12 December 2013

Liberia: UN Exposes Ex-LURD Officials Over Recruitment of Mercenaries

Photo: Bernadette Kouamé
Ivoirian refugees being repatriated home from Liberia (file photo).

The United Nations Panel of Experts has said it received information in September 2013 concerning the recruitment of Liberian and Sierra Leonean mercenaries in Nimba County for possible operations in Guinea.

According to the UN Panel of Experts latest report released on Liberia, the Panel mentioned that it obtained the names of several recruiters from Liberian mercenaries familiar with the recruitment process, as well as from a Liberian security agency, although it did not have the opportunity at the end of its mandate to conduct a field visit to investigate this suspected recruitment further.

The Panel noted that it had previously received information concerning the recruitment of mercenaries in south-eastern Guinea early in 2012 on behalf of a Liberian mercenary named Ophoree Diah, who is currently on trial for mercenarism in relation to cross-border attacks from Liberia into Côte d'Ivoire, along with 17 other individuals.

Said the report: "Information regarding this recruitment was obtained from mercenaries who are sources of the Panel, a Liberian security agency and the Group of Experts on Côte d'Ivoire."

Diah, who had served as the deputy chief of staff for erstwhile LURD operations during the Liberian civil conflict, travelled from Liberia to Ghana in late 2011 to serve as a courier of funds for mercenaries on behalf of former officials of the Government of Laurent Gbagbo.

Diah and two other Liberian mercenary sources informed the Panel that the Executive Mansion had assisted Diah in obtaining a passport in October 2011 and travelling to Ghana, which the Government of Liberia denied to the Panel.

Liberian mercenaries familiar with Diah's activities also informed the Panel in September 2013 that Diah had sought to obtain illicit weapons on a forest concession in Gbarzon District, Grand Gedeh County, in 2012, prior to his arrest by the Liberia National Police in September 2012.

Diah told the Panel on 24 October 2012 that he worked for the logging company A&M Enterprises, owned by Aicha Konneh in Grand Gedeh County, information that the Panel was subsequently able to verify through two other sources.

Konneh played a prominent role, from Guinea, in the formation and leadership of the former rebel group LURD during the Liberian civil conflict.

The Panel is continuing to investigate Diah's network, including former LURD generals and ringleaders, to determine their financial or political interests in Guinea.

"Furthermore, Diah's telephone records obtained from the Ministry of Justice of Liberia in September 2012, show that Diah had placed or received calls to or from Aicha Konneh's telephone on 48 days between 30 March and 10 September 2012, with multiple calls placed or received on many of these days," the report among other things added.

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