Liberia's Taylor in Accra 'ambush'

© BBC International

The West African press appeared shocked by the issuing of an international arrest warrant for Liberia's President Charles Taylor which overshadowed the peace talks convened in Accra to resolve the Liberian conflict.

Mr Taylor was allowed to slip back to Monrovia, leaving the talks without one of their key players.

The Statesman in Accra hailed the decision by the UN-sponsored war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone to issue the warrant for Mr Taylor as he arrived to attend the talks.

An editorial in the paper lambasted the West African Ecowas group and the African Union (AU) for "pussy-footing" over Mr Taylor and failing to implement its peer review policy to tackle "recalcitrant and irresponsible African leaders".

Mr Taylor is an "African shame" because "African leaders have dilly-dallied to call the bluff of this infamous leader for the better part of a decade".

The paper urged Ecowas and the AU to follow the UN lead by "taking the bull by the horns" and left readers in no doubt that in its view the removal of Mr Taylor from office would help bring peace to Liberia.

Beginning of end?

In Ivory Coast, Le Temps saw the development as worthy of a book called "Ambush in Accra".

Whatever the outcome of the talks, it predicted the arrest warrant "marks the beginning of the fall of the master of Monrovia ".

This is the end for Mr Taylor, West Africa's "biggest common destabilizing agent," the paper said.

But Ghana's Daily Graphic reckoned the indictment was a deliberate attempt to "scuttle the peace process".

The paper conceded that in cases like Sierra Leone it was acceptable to bring to justice those who had inflicted "barbarism and carnage".

However, the arrest of Mr Taylor at this time, it said, "serves no positive purpose", adding that "no meaningful justice" can be achieved.

It also worried about the damage to Ghana's international reputation, saying the UN announcement came as an "embarrassment to all associated with the peace talks", especially Ghana's president and current Ecowas chairman John Kuffour.

If Ghana had arrested and handed over Mr Taylor, the country "would have lost her credibility as a genuine peace-broker and would have been an unwitting channel of deceit and intrigue in ousting a sitting president of a sovereign African country."

Race against time

Before the controversy around Mr Taylor's arrest, the prospects for a genuine peace at the Accra talks occupied the region's editorials.

The News in Monrovia expressed concern about the prestige of Liberia and urged delegates at the summit to put the interest of Liberia above all else to "restore credibility" to the country's politics and economy.

"Liberians need peace that would rekindle lost dignity among other world bodies, and with their neighbours," it said.

The Ghanaian Chronicle saw the possibility for a Liberian solution to a crisis that has "bedevilled" the country since the late 1980s, but it warned that "time to pursue peace and stability... is running out".

The daily Accra Mail hoped that Liberia's "warring factions" would be able to "iron out their differences and bring peace to that overbled country".

"The Liberian madness- any hope?" an editorial asked.

The paper looked back at presidential elections which brought Mr Taylor to office and gave "a semblance of normalcy" even though "it may not have been the perfect solution".

The success of these peace talks it said, "rests on one proviso... the willingness of the different factions to put Liberia and her suffering people first", but wondered if any of leaders assembled share that view.

And an editorial in Sierra Leone's Awoko focused on border security issues in the region. It pointed to the refugee crisis resulting from the Liberia conflict and the presence of Guinean troops on Sierra Leone territory, as a "real cause for concern".

Friday, 6 June, 2003, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK

added by: Robert W. Kranz  09-06-2003