UK Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate Country Assessment - Liberia

  • Author: Country Information and Policy Unit, Asylum and Appeals Policy Directorate, Immigration and Nationality Directorate
  • Document source:
  • Date:
    1 March 1999


1.1.         This assessment has been produced by the Country Information & Policy Unit, Immigration and Nationality Directorate, Home Office from a variety of sources.

1.2.         The assessment has been prepared for background purposes for those involved in the asylum determination process. The information it contains is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to catalogue all human rights violations. It concentrates on the issues most commonly raised in asylum claims made in the United Kingdom. It represents the current assessment by the Immigration & Nationality Directorate of the general socio-political and human rights situation in the country.

1.3.         The assessment is sourced throughout. It is intended to be used by caseworkers as a sign post to the source material, which has been made available in the public domain.

1.4.         It is intended to revise the assessment on a 6 monthly basis while the country remains within the top 35 asylum producing countries in the United Kingdom.

1.5.         The assessment will be placed on the Internet. An elcectronic copy of the assessment has been made available to the following organisation:

Amnesty International UK

Immigration Advisory Service

Immigration Appellate Authority

Immigration Law Practitioners Association

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants


Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture

Refugee Council

Refugee Legal Centre

UN High Commissioner for Refugees


A.          Location and Climate

2.1.         Liberia is a coastal West African state of approximately 97,754 sq kms, bordered by Sierra Leone to the west, Republic of Guinea to the north and Cote d'Ivoire to the east. The capital city is Monrovia. The country is divided into thirteen counties, each having its own administrative centre.1a

2.2.         Liberia experiences a distinct rainy season, between May and October, with a short break in the southern coastal region, and is generally hot and humid throughout the year. The country consists of a wide coastal plain, with several low-lying hill ranges inland, and is densely forested in most parts.1a

B.           Population

2.3.         The last pre-civil war census, conducted in February 1984, estimated Liberia's total population to be 2,101,628, with a revised mid-1994 estimate of 2,800,000. The population is divided into 16 main indigenous tribal groups, plus groups of non-tribal Liberians and non-Liberian Africans.1a,2a

2.4.         As a result of the civil war (1989-1996), approximately 1.2 million people (around 45% of the population) are believed to have been internally displaced. In May 1996, it was estimated that there could be as many as 410,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea, 305,000 in Cote d'Ivoire, a further 15,000 in Ghana, 5,000 in Sierra Leone and 4,000 in Nigeria. By the end of 1997, the number of Liberian refugees in neighbouring West African states was estimated to have fallen to 480,000. Meanwhile, the US State Department has estimated that there have been up to 200,000 fatalities as a result of the fighting and that a total of 750,000 people have fled from Liberia, in addition to the 1.2 million internally displaced persons.1a,2ab ,19

2.5.         In 1995, UNESCO estimated that 61.7% of the adult population remained illiterate (approximately 46% and 77% of the total number of male and female adults respectively). Although primary and secondary education is largely free, and officially compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16 years, the closure or disruption of educational institutions during the civil war has deprived many children of even basic education in Liberia since 1990.1c

C.          Language

2.6.         The official language of Liberia is English. There are a number of native, or tribal, languages spoken which were largely confined to traditional tribal homelands. However, changes in Liberia's economy, growth and infrastructure, and the effects of a long-running civil war, have led to the inevitable blurring of geographically-based language demarcations.3,4


A.          The Foundation of Liberia and One-Party Rule, 1847-1980

3.1.         Liberia was founded by freed black slaves from the southern states of the US who were settled on the Grain Coast under the auspices of the American Colonization Society in the early part of the nineteenth century. The Liberian Republic was declared in 1847, under the presidency of Joseph Roberts. Descendants of the original settlers and colonists, the Americo-Liberians, dominated the politics of Liberia until 1980.4

3.2.         Between 1871 and 1980, Liberia was effectively a one-party state, under the governance of the True Whig Party. However, in 1979, following a 50% increase in the price of rice (a staple food in Liberia), "rice riots" in Monrovia resulted in approximately 100 deaths and the fatal weakening of President William Tolbert's authority.4

B.           Samuel Doe and the PRC, 1980-1989

3.3.         The Americo-Liberian hegemony ended in a bloody coup on 12 April 1980 led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, killing Tolbert along with his presidential guard. Doe established the People's Redemption Council (PRC), and summarily executed 13 members of the deposed government.1a

3.4.         The PRC were the first leaders of Liberia to come from the indigenous population, but were largely dominated by Doe's Krahn ethnic group. The PRC soon attracted criticism for its conspicuous corruption and the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by Doe and his associates. A draft constitution, approved by the PRC in March 1983, was adopted in July 1984 following a referendum. Doe promised a return to democracy in 1985, but the elections in October that year witnessed blatant fraud by the PRC, who won with 51% of the vote.1b

3.5.         As a result of the PRC's brutality and corruption, there were several attempts to depose Doe, the most notable being led by Thomas Quiwonkpa, a founder member of the PRC who fled Liberia in 1983. Quiwonkpa returned to Liberia in November 1985 to launch a coup attempt, which claimed an estimated 1,500 lives, with the army massacring many of Quiwonkpa's Gio tribespeople.1a,4

C.          Civil War and Peace Agreements, 1989-1996

¨           The Outbreak of Civil War, 1989

3.6.         Doe's regime came to an end following an armed insurrection, which began in Nimba county, led by Charles Taylor, a former Doe official. Taylor's forces, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), were few in number and, initially, did not enjoy much support, but the brutality of Doe's Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), who had massacred hundreds of civilians in Nimba county, led to a massive boost in support for the NPFL, along with the exodus of some 150,000 refugees into neighbouring Guinea.4

3.7.         The war quickly escalated beyond Nimba county and took on an alarmingly tribal nature. Doe's Krahn dominated army and the allied Mandingo tribe massacred other ethnic groups, particularly the Gio and Mano. In return, the NPFL massacred Krahn civilians and, by May 1990, had taken control of large portions of the country, with the exception of Monrovia and its environs. Attempts at mediation and negotiation of a ceasefire, made by ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), ended in failure, with Taylor demanding Doe's resignation as a precondition. By July 1990, Doe was besieged in his presidential palace as the NPFL advanced on Monrovia. Taylor established the National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government (NPRAG), based in Gbarnga, Bong county. A breakaway faction, the Independent NPFL, led by Prince Yormie Johnson, took control of much of the capital.1a

¨           ECOMOG Intervention, 1990

3.8.         Fighting in Monrovia led to further massacres, with the AFL being held responsible for the murder of over 600 Mano and Gio, mainly women and children, who had taken refuge in a church compound in an eastern suburb of Monrovia. In August 1990, and with the agreement of both Doe and Johnson, ECOWAS sent a seaborne force of 2,500 West African troops to Monrovia. ECOMOG (ECOWAS Monitoring Group) entered Monrovia and took hold of the port area, but were opposed by Taylor's NPFL, who offered armed resistance to ECOMOG's attempts to pacify the city.5

3.9.         At the end of August 1990, at an ECOWAS meeting in Banjul, Gambia (which was boycotted by the NPFL), prominent Liberian political and social dignitaries appointed Dr Amos Sawyer, former head of the Liberian People's Party, as President of an Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU). The IGNU was not, however, recognised as being authoritative by the NPFL. Despite ECOMOG efforts, clashes between the AFL and the INPFL continued and, on 10 September 1990, Johnson captured Doe, who was later brutally tortured and killed. Johnson subsequently pronounced himself head of state.1a

3.10.       In October 1990, ECOMOG, with the assistance of the INPFL, were successful in driving the NPFL beyond the outskirts of Monrovia. However, the NPFL controlled the remainder of the country, including the strategic port city of Buchanan, from where they continued to receive arms supplies and revenue from the export of timber. Taylor was reluctant to compromise with ECOMOG, who in turn lacked the strength required for an all out offensive on the NPFL. The IGNU, now established in Monrovia (Sawyer was installed as Interim President in November 1990), was powerless beyond Monrovia and entirely dependant on ECOMOG's protection for its survival. A ceasefire signed at Bamako in late November 1990 effectively recognised the division of Liberia into two distinct parts.1a,4

3.11.       In the period following the Bamako ceasefire agreement, Liberia existed in a state of uneasy truce, punctuated by further negotiated ceasefires and numerous ceasefire violations. A peace agreement, signed at Yamassoukro in October 1991, led to the encampment of the AFL, while the INPFL surrendered to ECOMOG and was subsequently dissolved in September 1992.1a,5

¨           The Resumption of Civil War, 1991

3.12.       A previously unheard of group, the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO), based in Sierra Leone, had emerged in June 1991. They immediately declared their opposition to Taylor's NPFL, and entered into combat against it in north-western Liberia during September 1991. In August 1992, the fragile peace was shattered by a ULIMO offensive on NPFL-held territory, which resulted in ULIMO gaining large portions of the western region. It later emerged that ULIMO comprised Doe supporters and many ex-AFL soldiers and officers. ULIMO's offensive re-started the war, and led directly to an NPFL offensive on Monrovia, beginning on 15 October 1992. Fierce fighting continued for weeks, as ECOMOG sought to contain the NPFL advance, and was ultimately forced into an uneasy alliance with ULIMO and the AFL remnants, who had been effectively confined to barracks since November 1990. ECOMOG managed to repel the NPFL offensive but attracted much criticism for its partnership with ULIMO and the AFL, and was accused of partiality by the NPFL. It also received considerable condemnation for its use of aerial bombardment which often resulted in widespread civilian casualties.1a,4,5

3.13.       In late 1992 and early 1993, a bolstered ECOMOG force (now comprising some 15,000 troops, mainly Nigerian) began overtly offensive operations against the NPFL, and succeeded in imposing a blockade on certain NPFL areas, causing food shortages in the interior of Liberia and, of more significance to the NPFL, partially depriving Taylor's forces of much needed arms, ammunition and revenue. The United Nations imposed an arms embargo on all the warring factions (excluding ECOMOG) and appointed a special envoy to Liberia.1a

3.14.       As a result of the increasingly successful ECOMOG-led offensive against the NPFL, Taylor recommenced negotiations with ECOMOG and the IGNU. During these negotiations, it emerged that between 500-600 civilians had been massacred in June 1993 at the displaced persons' camp in Harbel, 50 kms from Monrovia, where they had been sheltering from the recent fighting. Although initially blamed on the NPFL, a UN Commission of Inquiry, established to investigate the killings, concluded that the AFL were responsible.1a,6

¨           Cotonou Peace Agreement, 1993

3.15.       All-party talks, held in Geneva in the spring of 1993, resulted in a peace accord being signed by all warring factions in Cotonou, Benin, on 25 July 1993. The agreement called for a UN-sponsored ceasefire, the disarmament of all combatants, the establishment of a transitional government and, eventually, nationwide elections. An expanded ECOMOG, together with the UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL), established by UN Security Council Resolution 886 in September 1993, were to monitor the implementation of the agreement. Although several problems were initially encountered, the Liberian National Transitional Government (LNTG), represented by all factions, was installed on 7 March 1994, headed by a prominent lawyer, David Kpomakpor, and disarmament of the estimated 60,000 combatants began, albeit slowly.1a,6,7

3.16.       Fighting broke out again after both ULIMO and the NPFL split. There was heavy factional fighting in Tubmanburg during March 1994, following the division on ethnic grounds between the Mandingo and Krahn ULIMO contingents, and around the NPFL headquarters at Gbarnga, Bong county, in September 1994. In the same month, a former AFL commander, Charles Julu, led an unsuccessful coup attempt in Monrovia. Julu and six other officers were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment after being convicted of sedition in July 1995. All were, however, later pardoned by the transitional ruling council.1b,7

¨           Akosombo Peace Agreement, 1994

3.17.       A Ghanaian initiative, established during Rawlings' Presidency of ECOWAS, led to further peace talks between Taylor (NPFL), Bowen (AFL) and Kromah (ULIMO-K) in the summer of 1994, culminating in the signing of the Akosombo Accord on 12 September 1994. The Accord met with widespread disapproval as it did not encompass all Liberian factions, and effectively partitioned Liberia. Due to vocal opposition by church leaders, civilian politicians and other civic groups, who were concerned about the likelihood of a military government being established, the provisions contained in this agreement were not fully implemented. However, further inclusive talks led to the signing of another more comprehensive peace accord at Accra on 21 December 1994. The agreement (known as Akosombo II or the Accra Agreement) provided for a ceasefire (which took effect on 28 December 1994), a timetable for disarmament beginning in April 1995, elections at the end of the year, and a new government to be installed by 1 January 1996. Before this was to be achieved, the peace accord initially provided for a reconstituted Council of State. The elections, which were scheduled to take place in November 1995, were later postponed and tentatively rescheduled for August 1996.8,9

¨           Abuja Accord, 1995

3.18.       The original ceasefire was recognised by all factions, but ultimately failed prior to disarmament of the fighters. Fighting between most factions, throughout the country, resumed in February 1995. A further peace agreement, signed in Abuja, Nigeria, in August 1995, was more successful, having provided for an interim Council of State, which was installed on 1 September 1995, backed by a more effective ceasefire, which came into force on 26 August 1995. The Council of State (LNTG II) contained representatives of all the major warring factions in Liberia (except the AFL who were, however, recognised as Liberia's constitutional armed forces), and was headed by a neutral chairman, Professor Wilton Sankawulo. Again, there was some disagreement over the distribution of portfolios amongst the various factions, but most problems were later overcome.9

3.19.       Sporadic violations of the ceasefire were reported, mainly in Gbarnga, the NPFL stronghold, and Tubmanburg (the traditional ULIMO base). In addition, the proposed disarmament programme suffered serious setbacks, with ULIMO-J (the predominantly Krahn group led by ex-AFL commander General Roosevelt Johnson) refusing to surrender weapons to ECOMOG troops. The distribution of humanitarian aid to areas outside Monrovia was also seriously restricted, and the renewed fighting brought further civilian casualties.9

3.20.       Following the ceasefire, which had been largely effective since its beginning on 26 August 1995, rival groups were to disengage, withdraw behind established buffer zones, report to disengagement centres and surrender their weapons to ECOMOG troops, under the observation of UNOMIL. However, due to extremely limited resources and skirmishes with some of the unco-operative factions, ECOMOG were unable to disarm the estimated 60,000 combatants (later revised down to approximately 30,000) at anywhere near significant levels, and their programme quickly fell behind schedule. A special Ceasefire Violations Committee (CVC) was established by UNOMIL, charged with the responsibility for investigating breaches of the already tenuous peace plan.10a

3.21.       In the most serious violation of the ceasefire, during December 1995, fighting broke out at Tubmanburg between a weak ECOMOG force, comprising mainly Nigerian troops, and a large contingent from the ULIMO-J camp. Several ECOMOG troops were killed, many more wounded and approximately 130 were taken hostage. On 16 January 1996, after lengthy periods of negotiation, ULIMO-J agreed to an exchange of prisoners and bodies, and to surrender any arms captured during the incident. However, on 1 March 1996, ECOMOG withdrew from Tubmanburg owing to ULIMO-J's reluctance to surrender any weapons or withdraw from Tubmanburg, and responded forcefully to ULIMO-J's continued belligerence. ECOMOG troops were later able to deploy in order to implement the disarmament plan agreed under the Abuja peace accord, and create the much needed buffer zones to separate the various factions.1c,9,10b

¨           The Siege of Monrovia, 1996

3.22.       In February 1996, the Executive of ULIMO-J ousted General Roosevelt Johnson as their commander-in-chief. This was quickly followed by Johnson's removal from the Council of State. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the Ministry of Justice, in connection with the murder of the new ULIMO-J leader. Johnson, supported by troops still loyal to him, sought refuge in the Barclay Training Centre in Monrovia, former base of the AFL. An attempt by Taylor to implement the arrest warrant led to intense fighting in Monrovia during April, between Taylor's NPFL, supported by Alhaji Kromah's ULIMO-K, and the AFL/ULIMO-J of Johnson. Johnson was, in turn, supported by the leader of a separate Krahn faction, the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), led by George Boley. The resultant fighting, the heaviest and most costly Monrovia had witnessed since the beginning of the civil war, led to approximately 3,000 deaths, including several hundred from starvation and disease.1c,9,10cd

3.23.       Foreign residents of Monrovia, who had taken refuge at the US Embassy complex at Mamba Point, were evacuated and thousands of Liberians civilians fled from the city by boat. Three boats, chartered to carry refugees, made their way to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Takoradi, Ghana. A ceasefire was eventually negotiated and, after the factions withdrew from their frontlines, peacekeeping troops deployed around Monrovia in an attempt to recommence the implementation of the Abuja Accord. However, sporadic fighting continued into June 1996, before a general ceasefire was declared after the Krahn factions, the LPC and ULIMO-J agreed to surrender their weapons before retreating from Monrovia to encampment centres outside the city.1c,9,10d

3.24.       Following heavy international pressure, the major warring factions, with the exception of Roosevelt Johnson (ULIMO-J) who was not present, signed a further agreement at an ECOWAS summit in July 1996, indicating their willingness and desire to adhere to the principles set out in the Abuja Accord. A further meeting of the summit in August, which included Johnson, approved a reconstituted Council of State (LNTG III), to be led by Ruth Sando Perry, a former senator during the Doe regime. The Council of State was later installed in September 1996. The accord also provided for an immediate ceasefire, disarmament of all combatants by the end of January 1997 and nationwide elections to take place in May 1997, with an elected government to be installed by 15 June 1997. The ECOWAS foreign ministers also agreed that they would take punitive action against any faction leader who failed to comply with the principles of the Abuja Accord.10d

3.25.       Following the Abuja summit, there were several significant instances of ceasefire violations, despite the various factions' pledges to abide by the new agreement. Aid workers, who were for the first time able to venture into areas beyond Monrovia under ECOMOG protection, discovered thousands of starving Liberians, who had been effectively cut off from all humanitarian supplies as a result of skirmishes between the rival groups. ECOMOG deployment, in an attempt to disarm all the combatants by the January 31 deadline, succeeded in re-opening most major highways, thereby allowing relief agencies to deliver aid to where it was most needed. During the disarmament period, various agencies reported signs of massacres, and there were several serious clashes which resulted in civilian casualties.10d

D.          Return to Politics, 1996

3.26.       There was an assassination attempt against Charles Taylor in Monrovia in October 1996. However, no faction claimed responsibility. The AFL, who had remained quiet in the previous months, declared that, despite the fact that they had effectively been disarmed already, they would disband as a gesture of goodwill, and in order to restore confidence in the electorate. ECOWAS assumed full responsibility for security.10h,14b

3.27.       In March 1997, Alhaji Kromah was arrested following the discovery of an arms cache at his property near Monrovia. Charges were later dropped, but not before a strike in support of Kromah. Although ceasefire violations continued, there were no serious security problems in Liberia after the disarmament deadline. ECOMOG secured buffer zones separating the various factions, some of which continued to fight despite having been partially disarmed.10h

E.           Elections, 1997

3.28.       The major factions continued preparations for the forthcoming elections by declaring that they had dissolved their armed wings and had been reconstituted as political parties. Charles Taylor (NPFL), Alhaji Kromah (ULIMO-K) and George Boley (LPC) all announced their intention to stand for election in May 1997 but, under Electoral Commission (ECOM) regulations, were obliged to resign from the interim Council of State. The LNTG III also encountered many political problems, concerning doubts as to the supervision of the elections, the possible amendment of the 1984 constitution and Mrs Perry's efforts to reimburse civil servants, many of whom had not been paid for more than 10 months.15a

3.29.       The Liberian elections were postponed until 19 July 1997 as the necessary legislation and logistics were not in place for the original May deadline. Polling passed off peacefully, monitored by independent foreign observers including the Carter Centre and representatives of the European Union, who declared the elections to be free and fair with no significant irregularities. Charles Taylor was elected President and his National Patriotic Party (NPP) gained 21 of the 26 seats in the Senate and 49 of the 64 in the House of Representatives.10j

F.           Economy

3.30.       Liberia's principal sources of income, that is shipping registration, export of timber, rubber and the mining of ores and gemstones, had been badly affected by the 1979-1989 recession. The sharp decline in the demand for iron ore and rubber, and the dramatic rise in the price of rice, one of Liberia's staple crops, were key factors in the opposition to, and eventual downfall of, the True Whig Party government in 1979-80.1c

3.31.       Liberia's infrastructure, which was poorly developed before the civil war began, has suffered greatly through years of neglect, under-investment and cancelled development programmes. However, more recently, the civil war caused extensive damage to the industrial and agricultural economy, to the extent that the country's external debt is estimated to be more than US$2 billion, while the domestic debt is put at over US$230 million.10k,2b

3.32.       As a result of the civil war, there are no accurate figures concerning the state of the Liberian economy, at either national or personal levels. The continued fighting led to an almost complete cessation of the official export of rubber, iron ore, timber and precious gems, on which Liberia's economy had been based. In 1996, the World Bank estimated that the average wage was $725 per annum, which put Liberian wage earners in the "low annual income" bracket. With an 85% unemployment rate, the continued internal displacement of civilians and the absence of infrastructure throughout the country, productive capacity remained depressed until the end of 1997, despite Liberia's rich natural resources and potential self-sufficiency in food.2ab,1c

3.33.       The principal source of electrical power for Monrovia, the Mount Coffee Hydroelectric power station, had been almost completely destroyed by the end of 1990, and the main international airport, the Robertsfield International Airport at Harbel, remained closed for several years as a result of severe damage sustained from 1992 onwards. The smaller James Spriggs-Payne Airfield in Monrovia was re-opened to regional flights in June 1996, but had remained operational sporadically throughout the war. Both airports are currently undergoing significant rebuilding programmes.14a In December 1997, the Robertsfield International Airport was re-opened to international flights, and while the government indicated that there was still a considerable amount of reconstruction work to be completed there, it also expressed hope that the re-opening would help to facilitate the recovery of Liberia's economy.15e


A           JUDICIARY

4.1.         Although the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, judges have always been subject to political, social, familial and financial pressures. Corruption and lack of professionalism remained a recurrent problem. The judiciaryis divided into 4 levels with the Supreme Court at the apex. All levles of the court system in Monrovia, including the Supreme Court, functioned, though erratically. A new juvenile court, the first in the country's history, was established in 1997 but it tried no cases during the year. A criminal court established late in 1997 specifically to handle armed robbery cases heard only one case during 1998. Outside Monrovia the judiciary did not function in most areas due to and acute lack of trained personnel, infrastructure and resources. Several localities reverted to traditional forms of justice administered by clan chieftains.

4.2.         Under the Constitution defendants have due process rights that conform to internationally accepted standards. However, in practice these rights are not always observed. Courts regularly received kickbacks on damages awarded in civil cases. Defence attorneys often suggested that their clients pay a gratuity to appease judges, prosecutors and police officers and ensure a favourable ruling. In August 1998 the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court summarily sentenced a Deputy Minister of Information to 5 days in the central prison for criminal contempt after he said in a radio interview that he felt that the judiciary was rotten. In December 1998 the President called for reform of the judiciary and dismissed a number of magistrates and justices of the peace accused of incompetence or malfeasance.24

4.3.         In February 1998 President Taylor sacked Justice Minister Jallah for administrative reasons and replaced him with Eddington Varmah who was a senator in the national legislature representing Taylor's National Patriotic Party.2b

4.4.         Clan chieftains continued to use the tradtional practice of trial by ordeal to resolve criminal cases in rural areas. Although the Supreme Court ruled that trial by ordeal, commonly the placement of a burning metal object on a suspect's body to determine whether he or she is telling the truth, is unconstitutional, the Ministry of Internal Affairs continued tacitly to condone the practice in an unknown number of cases in 1998. A lawsuit brought in 1994 for injuries resulting from trial by ordeal was still pending before the Supreme Court at the end of the year.24


4.5.         The security forces included the armed forces, the national police, which have primary responsibility for internal security, the Special Security Service (SSS), a large and heavily armed executive protective force as well as numerous other irregular security services attached to certain key ministries and parastatal corporations, the responsibilities of which appeared poorly defined. The national army, which fought atainst Taylor's faction during the civil war, has yet to be downsized and restructured as required by the Abuja Peace Accords although a restructuring plan exists. Only a few contingents have been deployed to maintain security in parts of rural areas. The many, newly created security services absorbed Taylor's most experienced civil war fighters. Armed units within these services consisted almost exclusively of undisciplined Taylor loyalists. While civilian authorities generally maintained control of the security forces, there were frequent instances in which the security forces acted independently of government authority. Members of the security forces committed numerous human rights abuses.24

4.6.         Since coming to power in August 1997 President Taylor has made it a priority to rebuild the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) ridding it of its Krahn dominance. In January 1998 the defence ministry demobilized and retired more than 2,400 soldiers, including hundreds of senior officers. In May 1998 retired and demobilised soldiers went on the rampage for the third time to protest at not receiving their retirement benefits. Also in May the government announced plans to establish a national social policy for former factional fighters which would provide them with free medical treatment. A new centre had also been set up which would provide vocational training. President Taylor said that restructuring of the AFL would only take place after approval by the National Legislative. He said the present exercise of demobilisation and retirement was for those who had joined the army during the war. In July Defence minister Daniel Chea announced plans to streamline the armed forces.21abcand 22ab

See Section V B

4.7.         Security forces committed a substantial number of extra judicial killings during the year. Most were killings of ethnic Krahn on or after 18 September. See Section V B On this date security forces in the capital conducted a military assault codenamed Operation Camp Johnson Road against Johnson's base. Hundreds of SSS officers and members of the police Special Task Force, joined by scores of irregular former combatants of Taylor's former faction, employed automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Much of the shooting occurred at nightime and was indiscriminate. Credible reports indicate that as many as 300 people, most of them Krahns and many of them women and children, were killed in a 17 hour battle and in subsequent house to house searches and summary executions by government forces. Several officers of the Krahn dominated Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were subsequently interrogated and tortured before being summarily executed. The Government falsely claimed that the men had been caught in crossfire during the earlier fighting. Following these events about 9,000 people, most members of the Krahn ethnic group, fled from the country to neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire. Although the Government agreed to the demands of the international community for a United Nations investigation of these events, no inquiry had begun by the end of the year.24

4.8.         A local human rights organisation claimed that security personnel often use torture in interrogating those they suspect of criminal activity. There were numerous credible reports that security forces subjected citizens to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. On several occasions during the year security forces publicly disrobed, flogged and humiliated perceived opponents of the administration. In April 1998 the Director of Police ordered the flogging of a member designate of the Liberia Human Rights Commission for an alleged traffic violation. J. Kormah Bryemah sustained multiple contusions from the flogging. President Taylor appointed a commission to investigate the matter but refused to pubicise its findings claiming that he had ordered the probe for his personal information. The Senate subsequently declined to confirm Bryemah's appointment to the commission.24

4.9.         The Government often despatched security force units to rural areas without paying or provisioning them. There were many incidents in which members of the security services and the armed forces serving in rural parts of the country harassed and extorted money and goods from civilians. There were many credible reports that security forces harassed returning refugees, displaced people and refugees from Sierra Leone, especially in the border areas.24


4.10.       The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the rights of the accused, including warrants for arrest and the right to be either charged or released within 48 hours. However, many people arrested were not released or brought before a judge within this timescale.2b Although the Government generally adhered to these constitutional requirements warrants were not always based on sufficient evidence and detainees, especially those without the means to hire a lawyer, were often held for more than 48 hours without charge.24 In April 18 police officers were suspended for alleged unprofessional conduct including police brutality.21e Lengthy pre-trial detention is also a serious problem. The police have only limited logistics and forensic capabilities and cannot adequately investigate many crimes including murder cases. When the courts release known criminals for lack of evidence, police officers often re-arrest them on specious charges.24

4.11.       Prison conditions were harsh and in some cases life threatening. The Government did not provide prisoners with adequate food or medical care. Cells at Monrovia Central Prison were occasionally overcrowded with prisoners awaiting trial. The Deputy Minsiter of Justice for Corrections welcomed and supported initiatives by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and other NGOs to make improvements to prison facilities in Monrovia and Kakata. President Taylor visited Monrovia's Central Prison in December and subsequently ordered the release of some prisoners being held without charge. Women, who constituted about 5% of the prison population, were held in separate cells. There were no separate facilities for juvenile offenders. Human rights groups were granted frequent access to prisoners in Monrovia and these groups often obtained medical treatment for prisoners. In a number of cases, human rights groups and interested individuals achieved the release of prisoners.24



Human Rights Abuses During the War

5.1.         Throughout the seven year war there were numerous credible reports of human rights abuses committed with impunity by all the warring factions, mainly against innocent civilians as territory was seized or raided. These abuses include looting and destruction of property, abductions, enforced conscription, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extrajudicial killings and massacres of civilians. It is difficult to get an exact number of victims of serious human rights violations during the period, but it is estimated that about 200,000 were killed, up to 750,000 became refugees, and over 1.2 million of a pre-war population of 2.8 million were internally displaced.1a,2a,10k

5.2.         The civil war, which began on 24 December 1989, was dominated by ethnically-aligned factions, most of which have been accused of participating in various atrocities, the majority against innocent and unarmed civilians. ECOMOG troops, the majority of which are Nigerian, have also been accused of human rights abuses and partiality. The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are believed to have been responsible for the massacre of over 1,000 civilians in two separate instances: St Peter's Lutheran Church in Monrovia in July 1990 and Harbel Plantation in June 1993. Personnel of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), established by the LNTG II in 1995 in order to combat a dramatic rise in crime in Monrovia, have also been accused of committing serious abuses of human rights and other unconstitutional acts. These abuses include unlawful arrest and detention, torture and extrajudicial executions.2a

5.3.         The conflict in Liberia was essentially a power struggle, with some ethnic elements. Because the control of faction leaders over their troops was often loose and the central government, law and order, and physical infrastructure of Liberia had been either seriously damaged or eliminated altogether, the hostilities were characterised by widespread lawlessness, the easy availability of small arms and gross violation of human rights by all factions against innocent civilians. The IGNU and the LNTGs were unable to exercise effective control due to the poor security situation and were therefore limited in their ability to provide protection to Liberian citizens outside Monrovia. Furthermore, in April 1996, following the escalation of fighting in Monrovia, the already fragile judicial system collapsed and courts did not resume operation until September 1996. While Monrovia continued to operate with a degree of normalcy for the greater part of the war, the remainder of the country has been subject to the general lawlessness which has permitted the various factions to act with impunity and with no regard for human life. The long-term absence of a responsible, accountable or representative government has compounded the systematic abuse of civil liberties which has characterised Liberia's past.10k,7

The Liberian Constitution and the New Government

5.4.         The 1984 Liberian constitution provides for certain fundamental human rights, and is supported by a theoretically independent judiciary. However, the security situation during the war meant that there was little chance to adhere to the constitution or uphold its tenets. Furthermore, tribal affiliations and loyalties, together with corruption and general inefficiency, have played significant roles in the Liberian way of life and have all been major factors affecting the impartiality of the police, judiciary and other government bodies.1c,2a Following the July 1997 elections, Charles Taylor was sworn in as President of the Republic of Liberia on 2 August 1997. A new government has also since been sworn in under the 1984 constitution, which remains the operative basic law of the land.2b


5.5.         Prior to the July 1997 elections, the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the National Security Agency (NSA), which report to the Ministry of Justice, together with the Special Security Services (SSS), which report directly to the head of state, were nominally responsible for internal security, but they lacked the resources and training to function effectively. ECOMOG troops, numbering approximately 10,500 and deployed throughout the country, remained the key military force maintaining security and supporting the government, both before and after the July 1997 elections. During the seven year civil war, ECOMOG had assumed many police powers in the absence of a central government capability, and while it also generally maintained internal discipline, there were a number of incidents in which individual ECOMOG soldiers tortured and killed both former combatants and civilians.2b

5.6.         The security situation in Liberia remained reasonably calm throughout late 1996 and early 1997, with only minor and sporadic outbreaks of fighting, mainly between rival militia in the hinterland. ECOMOG troops were able to exercise control in most regions, having established firm buffer zones, and were successful in disarming large numbers of former combatants. Following the February 1997 deadline for faction leaders to dismantle their paramilitary forces, there were few instances of ceasefire violations, which enabled ECOMOG to provide the necessary security for the safe conduct of the elections. There were no reports of ceasefire violations after January 1997.10h However, while significant disarmament had been achieved, factional command and control structures were not completely dismantled and remained largely in place.2b

5.7.         While there were no significant security incidents, either immediately prior to or immediately after the elections, Monrovia has experienced an increase in violent crime,10k including looting, ritualistic killings and vigilante justice.2b A National Security Council, which includes the ECOMOG Force Commander, was established by President Taylor and a meeting of the ECOWAS heads of state in Abuja in August 1997 recommended that ECOMOG remains in Liberia in order to help the Liberian government establish and train a reconstituted national police force. The government has since appointed superintendents for all thirteen Liberian counties and the Liberia National Police have begun preparations to re-open police stations across the country.10k During 1997, there were reports that members of the security forces, including the police, had committed serious human rights abuses, which increased towards the end of the year.2b

5.8.         In November 1997, President Taylor stated that the task of restructuring the AFL was now his responsibility, not ECOMOG's, and announced the formation of a 1,000 man force to form the nucleus of a new AFL, most of whom it is believed will come from Taylor's disbanded NPFL militia. For its part, ECOMOG's commander, General Victor Malu, has stated that the force is ready to leave as soon as the Liberian government has made a case to the ECOWAS that it is prepared to assume full responsibility for Liberia's security. It was expected that ECOMOG would not remain in Liberia beyond the expiry of its current mandate on 2 February 1998. However, in November 1997, Taylor stated that he favoured ECOMOG's continuing presence beyond that date, but only as a capacity-building mission which would assist him in maintaining peace and security in Liberia.15b,18

5.9.         On 27 June 1997, the United Nations Security Council approved the extension of UNOMIL's mandate to cover the elections and the installation of the new government. However, that mandate finally expired on 30 September 1997, whereupon the UNOMIL observers commenced their withdrawal from Liberia. The UN Secretary General has recommended that a permanent office is established in Liberia to promote peace, reconciliation and reconstruction.10j In December 1997, it was announced that a UN peace-building mission would be established in Monrovia for six months.2b

5.10.       The July 1997 elections have been accepted as credible by international observers and the majority of the Liberian political parties. President Taylor gave his assurances that he would establish and promote a human rights commission and a national reconciliation commission in Liberia, and has called for continued international aid in order to rebuild the country's ravaged economy and infrastructure.14e

5.11.       The UN Secretary General has reported that humanitarian assistance is still much needed in Liberia. Although the security situation has remained relatively stable for over a year, the provision of humanitarian aid in rural areas is sporadic, mainly due to the poor condition of roads and the effects of the rainy season (May to October). Basic medical, sanitation and drinking water supplies are well below normal levels, and only approximately 25% of pre-war public and private health facilities are functioning. The UNHCR and other UN organisations and NGOs are in the process of attempting to persuade the externally displaced refugees to return to Liberia, and are establishing welfare and agricultural programmes to assist those who do return.10ijk By the end of 1997, approximately 1.5 million people in Liberia were said to be dependent upon humanitarian assistance to survive.2b

5.12.       On 9 December 1997 President Taylor appointed Alhaji Kromah of the Coalition Party of All Liberian People as chairman of the National Commission on Reconciliation. However, Kromah who had remained outside Liberia, said that he felt unsafe about returning and was replaced in March 1998. On 1 December opposition politician, Samuel Doike, and several other family members were detained on the orders of Taylor's chief bodyguard. Their deaths were later confirmed and 5 members of the Special Security Service were arrested in connection with the murders. Charges against 3 of these were subsequently dropped so that they could serve as state witnesses. These suspects were later freed by a court for lack of evidence. 21d f 23 22c

5.13.       In March 1998 ECOMOG troops surrounded the area around the home of former warlord Roosevelt Johnson after overnight shooting there. Johnson, minister for rural development, accused members of the Special Security Service, of attacking his home and trying to kill him. This was denied by the Information Minister. President Taylor later removed Johnson from his position as rural development minister and named him ambassador to India.21g22d e

5.14.       The chairman of the National Human Rights Monitor alleged that former generals of dissolved warring factions were holding women and children hostage in south east Liberia. In June 1998 ECOMOG troops withdrew from Monrovian streets alleging harassment from Liberian security services. However, they redeployed at checkpoints across the capital Monrovia in July when a government spokesman said that ECOMOG was working jointly with government security forces to tighten security in the city. Following the improved security situation the curfew in Monrovia which had been in place since 1992 was lifted.21h22f g

5.15.       In June 1998 the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) said that its staff had been placed under security surveillance and security officers had been enquiring about its Director Kofi Woods. The Commission referred to a press statement by the Information Minister, Joe Mulbah, in which he termed the Commission and its director as anti-government. The Justice Ministry later denied that the government intends to arrest the Director of the JPC.22g h

5.16.       In July a former member of Liberia's dissolved Council of State, Vamba Kanneh, said that there was a security threat on his life. This followed a meeting with President Taylor who accused Kanneh of involvement in a planned coup. Kanneh accused a security agency of misinforming the President and called for the replacement of the police director Joe Tate. Also in July the Deputy Information Minister accused former warlord Roosevelt Johnson of planning subversion to destabilise the country. The Liberian Women Initiative (LWI) complained about disappearances and subsequent murders of individuals which were linked to government security forces. This followed the arrest of a member of the Special Security Service in connection with the abduction and probable murder of a 37 year old woman. The Secretary General of the LWI was later charged with inciting the public. In addition legislators from Montserrado Country also referred to such disappearances and described the criminal justice system as ineffective.22h i

5.17.       The Liberian Council of Churches (LCC) accused the government of doing nothing to halt human rights abuses in the country. In July the Liberian Senate approved amendments to the act creating the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The amended act empowers the Commission to reach decisions by simple majority and not consensus. The Commission's decision, according to the act, can only be reviewed by the Supreme Court and the Commission's decision is enforceable by the Circuit Court. It also has the right to subpoena witnesses to testify.22j21i

5.18.       Grand Gedeh superintendent confirmed that national security forces were constantly harassing citizens in the country and this was undermining the resettlement programme in the area. The superintendent lodged a formal complaint about the harassment to Defence ministry authorities and said that joint security operations in the country were dominated by the Armed Forces of Liberia. A member of the NHRC also called for an investigation into the alleged harassment of citizens in Margibi and Rivercess counties. A Grand Kru County senator later described human rights groups as enemies of the State and said that they were painting a bad picture of the country. In July police authorities in Lofa County admitted to continuous security harassment of civilians in the county. However, a police commander in Kolahun District said that the police were not involved and accused soldiers of the AFL of being responsible. He said these soldiers were performing police duties and the police detachment itself was working to restore law and order. 22i k

5.19.       In August tension flared again around former warlord Johnson's home following the shooting of one of his bodyguards by ECOMOG troops who were trying to stop a fracas. In September Johnson took refuge in the US Embassy following clashes between government troops and his supporters. The fighting led to many deaths. Subsequently some prominent religious leaders complained of looting, harassment and intimidation by security forces. The offices of the opposition leader of the Unity Party, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, were also looted President Taylor subsequently apologised for these acts and said that some security men had been arrested for their involvement. President Taylor also promised a fair trial for those people charged with sedition. Roosevelt Johnson was also one of those charged with treason and Taylor called upon the US government to hand over Johnson and his supporters. Approximately 1 week after he had sought refuge at the embassy the US authorities flew Johnson and some of his entourage out of the country.22l 21j 22m

5.20.       Following these events the JPC issued a statement demanding transparency and accountability. As a result of this 4 JPC members were called to the Ministry of Justice to clarify their statement. Rumours that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of the JPC director were later denied by the authorities. 29 officers and enlisted men of the AFL were subsequently detained and charged with mutiny and sedition and aiding and abetting enemies. An attempt to forcibly free them in October led to the deaths of 11 people after a shootout at the detention centre. In November Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that she had been named in an indictment which listed those charged with treason. Justice minister Varmah later said that Ms Sirleaf was not one of the 32 indicted. Amnesty International expressed concern at the climate of growing insecurity and said that independent media and human rights defenders had recently been the target of an increasing clamp-down at the hands of the authorities. On 9 Nobember 32 people, mostly ethnic Krahn supporters of former warlord, Roosevelt Johnson, went on trial for treason. Johnson and another former warlord, Alhaji Kromah, were to be tried in absentia. Justice minister Varmah said the trial would be fair and fully transparent and that rights groups and the press would be able to follow the proceedings.22n o p q

5.21.       Until mid September the Taylor administration permitted domestic and international human rights groups to operate largelhy without interference but members of the security forces frequently harassed individual democracy and human rights activists. Although the Government routinely criticised these actions and pledged to investigate them and punish the perpetrators, it did not follow through on these predges. harassment increased significantly during the last 3 months of the year as domestic human rights groups and international NGO workers attempted to gather data on the number of persons who were killed, wounded and remain missing as a result of Operation Camp Johnson Road.

5.22.       Domestic human rights organisations were underfunded, understaffed and their personnel lacked adequate training. There are 2 coalitions of human rights groups: the National Human Rights Centre of Liberia has 12 member organisations while 4 other groups joined together to form the Liberia Federation of Human Rights Organisations. Both of these organisations sought to further public discussion of human rights problems.

5.23.       Some of the human rights groups paid regular visits to detainees at police headquarters and prisoners at the central prison. Several domestic human rights organisations have established branches outside the capital and perform similar monitoring functions there. There was no discernible pattern of government interference with these activities.24



5.24.       In its 1974 census, the Liberian government recognised sixteen indigenous ethnic groups, including the Bassa, Gbandi, Gio, Grebo, Kpelle, Kru, Krahn, Loma, Mandingoes (Malinke), Mano, Vai. These groups are distinguished by linguistic rather than physical characteristics, although there may be as many as six distinct dialects within just one of them, and while most fall into geographical clusters, these areas are not necessarily unified by any common culture, sociology, religion or political loyalty. So in reality, they appear to be more a reflection of the fairly arbitrary system which the old Whig government used to catalogue and organise the indigenous people. They, along with the Americo-Liberians, the Fande (an ethnic group of Ghanaian origin) and a small number of miscellaneous groups, constitute the population of Liberia.4

5.25.       It is widely recognised that Liberia has not been traditionally afflicted by inter-ethnic strife, with members of the different ethnic groups living in close proximity and with frequent intermarriage between them. However, while ethnic tensions did increase with the arrival of the Americo-Liberians in the early nineteenth century in a situation that can best be described as a case of "indigenous" versus "outsider", ethnic difference only became a serious problem with Samuel Doe's accession to power, his privileging of his own Krahn group, and his severe mistreatment of the Gio and Mano. As a result, the Krahn themselves later became the targets of Charles Taylor's NPFL forces, in retaliation for abuses against the Gio and Mano.8 More recently, some Krahn have claimed systematic discrimination by the Taylor administration, although there are some Krahn holding ministerial positions in the new government.2b No ethnic or regional group was conspicuously over represented in the Government.24

5.26.       Although the Liberian constitution prohibits ethnic discrimination, the war involved fighters from all factions torturing and deliberately killing unarmed civilians suspected of opposing them, often solely because of their ethnic origin, as they seized or raided another group's territory, which led civilians to flee the areas of fighting. Even previously aligned ethnic groups were affected by the spiralling violence, as can be seen in the case of the ULIMO faction. In March 1994, this split into ULIMO-J, led by Roosevelt Johnson and dominated by the Krahn, and ULIMO-K, led by Alhaji Kromah and dominated by the Mandingo. Heavy fighting broke out between the two factions, who raided each other's territory, harassing, torturing and killing civilians. Much of the fighting between the two factions was focused on occupation of the town of Tubmanburg, which had served as the ULIMO headquarters before the split. In November 1994, the two factions agreed a ceasefire and peace negotiations began in April 1995, but fighting was resumed in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties in May 1995, and clashes continued into late 1996. In January 1996, there were reports that members of the LPC were killing, raping and harassing members of the Grebo ethnic group in south-eastern Liberia.7,17ab

5.27.       While the constitution prohibits ethnic discrimination, it also provides that only "persons who are negroes or of negroe descent" may be citizens or own land, thus denying full rights to many persons who were born or lived most of their lives in Liberia including those of Asian descent. Although there has been no government initiative to repeal this provision, there are reports that non-Liberians have acquired Liberian passports. The 1975 economic "Liberianisation" law prohibits foreign ownership of certain businesses, such as travel agencies, retail gasoline stations, and beer and soft-drinks distributors.2a In October 1997, several bills extending the Liberianisation law were passed by the legislature, but by the end of that year they had not yet been signed into law by the president.2b

5.28.       A very large but undetermined number of innocent citizens who happened to be of the Krahn ethnic group were victimised during house to house searches following Poeration Camp Johnson Road. government security forces also turned away from hospitals virtually every Krahn who sought treatment for wounds received during the fighting.

5.29.       Many members of the predominantly muslim Mandingo minority encountered hostility when they sought to return, after the end of the civil war, to their to their villages in Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties. Many Mandingos were unable to re-occupy their own homes, which had been taken over by squatters. Members of the Lorma, Gio and Mano minorities generally held all Mangingos responsible for atrocities committed by the ULIMO-Mandingo faction during the civil war. The lack of competent security forces and a fully functioning judiciary in these areas prevented many Mangingos from seeking redress.24

5.30.       During 1997, there were several instances of mistreatment of foreigners, including citizens of ECOWAS countries, especially Nigerians. Several immigration officers were dismissed for beating and harassing foreign nationals in October 1997.2b In November 1997, there were reports that some Nigerians living in Liberia were fleeing the country because of alleged torture and hostilities at the hands of Liberian security personnel. It is claimed that about 3,000 Nigerians and other Africans have left Monrovia as a result. However, the reports were subsequently denied by the Liberian authorities, which stated that its immigration bureau has at no time launched a crackdown on Nigerians or any other foreign nationals in Liberia. They claimed that the recent departure of hundreds of Nigerians from Liberia was facilitated by the Nigerian Embassy, which recognised that all those repatriated to Nigeria were without valid travel documents, in contravention of ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of citizens in member states.14ij

Women and Children

5.31.       Women have been particular victims of violence during the war, suffering a dramatic increase in rape and sexual harassment, in addition to being targeted indiscriminately by the various factions, along with children and the elderly. In June 1995, 652 women were reported to have been raped in Buchanan within the prior six months, mostly by members of the warring factions. In some areas, the rate of teenage pregnancy has doubled, with corresponding effects on the educational level and social status of girls. Even before the war, domestic violence against women was extensive, but never seriously addressed as an issue by governments, the media or women's groups. However, during the war, several women's organisations were established to advance family welfare issues, to help promote political reconciliation and to assist in rehabilitating former combatants as well as civilian victims of war. Meanwhile, several NGOs in Monrovia and Buchanan have developed programmes designed to treat abused women and girls and to increase awareness of their human rights. A related problem is the rapid spread of HIV infection, as a result of rape and forced prostitution in Liberia and among refugees in neighbouring countries.6,2a,19

5.32.       The status of women varies according to region, ethnic group and religion. Before the outbreak of the war, women held one-fourth of the professional and technical occupations available in Monrovia, and women currently hold skilled jobs in government, including in the judiciary. In urban areas, women can inherit land and property, but in rural areas, where traditional customs are stronger, a woman is normally considered the property of her husband and his clan, and cannot usually inherit from him.2a or retain custody of her children if her husband dies. There continued to be few programmes to help former combatants re-integrate into society and there were none specifically to benefit former female combatants. However, several women's organisations advanced family welfare issues, helped promote political reconciliation and assisted in rehabilitating both former female combatants and women who were victims of the civil war.24

5.33.       Throughout the year, professional women's groups, including lawyers, marketers and businesswomen, remained vocal about their concerns. Government officials often responded negatively to public criticism. There were credible reports of harassment and possible surveillance of outspoken critics. Security officers forcibly brought a prominent womens rights activist to police headquarters for questioning and detained her for several hours after she revealed to the media that there were witnesses to the killing and secret burial of a market woman. The activist was eventually set free but only after thousands of women threatened to march on police headquarters to demand her release.24

5.34.       Female genital mutilation is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health. FGM traditionally has been performed on young girls by northern, western and central tribes, particularly in rural areas among traditional societies. Prior to the onset of the civil war in 1989 approximately 50% of women in rural areas between the ages of 8 and 18 were subjected to FGM. In some instances female health professionals in the tribes participated in the practice to the extent of providing post operative care.

5.35.       The war totally disrupted traditional village life. Most of the population fled to neighbouring countries or became displaced within the country. Social structures and traditional institutions such as the secret societies which often performed FGM as an initiation rite were also undermined by the war. While many experts believe the incidence of FGM had dropped to as low as 10% byu the end of the war, traditional societies are re-establishing themselves throughout the country and a rise in the incidence of FGM is expected. The most extreme form of FGM, infibulation, is not practised. The Government has taken no action against FGM.24

5.36.       Due to the poor condition of government schools most children who attended school went to private institutions. Since many private schools had to be refurbished due to wartime damage, school fees were increased greatly, thereby making education unattainable for many school age children. In both public and private schools children were often asked to provide their own books, pencils and paper. No date was known to be available on either school enrolment or government expenditure on education.24

5.37.       Children in Liberia have also been seriously victimised during the civil war. 77% of children are estimated to have lost a close relative. Many became orphaned when their parents were brutally killed in front of them, while others became separated from their families when they were caught in the fighting, and thus accepted the "protection" that it was thought joining a faction would bring. The Liberian war has been characterised by the forcible or voluntary conscription of child soldiers, a practice forbidden under the Protocols of the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Liberia has signed. Children proved easy prey for the various factions, some of which provided addictive drugs to ensure their compliance and continued participation in warfare. 50,000 children are estimated to have been killed, while many were wounded, or themselves committed atrocities. It has also been estimated that those under the age of 15, including some as young as 8, made up 10% of the 40,000 to 60,000 combatants in Liberia, with an added 20% being under the age of 18. Many youths remain traumatised and some are still addicted to drugs. The reintegration of these children into their communities presents enormous problems, as close relatives may have died or fled, and some have refused to take their children back because of the abuses they have committed. An estimated 1.4 million children experienced violence, hunger and homelessness during the war. The number of street children in Monrovia and the number of abandoned infants increased significantly following disarmament. NGOs and UNICEF continued retraining and rehabilitation programmes for a limited number of former child fighters. A new juvenile court was established in Monrovia in 1997 but it lacked the resources and personnel to function. Children continued to be incarcerated with adults and there were long delays in deciding cases involving minors.24 2ab,6,8,12

D           OTHER ISSUES


5.38.       The Constitution provides for the right to vote in free and fair elections and citizens exercised this right in 1997 in elections that international observers deemed free and transparent. However, the elections were conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation as most voters believed that the forces loyal to Charles Taylor would resume the civil war if Taylor were to lose the election. Since the legislative election was held on the basis of proportional representation Taylor's National Patriotic Party won control of the legislature by the same 75% majority that Taylor reveived in the popular vote for the presidency. The 1997 legislative and presidential elections were held under a special election law in accordance with the terms of the Abuja peace process.

5.39.       In July the chariman of the Election Commission issued a warning that candidates for public office who engaged in ritualistic killing in the belief that it would enhance their electability would be disqualified and would face criminal prosecution for murder. This appeared to be a response to a genuine social problem rather than an attempt by the Government to create a pretext for restricting political competition.

5.40.       The Congress did not exercise genuine independence from the executive branch. Opposition legislators, who controlled only one quarter of the seats in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, were generally more docile than some maverick members of the ruling NPP. Although all representatives and senators had been elected by proportional representation and did not campaign in their individual districts, most demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility towards their constituents. However, Congressional cimmittees failed to develop expertise in their respective areas of responsibility. No major legislation was passed into law during the year.

5.41.       The State is highly centralised. The President appoints the governors of the 13 counties. Municipalities and chieftancies elect their own officials. Subnational governments at all levels have no independent revenue base and rely entirely on the central Government for funds. Education, health and public works are provided by central Government civil servants. Local officials serve mainly as lobbyists to the central Government.

5.42.       Municipal and cheiftaincy elections were to have been held in May. Due to disorganisation, poor planning and financial mismanagement, polls were held in just one county where a by-election was required to fill a vacant senate seat. The election commission spent 480,000 dollars on the Lofa County election in which only 40,000 citizens cast ballots. Disgruntled poll workers who claimed that they did not get paid held a amember of the Election Commission hostage for several weeks to dramatise their demands. Polling in the country's 12 other counties was at first put off until October and then postponed until the spring of 1999.24


5.43.       The Liberian constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, but the government limited and continually challenged these freedoms. In April 1997, the NPFL-appointed Information Minister blocked the publication of six Monrovia newspapers, claiming that they had not paid the required registration fees. After the July 1997 election, the Information Minister repeatedly cautioned members of the press to scrutinise their newspapers, to ensure that they accorded due courtesy and respect for the government and its officials. In November 1997, the Taylor administration also threatened to close the national radio station, which was known for its independence, whereafter its reporting became more favourable towards the government. Government harassment of the press increased towards the end of 1997, including arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, and intimidation of journalists by the security forces. The restrictive media law, instituted during the Doe regime in the 1980s, remained in force and provided the Ministry of Information with wide discretion to regulate journalists.2b The Justice and Peace Commission researched the matter and found that an interim legislature had repealed the decree in August 1993. However, to allay lingering concern President Taylor formally repealed the decree in July.24 On 20 March 1998 the Ministry of Information announced new media guidelines which, if enforced, would have driven most private newspapers and radio stations out of business. The Press Union of Liberia challenged the guidelines as unconstitutional because they restricted freedom of expression. After discussing the issue with the press union, the Ministry agreed to revise the guidelines to the satisfaction of the private media.24

5.44.       During the years of civil war, the lack of security and an increasingly difficult economic climate meant that independent newspapers and radio stations were unable to disseminate information widely. In addition, both ECOMOG and the NPFL have been criticised for their attempts to restrict the dissemination of information regarding the war. Several newspapers and radio stations came under attack by various factions throughout the war, especially during fighting in Monrovia in April 1996, which led to the almost total destruction of Liberia's free press. The NPFL have, however, established pro-Taylor radio stations, which were able to broadcast election propaganda in the build-up to the July 1997 elections. The US-controlled Voice of America, and the BBC world service programmes continued to broadcast throughout the war, while the UNOMIL Public Information Unit provided broadcast material to all the functioning radio stations throughout the registration and voting process.2a,10j In February 1998 a daily newspaper accused the police of severely flogging its editor. President Taylor promised to take disciplinary action against the police officer concerned but no action was taken by years end. The government also forced the private Star radio station to close after accusing it of illegally using two wavelengths. However, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications allowed the radio to resume normal broadcasting pending the regularisation of the appropriate documentation. In October the Minister for Information stopped Star radio from issuing information on the internet. This prohibition was lifted after the radio station complied with legal requirements to operate.21a k22n p 24

5.45.       Security forces periodically threatened private print media editors and jounalists throughout the year. Several leading private journalists did not sleep in their own homes for extended periods because of frequent nightime visits and verbal threats by security officers. The harassment of private journalists intensified greatly following Operation Camp Johnson Road, resulting in a high degree of self censorship, particularly with regard to security issues. Seven private newspapers were published regularly in the country. Two were dailies and five appeared once or twice weekly. Some of them carried articles that were critical of the Government. However, their editors admitted to practising self censorship by witholding news reports which relected unfavourably on, and commentary that was highly critical of, the President, the security services and official corruption.

5.46.       Due to limited literacy and the relatively high costs of newspapers and television, radio remained the most important medium of mass communication. Six private FM radio stations located in the capital broadcast to the greater Monrovia area aand in some cases beyond. The Monrovia Communications Network affiliated with President Taylor's NPP party and reportedly financed by the President personally, operated one of these stations and also maintained a short wave station which broadcasts to the entire country from the town of Totota near the centre of the country. Its programming was not critical of the executive branch of the government. Of the 5 other privately owned domestic FM radio stations, 2 were owned by Liberians, 1was operated by the Catholic archdiocese, 1 was an evangelical station and 1 was foreign owned. The Catholic Church also operated a weak short wave transmitter. Programming on these private stations, largely domestically produced was, occasionally critical of the Government.

5.47.       Two television stations operated in the country both were privately owned. Two private Internet service providers, the country's first, began operations during the year. Several government officials publicly criticised citizens citizens who disseminated damaging information and criticism of the Government to Liberians abroad. However, there have been no known attempts to disrupt or otherwise limit access to the Internet. The government maintained its own website which it used to counter what it considered false allegations propagated on the Internet.24

5.48.       Academic freedom was generally respected at the University of Liberia. In July and August, speakers at a 3 week long natinal conference on the future of the country were openly critical of the Taylor administration's first year in office. There were no known reprisals.24 The Liberian constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respects these rights, but limited them in some instances.2b Throughout the civil war, political parties, NGOs and civilian groups continued to hold demonstrations and public meetings. These meetings were generally free from disruption by the Liberian authorities and ECOMOG in Monrovia, although ECOMOG continued to discourage large-scale demonstrations organised by civilian groups, mainly on security grounds. Meanwhile, such activities were severely restricted in faction-controlled areas outside Monrovia.2a During the 1997 election campaign, there were several instances of political harassment and violence against candidates, particularly in Monrovia, although these incidents diminished as the election campaign progressed.2b

Freedom of Religion

5.49.       The Liberian constitution recognises freedom of religion as a fundamental right, and while Liberia has no established state religion, it is at least nominally a Christian country. As many as 40% of the population profess to be Christian, with the many Protestant churches constituting the largest group. The Americo-Liberians, who constitute 5% of the population, are predominantly evangelical Protestants (mainly Methodist or Baptist), and most Liberians who became urbanised, regardless of ethnic group, also became at least nominally Protestant. Roman Catholicism is the religion of around 6% of the population, whose members are concentrated largely in the Kru ethnic group. Islam is the religion of 14% of the population and is believed to be gaining adherents. The majority of both the Vai and the Mandingoes (Malinke) are Muslim (75% and 95% respectively). Most of the remaining ethnic groups, including 80-95% of the Kpelle, Gio, Mano, Loma, Krahn and Gbandi, still adhere to traditional religions.1c,2a,3,4

5.50.       Religious divisions have not played a major role in the strife in Liberia, and there is no evidence of systematic violation of religious freedom by the warring factions.4 However, while the law prohibits religious discrimination, Islamic leaders have complained that Liberia's secular culture gives preference to Christianity in civic ceremonies and observances, and that discrimination spills over into areas of individual opportunity and employment. Although there are some Muslims in senior government positions, many Muslims believe that they are disregarded for other highly sought government jobs.2a Only one cabinet minister is a muslim. 24 Taylor's administration dismissed many Muslims, particularly Mandingoes, from longstanding jobs, and following his public accusation in September 1997 that Muslim Mandingoes were fighting in Sierra Leone, prominent Mandingoes in Monrovia and elsewhere began to receive threats. There were also credible reports that returning Muslim Mandingo refugees were not allowed to resettle in their home villages in Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties.2b

5.51.       There are indications of religious involvement in human rights issues during the civil war, which has led to the arrest of at least one prominent Christian leader. In March 1996, Lutheran Bishop, Ronald Diggs, was arrested and charged with hindering law enforcement when the Interfaith Mediation Committee of which he was chairman proposed that a national commission of enquiry be set up to investigate alleged human rights abuses committed by Roosevelt Johnson and others. He was released on bail the day before fighting broke out in Monrovia the following month.17b In May 1998 a mosque was burnt down in Nimba County and another in Lofa County where some 27 houses belonging to Muslims were also damaged. Police arrested 5 people in Nimba county in connection with the arson. A delegation from the Inter-Faith Council of Liberia also investigated the incident. Two suspects were later released on bail together with several traditional chiefs of Zoe-Geh and other suspects. Some were bailed whilst others were released because of lack of evidence.22g h j

Freedom of Movement, Exit and Return

5.52.       The Liberian constitution recognises the right to freedom of movement throughout the country, as well as the right to leave or enter. However, during the war, the movement of civilians and humanitarian aid workers was severely restricted by factional fighters, and even within Monrovia, ECOMOG was not always successful in ensuring safe passage. Inaccessibility to displaced persons, due to fighting and security concerns, severely limited the amount of relief assistance that could be provided. Late into 1997, access to major parts of the country, particularly in the north and south-east, remained limited owing to the poor conditions of the roads.2a,10k Freedom of movement was further restricted by numerous checkpoints set up by the security forces since the Taylor administration took office in July 1997.2b In June 1998 the Government repealed an exit visa requirement for all residents and no longer required foreign visitors to register with the immigration service within 48 hours of arrival.24

5.53.       Since 1990, over 1.2 million citizens, of an estimated pre-war population of 2.8 million, have been internally displaced, while in early 1997, there were estimated to be around 750,000 Liberian refugees in neighbouring West African states: 410,000 in Guinea, 305,000 in Cote d'Ivoire, 15,000 in Ghana, 5,000 in Sierra Leone, and 4,000 in Nigeria.1a,2a,19 With the improved security conditions, made possible by ECOMOG, more than 100,000 internally displaced persons and refugees returned to their homes to register for and vote in the July 1997 elections. Some faced harassment and extortion at newly installed roadblocks, by government officials, including the police, and some former fighters, who also subjected other civilians and humanitarian aid workers to such treatment. By the end of 1997, the number of Liberian refugees in neighbouring West African states was estimated to have fallen to 480,000.2b Meanwhile, the UNHCR has been organising an operational plan for the repatriation and reintegration of Liberian refugees. Several hundred returned from Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire in November 1998.10j 22s

5.54.       At the end of 1997, Liberia was itself host to more than 120,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, who had been fleeing their country since the May 1997 military coup there. Most have taken refuge along the western border in Grand Cape Mount and Lofa counties. Despite Taylor's closure of the border with Sierra Leone in October, refugees continued to cross into Liberia through unmanned border crossing points.2b The UNHCR together with the Liberian government and other NGOs, is monitoring the situation and attempting to cater for the emergency needs of Sierra Leoneans arriving in accessible areas.10jk However, while the new government has co-operated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations in attempting to assist the refugees, inaccessibility to many, due to poor road conditions and the limited capacity of local NGOs, severely limited the amount of relief assistance that could be provided.2b



Armed Forces of Liberia

Formerly the national army of Samuel Doe, Krahn-dominated but also with a significant number of Mandingoes. Led by General Hezekiah Bowen until October 1994. Has supported two armed factions: the LPC and ULIMO, and was found responsible for the June 1993 massacre of more than 500 displaced civilians near Harbel.7,8


All Liberian Coalition Party

Led by Alhaji G V Kromah, of ULIMO-K, it came third in the 19 July 1997 elections, winning 4% of the vote, with two seats in the Senate and three in the House of Representatives.15c


Alliance of Political Parties

Led by Cletus Wotorson of the LAP (Liberia Action Party), and comprising the LAP and the LUP (Liberia Unification Party), it won 3% of the total vote in the 19 July 1997 elections, obtaining two seats in the House of Representatives.15c


Black Berets

Created in Guinea by the IGNU in 1992, as a unit of several hundred soldiers from different ethnic groups.6,8


Bong Defence Front

Aligned with ULIMO-K, it operated in NPFL-held territory in Bong county during the civil war.6


Central Revolutionary Council

Formed in September 1994 by dissident members of the NPFL, it was engaged in conflict with forces loyal to Taylor. Led by Thomas J Woewiyu.1c


ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group

A peacekeeping multi-national force sent to Monrovia in August 1990 by the ECOWAS. In 1993, it was accused of impeding relief efforts and conducting its own attacks against non-combatant, neutral targets, and has also been criticised for allying itself with the AFL and ULIMO, both of which are known to have perpetrated serious human rights violations.7,8


Economic Community of West African States

An intergovernmental organisation of 16 West African states, with headquarters in Nigeria, whose aim is to promote economic development and regional co-operation.7


Executive Mansion Guard

Presidential guard created by President Samuel Doe, and attached to the AFL during the civil war.8


Interim Government of National Unity

Seated in Monrovia from April 1991 until March 1994, under the protection of ECOMOG troops. In March 1994, it handed over power to the Transitional Government, in accordance with the terms of the Cotonou Agreement.7


Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia

A breakaway faction of the NPFL, led by Prince Yormie Johnson, a former senior NPFL lieutenant. Formed in 1990, Prince Johnson gave himself up to ECOMOG and left the country in October 1992, following which many INPFL fighters rejoined the NPFL.7


Lofa Defence Force

Formed in 1993 to counter attacks from the Mandingo faction of ULIMO, it engaged in conflict with ULIMO forces in Lofa county. Aligned to the NPFL and led by Francis Massaquoi.1c,6


Liberian National Conference

Organised by Liberian citizens to discuss aspects of the peace process in August 1994, it continued to discuss and make recommendations to the different parties involved in the conflict and peace negotiations.7


Liberia New Horizons

Led by Charles Julu and William Glay, both Krahns, it emerged in May 1994, advocating a strong military-style government. In September 1994, Julu was arrested and charged with treason for his part in an attempted coup by AFL personnel against the transitional government, but was later pardoned.6


Liberian National Transitional Government

The first LNTG (LNTG I) was installed in Monrovia in March 1994, and was presided over by a five-member Council of State, elected by the three groups which signed the Cotonou Agreement (IGNU, NPFL and ULIMO), and led by David Kpomakpor. LNTG II was installed following the Abuja Accord of August 1995, and led by Wilton Sankawulo. LNTG III was installed following the further peace agreement a year later, under the leadership of Ruth Perry. Like its immediate predecessor, its members included the NPFL, LPC and ULIMO-K.1abc


Liberia Peace Council

Formed in 1990, with predominantly Krahn support, it was engaged in conflict with NPFL forces in south-eastern Liberia from 1993, and in 1994 is said to have stepped up attacks against civilians, particularly those suspected of supporting the NPFL. Backed by the AFL and ULIMO, and led by George Boley.1c,8


Liberia People's Party

Led by Togba Nah-Tipoteh, it won 1.6% of the vote in the 19 July 1997 elections, obtaining one seat in the House of Representatives.15c


Liberian United Democratic Front

Krahn faction of former AFL soldiers, led by Arma Youlu. Formed in Sierra Leone in 1991 and later merged into ULIMO.6


National Democratic Party of Liberia

Led by George Boley and a participant in the 19 July 1997 elections, it failed to gain sufficient votes to obtain any seats in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.15c


National Patriotic Front of Liberia

Formed in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire, it began the civil war under the leadership of Charles Taylor in December 1989, with an invasion into Nimba county that led to its control of large parts of Liberia. It acquired largely Gio and Mano membership, and is said to have been responsible for a number of atrocities committed against members of the Krahn and Mandingo ethnic groups. Between 1990 and 1994, it controlled the bulk of Liberian territory, which it ruled through the National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government (NPRAG), based in Gbarnga, Bong county. In 1994, a substantial faction of the NPFL split from Taylor, over doubts about his commitment to the peace process.1c,6,7


National Patriotic Party

Led by Charles Taylor, it won approximately 75% of the total vote, obtaining 21 out of the 26 seats in the Senate and 49 out of 64 in the House of Representatives in the 19 July 1997 elections.15c


National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government

Led by Charles Taylor, it was the instrument of NPFL rule over the bulk of Liberian territory between 1990 and 1994, based in Gbarnga, Bong county.1c


Nimba Redemption Council

An anti-NPFL group, formed in 1993, led by Karpeh Dwanyen, based in Nimba county and composed of Gios and Manos. It carried out several attacks against NPFL positions, and did not spare civilians in the process.6,8


Organisation of African Unity

Founded in 1963, to promote unity and solidarity among African states, 52 of which are members, including Liberia.1b


People's Redemption Council

Established by Samuel Doe on his assumption of power in 1980 and largely dominated by his Krahn ethnic group, it lasted until his overthrow in 1990.1a


Rapid Response Unit

Formed in 1995 to combat soaring violent crime in Monrovia, it was infiltrated and corrupted by the NPFL, and committed serious human rights abuses.2a


Special Anti-Terrorist Unit

The AFL's special anti-terrorist unit, believed to have been responsible for massacres carried out in Nimba county at the beginning of 1990, which contributed to the rapid escalation of the conflict. It had reportedly dissolved by 1994.8


United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia

Formed at Tubmanburg in 1991, by supporters of the late President Samuel Doe and members of the AFL. Split into two ethnic factions in 1994: ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K. The two factions have since effectively functioned as separate organisations.1c,6,7


United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia-Johnson

Krahn faction of the original ULIMO, led by Roosevelt Johnson. In early 1996, ULIMO-J officials announced Johnson's deposition, resulting in a further split between Johnson's supporters and those loyal to the new leadership. In 1997, he converted the faction into a new pressure movement, called UDEMO (United Democratic Movement in Liberia), not a political party but dedicated to the principle of democratic rule.1c,15d


United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia-Kromah

Mandingo faction of the original ULIMO, led by Alhaji G V Kromah since 1994.1c


United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia

Established by the UN Security Council in September 1993, to monitor the ceasefire and disarmament process, supervise the demobilisation and reintegration of combatants, and to assist ECOMOG in overseeing the overall implementation of the Cotonou Agreement, UNOMIL was also given the task of assisting in the co-ordination of humanitarian relief and of reporting violations of international humanitarian law to the UN Secretary General. The UNOMIL mandate expired on 30 September 1997.7,10k


Unity Party

Led by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, it was the runner-up in the 19 July 1997 elections, but won only 9.6% of the total vote, thereby obtaining three seats in the Senate and seven in the House of Representatives.14d,15c


United People's Party

Led by Gabriel Bacchus Matthews, it won approximately 3% of the vote in the elections on 19 July 1997, thereby obtaining two seats in the House of Representatives.15c



Dr George Boley

Founder and leader of Liberia Peace Council. Led the NDPL in the July 1997 elections, but failed to gain sufficient votes to secure any seats in the Senate or House of Representatives.15c

Bishop Ronald Diggs

Lutheran Bishop & Representative of the Liberian Council of Churches, appointed to IGNU as Vice-President in August 1990. In March 1996, was charged with hindering law enforcement when he proposed a national commission of enquiry into human rights abuses.1a,17b

Samuel Kanyon Doe

Former Non-Commissioned Officer in the Armed Forces of Liberia. Led coup against Tolbert government in 1980 and assumed power as leader of the People's Redemption Council. Publicly executed in September 1990.1a

Karpeh Dwanyen

Leader of the NRC, a Gio and Mano anti-NPFL group, formed in 1993 and based in Nimba county.6,8

William Glay

With Charles Julu, founded the LNH party in May 1994, advocating a strong military-style government.6

Prince Yormie Johnson

Former teacher, who joined Taylor's NPFL at the beginning of the civil war. Split to lead the Independent NPFL in 1990, when he tortured and killed ex-President Doe in September. Fled Liberia in October 1992.7

Gen Roosevelt Johnson

Commander of Krahn ULIMO-J faction, since it split from the original ULIMO in 1994. In 1997, converted the faction into UDEMO, and following the July elections was appointed Transport Minister in the new government.1c,15d

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Former Finance Minister during the Doe government. Imprisoned in 1985 for criticising Doe, and fled Liberia in 1986. United Nations Development Programme Director for Africa. Led the UP to second place in the July 1997 elections, but won only 9.6% of the vote.15c

Charles Julu

With William Glay, founded the LNH party in May 1994, advocating a strong military-style government. In September 1994, was arrested and charged with treason for his part in an attempted coup by AFL personnel against the transitional government. In July 1995, received a custodial sentence of seven years, but was subsequently pardoned.1c,6

David Kpomakpor

President of LNTG I, installed in Monrovia in March 1994 and remaining until August 1995.1a

Alhaji G V Kromah

Leader of the Mandingo ULIMO-K, since the original ULIMO split in 1994. In the July 1997 elections, led the ALCOP to third place. In December 1997, was appointed chairman of the national reconciliation commission.15c,2b

Francis Massaquoi

Leader of the LDF, which engaged in conflict with ULIMO forces in Lofa county from 1993.1c

Gabriel B Matthews

Led the UPP during the July 1997 elections, winning 3% of the vote and obtaining two seats in the House of Representatives.15c

Togba Nah-Tipoteh

Led the LPP in the July 1997 elections, winning 1.6% of the vote, with one seat in the House of Representatives.15c

Ruth Sando Perry

Senator during the Doe government, was elected chairman of the transitional Council of State in August 1996, becoming President of LNTG III in September 1996.1c

Thomas Quiwonkpa

Brigadier-General in the AFL and original member of the PRC. Fled Liberia in 1983, accused of plotting to overthrow Doe. Returned to Liberia in 1985 to lead an unsuccessful coup attempt. Killed in November 1990.1a

Prof Wilton Sankawulo

President of LNTG II, installed following the Abuja Accord of August 1995, and remaining for one year thereafter.1b

Dr Amos Sawyer

Leader of the LPP, appointed as President of the IGNU in August 1990 and inaugurated in November 1990. In March 1994, handed over power to the first LNTG.1c

Charles Ghankay Taylor

President of the Republic of Liberia. Former Ministry of Finance official under Doe. Formed the NPFL and started civil war in 1989. Self-declared President of Liberia in 1990. Survived an assassination attempt in October 1996. Appointed to the transitional Council of State in August 1995. Leader of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), elected President on 19 July 1997 and inaugurated on 2 August 1997.1c,6,15c

Thomas J Woewiyu

Led the CRC, formed by dissident members of the NPFL in September 1994.1c

Cletus Wotorson

Member of the LAP, led the APP through the July 1997 elections, winning 3% of the total vote.15c

Arma Youlu

Leader of the LUDF, the Krahn faction of former AFL soldiers formed in 1991, which later merged into ULIMO.6



Liberia, founded by freed African slaves, becomes Africa's first independent republic on 26 July 1847.


Americo-Liberian True Whig Party begin 109 years of uninterrupted political rule.


In April, Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe stages a successful coup against President Tolbert. The Krahn-dominated People's Redemption Council (PRC) government becomes Liberia's first administration to be led by members of the indigenous population.


In November, President Doe survives an unsuccessful coup attempt led by former Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Brigadier-General Thomas Quiwonkpa. The pro-Doe AFL massacre Mano and Gio tribes in Nimba county.


In December, armed insurrection in Nimba county by Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) begins the seven year civil war.


The NPFL overcome government troops in Nimba county and go on to control all Liberian territory except Monrovia and its environs by May. The NPFL attacks government troops defending Monrovia and the Independent NPFL (INPFL) emerges. In August, Western diplomatic staff are evacuated from Monrovia. ECOMOG troops arrive in Liberia in late August, and about the same time the AFL and INPFL form an alliance against the NPFL, but armed clashes between the AFL and INPFL begin soon after. Doe is captured and executed by the INPFL, whose leader, Yormie Johnson, declares himself President of Liberia. ECOMOG establishes a protectorate around Monrovia in October.

The peace process is initiated on 30 August at the ECOWAS Conference in Banjul, where Dr Amos Sawyer is elected President of a new Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU). A further step in 1990 is the Bamako Ceasefire Agreement, signed on 28 November, whereby Liberia is effectively partitioned between Taylor's National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government (NPRAG) and the IGNU.


In June, former supporters of Doe who had taken refugee in Sierra Leone form the ULIMO, which declares its opposition to the NPFL. In October, the Yamassoukro Accord is signed, whereby all factions were to be encamped and disarmed, and national elections to be held.


ULIMO forces engage NPFL in Lofa county. In October, the NPFL launches Operation Octopus against Monrovia. In November, the UN Security Council imposes an arms embargo, and a special envoy to Liberia is appointed.


In July, the IGNU, NPFL and ULIMO sign the Cotonou Agreement, whereby the IGNU is to be replaced with the Liberian National Transitional Government (LNTG), including a five-member Council of State, who are appointed in August. Presidential elections are scheduled for February 1994. UN establishes UNOMIL in September.


In March, ULIMO splits into Krahn and Mandingo factions. In the same month, the LNTG Council of State is inaugurated, with David Kpomakpor as chairman. In September, the Akosombo Agreement is signed by the leaders of the major factions (NPFL, AFL and ULIMO-K), providing for an immediate ceasefire, a reconstituted Council of State, elections in October 1995 and the installation of a new government by January 1996, but disputes over power sharing prevent its implementation. In December, Akosombo II is signed, immediately following which a ceasefire is implemented, and a commitment to elections in late 1995 is confirmed.


At the ECOWAS summit in August, the Abuja Accord is signed by all factions. A ceasefire is confirmed and a reconstituted Council of State (LNTG II) subsequently established in September, including leaders of the major factions (NPFL, LPC and ULIMO-K), with Wilton Sankawulo as Chairman. Elections are scheduled for August 1996, and by December ECOMOG troops begin to deploy.


In April, heavy fighting breaks out in Monrovia after Taylor's troops attempt to arrest Roosevelt Johnson, recently dismissed from the ruling Council on charges of murder. Hundreds of people are killed and the city is virtually destroyed in two months of intense violence. Peace is eventually restored following a further peace agreement signed in August in Abuja (Abuja II), whereby a reconstituted Council of State, with Ruth Perry as its chairman (LNTG III), is to be installed in September, armed factions are to be disarmed by the end of January 1997 and elections are to be held by the end of May 1997.


ECOMOG implements disarmament plan. All warring factions order their troops to abide by the Abuja Accord and dismantle their military wings. Elections (originally scheduled for May) take place in July, with overwhelming victory for the NPP. Charles Taylor is declared President in August.


August - tension flares around former warlord Johnson's home following the shooting  of one of his bodyguards by ECOMOG troops.

September - Johnson takes refuge in the US Embassy in Monrovia following clashes between government troops and his supporters. Approximately 1 week later the US   authorities fly Johnson out of the country.

November - 32 people, mostly ethnic Krahn supporters of Roosevelt Johnson, go on trial for treason. Johnson and another former warlord, Alhaji Kromah, are to be tried in   absentia.




ANNEX D                                               




 1.           a.            AFRICA: SOUTH OF THE SAHARA - 1995

                             Europa, 1995


              b.            AFRICA: SOUTH OF THE SAHARA - 1996

                             Europa, 1996


              c.            AFRICA: SOUTH OF THE SAHARA - 1997

                             Europa, 1997




                             Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,

                             US Department of State, January 1997



                             Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,

                             US Department of State, January 1998



 3.                         LIBERIA: REVIEW 1997

                             Reuters Business Briefing

                             1 February 1997



 4.                         LIBERIA: EVENTS SINCE 1990

                             US INS Resource Information Centre

                             November 1993




                             Human Rights Watch/Africa

                             June 1993



 6.                         LIBERIA: WHAT HOPE FOR PEACE

                             Richard Carver - WRITENET (UK)

                             October 1994




                             Amnesty International

                             20 September 1995




                             UNHCR Centre for Documentation and Research

                             October 1994



 9.                         LIBERIA: THE PROSPECTS FOR PEACE:

                             UPDATE: DECEMBER 1994 - SEPTEMBER 1996

                             Richard Carver - WRITENET (UK)

                            October 1996




                             United Nations Security Council

                             23 January 1996



                             United Nations Security Council

                             1 April 1995



                             United Nations Security Council

                             21 May 1996



                             United Nations Security Council

                             22 August 1996



                             United Nations Security Council

                             17 October 1996



                             United Nations Security Council

                             19 November 1996



                             United Nations Security Council

                             29 January 1997



                             United Nations Security Council

                             19 March 1997



                             United Nations Security Council

                             19 June 1997



                             United Nations Security Council

                             13 August 1997



                             United Nations Security Council

                             12 September 1997



11.                        LIBERIA: WHO IS LEAVING?

                             Canadian Immigration & Refugee Board Documentation Centre

                             December 1990



12.                        EASY PREY: CHILD SOLDIERS IN LIBERIA

                             Human Rights Watch/Africa

                             September 1994




                             Human Rights Watch/Africa

                             17 May 1994



14.          a.            REUTERS, 19 June 1996


              b.            REUTERS, 1 November 1996


              c.            REUTERS, 2 April 1997


              d.            REUTERS, 25 July 1997


              e.            REUTERS, 2 August 1997


              f.             REUTERS, 15 September 1997


              g.            REUTERS, 6 October 1997


              h.            REUTERS, 28 October 1997


              i.             REUTERS, 20 November 1997


              j.             REUTERS, 26 November 1997



15.          a.            FROM BULLET TO BALLOT

                            West Africa, 21-17 April 1997


              b.            THE KEY TO SECURITY

                             West Africa, 24-30 November 1997


              c.            A RESOUNDING VICTORY

                             West Africa, 4-10 August 1997


              d.            THE MOST WANTED MAN

                             West Africa, 28 April-4 May 1997


              e.            LIBERIA: AIRPORT BACK IN BUSINESS

                             West Africa, 22 December-11 January 1998




                             Amnesty International

                             1 October 1997



17.          a.            AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 1996: LIBERIA


              b.            AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT 1997: LIBERIA



18.                        BBC SUMMARY OF WORLD BROADCASTS

                             Liberia Communications Network radio, 22 November 1997



19.                        HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WORLD REPORT 1996: LIBERIA




                             4th Quarter, 1997



21.    a.     WEST AFRICA                     9-15 February

              BBC SUMMARY OF WORLD BROADCASTS 9 February 1998

       b.      "    "         "        "      11 May 1998

       c.      "    "         "        "      30 May 1998

       d.      "    "         "        "      28 February 1998

       e.      "    "         "        "      18 April 1998

       f.      "    "         "        "      1 April 1998

       g.      "    "         "        "      26 March 1998

       h.      "    "         "        "      5 May 1998

       i.      "    "         "        "      22 July 1998

       j.      "    "         "        "      24 September 1998

       k.      WEST AFRICA                    16-22 February 1998



22.    a.     REUTERS  25 May 1998

       b.        "     31 July 1998

       c.        "     25 August 1998

       d.        "     28 March 1998

       e.        "     31 March 1998

       f.        "     21 and 22 July 1998

       g.        "     9; 24 and 30 June 1998

       h.        "     1 and 2 July 1998

       i.        "     9 and 17 July 1998

       j.        "     14 July 1998

       k.        "     24 July 1998

       l.        "     29 August 1998

       m.        "     25 September 1998

       n.        "     19 October 1998

       o.        "     2 and 9 October 1998

       p.        "     3; 4 and 5 November 1998

       q.        "     9 November 1998

       r.        "     9 June 1998



23.          KEESINGS RECORD OF WORLD EVENTS DECEMBER 1997               



     Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor

     US Department of State January 1999




This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.