Washington — FRIENDS OF LIBERIA is deeply concerned by the escalating crisis in Liberia. Immediate action by the United States is required to help establish peace and stability in Liberia and the region.
The crisis is the result of the failure of the Liberian leadership and the international community to satisfactorily resolve fundamental issues of governance and national security that were the basis of the first civil conflict. The hope of many Liberians, nations, international organizations, and FOL that the government established by the 1997 elections would return Liberia to peace and stability and the rehabilitation of its economy and society has never been realized. Today Liberia is once again plunged into a political and humanitarian crisis that threatens not only the existence of the Liberian state and its people, but also the stability of the West African region.
Liberians have been driven from their homes and subjected to a level of suffering, misery, and deprivation that is beyond comprehension. Desperate Liberians have limited confidence in the commitment and ability of the government and the armed factions to provide security and basic needs. They are calling upon the international community, and especially the United States, to come to their assistance. The goal of Liberians and the international community must be the establishment of a government in Liberia under which all Liberians can live productively and securely.
To achieve this goal, FRIENDS OF LIBRIA advocates the following:
* A strong, proactive leadership role of the United States in the international community to help guide the cease-fire and the transition to a democratic government. Liberians and the international community look to the United States to assume this role because of the long historic relationship between the United States and Liberia and the strong support offered by Liberia to the United States during the world wars and the Cold War.
* Support for the Ceasefire Agreement signed by the Government of Liberia, LURD, and MODEL and for the ongoing peace talks in Ghana to result in the establishment of a transitional government.
* The establishment of a multinational stabilization force led by the United States in coordination with the United Nations, ECOWAS, and African Union. This force will be responsible for ensuring that the ceasefire is observed by all parties and that the humanitarian community can work safely and freely throughout the country. The force would also have the responsibility of working with the Liberian government, the International Contact Group for Liberia, the UN, ECOWAS, and African Union in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of all combatants.
* A call to all countries in the region to immediately desist from providing military support to the Government of Liberia and the armed factions.
* Facilitation of Charles Taylor's exit from Liberia and his surrender to the Special Court in Sierra Leone to face the judgment of international law.
* The establishment of a broad-based civilian transitional government from which all leaders of LURD, MODEL, NPFL/NPP and other armed factions would be excluded, with a tenure of two to three years, to be headed by a president and vice president who must declare and agree that they will not be a candidate for presidency or vice-presidency in the future election.
* That such a government would be established to accomplish the following mandates: (1) to restore peace and stability to Liberia and build the confidence of the Liberian people in their government, (2) repatriate and resettle refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP), (3) lead efforts to reconcile Liberia's peoples, (4) restore Liberia's international credibility, (5) restore basic institutions and infrastructure, (6) prepare the country for free and fair elections.
* That the United States, the United Nations, the European Union immediately mobilize resources to address the humanitarian crisis in Liberia, assist in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), and in the repatriation and resettlement of refugees and IDPs.
* Support for reconciliation initiatives by civil society that seek to improve the capacity of grassroots and nongovernmental organizations in Liberia to promote conflict resolution and restore civil order. Special attention should be paid to addressing the needs of child soldiers.
* Assistance to the transitional government in paving the way toward free and fair elections through the restructuring and retraining of security forces, repatriation and resettlement of the population, restructuring the elections commission, and the education of voters. Consideration should be given to the holding of legislative and local elections at least 3 months prior to presidential elections.
FOL remains committed to working with the Liberian people to achieve a peaceful and stable society. Along with Liberians, FOL is concerned and dismayed that Liberia, the first republic in sub-Saharan Africa that played a critical role in the formation of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity, has been transformed into a failed state known best for anarchy and violence. In particular, FOL supports the call of the Liberian people for an end to the cycle of violence by warlords and the establishment of a democratic civilian government so that Liberia can once again be an honorable member of the international community. FOL calls upon the US government and the international community to provide necessary support and resources in this critical transition.
Friends of Liberia is recognized internationally as a non-governmental and non-profit organization leading in caring for Liberians' education, human rights, community development and good governance. Founded in 1986, FOL has approximately 800 members including returned Peace Corps Volunteers, diplomats, missionaries, scholars, business people, and Liberians.