LIBERIANS UNITED FOR RECONCILIATION AND DEMOCRACY (LURD)

Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)
Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) is an insurgency group that seeks to build and sustain a stable democracy in the Republic of Liberia through the removal of the Taylor government. The group structure is divided between the military campaign designed to oust Taylor and the political campaign to restore law and order in Liberia. The group mandates that no former warlord become involved with any activity of the group. Many of the military commanders of LURD were Taylor associates at one time or another during the 1990s.

LURD was formed in 1999 by Liberian refugees in West Africa led by Sekou Conneh, and is the largest insurgency group in the state. LURD was supported by Guinea from the outset, and has received the tacit support of Britain and the United States. Initially, LURD used Guinea as a base, and it received religious, political and military support from the Muslim–dominated government of Guinea. Observers note that LURD has a significant Muslim element, and it has reportedly received arms from sources such as the United Arab Emirates.

LURD is split along ethnic lines, with Krahn, Mandingo and Gio factions. The earlier split between the Krahns and the Mandingos in 1994 that gave birth to ULIMO-K and -J had to do with the ethnic hatred that developed between Ziah and Sheriff at the Council of State elections. The leader of LURD is a Mandingo and it is understood that seventy percent (70%) of their forces are of the Mandingo ethnic group. The LURD is a coalition of ethnic Mandingos and Krahns, although many ethnic Lorma are members of the rebel group as well. The continuing violence in Lofa County exacerbated ethnic tensions between the Mandingos and the Lormas. In Lofa, conflict erupted between the Mandingos and the Lormas and Kissis on one hand. During the civil war in 1990, it was alleged that some mosques were burnt by the Lorma group.

Many members of the predominantly Muslim Mandingo minority encountered hostility when they sought to return, after the end of the civil war, to their villages in Lofa, Bong, and Nimba counties. Many Mandingos were unable to reoccupy their homes, which had been taken over by squatters. Members of the Lorma, Gio, and Mano minorities generally held all Mandingos responsible for atrocities committed by the ULIMO-K faction during the civil war. The lack of competent security forces and a fully functioning judiciary in these areas prevented many Mandingos from seeking redress. Mandingo citizens faced growing discrimination, arbitrary arrests, and violence based on their ethnicity; many ethnic Mandingos sought refuge in Guinea after the Government increased arrests following the detention of journalist Hassan Bility.

In a statement issued on 25 April 1999 in the United States, the Liberia Coalition for Reconciliation and Democracy (LCRD), referring to itself simply as RESISTENCE, said it had decided to carry out tactics of "positive resistance" to degrade and disable Taylor’s ability to reign in Liberia. The group confirmed that it was made up of former fighters of Taylor’s NPFL, and the disbanded Liberia Peace Council of George Boley, the break-away ULIMOs of Roosevelt Johnson and Alhaji Kromah, the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Lofa Defense force of Taylor’s incumbent Youth and Sports Minister, Francois Massaquoi. The provincial city of Voinjama in Lofa County is a one-time stronghold of the former ULIMO-K leader, Alhaji G.V. Kromah.

Despite LURD's declared commitments to the peace process mediated by the West African regional body, ECOWAS, the group has developed a strong mistrust for West African leaders, who they allege seem to back Taylor.


Debunking the Mystery of LURD by: Theodore Hodge (April 11th, 2003
Liberians have suffered enormously under the rogue regime of Mr. Taylor. Liberians have left the comfort of their homes to become displaced people all over the world and a group calling itself "Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy" (LURD), seized the opportunity to appoint and anoint themselves as the new saviors of the Liberian people.

Following Mr. Taylor's recipe for success, the group decided to wage a war against his regime just as he had waged a war against Mr. Doe's. It doesn't take the brain of a rocket scientist to figure out that killing an enormous number of unprotected civilians to score political points is an abhorrent idea. But, the Liberian people were played as pawns by some seemingly unscrupulous individuals reaching for personal aggrandizement.

For quite a while now many Liberians have stood on the sidelines observing the carnage heaped on the society, all being done in the name of promise for a better day. This new group, LURD, has failed to even elucidate its plan and aspirations except to denounce the Taylor regime and vow to topple it at any cost.

The Taylor regime, knowing that a page had been stolen from their playbook, has been stubbornly reluctant to concede. After all, they know the game and have the resources to play it better than this new group called LURD. Yet, many Liberians have privately been counting on LURD to do the Liberian people a favor by getting rid of Taylor. Although not many Liberians could tell you what LURD is about, they're convinced about the hopelessness of the Taylor group. My enemy's enemy is my friend, they seem to be saying.

Well, recently some light has been shone on the mystery of this clandestine group calling itself LURD. And as I have suspected all along, it has become convincingly clear that these chaps are up to no good. The first thing that I became suspicious about was the name of the group: Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. I asked myself, do these people really believe in unity? Is their true goal reconciliation? And do they have any intention of instituting democracy? You see, it is one thing to go around shouting revolutionary slogans, that does not necessarily make you a revolutionary. And just because you form an organization with a nice acronym does not make you authentic.

After keeping the Liberian people and the world at large in mystery about the true intent of these so-called revolutionaries, this little petty and criminal organization is fast falling apart like a house of cards.

Its so-called senior military advisor, General Joe Wylie, punched a gaping hole in this hitherto mysterious gang when during a recent interview with COPLA; he implied that there is no unity within the hierarchy of the group. He denounced the group's leader, Mr. Sekou Conneh, as being xenophobic, incompetent, disruptive and dictatorial. He went on to urge the National Executive Council (NEC) to consider removing Mr. Conneh from the chairmanship of the group. Clearly these folks aren't united at all.

The General went further by accusing the Chairman of illegally imprisoning another General (Jolloh) for whose immediate release he was calling. He also threatened to have charges of manslaughter and murder brought against the Chairman should the General die while in detention. But worst of all, General Wylie admitted to The Perspective that LURD soldiers had committed unspeakable acts against some nurses working for a human rights organization; the nurses confessed to being raped by their captors. Shockingly, he charged that these crimes took place under the nose of Chairman Conneh.

Upon reading General Wylie's statement, LURD's secretariat shot back, calling Wylie "destructive, disruptive, and irresponsible". They also accused him of having a track record of "being egocentric, deceptive and a betrayer of just struggles". Specifically, they said his deceptive escapades included: "Betrayal of Samuel Doe, NPFL, ULIMO-J, Liberian Peace Council and the Coalition Forces". They also accused him of "fraudulently converting funds belonging to the organization into his personal use."

The bottom line is the entire group has exposed its own incompetence and aimlessness. The fact that this group has declared a war against the Taylor regime but has only succeeded in terrorizing ordinary, defenseless Liberians who have no connection to the government, underscores the futility of their efforts.

Now the serpent has split into two heads, leaving one to terrorize citizens in the western, central and northern parts of the country while the new head has severed itself from the main body to begin a new wave of violent campaigns in the southeast part of the country - killing villagers as the go along.

The new group also claims to be fighting to save the people of Liberia from the savage grips of Charles Taylor. Just like their parent organization, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, all this new group has going for it is a nice sounding name and acronym. They call themselves: Movement of Democracy in Liberia (MODEL).

Just like LURD has demonstrated, they are not united, have no clue what reconciliation is and wouldn't recognize democracy if it bit them in the face. It is ironic that these ragamuffins chose to use this name and acronym for their devilish group. The name and acronym MODEL is already being used by a respectable group that is actually living up to the meaning of the name; they are in the business of educating their fellow citizens to prepare for elections and other related democratic issues.

The message to LURD and MODEL is simple: Stop terrorizing defenseless citizens in the countryside and stop raping nurses and other defenseless women. Charles Taylor lives in Monrovia - take the fight to him.


LURD, UN Sanctions and Elections 2003 by: Abdoulaye W. Dukule (Oct. 15, 2002)
Last year, we had a chance to interview some of the most prominent voices in the Liberian political body, among others Sheikh Kafumba Konneh, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, Cllr. Charles Brumskine and Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. To each one of them, we raised the two most important issues of the time: how to deal with the LURD issue and the impendent UN sanctions. The responses, with a few variations in their formulation, were almost identical:

1. Regarding the sanctions, they all were in agreement that there was need for the international community to put pressure on the Taylor government but did not think that sanctions were the best possible way to resolve Liberia’s postwar problems. They said in general that although the sanctions were formulated to only target the government and a few businessmen dealing with Taylor, the effects would somehow “trickle” down to the common people. Sheikh Kafumba said that sanctions were like a red flag for business people and that the lack of interaction between even the few government people who travel abroad and investors could harm the economy in the long run. A year has gone by since then and the United Nations are about to review the sanctions. There are calls from some political leaders to campaign for a renewal of the sanctions.

2. Regarding LURD, all of our interviewees agree that there was imperative need to engage the dissidents in a dialogue to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict. They believed that not only could Liberia sustain another war but they were also skeptical as to an eventual success of the LURD rebellion which lacked everything that makes an armed group succeed: lack of national appeal, fuzzy political agenda, lack of political direction and lack of funding.

There are a number of questions that need to be raised in trying to chart a course for the next 11 months.

a. How effective have the sanctions been in curtailing Taylor’s actions, in the areas of governance, accountability and human rights?

b. Is the Taylor government anywhere near collapse either as the result of the sanctions or through actions of the armed dissidents of LURD?

c. What has the political civilian opposition accomplished in terms of unity of purpose, financing, pushing for electoral reforms to pose a serious threat to a continuous Taylor government?

d. How effective would the United Nations and the US be in “imposing” a level playing field for the holding of free and fair elections? Would they intervene financially to ensure the effectiveness of the elections?

e. How effective has the opposition been in formulating a common agenda, building a financial and political structure and engaging the international community?

f. Who, of the government or the opposition and the Liberian civil society in general, would ultimately benefit from a continuous state of sanctions and a war from LURD?

The responses to these questions would not determine the road to take they are raised to ask a different type of questions. What hurts Taylor and his government does not necessarily help Liberia.

Sanctions are the modern versions of blockade, used in the past. Long ago, many cities were fortified and when a foreign force wanted to take them over, they would blockade all entrances and exits to the city-state, stopping the flow of food from the countryside. After a long period of time, either the inhabitants of the city revolted and took control of the city or the leader simply surrendered, after seeing many of the city people die from starvation. In modern times, blockade is replaced with sanctions. Imposing sanctions on Liberia was aimed at weakening the Taylor government. Did it work? Rather than people revolting, they are submitted to more tyranny. Human rights violations have multiplied. The few voices of dissent have been all silenced, exiled or co-opted into submission.

Modern history also teaches that sanctions rarely lead to a change of regime. For a dictator, it may actually be a welcome happening. Countries that have been submitted to sanctions have had the longest reigning leaders in recent history. In Libya, Kaddafi has been leader since 1968. The regime in Iran, since Ayatollah Khomeiny in 1979 is still in existence. North Korea has had the same government since the end of the Korean War. A few dozen miles from the shores of the United States, Fidel Castro has been in power since 1959. If US sanctions could not lead to the overthrow of the Cuban regime, what could it achieve in Liberia? It took the US direct intervention to unseat the generals in Haiti. It took Nyerere’s army to send Idi Amin into exile and the British had to force RUF out of job.

The other issue is of course LURD. Where is LURD going? Does Liberia want another war? How effective has LURD been since the beginning of its war in 1999? For the past three years, the dissident armed group has “traveled” from Voinjama to Gbarnga and Kakata, according to the government but never made a dent against the Taylor machine. Joe Wylie, the military advisor to LURD said that they would take the time they need to unseat Taylor but they would not relent. After hints at dialogue with the civil opposition and the government, the movement has fallen into a sort of military and PR fiasco. There seems to be no “head no tail” in what they are doing. As a colleague puts it, if LURD really want Taylor, they know where to find him. It can be safe to say that LURD, like the sanctions could be hurting Taylor but does not help peace and reconciliation in Liberia.

There are only 11 months to elections and there is no sign that anything tangible would come up. The sanctions are an easy exit for the international community to abandon Liberia to its self-destructive plunge that keeps getting worse. Once a country is under sanctions, it becomes easy to cut off cooperation and other forms of engagement that are more demanding then just policing. Rather than the billions of dollars promised for the reconstruction process, the international community gets away with putting in place a small group of “sanctions monitors” who would make sure that they keep receiving checks months after months, ensuring that the sanctions are kept in place. Sanctions monitors have vested interests in maintaining sanctions: they get paid. This all happened because the NPFL government squandered the enormous goodwill that was there for the reconstruction.

The Taylor government is the prime culprit in all of this, and in the same vein, the ultimate beneficiary. Liberia contradictions are very deep and go back 150 years. It would take time to correct time and more than a simple regime change. The process could have started in 1997. The country took the wrong turn. How to bring it back to a new starting point?

LURD and the UN sanctions cannot be the solutions, because they shut the door to any real peaceful change. It is unfortunate that they have both offered the Taylor administration reasons to stall changes. The most effective sanctions against a Liberian government, and specifically against President Taylor was to not be accorded a reception at the White House. Whatever sanctions came after that, made no really difference to the leader of the NPFL. Being honored at the White House was something so dear to Taylor that one of his first and completed projects was to ensure the reconstruction of the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC.

Liberians can and must find a way to bring about change without recurring to violence (LURD) or relying on the actions of the international community (UN sanctions). If change does not come through a homegrown peaceful solution, it would perpetuate dependency and chaos.


© Robert W. Kranz (2005) 
Information courtesy of: www.GlobalSecurity.org