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October 21, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 135




Dennis Coday Peace comes to Monrovia

Dennis Coday, NCR staff writer

The resilience of people in adversity astounds me. Testament to this is the series of stories from Liberia running yesterday and today, on "All Things Considered," National Public Radio's evening news program.

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You can listen to the first installment at this link: Liberia After the War.

The United Nations estimates that 200,000 people died in fighting in Liberia over the last 14 years. The last three were the bloodiest. Yet, according to NPR's Jason Beaubien, just 10 weeks after warring factions reached a peace agreement and the despot Charles Taylor was forced into exile, Monrovia is "bustling with commerce and awash with entrepreneurs and exiles flooding back into the city."

Last week Gyude Bryant, a businessman largely seen as neutral, was appointed Liberia's new leader until elections in 2005. Shaking off its troubled past, however, will not be ease. A signal of this was the news this week that the country's transitional assembly elected George Dweh, a founding member of the former rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), as its new speaker (Liberia elects rebel speaker). Dweh was the only candidate for the post and garnered 49 votes out of a possible 72.

He said that his first task in his new capacity would be to promote national healing. He said disarming former rebel fighters will be a priority. Most observers are leery. Human rights campaigners have linked him to atrocities committed during Liberia's 14-year conflict.

According to, more than 100 women relatives of a man called Johnny Nah, dressed in white, staged a demonstration outside the parliament building to opposed Dweh, claiming that he had helped to murder Nah and his entire family during the 1990s.

Despite the troubles, hopeful stories are coming out of the country:

Devastated town shows long road ahead for Liberia tells about the return of U.N. workers to the northern city of Voinjama, where Liberia's latest guerrilla war began. Four years ago, LURD troops held U.N. workers hostage. Now those troops welcome U.N. workers as saviors. The U.N. aid workers say they hope to buy peace with medicine and potable water.

According to Liberia's child soldiers try to move on, as many as 10,000 children fought in Liberia's civil war on all sides. This story talks with some boys in a group home trying to patch their lives back together.

Radio Journalists Try to Pick Up the Pieces is a interesting story of how vital radio is to this country and how radio journalists see their role in peacemaking and development. Among these radio stations is Radio Veritas, owned by the Catholic church in Liberia.

The story of peace is very much a Catholic story. NCR's John Allen reported in August the Community of Sant'Egidio, one of the "new movements" in the Catholic church, hosted a two-day negotiating session in Rome with LURD. This session eventually lead to a peace agreement.

Liberian Archbishop Michael Francis of Monrovia has been a passionate advocate for all Liberians as well as a watchdog. He frantically lobbied the U.S. State Department and administration for U.S. troops to restore peace in August as Charles Taylor went into exile. The archbishop bitterly denounced the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops at the end of August.

"Although the United States has left Liberia, the conflict, the humanitarian crisis and the terror are still here. It is deplorable that the United States has withdrawn its troops in this critical moment of transition," Francis told the Rome-based missionary news agency MISNA Oct. 4.

Francis said almost three-fourths of the country remains inaccessible to humanitarian aid efforts because of lingering conflict and instability. He said relief agencies estimated that between 200,000 and 500,000 Liberians urgently need food, shelter, drinking water and medical assistance.

"Even if it doesn't furnish the military aid, the United States should guarantee immediate relief operations for Liberia and support for reconstruction, disarmament, demobilization of soldiers and reintegration of rebels into society," he said.

Obviously this is an unfolding story. We will try to keep you abreast of the situation.

Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer and coordinates NCR's Web site. His e-mail address is

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