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Rebels call for Liberian President Charles Taylor to Step Down as Attack on the Capital Intensifies

StoryJune 09, 2003
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As tens of thousands flee the Liberian capital of Monrovia we talk with an opposition leader, Tarty Teh, Washington Post reporter Douglas Farah and Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the Liberian capital of Monrovia as rebels from the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) fight their way into the city.

Military helicopters began evacuating Americans and Europeans from Liberia’s besieged capital at dawn today. They were evacuated out of embassy compounds for a French ship waiting in the Atlantic.

The EU mission in Liberia told AP that a total of 91 international residents of Liberia were to be evacuated from the EU compound. They included foreign staff of the International Red Cross Committee and U.N. agencies.

Refugees have taken shelter in the football stadium and the crackle of gunfire can be heard in the distance. The rebels now claim control of the entire country except for Monrovia.

They have delivered a 72-hour ultimatum to the country’s President, Charles Taylor, to step down. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since LURD rebels began their campaign to oust him in 1999.

Rebels gained momentum Wednesday when a U.N. backed War Crimes court indicted Taylor on charges of crimes against humanity for his role in the civil war in Sierra Leone. The announcement of the indictment came as Taylor arrived in Ghana for peace talks aimed at ending the civil war. No attempt was made to arrest him, and Taylor immediately flew back to Monrovia to face the growing threat to his regime.

Taylor launched his own rebellion in 1989 in Liberia, a country founded by freed American slaves in the 19th Century. Since then, Liberia has suffered almost uninterrupted civil wars that have left an estimated 200,000 dead.

In 1991, Sierra Leone’s civil war erupted after Taylor helped organize the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group that sought to topple the government and control the country’s diamond mines. During the brutal civil war that followed, the RUF became infamous for their use of child soldiers, who were often drugged, and for amputating the arms and legs of their enemies.

Taylor has fought a series of wars and skirmishes with neighboring countries all the while facing resistence at home.

David Crane, the American who is the Chief Prosecutor for the special court for Sierra Leone, said his team of investigators were charged with finding out where responsibility lay for the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone and to "follow the evidence wherever it leads." It leads unequivocably to Taylor.

  • Reed Brody, Human Rights Watch
  • Tarty Teh, Chief Political Representative of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) in the United States.
  • Douglas Farah, former Washington Post bureau chief for West Africa, Taylor’s government targeted him for assassination after he published links between Taylor and Al Qaeda.


Human Rights Watch

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