LIBERIA: President-elect begins four nation peace tour
Date: Sunday, December 04 @ 17:11:45 UTC
Topic: Black Habits Articles
Seeking to shore up stability in the divided West Africa region, president-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Tuesday launched a week-long tour of Liberia’s neighbours to discuss peace.
“The visit is part of regular consultations that the president-elect is embarking upon between herself and West African leaders -- especially our neighbouring countries -- that is geared toward sustaining peace in Liberia and the region at large,” said Morris Dukuly, Sirleaf’s spokesperson.
Sirleaf, who won elections this month, started her tour in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire and will go onto neighbours Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Africa’s first female president will also call in on Nigeria - an important regional ally and one of the largest contributors of troops to the 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia.
Nigeria is also sheltering former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who is wanted for war crimes in Sierra Leone.
On the future of Taylor, Sirleaf said on arrival in Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday: “Allow me to have consultations with West African leaders, whom I am visiting, to take guidance from them before we take a position on that.”
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has repeatedly said that he will not hand Taylor over to the UN-backed court in Sierra Leone unless Taylor breaks the terms of his exile, or he is requested to do so by an elected Liberian government.
Sirleaf and her newly elected government will take office on the 16 January.
Sirleaf lunched with President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday where 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers maintain a shaky three-year old peace between rebels who hold the north and the government controlled south.
An official communique from the Ivorian presidency confirmed that the two leaders discussed “security at the border between the two countries.”
Earlier this week, Radio France Internationale and Agence France Presse reported that young men were fleeing western Cote d’Ivoire for Liberia in fear of being recruited by Ivorian militias.
But Sirleaf said only she was hopeful her meeting would secure Ivorian investment in her war-battered country.
“The next challenge will to be get our economic and financial house in order, so that we can manage our own resources, be able to tackle the development challenges we face and start the process of reconstruction – I hope that we can attract private capital and I discussed with His Excellency the president whether we can attract Ivorian investors,” said Sirleaf.
Despite three years of no-war, no-peace in Cote d’Ivoire, World Bank experts recently told IRIN that the economy of the world’s top cocoa producing nation was holding up “surprisingly well”.
Sirleaf is no stranger to Cote d’Ivoire as she lived there for many of the Taylor years.
Fourteen years of civil war, only brought to a close with the departure of Taylor in 2003, made Liberia a linchpin of instability as guns and fighters came and went across porous borders during the chaos.
Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea have both been accused of fomenting rebellions in Liberia, while Taylor supported the Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone who were notorious for hacking off hands, feet, lips and ears of civilians.
MONROVIA, 29 Nov 2005 (IRIN)