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General News of Thursday, 31 July 2003

Source: GNA

Emergency Meeting on Liberia opens

Akosombo (E/R), July 31, GNA- The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa, Ambassador Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah has noted that bad, corrupt, selfish and insensitive leadership were the root causes of conflicts in Africa. He said the lack of tolerance fomented by politicians and the problems of peace agreements was also worsening the conflict situation on the continent.

Ambassador Ould-Abdallah was speaking at the opening of a three-day emergency meeting on the security situation in the Mano River Area and Cote D'Ivoire at Akosombo.

International Alert, a UK based conflict management organization, is organising the meeting in collaboration with the Institute for Social Justice, a Ghanaian based human rights advocacy organization and core partners in the Mano River Union countries - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Civil society organizations (CSO), government observers as well as media representatives are attending the meeting, which aims to strengthen the role of CSO from the Mano River Union (MRU) and Cote D'Ivoire in the Liberian peace process.

It would also scrutinize the provisions of the draft peace accord between the government of Liberia, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and the 18 Liberian political parties with the view to identifying its impact on the peace process.

The meeting also seeks to work out strategies to undertake a vigorous direct action of lobbying, advocacy and campaign by CSO in order to influence the outcome of the peace talk.

Ambassador Ould-Abdallah said people were always finding the wrong causes of conflicts, sometimes basing them on mineral resources but that there were places with more minerals without conflicts.

He said the norm that was prevailing currently was for sitting Presidents to rig elections and that this amounted to coup d'etats.

"Incumbency should not be seen as an avenue for sitting Presidents to rig elections. Fraudulent elections are a form of coup d'etat. An unmilitary coup d'etat is an invitation to war."

Ambassador Ould-Abdallah noted that corruption was more pervasive in Africa because it lacked a strong judiciary, a strong police to investigate and a vibrant media to harp on the issue. "Corruption discredits public institutions. One cannot respect a presiding judge when he or she is corrupt. This brings about intolerance."

Touching on the Liberian conflict, he described the Mano River countries as an "arc of instability along the Atlantic Ocean" stretching from Guinea-Bissau to Cote D'Ivoire. He said what the Regional power needed to do was to ensure that when the international community came into the conflict it would not create more problems.

The Ambassador said CSOs should also ensure that the international community spoke in a coherent manner, saying: "If not it would exacerbate the conflict and cause more confusion and tension." Sheik Kafumba Konneh, Vice Chairman of the Inter-religious Council of Liberia noted that it would be dangerous for the mediators and facilitators to fail to pursue a comprehensive agreement in the Accra Peace Talks.

He said the present air of friendship being exuded by the warring factions at peace talks smirks of danger because in the end nothing concrete would have been resolved since the belligerents give the impression that everything was alright.

He warned: "If we are not mindful, many problems may arise after the Ghana peace talks because there are new dynamics emerging in recent times."

Sheik Konney said it was imperative that the mediators and facilitators measured their actions with their abilities, adding that both should be compatible.