a position to perform the wide-ranging tasks entrusted to it. Unfortunately, ECOMOG never received the manpower and resources necessary to enable it to carry out its responsibilities effectively. It would be an illusion to think that this innovative model of peace-keeping will be able to succeed in Liberia under current conditions unless sufficient and reliable sources of funding are provided, and unless the force is strengthened, the Secretary-General concludes.
The report also includes an annex containing a detailed account of the fighting among the factions in Monrovia between 6 and 29 April. The fighting was sparked off by the attempted arrest of General Roosevelt Johnson, the leader of a wing of the United Liberation Movement of Liberation for Democracy (ULIMO-J) faction. That event had been preceded by skirmishes between Alhaji Kromah's and General Johnson's wing of ULIMO and between the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and the Liberian Peace Council (LPC).
WILLIAM BULL (Liberia) said the Abuja Agreement had addressed the composition of the Council of State to include a civilian Chairman, the heads of the three main warring factions and two other civilians. Its installation on 1 September 1995 had raised hopes for success of the peace process. Regrettably, Liberia today appeared to be no closer to peace than it was when the war began in December 1989. The Abuja Agreement -- which called for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants into civil society, the repatriation of Liberian refugees and the holding of free and fair elections in August under international supervision -- remained largely unimplemented.
The 6 April resumption of hostilities was continuing, he said. The cease-fire and other measures called for by ECOWAS had not been honored. There was a breakdown of law and order, and the Council of State was unable to function since some of its members had left the country and had not returned home because their safety could not be guaranteed. The same was true for most of the personnel of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations. The plight of the Liberian civilians remained even more precarious. The recent report of Liberians fleeing the country, which received widespread
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international media attention, was a sad commentary on the country's present state of affairs. Liberia now appeared to be a pariah nation whose citizens, fleeing a war in chartered vessels, had to travel from port to port while appeals were made that countries should honour their international legal obligation to grant asylum to them.
Those entrusted to lead the country out of the fratricidal conflict appeared to have become numb to its misery and suffering, he said. In spite of the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council, guns and other weapons of destruction continued to enter the country. He urged the Council to demand strict compliance with the embargo, and to put in place penalties against any known violators. A sanctions regime should be considered against those who aided and abetted the war efforts of the various warring factions. Particular reference was made to those multinational corporations whose untamed propensities for acquiring from the warring factions Liberia's rich mineral deposits and timer far below the fair market value without benefit to the Liberian people had helped to prolong the war. "No doubt this unconscionable quest had defined the duplicity and ambivalence in certain quarters regarding the Liberian crisis."
He said Liberians were appealing to the Council of State to end the hostilities in the shortest time. Since the outbreak of the fighting, diplomatic efforts by ECOWAS, the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and friendly governments sought to nudge the Council of State in the direction of cessation of hostilities, the institution of a lasting cease- fire and the withdrawal of the fighting forces from Monrovia and the deployment of ECOMOG in the city.
it was crucially important to strengthen ECOMOG in order that its mandate under the Abuja Agreement could be carried out, he said. He again appealed to the international community for logistical and other support for ECOMOG. It must not be forgotten that the Monitoring Group took on a responsibility that should have been shouldered by the United Nations. If the pioneering effort by ECOWAS was to bring to fruition the Charter provision of encouraging subregional initiatives in the peaceful settlement of disputes, the Charter must be amended to ensure that a mechanism was put in place whereby any subregional peace-keeping operation sanctioned by the Security Council would be financed by the United Nations.
Regrettably, the ECOWAS countries had threatened that because of the apparent lack of political will by the leaders of the warring factions and the lack of support of the international community, they might be forced to withdraw from Liberia, he said. As the situation in Liberia remains grave in view of the continuation of the fighting, he appealed to the Chairman of ECOWAS, President Jerry Rawlings, to reconsider convening the Summit by next month. In view of the growing uncertainty regarding the continuing role of ECOMOG in Liberia, it was imperative that the country not be abandoned. A
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fresh look must be taken at earlier proposals regarding an enhanced role by the United Nations in the peace process. He commended to the Council the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's ninth report, particularly on the deployment of a United Nations peace-keeping force in Liberia. As envisaged by the Secretary-General, ECOMOG would be incorporated into the larger force. That arrangement would eliminate the logistics and financial deficiencies which had prevented ECOMOG from carrying out its mandate. It would also ensure the active engagement of the United Nations in resolution of the Liberian conflict.
Following the outbreak of fighting on 6 April, Liberians throughout the United States had demanded an immediate end to the present hostilities and had expressed the view that, in a gun-free environment, Liberians had the political will and capability to determine their own destiny, he continued. The Liberian people had called for enabling conditions, wherein combatants were disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into civil society, where their compatriots residing abroad as refugees could be repatriated and free and fair elections could be organized under international supervision so that everyone, including military leaders, could freely participate in the election of the country's leaders. They ardently believed that only a democratically elected leadership could ensure their freedom and protection.
He expressed heartfelt thanks to all friendly governments, donor agencies and humanitarian organizations that continued to render assistance to the Liberian people in their hour of need. He also expressed regrets for the suffering and losses which had been sustained as a result of the recent resumption of fighting in Liberia. What had unfolded in Liberia was a human tragedy and it was a moral imperative that men of good will act to bring relief.
EDWARD W. GNEHM, Jr. (United States) said that over the past two months, the situation in Liberia had descended from hope into despair. Driven by warlords, Liberia had careened off the road to peace and national reconciliation. Only a few months ago, a transitional Council of State had been installed and there were expectations of elections in August. Liberia's leaders were expected to complete the remaining steps required under the Abuja Agreement so that Liberians could finally enjoy the peace they had sought for six long years of civil war. Now, however, fighting was seriously jeopardizing the Abuja peace process and had reversed the gains made over the past few months.
The problem in Liberia was a struggle among a few elites for power, he said. In April, those faction leaders had demonstrated their commitment to their own interests rather than to the good of their people. They had turned Monrovia from a safe haven into a war zone, and looted the equipment of relief agencies. Today, fighters openly drove convoys of stolen United Nations and non-governmental organization vehicles around Monrovia. The United States was
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forced to conduct an emergency evacuation of most of the international community from Liberia. Only a few UNOMIL military observers remained, and the fighting often precluded them from carrying out the most basic tasks of their mandate.
"What can we do? The answer is not to abandon Liberia", he said. The international community must remain engaged in the efforts to provide relief and bring peace to the people of Liberia. The regional countries of ECOWAS had taken the lead in that respect, developing a plan to restart the peace process. Its "Mechanism for Returning Liberia to the Abuja Agreement" provided for restoration of the cease-fire, withdrawal of all fighters from Monrovia, deployment of ECOMOG throughout the city, and restoration of Monrovia as a safe haven. Those steps were necessary if there was to be continued international involvement. The United States commended the ECOWAS countries for their clarity of purpose and their dedication in the face of tremendous difficulties. The Security Council must support their important initiative.
"This is Liberia's last chance", he said. "The Liberian warlords must order their forces to disarm and leave Monrovia in peace, ECOMOG commanders must reassert their control of Monrovia and the Council of State must begin to act like the transitional Government envisaged in the Abuja Agreement."
By the end of this week, the Council must decide on the future of UNOMIL, he said. The United States supported extending UNOMIL's mandate for three months. That position was based on a hope that Liberians would take hold of their destiny and recover their country from the grip of those who wished to destroy it. Over the next three months, the United States would watch closely to see if its hopes were fulfilled. If not, the United States and the Council would have to re-evaluate their approach. He urged all those in Liberia, particularly the faction leaders, to use that time to meet the conditions ECOWAS has laid out and offer their people the chance for peace.
NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt) said the deterioration of the situation in Liberia was a matter of concern, particularly at a time when there had been such hope for progress towards peace. It was regrettable that a lack of genuine political will by the faction leaders had led to the current situation. Their reneging on any previous commitment had led Liberia to complete constitutional collapse and anarchy. That situation could not continue. It was inconsistent with the very name of Liberia, as the "land of liberty".
Egypt had followed closely the efforts of ECOWAS to prevent further deterioration of the situation in Liberia, he said. Its recent meeting had cited the need for all factions to participate in the decision-making process. It had affirmed the non-recognition of any government which came to power through force, and the need for compliance with the cease-fire and to ensure
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the safety of all citizens. Yesterday's news of the exit of the combatants from the capital and ECOMOG's deployment in Monrovia was somewhat encouraging. Monrovia's status as a safe haven must be restored.
He expressed Egypt's appreciation for the evacuation of diplomatic personnel from Monrovia, including the Egyptian Ambassador. Egypt reaffirmed its full support to ECOWAS and ECOMOG. It was premature to judge that regional peace initiative as a failure. Those efforts should be supported. The withdrawal of ECOMOG from Liberia could be catastrophic, and might affect the entire subregion. Egypt supported the renewal of UNOMIL for three months, while monitoring the situation in Liberia. The faction leaders must realize that ECOMOG's presence in Liberia provided an opportunity which must not be missed.
Thirteen peace agreements in Liberia had failed, to date, he said. It was unacceptable for the Liberian people to be deprived of their legitimate right to life and development. The first step the factional leaders could take to prove their good intentions would be to return the property looted from the United Nations and embassies. The international community must not abandon Liberia.
GERARDO MARTINEZ BLANCO (Honduras) expressed concern over the continued hostilities and deteriorating security situation in Liberia. They represented a threat to the peace process and negatively affected human rights and humanitarian assistance. The lack of determination by the parties to abide by the Abuja Agreement or the cease-fire could mean the loss of international support. The international community would not wish to participate in a peace process in the absence of political will by the parties themselves. Honduras shared the Secretary-General's appeal to the parties to implement the measures approved by ECOWAS in Accra on 7 May, aimed at reactivating the Abuja Agreement.
He stressed the need for the parties to adopt concrete measures to restore public order throughout Liberia. The role played by ECOMOG in facilitating a peaceful settlement of the crisis was of continuing importance, despite its limited personnel and resources. The ECOMOG should be provided with adequate financing and the necessary human resources to carry out its functions as a peace-keeping force. The UNOMIL continued to play an important role in support of the efforts of ECOWAS to facilitate resumption of the peace-process. Honduras was ready to support a three-month extension of UNOMIL's mandate.
MOTHUSI D.C. NKGOWE (Botswana) said the resumed fighting in Liberia had reversed the gains of a promising peace process. The senseless blood-letting in Monrovia, which had been a safe haven for most of the six years of civil war, brought despair where there had been hope for a peaceful future. The Liberian factions leaders and parties bore ultimate responsibility for leading
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their country and people through a path of merciless killings and wanton destruction of property. It was incomprehensible how people who aspired to the leadership of their country could at the same time reduce it to a wasteland and its capital to a ghost town. The resumption of hostilities had depicted the faction leaders as power-hungry, self-seeking men without love for country and people. It was clear that no faction leader could now hope to impose his will on the others. In other words, the faction leaders had no choice but to resume negotiations aimed at the peaceful resolution of the Liberian national crisis.
The most painful aspect of the tragedy in Liberia was its predictability, he continued. The international community was fully aware from the time of the signing of the Abuja Agreement that the success of the peace process depended on the speedy disengagement, disarmament and demobilization of the combatants. There was ample information on the financial and material resources necessary to get the job done. Yet, the appeals of the ECOMOG for financial and logistical resources had not elicited sufficient and effective response from the international community. Those African States of ECOWAS had made tremendous sacrifices in the cause of peace in Liberia. It was unfortunate that signs of "Liberia fatigue" were starting to manifest themselves among them. They were doing an exemplary job in regional peace-keeping worth emulating elsewhere in Africa and other parts of the world. He appealed to the rest of ECOWAS member States to join in the search for peace in Liberia.
He said the United Nations could not afford to allow the efforts of ECOMOG to fail, for it would have far-reaching implications for future cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in peace- keeping operations. It was interesting that there were already questions about what would happen in post-ECOMOG peace-keeping in Liberia. The UNOMIL had no independent existence; it was in Liberia because ECOMOG was there. It was, however, important to recognize that the regional arrangement in Liberia was no substitute for the responsibilities of the United Nations. The United Nations remained the premier organization for the maintenance of international peace and security. The withdrawal of ECOMOG from Liberia would lead to the immediate resumption by the United Nations of its responsibilities in Liberia.
The decisions made at the meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of the ECOWAS Committee of Nine on 7 and 8 May had the fully support of his delegation, he continued. He called upon the faction leaders to implement them expeditiously. He appealed to the international community to render assistance to ECOMOG so that it could do its job more effectively. The events of the past few weeks had clearly shown that ECOMOG needed financial and logistical resources to carry out its mandate. They also demonstrated the need to substantially increase its troop strength to enable it to serve as a credible deterrence against the marauding factional fighters. It was important that concerted efforts should be made to assist ECOMOG to become a
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robust peace-keeping force capable of defending itself and the civilian population as necessary.
CHOI SUNG HONG (Republic of Korea) said the tragedy of Liberia had been encapsulated by the media images of teenage soldiers rampaging through the streets of Monrovia toting deadly weapons and the ordeal of the refugees aboard the "Bulk Challenge" early this month. The Republic of Korea expressed its strong indignation at the atrocities committed by the warring Liberian factions, including the wanton killings, looting and destruction which had plunged Monrovia into total anarchy for nearly two months. The dire humanitarian situation resulting from the carnage was also a cause of serious concern for all. What was particularly disturbing was the disrespect that the Liberian factions had shown towards the United Nations in the massive and systematic looting of United Nations property.
Indicative of the latest turn of events in Liberia was the limits of the international community's ability to help restore internal peace and stability in a failed State, where the warring factions were determined to use any means to seize power, even at the risk of destroying the whole country and holding the entire people hostage, he said. It was made clear once again that the goodwill of the international community could not be a substitute for the political will of the parties to help themselves in resolving any conflict. The resumption of fighting had undone much of the hard-won progress in the Liberian peace process. The Abuja Agreement had lost much of its credibility and thus its chances of being implemented in its original form.
He said the question now as what could the international community do. The Abuja Agreement should remain the basis for any effort to restore peace and stability in Liberia, although its implementation schedule would require adjustments in the light of the latest developments. In that regard, he welcomed the adoption of the "Mechanism for Returning Liberia to the Abuja Agreement" by the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers in Accra early this month. He urged the Liberian factions to faithfully fulfil the conditions set out under the Mechanism. The commitment of the Liberian factions to the peace process would be tested by how faithfully and expeditiously they carried out those conditions.
He said the international community could make a difference in Liberia by strengthening ECOMOG's peace-keeping capability. While much had been said about ECOMOG's controversial role, especially in responding to the latest eruption of fighting in Monrovia and reported misbehaviour of certain elements of the Group, ECOMOG remained the only effective force of deterrence to bear upon the Liberian factions. With greater international assistance and logistical support, ECOMOG could perform better. The ECOWAS had also its own share of effort to make to enhance ECOMOG's capability and effectiveness through improved force and command structure, strict neutrality and strengthened discipline. Given that Liberia was the first case where a
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regional organization was leading peace-keeping operations in cooperation with the United Nations, the failure of ECOMOG's mission could have adverse consequences for the future role of regional or subregional organizations in Africa in dealing with intra-regional conflicts.
The faction leaders should then be made to pay a due price for their misbehaviour, he continued. They should be held personally responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law. Moreover, any faction leaders should be warned that they would be denied international recognition if they took power by any means other than through the democratic process. The arms embargo put in place by resolution 788 (1992) should be more effectively implemented. Without cutting off the supply of arms to the factions, the success of the peace process could not be ensured.
He expressed support for the Secretary-General's recommendation to extend the mandate of UNOMIL for three months. The very presence of UNOMIL in Liberia even at a minimal level carried a symbolic significance as a token of the Organization's commitment to the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia. It would help foster a climate of confidence conducive to reviving the peace process. However, the continued presence of UNOMIL made sense only if the Liberian parties demonstrated by concrete actions their commitment to the peace process; as long as ECOWAS maintained its mission to monitor its implementation in Liberia; and if the safety of UNOMIL was assured.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the events of recent months in Liberia had exceeded the gloomiest predictions. The resumption of hostilities had led to numerous victims and destruction, mass looting and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. It had threatened the stability of neighboring countries. The faction leaders had flagrantly disregarded the conditions of the Abuja Agreement. He called on the leaders to observe the conditions of the agreement, withdraw fighters from Monrovia and allow the deployment of ECOMOG forces.
He said an important role must be played by ECOMOG and ECOWAS. The Council must appeal to ECOWAS to make use of their upcoming Summit meeting to restructure and step up their role in Liberia. All States must unswervingly observe the arms embargo, and the mandate of UNOMIL should be extended for three months. The role of UNOMIL would be re-evaluated in light of the response by faction leaders to the demands made upon them.
FRANCESCO PAOLO FULCI (Italy), also speaking for the European Union and Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, said the Abuja Agreements of August 1995, which had raised hopes for a positive outcome of the Liberian peace process, seemed now more distant than ever. After nearly two months of fighting, looting, harassment of United Nations and international personnel, and human rights violations, the prospects for peace seemed very gloomy indeed. A few men were
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holding an entire population hostage, protracting the suffering of scores of women, children and men beyond human understanding.
The warring factions must implement an immediate cease-fire demanding that they return to the Abuja peace process, he said. The Union did not intend to recognize any government established through the use of force.
The situation in Liberia recalled what had happened in Somalia not long ago, he said. There too, the international community had tried to contribute to the search for peace, only to find that the struggle for power was the overwhelming concern of the faction leaders. It was sincerely hoped that the stubborn will of the Liberian warlords to continue their fight would not force the international community, once again, to withdraw from an African country in desperate need of help. That could be catastrophic for the country and also for the subregion.
The European Union had been among the major providers of relief assistance to Liberia, he said. Today, the continued fighting and the level of insecurity was preventing delivery of assistance. The Union remained committed to assisting the civilian population. However, such support would depend on the return of a safe and secure environment.
In 1992, the Council had imposed an embargo on all shipments of weapons and military equipment to Liberia, he said. By resolution 985 (1995), all States had the obligation to bring all instances of violations of the arms embargo before the committee established by that same resolution. Nevertheless, the embargo was continually violated. He appealed to all countries to launch in-depth investigations into the flow of arms into the country. As long as the factions could arm themselves, there would be no real possibility of attaining a long-lasting peace.
He restated the Union's support for the strenuous efforts of ECOWAS to achieve peace in Liberia. The Abuja Agreement still provided the central framework for the peace process. It was only through the ongoing commitment of the neighbouring States that peace in Liberia had a chance to prevail. It was therefore hoped that the next summit of ECOWAS would yield positive results. He agreed with the Secretary-General that ECOMOG lacked the resources and adequate structure to carry out its responsibilities effectively.
He underlined the direct and personal responsibility of the Liberian warlords. Not only were they responsible for restoring peace, but they should also be warned that the international community would hold them responsible for the breaches of human rights and humanitarian law committed in Liberia.
Sir JOHN WESTON (United Kingdom) said the Secretary-General's report on Liberia made for sombre reading. It cited a complete breakdown of law and
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order in Monrovia, complete disregard of the faction leaders for the commitments they freely entered into in the Abuja Agreement and the continuing suffering of ordinary Liberians. The United Kingdom agreed with the Secretary-General that UNOMIL's mandate should be continued for a further three months on a "care and maintenance" basis.
The faction leaders' responsibility for the plight of Liberians was clear, as was their responsibility to abide by the Abuja Agreement, he said. Full implementation of the Agreement remained the best framework for solving Liberia's problems, and ECOMOG remained the most viable option for progress on the ground. Reinforcement of ECOMOG was still badly needed, not least to ensure adequate security for UNOMIL personnel. It was hoped the donor community would carefully consider what help could most usefully be given. The United Kingdom would welcome, in particular, the deployment of the second Ghanaian battalion to ECOMOG.
The Secretary-General's report emphasized that UNOMIL's presence would be untenable in the event of an ECOMOG withdrawal from Liberia, he said. The ECOWAS foreign ministers had made it clear that time was running out for the faction leaders. An immediate cease-fire must be agreed to and implemented. Monrovia must be returned to its former status as a safe haven. The ECOMOG must be permitted to deploy in accordance with its mandate. Humanitarian aid must be allowed to get through to those most in need. Without those basic steps, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants could not go ahead.
He said the message for the faction leaders was clear: "stop fighting, lay down your weapons, listen to the pleas of your suffering people". That was the only way forward for Liberia.
GERHARD HENZE (Germany) said the responsibility for disrupting the peace process lay solely with the leaders of the various militias who had shown no regard for the quest for survival let alone the well-being of the Liberian people, for the universally accepted principles of international humanitarian law and for human rights. They had inflicted upon the population of Liberia a cruel war and had been involved in committing outrageous atrocities against the civilian population. The international community must hold them responsible for their deeds.
He strongly urged the faction leaders to put an immediate end to the fighting and to comply with the demands put forward in the "Mechanism for Returning Liberia to the Abuja Agreement" issued by the ECOWAS Committee of Nine on Liberia earlier this month, which had also found unanimous support by the members of the "International Contact Group on Liberia" in their second meeting last Friday, 24 May, in New York.
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She said the faction leaders in Liberia should immediately implement concrete measures to return to the peace process in accordance with the Mechanism including the restoration of the cease-fire, the withdrawal of armed fighters from Monrovia, the re-establishment of Monrovia as a safe haven and the return of vehicles and other equipment looted from UNOMIL, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations and of weapons taken from ECOMOG. The faction leaders must immediately implement those measures to prove their commitment to the principles of the Abuja Agreement. The ECOWAS had already indicated that its further involvement in Liberia would be reviewed by early August on the basis of progress made in fulfilling those conditions. The Security Council would have to decide by the end of this week on the possible extension of the mandate of UNOMIL. He urged the factions leaders in Monrovia to make every effort to show by their immediate implementation of those measures that they welcome the continued presence of UNOMIL in their country.
He said Germany had in the past substantially contributed to humanitarian efforts to alleviate the plight of the war-torn Liberian people and would continue to do so through bilateral contributions, through contributions to the budget of the European Community Humanitarian Office and through contributions to the budget of the various agencies of the United Nations. Delivering humanitarian assistance, however, depended on the existence of a safe and secure environment which was unfortunately not currently prevailing in Liberia. Conditions must soon be restored to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needed Liberian population.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said the factions bore full responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Liberia. They had demonstrated their wanton disrespect for the aspiration of the Liberian people for peace. The fighting had put an end to the hopes of Liberian refugees to return home. The Abuja accords had been reaffirmed as the basis for peace in Liberia. The ECOWAS Foreign Ministers had stated that the maintenance of the African force in Liberia would depend on progress made by the factions to put the peace process back on track. The Secretary-General had stated that UNOMIL would remain only if ECOMOG was not forced to leave the country.
He said France had continually given its support to the Liberian peace process. It would continue to do so, by supporting the extension of UNOMIL's mandate for three months. It would also provide financial assistance in support of the peace process in Liberia. The Council should use the extension of UNOMIL's mandate to evaluate the political will of the faction leaders to achieve peace. Those leaders were urged to carefully ponder the lessons learned from the experience in Somalia.
ZBIGNIEW M. WLOSOWICZ (Poland) said the international community was disappointed and discouraged by the development of the situation in Liberia which posed a threat to the security of western Africa. Despite a long- standing commitment of the international community to resolve the conflict in
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that country, the engagement of people and resources in the peace-keeping operations led by the United Nations and ECOWAS, attaining a peaceful settlement of the conflict, seemed to be very remote at present. The international community was now confronted with very serious questions -- how to deal with the Liberian conflict and whether to continue its involvement in the affairs of that country. It should be emphasized that the primary responsibility for the developments in Liberia lay with the leaders of the warring factions who did not demonstrate political will for an accord and a compromise.
He said the Liberian leaders should realize that the international community would maintain its presence in their country only if they returned to the principles determined in the Abuja Agreement. Otherwise it might begin considering a withdrawal from Liberia with all the ensuing consequences for that country. Each leader who would seize power by the use of force should be internationally ostracized. He expressed full support for the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers who agreed in Accra on the conditions to be fulfilled by the Liberian faction leaders, including, among others, the restoration of the cease-fire and the withdrawal of fighters from Monrovia as the first steps to reactivate the peace process.
The efforts made hitherto by the States of west Africa to resolve the internal conflict in Liberia should be highly appreciated, he said. He emphasized the role played by ECOMOG, the only existing peace-keeping operation organized by a subregional organization. Its termination would produce very serious consequences for Liberia. Pending the results of the ECOWAS Summit, the international community should offer to ECOMOG its strong support. The United Nations should still be engaged in the cause of resolving the Liberian conflict. The mandate of UNOMIL at the diminished size should be extended for no more than three months, until 31 August, when the results of the ECOWAS Summit on the maintenance of ECOMOG would be known.
JUAN SOMAVIA (Chile) said he supported the extension of UNOMIL's mandate, as recommended by the Secretary-General. The horror of the violence in Monrovia was confirmed by the Secretary-General's report. The degrading attacks on civilians and humanitarian institutions showed a contempt for human life. The political efforts by ECOWAS and the United Nations during this decade had been undone. It was disturbing to note the faction leaders' disregard of the Liberian people's hopes for peace.
Measures should be taken to investigate crimes against civilians and human rights, he said. They should aim at establishing responsibility by the perpetrators and providing for compensation. The responsibility of the various factions and leaders should be defined. Those responsible must be required to live up to their responsibilities. A culture of impunity must not be permitted to develop in Liberia.
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The United Nations activity in Liberia was an action in support of a regional initiative, he said. It aimed both at resolving the situation in Liberia and at promoting regional solutions. All possible efforts should be taken to prevent a situation which would require the withdrawal of ECOMOG, which would also require the withdrawal of UNOMIL. An appeal by the Council to the international community to support ECOMOG did not seem to be enough. It might be necessary to consider the possibilities of financing under the Bretton Woods institutions. The possibility of signing commitments, for future reimbursement, to a fund for peace in Africa should also be considered.
There could be no enthusiastic support for peace activities when those who should support them the most actually hindered them at every step, he said. When leaders did not desire peace, the Council could not abdicate its own humanitarian responsibilities. If the leaders did not care about their own people, the international community could not simply wash its hands of the situation. When local structures to guarantee the safety of persons and communities were lacking, the international community acquired additional humanitarian responsibilities to fill the vacuum. Full support must therefore be given to humanitarian efforts of the United Nations and other bodies.
The continued flow of weapons to Liberia was scandalous, he said. As a result of the embargo, arms were being purchased at higher costs. However, their flows into the country were not being stemmed. The weapons merchants were the great symbol of unethical behaviour. The main weapon-producing countries -- many of whom sat at the Council table -- must implement stronger measures to make the arms embargo a reality.
The absence of legitimate authority would always remain a destabilizing element, which must be overcome, he said. Once security was established in Monrovia, highest priority should be given to the holding of elections.
NUGROHO WISNUMURTI (Indonesia) expressed dismay at the somber and grave situation prevailing in Liberia. Although there had been lulls in the fighting, it was distressing that, thus far, no cease-fire seemed to hold. The failure of the parties to respect the terms of the Abuja Agreement only further underlined the lack of genuine political will among the Liberian leaders. Implementation of the Abuja Agreement was ultimately the responsibility of the Council of State, established by the Liberian leaders themselves.
Since the adoption of Council resolution 1041 (1996) early this year, extending the mandate of UNOMIL until the end of this month, it had been hoped that the parties would seize that opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues between them. However, the peace process had been used for the personal ambitions of the Liberian faction leaders. It was dismaying that the Liberian leaders continued blatantly to disregard the great interest of the Liberian people.
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He welcomed the convening of the ECOWAS Committee of Nine on 7 May to explore ways to reactivate the peace process. Its "Mechanism for Returning Liberia to the Abuja Agreement" reaffirmed that the Abuja Agreement constituted the only basis for peace in Liberia, a position which Indonesia fully supported. His country also shared the view that the protocols recently adopted by the Council of State contradicted the spirit of the Abuja Agreement and that any government that came to office through the use of force should not be recognized.
He stressed that the Council of State and General Johnson had both accepted conditions set by ECOWAS, and both had stated their intention to abide by them. That constituted a positive development which could become the basis for further confidence-building measures. He welcomed the United States initiative in establishing an "International Contact Group on Liberia". That body had met for the first time in Geneva, bringing together interested donor countries to discuss the issue of restoring security, reinforcing ECOMOG and returning the factions to the Abuja Agreement. Those were critical and fundamental issues if the conflict was to be resolved.
The present security situation was indeed alarming, he said. Looting was rampant and hostage-taking again on the rise. Continued instability did not provide a conducive atmosphere for organization of the electoral process. As such, the elections scheduled for August were unlikely to be held. Bearing in mind the recrudescence of the civil war, all States must strictly comply with their obligation regarding the embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Liberia.
A solution to the Liberian conflict must be found internally and regionally, he continued. The ECOMOG must be provided with the necessary assistance and with a status-of-forces agreement between ECOWAS and the Council of State. An effective ECOMOG would enable it to provide adequate security for the personnel of UNOMIL and other humanitarian agencies, and to quell the exodus of Liberians to neighbouring countries.
He expressed deep concern at the serious human rights violations prevailing in Liberia, including robbery, beating, torture, killing and rape. One of the most vile human rights abuses committed had been the abuse of children, through the practice of children soldiers. Those violations must be properly addressed; once hostilities cease and security conditions permit, UNOMIL's vital role of investigating them should resume as soon as possible. The humanitarian situation was alarming. It was a matter of concern that some communities had become inaccessible and relief had been suspended. All parties must extend their fullest cooperation to humanitarian organizations and personnel. He called on the Liberian parties to do their utmost to permit free access of humanitarian assistance and provide credible security guarantees.
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He said the civil war had created a Liberian refugee population of over 1 million in neighbouring countries, thus increasing the risk of regional destabilization. Indonesia supported the initiative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide assistance to countries granting asylum to the Liberians. Nevertheless, the long-term solution to the humanitarian problem lay in the return of peace and stability to Liberia.
He urgently called upon the warring factions to immediately re-establish a cease-fire and to take concrete steps to reaffirm their commitment to the Abuja Agreement. Without that, they would risk losing all credibility and support from the international community. The Liberian factions should consider carefully the wide-ranging consequences their actions would have during the next few months.
He said Indonesia supported the extension of UNOMIL's mandate for another three months, until 31 August. That position was based on the hope that during that period, the Liberian parties would demonstrate their political will to resolve the conflict.
ADELINO MANO QUETA (Guinea-Bissau) said no tangible progress had been made in the situation in Liberia. The Liberian people deserved to live in peace. They had the right to raise their children in conditions of peace and security. A political solution was the only means for a settlement of the conflict. He appealed to all the parties to respect the Abuja Agreement and called on the chiefs of the warring factions to cooperate with the United Nations and ECOMOG on its implementation. The international community should provide logistical and financial assistance to ECOMOG to enable it to discharge its mandate, particularly with regard to disarmament of the factions. The status of humanitarian workers must be respected by all the factions.
He said he welcomed the 7 May ECOWAS meeting in Accra. The declaration by the Council of State that they would respect the results of that meeting was a welcome development. He supported the United States initiative to establish an international contact group for Liberia. It was up to the Liberian people and its leaders to achieve peace and national reconciliation. All States must abide by the embargo on arms deliveries to Liberia. He expressed appreciation to the personnel of ECOMOG, UNOMIL and humanitarian organizations for their tireless efforts. Guinea-Bissau supported the extension of UNOMIL's mandate for a further three months.
QIN HUASUN (China) said the conflict in Liberia had been going on for six years. The ECOWAS had made unremitting efforts to end fighting in Liberia despite the economic difficulties of its members countries. The United Nations and UNOMIL had also made great efforts to that end. Those peace efforts were once successful. However, since early last month, the situation
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in Liberia had further deteriorated, conflict among various parties had continued and Monrovia had almost become a dead city. That had seriously endangered the implementation of the Abuja Agreement and had made it hard for the general elections, scheduled for August, to proceed on time. The ECOMOG was no longer able to provide safety guarantee to UNOMIL for lack of resources and manpower.
The Liberian peace process was now at a critical moment, he said. Foreign ministers of nine ECOWAS countries had reaffirmed, at the recent meeting at Accra, that the Abuja Agreement remained the only basis for the promotion of peace in Liberia. He fully supported their decisions and strongly urged the conflicting parties in Liberia to stop all hostilities immediately and cooperate with the United Nations and ECOWAS by strictly observing the agreement already reached and the resolutions of the Council, and working for the restoration of peace. The UNOMIL had played an important role in assisting ECOWAS to resume the peace process in Liberia. It could also promote, together with ECOMOG, the building of confidence measures, thus creating favourable conditions for the implementation of the Abuja Agreement. He supported the Secretary-General's recommendation to extend the mandate of UNOMIL by three months.
The final settlement of the Liberian question could only rely on the Liberians themselves, he said. Only when the parties concerned truly put down their arms and engaged in patient and sincere negotiations and dialogue could there be a political solution acceptable to all. Africa occupied an important position in the world and represented an important force in the international political arena. China had consistently held that a stable and growing Africa was an indispensable and important part of a peaceful and prosperous world. The international community was duty-bound to take effective measures to help them end fighting and find a political solution to their conflicts.
IBRAHIM A. GAMBARI (Nigeria) said the world was witnessing the descent into chaos and confusion in Liberia. However, the Council should dispel any confusion regarding the cause and the solution for the present debacle in that country. Most of the gains that had ben registered in the peace process in Liberia, including the improved humanitarian situation and the prospects for the voluntary return of refugees, had all suffered serious reverses as a result of the outbreak of recent fighting in the country. And the factional leaders were to blame for the fighting which had been a breach of the obligations which they freely entered into under the Abuja Agreement. The faction leaders had clearly demonstrated their total disregard for the aspirations of the Liberian people for peace. It could equally be said, however, that if ECOMOG were perhaps provided with the requisite resources, the lull that occurred between the cease-fire, following the Abuja Agreement and the start-up phase of disarmament and demobilization could have been avoided. Clearly, the initial momentum towards peace generated by the Abuja Agreement had been lost and allowed to fizzle out.
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The ECOWAS Foreign ministers during their meeting in Accra on 7 May had approved a sweeping plan for returning Liberia to the Abuja Agreement by outlining measures to demilitarize Monrovia, restore the cease-fire as well as the fractured Liberia transitional government, he continued. The Foreign Ministers had also warned the faction leaders that if they did not implement those steps, ECOMOG would reconsider its involvement in Liberia at the August meeting of ECOWAS. The Liberian parties should demonstrate their desire for peace; otherwise the spectre of Somalia was a frightening possibility.
The ECOMOG was part of the solution and not of the problem in Liberia, he said. It was therefore unfortunate to observe the continuous sniping about its activities. Sometimes veiled and sometimes not too veiled, criticisms were levelled in some quarters against the conduct of its troops. While any misconduct should not be condoned, the international community should not forget too easily why ECOMOG became necessary in the first place. In 1990, around the time of the Gulf crisis, the carnage in Liberia never got on to the international agenda; it had not enjoyed any serious coverage in the world media owing to the more visible "Operation Desert Shield". In the circumstances, when no other country had been willing to lend a hand to stop the carnage and prevent the drift to anarchy in Liberia, the leaders of west Africa had done what they thought best, not minding the costs to the respective countries. They deserved praise and gratitude rather than criticisms from the international community. Nigeria had spent billions of dollars; hundreds of its soldiers had mae the supreme sacrifice and thousand others had been wounded, all in the cause of peace in Liberia.
This was not to say that ECOMOG's structure and organization could not be improved upon, he said. But there was a slant to the notion of restructuring ECOMOG which was worrisome and totally misplaced. The proper objective should be to put in place a credible force able to carry out its difficult but essential mandate. He welcomed all well meaning efforts to help equip and fortify ECOMOG in order to enhance its capability to carry out its assignment. And as the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers had stressed at their May meeting, any financial contributions for ECOMOG should be directed to the force as a whole and not to particular contingents. He also called on all countries, including some which had paid lip service to their commitments in Liberia, to fully honour the arms embargo put in place by the Council.
RAMTANE LAMAMRA (Algeria) said the international community had welcomed the signing of the Abuja Agreement, which had created real prospects for ending the devastating war in Liberia. The establishment of the Council of State had coincided with international determination to end the conflict, within the framework of a timetable for the demobilization of factions and their reintegration in domestic life. Political and logistical support for the peace process had aimed at building up support for the peace process. Stress had been placed on the need to support ECOMOG.
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The procrastination of the Liberian factions in respecting their obligations had jeopardized the credibility of the peace process, he said. That, in turn, had led to bloody confrontations and an explosive situation. Recent events had demonstrated the fragility of the peace process and wiped out the efforts of the United Nations in coordination with the States of west Africa.
All of the Liberian factions must scrupulously respect the Abuja Agreement, he said. Those accords represented the basic framework for the peace process. The ECOWAS had made diplomatic efforts to bring about peace and a return to normal life in Liberia. To reactivate the peace process, lessons must be drawn from the past. There must also be adequate economic support.
The international community could not yield to despair, he said. It had a political and moral responsibility to help end the suffering of the Liberian people. Despite their limited resources, the States of west Africa was supporting efforts to achieve peace in Liberia, as was the OAU.
JACK WILMOT (Ghana) reviewed ECOMOG efforts in Liberia since the signing of the Abuja Agreement on 19 August 1995, noting that despite efforts and sacrifices, the Liberian conflict had escalated into fighting in Monrovia, a safe haven, on 6 April following an internal rift in the ULIMO-J faction. The President of Ghana, in his capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS, took immediate steps to contain the situation by convening the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the ECOWAS Committee of Nine on Liberia to meet in Accra on 7 May. They concluded that the Abuja Agreement remained the best framework for peace in Liberia and that ECOMOG should continue its efforts to seek its implementation.
He said the ministers had established a "Mechanism for Returning Liberia to the Abuja Agreement", which, if implemented by the transitional government during the next three months, would demonstrate convincingly its continued attachment to the peace process. The Mechanism required the Liberian parties to take steps that would, among other measures, restore the cease-fire, restore Monrovia to its safe haven status and return looted property. Implementation of the Mechanism would be closely monitored by the Committee of Nine. They would assess the commitment of the Liberian people to peace and report thereon to the ECOWAS summit meeting scheduled to be held in July.
In addition, he continued, the ECOWAS Ministers also reiterate that the task of ensuring international peace and security was primarily of the Security Council and the entire international community. Regional or subregional initiatives could only complement, but not substitute, for the international community's own efforts. Liberia should be given the same assistance and attention accorded to other conflict situations in the world. The international community could not turn its back on Liberia. The ECOWAS
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offered what it could, but the task facing ECOMOG was not one that could be shouldered by the region alone.
The ECOMOG had neither the required number of personnel nor the logistic base to effectively implement its mandate, he said. Whereas only 8.500 troops were currently on the ground, the ECOMOG Commander had estimated that between 12,000 and 14,000 troops were required. In the volatile atmosphere prevalent in the country, ECOMOG needed to be strengthened with more personnel, logistic and financial resources, to become a credible force. Otherwise, its personnel would continue to be thinly spread on the ground and remain easy targets of power-hungry warlords.
"The time for this Council to act is now to secure unconditional logistic and financial support for ECOMOG, coupled with humanitarian and development assistance to Liberia, to get the job done", he said. A solution now would be cheaper in terms of human lives and material resources, than it would be after ECOMOG was compelled to withdraw, as a result of inaction by the international community. Among other measures the Council might wish to call on the donor countries which made pledges for the peace process in Liberia at the United Nations sponsored Conference on Liberia, held in New York in October 1995, to redeem them now.
He expressed gratitude to Member States that had given or pledged assistance to the Liberian peace process, particularly to the United States for its keen interest in the Liberian problem and for its humanitarian intervention during the recent crisis. While the assistance received so far was deeply appreciated, it was nevertheless grossly inadequate to meet the logistic and other challenges faced by ECOMOG. All Member States should review their contributions to ECOMOG to increase them to a level commensurate with the goals to be achieved and without conditionalities.
MACHIVENYIKA TOBIAS MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe) said the bold strides previously taken by Liberia's faction leaders at the signing of the Abuja Agreement and in the early implementation of that Agreement were ample evidence that peace was indeed achievable in that country. He called upon all the faction leaders to discard all vain pursuits of self-aggrandizement, to rise to the occasion and to the expectations of the people of Liberia and the international community, and preoccupy themselves fully in the search for peace and national unity. The leadership should desist from creating a culture of hopelessness, which could plunge their people irretrievably into a self-perpetuating cycle of hatred, violence and disorder.
Zimbabwe fully supported the "Mechanism for Returning Liberia to the Abuja Agreement" which was adopted by the ECOWAS Foreign Ministers, he said. He called upon the Liberian factions to move with haste and restore the cease- fire; withdraw from Monrovia and allow unimpeded ECOMOG deployment there; remove arms from Monrovia and restore the capital as a safe haven; guarantee
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freedom of movement for civilians; return weapons taken from ECOMOG and vehicles and equipment looted from UNOMIL, United Nations agencies and non- governmental organizations; and reactivate the Cease-Fire Violations Committee.
While the responsibility for peace in Liberia lay ultimately with the people of Liberia themselves, the irreplaceable role of the United Nations in the quest for international peace and security should not be ignored, he said. Surely the international community had no grounds to claim that it had done its best or exhausted all possible options on Liberia. Massive deployments in trouble spots in other regions of the world bore ample testimony to both the capacity and the capability of the international community to act resolutely in the interest of world peace and security. The minimalist approach of the United Nations on Liberia so far was very disquieting. He expressed amazement at suggestions that the continued involvement of UNOMIL might be contingent upon the continues presence of ECOMOG in Liberia.
When regions ore regional organization proposed peace initiatives to arrest dangerous threats to peace and security, they should receive the active support of the international community through the United Nations, he said. That was the purpose of Chapter VIII of the Charter. Rather than to play the role of substitute to the United Nations' uniquely mandated role, those regional efforts should be treated as facilitators in the Organization's own efforts in pursuit of its Charter responsibility. Historic milestones in the peace process, such as the signing of the Abuja Agreement, had not been taken full advantage of by the United Nations. Liberia's woes were to some extent thriving on the international community's omission and default. The situation that prevailed in Liberia required the doubling of ECOMOG force strength in order for it to deploy nationwide and to man all borders -- air, land and sea. The scope of the Liberia problem clearly went beyond national and regional dimensions. It was, therefore, incumbent upon the international community to give the necessary financial and logistical support to facilitate adequate deployment.
PETER L. KASANDA (Zambia) said the escalation of hostilities, the killings, the taking of hostages, the ransacking and looting of United Nations and other properties had been a clear indication that there was a state of anarchy and lawlessness on an unprecedented scale in Liberia. As if such anarchy and lawlessness had not been enough, there had also been a stalemate in the factional fighting in Liberia. That situation had, in turn, led to an intolerable polarization in that war-torn country, further traumatizing the innocent people of Liberia. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians had been killed needlessly since the onset of civil war there. More people continued to die as anarchy and confusion took hold. That situation could not be allowed to continue. The killings must stop. All concerned -- faction leaders, regional leaders and the international community -- must pool efforts to ensure the return of peace and stability to Liberia.
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The civil strife in Liberia had not only affected the people of that country, but the conflict had had grave ramifications for the peace and tranquillity in the subregion, he continued. The spill-over effect of the conflict had manifested itself in the flight of refugees and displaced persons into neighbouring States. As long as there was no end in sight to the crisis, neighbouring countries would also continue to suffer. Peace and security in Liberia was integral to peace and security in the entire subregion. Liberia must return to normalcy after years of factional fighting. The onus was therefore, first on all the Liberians to liberate themselves from their self- imprisonment in factional fighting and embrace the Abuja peace process. The time had come for all faction leaders to break with the tortured past. The situation now called for a commitment on the part of all factions concerned to make every effort to resolve their disputes by peaceful means. That was provided for under the Abuja Agreement which had defined the transitional arrangements and processes. The Abuja Agreement was the cornerstone of Liberia's national survival plan.
The time had come for all Liberian factions to challenge themselves by fulfilling the conditions set by ECOWAS and by adhering to the provisions of the Abuja Agreement, he said. Both ECOMOG and UNOMIL were likely to disengage themselves from Liberia if no progress was made towards the fulfilment of the provision of the Abuja Agreement. Such a disengagement would plunge Liberia in an unmitigated state of anarchy and confusion. It should, therefore, be avoided at any cost. It was in the interest of all military factions and all Liberians to ensure the continuing presence of both ECOMOG and UNOMIL to assist Liberia's transition process from a state of internal conflict to a state of internal peace and security. Everything should, therefore, be done by all factions to ensure that free and fair elections were held in August.
He welcomed the initiative of the Government of the United States in establishing an "International Contact Group on Liberia" which held its first meeting in Geneva last month. By bringing together key donor governments, the United Nations, ECOWAS, OAU and international agencies concerned with Liberia, the initiative revealed that there was no lack of goodwill on the part of the international community to bring peace and stability to Liberia. However, such initiatives would not bring peace to Liberia until the Liberians themselves joined forces to return their country to peace and tranquillity.
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