We have detected that the browser you are using is no longer supported. As a result, some content may not display correctly.
We suggest that you upgrade to the latest version of any of the following browsers:
Loyalist troops and rebels were locked in a tense standoff
yesterday in the Liberian capital Monrovia, a city gripped by
hunger and menaced by disease, on the eve of the arrival of west
From a desolate, semi-ruined hotel on an outcrop of rock
overlooking the frontline an occasional burst of gunfire could be
heard, but there was no sign of a repeat of Saturday's intense
fighting for control of two key bridges.
But as smoke rose over the ruins of a building on the rebel
frontline, no-one was betting that Liberia's latest four-year bout
of civil war was over.
"Our security sources tell us there is going to be another attack,"
a frontline rebel commander known as Jacob said, insisting that his
men would not make the first move.
"The men have been ordered not to fire. Nobody will make a move,"
Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea said that fighting was taking
place yesterady in the second city of Gbarnga, as well as the in
the rebel-held southeastern port of Buchanan.
On Saturday, Liberia's warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor
promised west African envoys that he would leave office on Monday,
Nigeria, west Africa's economic and military giant, had offered
Taylor asylum if he agreed to resign as leader of a nation that has
suffered more than a decade of war and served as a breeding-ground
for regional instability.
Now Nigerian troops are to spearhead a regional peacekeeping force,
set up by the Economic Community of West African States (Eciwas)
and backed by a tough United Nations mandate to bring peace to the
Officials said that today a 776-strong battallion of Nigerian
peacekeepers will be airlifted into Liberia from neighbouring
The force is expected to grow to 5 000 strong with more Nigerian
units plus some from other Ecowas states.
Chea however said the planned force was not nearly big enough and
called on the bloc to take a tougher line with the rebels.
"You need at least 15 000, but at least the presence of the
peacekeepers is a very good begining," he said.
"I believe Ecowas needs to show some teeth... It has to go beyond
this passive attitude".
Almost five years ago a group dubbing itself Liberians United for
Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rose in rebellion against
Along with a splinter rebel faction, they now control around
four-fifths of the country, an impoverished land of 111 370 square
kilometres of bush, swamp and tropical forest on Africa's Atlantic
Lurd leader Sekou Damate Conneh was Sunday in Rome where he is the
guest of the Sant'Egidio Community, a Catholic group involved in
behind the scenes negotiations on the crisis, church official Paolo
The rebels have proved unable or unwilling to capture the capital
Monrovia, a port city lying on a string of islands and peninsulas,
which is now teeming with displaced families, desperate for food
and clean water.
In June this year as the first of around 200 000 refugees from the
fighting poured into the streets of the rundown city, a shocked
Ecowas tried to broker a truce between Taylor's government and the
But the rebels - and the US - insisted that Taylor must step down
if the peace process was to succeed.
The embattled president agreed, but until Saturday had dithered on
naming a date.
Yesterday the World Food Programme announced that it had managed to
fly in half-a-tonne of nutritional biscuits and planned to bring
But most planners believe a larger humanitarian mission will
require a security force.
Vrola Chea, a 24-year-old refugee hiding out in the filthy concrete
shell of the ruined hotel overlooking the frontline bridges,
suffered eye injuries when a shell exploded over her head.
She feels Ecowas is her last hope.
"We are suffering. We have no food. We are dying," she said.
"Nigerian troops should come soon. They should save us".
Taylor unleashed one of Africa's most savage civil wars in 1989
when he led a rebellion against Liberia's then president, Samuel
Doe, which lasted for six years and killed some 250 000
He is accused by a UN-backed court of backing rebels in Sierra
Leone, who were notorious for recruiting child soldiers and hacking
off limbs in a war which raged from 1991 until January 2002 and
claimed another 200 000 lives.
A year after Taylor's election in 1997 the Lurd took up arms
against him, plunging Liberia into yet another war. –