African allies call for truce


Mark Huband in Monrovia

The Guardian, 9 November 1992


WEST AFRICAN states led by Nigeria have agreed to impose economic sanctions against warring factions in the three-year Liberian civil war unless a ceasefire is observed from midnight tomorrow.

Eight presidents signed a fresh agreement in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Saturday, prompted by a siege of Monrovia launched on October 15 by the leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, Charles Taylor. The rebel leader is trying to eject a West African peacekeeping force from the Liberian capital.

The Abuja meeting recommended strengthening the peacekeeping force, and bringing in forces from member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) which have so far not sent troops.

The Abuja communique, read by Abbas Bundu, the executive secretary of Ecowas, said the meeting had decided to “declare a ceasefire effective midnight on 10 November, 1992. The meeting directed [the peacekeeping force] to ensure . . . that the ceasefire is implemented concurrently with the encampment and disarmament of all the warring factions.”

The communique said the leaders agreed that all the other member states of Ecowas, especially those in whom Mr Taylor “is shown to have confidence” – by implication Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso – should contribute to the force. Both countries have been critical of the force, largely because it is seen as Nigerian-dominated.

Ecowas intends to seek the approval of the United Nations for economic sanctions, thereby giving Nigerian naval vessels the right to blockade the Taylor-held ports of Buchanan and Harper if he breaks the ceasefire.

Sceptical senior West African diplomatic sources described the Abuja meeting as “playing for time”, with one saying that the conflict in Liberia was “becoming Nigeria’s war against the NPFL”.

In the Ivory Coast, close advisers to President Felix Houphouet-Boigny have profited from business deals with Mr Taylor. There is little enthusiasm for closing the border to block arms supply lines from Burkina Faso. Ivory Coast is concerned by Nigeria’s build-up of peacekeeping troops in Liberia in the past two weeks, bringing the force up to 12,000.

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