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Liberian crisis threatens to spill over its borders

Drugs - Antiretrovirals IRIN
A crisis between rival Liberian politicians now threatens to spill over into neighbouring countries following a threat by President Charles Taylor to pursue his enemies across his nation’s borders. Taylor was reported Tuesday by Reuters as warning Liberia’s neighbours that he would launch pursuits inside their territory if they allowed it to be used as a springboard for raids against Liberia. Reacting to the warning, Sierra Leone’s presidential spokesman, Septimus Kaikai, told IRIN Wednesday that Taylor, “as a signatory to the peace pact at the summit in Conakry, should adhere to its principles”. Under a non-aggression pact signed in Conakry in November 1998, the leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone agreed to make sure their territories are not used as bases for attacks on others. Taylor’s warning came on the heels of a threat made by Taylor’s civil-war rival, Alhaji Kromah, in a radio interview earlier this month. Claiming that two of his men had disappeared after being detained by government forces, Kromah said that if Taylor did not produce them “I will force him to do so”. The government later produced the men, saying they had been involved in arms trafficking. The accusation coincided with reports that the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) - which, headed by Kromah, had been one of the main factions in Liberia’s civil war along with Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) - has been regrouping. According to a humanitarian source in Liberia, these claims have not been substantiated. “There are no hard facts about people regrouping,” the source told IRIN. Kromah’s exact whereabouts are unknown, although there have been rumours that he is in the United States, while other sources claim that he is in Sierra Leone or Guinea, neighbouring nations with which Liberia’s relations are less than cordial. The situation along Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone is one of “simmering discomfort”, said the humanitarian source. Taylor has often been accused of destabilising Sierra Leone. However, Monrovia’s finger appears to be pointed more in the direction of Guinea, especially since Kromah’s two men were caught with a significant quantity of weapons in Liberia’s Nimba County, near the Guinean border. Kromah is from the mainly Muslim Mandingo ethnic group, which has kith and kin in Guinea and, during the Liberian civil war, Kromah drew most of his support from Guinea. In recent weeks, there was tension between Mandingos and another ethnic group, the Loma, in Lofa county, which also borders on Guinea, although the two sides recently concluded a peace pact. According to the humanitarian source, the perception in Monrovia is that if the Guinean government gets the impression that Muslims and Mandingos are being targetted, and that Kromah represents them, it could be tempted to back him. However, many Mandingos and Muslims have pledged support for Taylor’s government, saying they do not want to return to war-time experiences. The All Liberian Coalition party, which Kromah chairs, has told Taylor that it dissociated itself from the ULIMO leader’s threats, according to the source. Taylor, for his part, has said Kromah should not be speaking of war and has urged him to return home, saying his security would be guaranteed. “This is no time to talk about war,” Taylor was quoted in the media as saying.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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