(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

ECOMOG warns "warmonger presidents"

[Togo] Armed only with stones for the time being, but some youths want guns. Togo youths protesting at Gnassingbe's seizure of power, February 2005.

ECOMOG's new force commander in Sierra Leone, Major General Felix
Mujakperuo, has issued a strong warning to the presidents of Liberia and Burkina Faso, according to a press statement IRIN received on Thursday.

In the statement, titled 'Warning to Warmonger Presidents', Mujakperuo described events leading up to an alleged delivery of arms to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels fighting the Sierra Leonean government. He said ECOMOG "has now confirmed the activities of two countries and their leaders involved in the shipment and delivery of arms to the rebels through the government of a neighbouring country."

He warned that ECOMOG will "strike at all the channels involved in this movement of heavy arms and ammunition to the rebels by land, sea and air."

According to the statement, faxed to IRIN by ECOMOG, a Ukrainian
registered cargo aircraft, Antenov 124, carrying 68 tons of arms arrived in Ouagadougou on 14 March 1999, and was parked at the presidential wing of the airport. The pilot was told to continue on to Monrovia to deliver the cargo but he refused to do this on the grounds that it was not the initial arrangement, Mujakperuo said.

On 15 March, a smaller aircraft with Ukrainian crew members landed at Robertsville International airport in Liberia, accompanied by a Liberia Special Security Services Director, the statement said. Its cargo, it added, was taken to Gbanga and then to the Sierra Leone border for delivery to the RUF and to the Guinea border for rebels in Guinea.

The statement said that this process continued with additional aircraft and added that RUF commander Sam Bockarie "has indicated receipt of the arms from Liberia in recent conversations with some of his commanders."

ECOMOG said it "will no longer watch this mischief by supposed leaders continuing side by side with the peace initiative in view of the danger it poses to us and the whole sub-region." It also called upon the international community "to prevail on Charles Taylor and his colleagues to desist from this evil action if peace is to be restored."

Both Liberia and Burkina Faso have consistently denied supporting the RUF.

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