Global Policy Forum

Liberia Argues Need For Arms

June 11, 2001

Liberia has asked the UN Security Council to temporarily lift an arms embargo so that it can defend itself against what it says are attacks by armed groups from Guinea and Sierra Leone.

President Charles Taylor wrote to the council, accusing the governments of the two neighbouring countries of supporting Liberian rebels fighting in violation of a regional non-aggression pact.

In recent weeks, there has been fierce fighting between dissidents and government troops in the north of the country, and aid workers have warned the situation there is increasingly volatile.

The UN imposed an arms embargo on Liberia in March, after accusing Mr Taylor's government of giving financial and military support to Sierra Leonean rebels.

Two months later, an embargo on Liberian diamonds and travel restrictions on senior officials took effect.

Ghost Army

Mr Taylor says the arms embargo "has impaired Liberia's capacity to defend itself against external armed aggression."

In his letter, he asks the UN to "grant a limited waiver of the arms embargo to permit the Government of Liberia to import essential military supplies for the sole purpose of its self-defence."

As well as military problems stemming from the arms embargo, the Liberian Government says it is investigating reports that almost two-thirds of his army might not exist.

On Thursday, the information ministry announced that the president had ordered an inquiry after revelations that the armed forces payroll list of more than 14,000 personnel "may be padded". The ministry said the actual number could be closer to 5,000.

Nigerian Opposition

Western diplomats say it is unlikely that a temporary lifting of the arms ban will be granted to Liberia. But newly imposed sanctions against Liberia have also come under fire from Nigeria, a key regional player.

A senior advisor to President Olusegun Obasanjo condemned what he said were unduly punitive measures against Liberia.

Ambassador Raph Uweche, who is the president's special envoy on conflict resolution, told the BBC that sanctions, such as the restrictions on the travel of senior officials, were not a solution.

He would not confirm whether Nigeria - which along with other West African countries had managed to delay the sanctions - would observe the UN restrictions.

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