World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Statement on Liberia

02 September 2003

WCC Central Committee, Geneva, 26 August-2 September, 2003


Liberia has been in the throes of civil strife and wars since the 1980s. A peace
agreement signed between the Liberian army and the rebels resulted in the election
of Charles Taylor as President of Liberia in 1997. In 1999, Taylor was accused
of destabilizing neighbouring countries, especially Sierra Leone, from which he
profited massively by supporting rebels operating in the diamond mining areas.

In May 2001, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Liberia
because of Taylor's activities to destabilize the region by promoting conflicts and
trading weapons for diamonds with the rebels in Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, rebels belonging to Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy
(LURD) who were fighting Taylor's army, initially operating from bases in Guinea,
made progress and gained more and more territory in the north and west. Also,
another rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), gained
control of strategic areas in the south and east, thus cutting off Taylor from his
other main source of revenue - timber. Around March 2003, fighting intensified
and the rebels opened a number of fronts and between them were able to control
two thirds of the country before reaching the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia.

As a result of the escalation in fighting a large number of people, including internally
displaced persons and refugees from neighbouring countries, were again
uprooted and forced to move in search of safety and security. Soldiers from Taylor's
army who were not paid wages for several months indulged in widespread looting
and plunder. The complete breakdown of law and order and disruption of
humanitarian services further added to the suffering of the already beleaguered
population.

On 4th June a high-level Liberian Peace Conference was convened in Accra, Ghana,
under the auspices of the United Nations - International Contact Group on Liberia
(ICGL). While the talks were in progress the UN Special Court in Sierra Leone
for war crimes indicted Taylor for crimes against humanity and issued warrants
for his arrest. After considerable difficulties and painstaking negotiations the parties
finally agreed to a cease-fire on 17th June, 2003. Despite the cease-fire agreement,
fighting continued as Taylor prolonged his departure from Monrovia and
the rebels tried to make last minute gains.

On 1st August, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1497 (2003). The
Resolution authorized the establishment of a multi-national force to support the
implementation of the 17th June cease-fire agreement, including establishment
of conditions for the initial stages of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
activities to help establish and maintain security in the interim period, until
the installation of a successor authority. On 18th August, ECOWAS and the
United Nations brokered a power-sharing agreement between the current government,
the rebels, political parties and civil society, for a transitional government
that will take charge in October 2003 and prepare the country for democratic
elections before the end of 2005.

The leadership of the Liberian Council of Churches remained present in Accra
and in consultation with the representatives of the parties to the conflict through
the duration of the peace talks and kept churches worldwide informed of developments.

The AACC and churches in Africa and the US called on the African
leaders and the United Nations to work towards a comprehensive resolution of
the conflict. The World Council of Churches sent letters of support to the churches
in Liberia and to the UN Secretary General calling on him to support the Accra
Peace Initiative and encourage the parties to agree on the presence of a credible
peace keeping force.

The Central Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland 26th August-2nd
September, 2003, therefore:

a) Expresses its appreciation and support for the role of ECOWAS, ECOMIL,
AU, the inter-religious council, the churches and leaders of the Liberian Council
of Churches for their efforts to promote peace and accompany the parties to
the conflict in their negotiations at Accra, Ghana, to arrive at an agreement
to cease hostilities and to form a transitional government;

b) Condemns the spate of violence unleashed by the military forces of the government
of Liberia under the leadership of Charles Taylor and the LURD and
MODEL rebel groups that resulted in horrific conditions and untold human
sufferings which left the majority of the people on the streets for days with
little or no access to clean water, sanitation and food;

c) Welcomes the UN Security Council Resolution 1497 (2003) and expects
that an all-inclusive political framework agreed between the parties on 18th
August, for a transitional government, can be implemented and a conducive
climate created for free and fair elections in Liberia before the end of 2005;

d) Urges member churches to uphold and support the peace and advocacy
work of the Liberian Council of Churches and its members in prayer and
thanksgiving for their continued witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the
Prince of Peace;

e) Calls on churches and church-related agencies around the world, particularly
those in the United States because of its historical links with Liberia, to
provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to the people and to accompany
the churches as they seek to promote a just and durable peace, and restore
harmonious community life where all people can contribute to the establishment
of a society with justice and dignity for all.