Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Liberia's Crisis Shows Price of Ignoring African Strife

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Liberia's Crisis Shows Price of Ignoring African Strife

Article excerpt

THE resumption of fighting this week in the West African nation of Liberia highlights the cost of inattention to peacemaking in nations torn by civil strife.

"The lesson we see in Liberia is that where there is civil conflict and where the world does not get engaged or tries to do it on the cheap, there's a price to pay," says Reed Kramer, managing editor of the Durham, North Carolina-based Africa News Service, a non-profit news agency that distributes news about the continent.

An eight-month-old peace pact between warring Liberian factions collapsed Saturday when widespread fighting broke out in the capital, Monrovia. A reported cease-fire yesterday at least temporarily ended four days of conflict. But a small fleet of helicopters continued to evacuate American diplomats - including United States Embassy staff and dependents, businessmen, and relief workers - to safety in neighboring Senegal. A team of 18 Navy SEAL commandos has been dispatched to Monrovia to reinforce security at the embassy. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 civilians, meanwhile, remain crowded into a housing compound near the embassy, in the Mamba Point neighborhood of Monrovia. Hundreds of others were being used as human shields by the leader of one of the main rebel factions, Roosevelt Johnson, whose attempted arrest touched off the weekend fighting. An official of one relief organization who has been monitoring events from Ivory Coast reports that relief workers have been forced to remain in their homes, bringing relief operations - including medical clinics and feeding centers for malnourished children - to a halt. Offices and warehouses containing food and medicine have been looted. The country's only international airport and Monrovia's seaport have reportedly been closed, meaning that it could be days or weeks before relief operations could be resumed even if the cease-fire holds, says the official, Benjamin Chapman, who represents the private French relief organization Doctors Without Borders in the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan. "All of the relief activities going on are basically pointless because, if there's no stability, it's impossible to operate," says Mr. …

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