Neighbours resent Liberian war


WEST AFRICA has not experienced a humanitarian crisis on the scale of the disaster spawned by the Liberian civil war since Nigeria's Biafra conflict in the late 1960s.

With fresh violence raging in Monrovia since April 6th, Liberians are packing boats and underestimating resentment in neighbouring states. These are already burdened with one million Liberian refugees and the related security woes.

Ghana yesterday grudgingly allowed the Nigerian ship Bulk Challenge with 4,000 refugees to dock at Takoradi. However, officials said the refugees are likely to be forced back to sea again after they are fed and given medical care because of the discovery of two bodies from a shooting incident on the vessel.

In nearby Sierra Leone, authorities ordered a fishing boat with up to 1,500 refugees from Liberia on board to leave Freetown Harbour after it arrived on Saturday.

"This is only the beginning of what the international community warned of last week," a Ghanaian journalist said, referring to talks on Liberia in Ghana. A last hope summit on halting the war was aborted last Wednesday after heads of state fed up with endless meetings on Liberia boycotted it.

The Ghanaian President, Mr Jerry Rawlings, repeated a warning given at a foreign ministers' meeting the day before by the UN, adding that West African states could pull out their Ecomog peacekeeping force from Liberia.

"Liberia is in mortal danger of being completely abandoned by the international community," said Mr Rawlings, who is chairman of the 16 nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) which sent Ecomog to Liberia in 1990.

"This is a warning to the Liberian fighting factions that people are fed up," echoed Mr James Jonah, a special envoy of the UN Secretary General, Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali.

Nigeria which is the backbone of the Ecomog force and is under domestic pressure to pull out, hinted at other measures against Liberians if violence continued. "I hope the Liberian people will now show their good faith," said the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Mr Tom Ikimi. "If not? Well, withdrawal of Ecomog is only one option."

The US was Liberia's biggest aid donor until civil war erupted in December 1989. It remains the most influential foreign power in the country founded by freed US slaves in 1847. However, Washington has limited its recent intervention in Liberia largely to rescuing US nationals and foreigners trapped by fighting and to indirect support to Ecomog Former US President Jimmy Carter has accused his country of ignoring the Liberian conflict.

Yesterday West African peacekeepers shot dead two ethnic Krahn gunmen and wounded a third in Liberia's capital as they tried to loot an Indian shop. Earlier, the radio station run by faction leader Charles Taylor, said the ruling Council of State had ordered the arrest of any gunmen or individual caught trying to loot.