Global Policy Forum

West African Nations Criticize UN

January 26, 2001

Gambia and Burkina Faso have joined Liberia in criticizing a United Nations report on so called "blood diamond" trading, helping to fuel the war in Sierra Leone.

Along with suggesting sanctions on Liberia, the report recommended an embargo on diamonds coming out of the Gambia. Burkina Faso was accused of being used as a base for weapons shipment.

Gambian UN Ambassador Baboucarr-Blaise Jagne wondered whether there is "a hidden agenda to mount a smear campaign against the Gambia".

Burkina Faso said it was willing to have UN monitors in the country to counter the allegations.

Proof demanded

Liberia was the most outspoken critic of the report.

Addressing the Security Council, the Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan said that President Taylor had offered to resign if any proof that he had benefited from diamond smuggling was forthcoming.

But he questioned why the international community, with all its resources, was finding it difficult to reveal any "money trail".

Earlier, the UK's deputy ambassador to the UN said: "There can no longer be a shadow of a doubt that President Taylor has been callously prolonging the conflict for personal gain." Britain and the United States are calling for the imposition of wide-ranging sanctions including an expanded arms embargo, a ban on Liberian diamond and timber exports, on Liberian-registered flights and a travel ban on government and military officials.

Supervision demand

In attempts to avoid sanctions, Liberia announced the lifting of visa restrictions on US officials.

It has already announced the grounding of all Liberian-registered aircraft, insisted it is willing to allow UN monitors at its airports, seaports and borders and said it wants the UN to supervise all diamond matters in the country.

"If we are involved in violating the sanctions, why would we want verification? Why would we want monitoring?" Mr Captan asked.

But Deputy US Ambassador James Cunningham told the council that Liberia's initiatives were "unconvincing and not sufficient".

"We are concerned that these last-minute announcements, in the face of imminent council action after months of discussion, are a calculated ruse designed to divide the Security Council rather than to signal any genuine change of policy," Mr Cunningham said.

Mr Captan insisted Liberia was being "demonised" and denied that sanctions ware the way to solve the problem.

Sierra Leone Ambassador Ibrahim Kamara, agreed that sanctions should not hurt innocents, but added: "Weapons bought from our diamonds are being used to maim and kill thousands of our people in Sierra Leone."

There appeared to be general support for sanctions, although China and France both sought time limits on any embargo and French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte suggested the economically-important timber trade be left out.

Russia and the Ukraine accused a recent UN report on Liberia's role in Sierra Leone of exceeding its mandate by recommending a global diamond certification scheme and suggesting that weapons producers be punished for lax controls of gun exports.

More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia
More Information on Sanctions


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