Liberians declare for peace again Abuja accord: Nigeria's strongman brokers disarmament and election pledge.

August 02, 1996

CREDIT GEN. SANI ABACHA, Nigeria's military strongman, with the moral leadership that imposed an agreement by DTC Liberia's brutal warlords to disarm and hold elections. All but one of the anarchic Liberian faction chiefs went to Nigeria's capital of Abuja during a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and did not leave until they had signed on.

Under this agreement, which is identical to one hatched a year earlier, all factions agree to disarm their 60,000 youthful so-called troops during August and to contest honest elections sometime afterward. It will not be easy. More than a dozen cease-fires have been shattered since Charles Taylor launched a revolution in 1989, half the country's 2.6 million people have been dispossessed from their homes and some 150,000 have been slain.

The 1995 agreement, with all faction leaders on a national council, collapsed when Mr. Taylor arrested a rival, Roosevelt Johnson, and anarchy descended on the capital, Monrovia. The West African peace-keeping army (ECOMOG) finally reimposed a de facto cease-fire and the latest peace effort followed in Abuja. Mr. Johnson, who had fled to Ghana, did not attend.

Nigeria's President Abacha does not enjoy good repute. He suppresses dissent and democracy in his own country and locks up chief opponents. But he has made a greater effort to end the agony of neighboring Liberia than anyone. In particular, a greater effort than the U.S., which established Liberia with freed slaves and provided the model for its institutions but which has washed its hands of the strife.

Whatever the original rationale for revolution, what's left now is sheer personal ambition, thuggery, tribalism and the cult of violence. General Abacha deserves the thanks of anyone who cares about Liberia for making it his business to bring the anarchy to an end.

Pub Date: 8/02/96

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