Global Policy Forum

Sanctions 'Richly Deserved'

Agence France Presse
May 6, 2001

Liberia has officially slammed as "unjust and unfair" UN sanctions imposed over its perceived support to Sierra Leone rebels but privately many citizens say the rap was richly deserved. President Charles Taylor said during a whistle-stop tour of Togo on Saturday that the additional sanctions, due to come into force Monday, were "unjust and illegitimate". "We are just emerging from a war that has caused a lot of damage to our country and the sanctions will increase the suffering of our people," he said, referring to rebel attacks in the north.

Taylor said the UN decision was taken without taking "into consideration the views of the Organisation of African Unity and the Ecowas" west African regional grouping. Information Minister Reginald Goodrich said the UN Security Council had taken a stand without allowing Monrovia a chance to prove that it had snapped all ties with Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group. "How can you decide on sanctions when the Liberian delegation had not even arrived in New York to attend the debate," he said. Taylor denies charges that he is aiding and arming the RUF in return for so-called "blood diamonds". The RUF still controls vast tracts of Sierra Leone's diamond-rich north and east. Its 10-year rebel campaign against successive governments in Freetown has claimed at least 200 000 lives.

12-month ban on diamond imports

The new UN sanctions against Liberia include a 12-month ban on imports of all rough diamonds originating from or passing through Liberia and restrictions on air travel by its senior officials. On March 7, the UN Security Council slapped an immediate arms embargo on Liberia and started a two-month countdown to economic sanctions.

Taylor earlier said the sanctions would add to his country's three billion-dollar debt, increase the burden of poverty and undermine efforts to combat the HIV/Aids epidemic. Diamond mining provides work for thousands of Liberians and is "the only means of livelihood for a sizeable section of our population", Taylor wrote in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last Monday. He noted that the country was "already saddled with over 85 percent formal unemployment and 80 percent of the population under absolute poverty."

Liberia insists it has severed all ties with the RUF, expelling the movement's former strongman Sam Bockarie and other leaders. Monrovia also claims to have frozen the accounts of all RUF personnel in Liberian banks, placed a moratorium on the import of diamonds from conflict regions and banned the export of Liberian diamonds for 60 days from the start of March. Nettie Blah, wife of Liberian Vice-President Moses Blah, said the sanctions were a "nightmare" but added that her countrymen had to put up a brave front.

Sanctions 'richly deserved'

"We will still live in Liberia and tend to our farms. If you put sanctions on Liberia, you will not be putting sanctions on our lives; and we will still ask God to give us the strength to cope," she said.

Reactions on the street were, however, markedly different. Independent journalist Sam Brewer said the sanctions were richly deserved. "We have too much big mouth. If we had not done anything to deserve sanctions, they would not have been imposed," he said.

Jacob Massaquoi, the head of a youth volunteer group, said: "The importance of the sanctions lie in the fact that they can make the government of Liberia abide by international norms, especially when it comes to the resolution of the conflict in Sierra Leone. "If the sanctions solve the Sierra Leone crisis, then so be it," he said, adding: "But the international community should see that they do not affect the life of the common man here." Drugstore worker Andrew Yellah said: "If the government means well for its citizenry, the onus is upon them to prove that they have nothing to do with the RUF so that the sanctions end soon."

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


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