Global Policy Forum

Nigeria 'Not Happy' About UN Sanctions Against Liberia


By Georgia Smyrna

June 11, 2001

Mr. Ralph Uweche, President Olusagon Obasanjo's Special Envoy on Conflict Resolution, says Nigeria and ECOWAS are unhappy about recently imposed UN sanctions against Liberia. Mr. Uweche was responding to questions fielded in an interview by BBC a few days ago - one month after sanctions have been imposed. The interview sought to clarify Nigeria's position on the UN sanctions against Liberia for its role in fueling the war in Sierra Leone.

Clarifying Nigeria's position, Mr. Uweche stated: "There is considerable disquiet, especially within the Nigerian population about Liberia and Taylor. He's being singled out for this kind of treatment at the time when ECOWAS is actually working hard to bring about peace both in Liberia, the Mano River Union Countries, and also Sierra Leone. So I am not certain that people are pleased with this move against Liberia. They think it's unduly punitive"

But when pressed by BBC on whether Nigeria intended to observe the sanctions regime, Mr. Uweche remained non-commital and ambivalent in his response.

"I have not consulted anybody on this matter. But we will see how things roll out. The sanctions just came over. We were not party to recommending Taylor and Liberia should be [penalized] in this sanction.

"Well I don't know how this thing will work out on the ground. But I am only saying that uh that the time when we think that Taylor and Liberia are leaning more towards peace, particularly with the event of Sierra Leone where Taylor and Liberia have helped to get the RUF rebels to begin to respect rules."

Further, Mr. Uweche pointed to Taylor's role in urging the release of 5oo peacekeepers of UNAMSIL (UN Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone) held hostage last year by the RUF, and his support for the ongoing disarmament of Komajors fighters (the civilian defense force) and the RUF rebels as reasons why sanctions should not have been imposed.

He noted that from the very start, ECOWAS countries were opposed to the imposition of sanctions.

"We took a position that was not in favor of sanctions. Even the delay of two months was engineered by leaders of ECOWAS in which of course Nigerian features permanently. We are, on the whole, not happy. Obviously, the UN is a world body to which we subscribe, and normally we follow whatever UN says, but the UN is a conglomerate of nations ­ all sovereign and independent. And it is important that when decisions are taken, especially if they are punitive, they should reflect the wishes of those UN members and in particular people of the region so affected."

Some argue that taking 500 UN peacekeepers as hostages is indefensible and should not have happened in the first place. They say the disarming of 1092 RUF and 2408 Komajors fighters, at the end of May, which was cited by Mr. Uweche is due to the imposition of UN sanctions and not Taylor's urging as the envoy erroneously stated.

Aside from finding the interview revealing, many observers find it incredible that Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and regional power that has paid enormous cost in both human and money terms without bringing lasting peace to the Mano River Union states and the West African sub-region, seems to cherish and has continually nursed the false illusion that peace can be attained without bringing Charles Taylor to book. In 1997, Nigeria said it spent four billion US dollars to end the Liberian civil war, and yet war still rages in that country" noted a political observer on African crisis.

Some conclude that Mr. Uweche's statement gives credence to the statement made by former commander of UNAMSIL, General Vijay Jetley, that Nigeria was intentionally prolonging the Sierra Leone war for its benefit. The commander wrote:

"It is well known that public opinion in Nigeria was against the continued deployment of Nigerian troops as part of ECOMOG in Sierra Leone, however the Nigerian army was interested in staying in Sierra Leone due to the benefits they were getting from the illegal mining. Gen Khobe was known as the 'Ten Million man', it is alleged that he received up to $10m to permit the activities of RUF. The ECOMOG force commander Gen Kpamber was also involved in the illegal diamond mining in connivance with RUF leader Foday Sankoh.

"It is my opinion that the ECOMOG force commander along with the SRSG [Mr. Adeniji] and DFC [Gen. Garba] have worked hard to sabotage the peace process and show Indians in general and me in particular in a poor light... Keeping the Nigerian interests was paramount even if it meant scuttling the peace process and this also implied that UNAMSIL was expendable."

The UN sanctions on Liberia aimed at ending the Sierra Leone conflict will be meaningless if the West African countries that were to monitor the sanctions follow Nigeria in objecting to the sanctions.

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