Global Policy Forum

Liberian Accuses Britain

May 30, 2001

President Charles Taylor of Liberia today accused Britain of helping to keep alive a regional conflict in West Africa.Mr. Taylor's forces are battling an insurgency in the north of Liberia by dissidents based in Guinea. He contends that Sierra Leonean militia members trained by Britain are taking part in attacks. "We believe that Britain is on a secret war in West Africa and West Africa should not be complacent about it," Mr. Taylor was quoted as saying by his press secretary, Vaani Passawe.

The report came from a meeting between Mr. Taylor and Oluyemi Adeniji, the leader of the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone. Hundreds of British troops are training government troops there in an effort to fend off a violent rebel movement. The report said that Mr. Adeniji was shown boxes of British-made ammunition allegedly captured from the northern rebels.Britain has denied any involvement in Liberia's war, which is part of a widening regional conflict at the junction of the borders between Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, an area rich in diamonds.

But Britain and the United States have been the strongest advocates of the sanctions the United Nations Security Council imposed against Liberia earlier this month for its role in fomenting Sierra Leone's decade- long civil war.Britain sent troops to Sierra Leone, its former colony, last year to strenthen the United Nations peacekeeping effort there after a 1999 peace deal collapsed and rebels took hundreds of peacekeepers hostage.The troops stayed on to train the Sierra Leone Army.

Asked whether he thought Britain's military presence was marginalizing the United Nations peacekeeping force, Mr. Adeniji said: "I don't think that is true. The British do have their presence in Sierra Leone. We do not see it as confrontational."

Mr. Taylor told a Canadian delegation Monday that Britain was undermining regional bodies in the search for peace.Today, Mr. Passawe quoted Mr. Taylor as having said: "The British troops should be under the command of the United Nations and not outside its operations. Everybody should be concerned about the British presence in Sierra Leone."

The Economic Community of West African States, whose force intervened in the 1990's in the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil wars, has approved a 1,700-member force to patrol the borders between Guinea and its two southern neighbors.But Guinea, which accuses Liberia of being behind a string of cross- border attacks that have left at least 1,000 people dead, has been reluctant to allow the force to move deploy.

More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia


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