Taylor bans political rallies in Liberia

from the BBC newsroom
© BBC World Service

President Charles Taylor

Liberian President Charles Taylor has ordered the suspension of all mass political gatherings in the country.

He warned that anyone holding or attending a rally would be arrested.

Mr Taylor said the ban was in line with the state of emergency declared in February.

The government has faced an insurgency in northern Liberia since mid-2000, but the rebels have pushed towards the capital, Monrovia, in recent months.

Mr Taylor said the state of emergency would be lifted once the rebels, known as Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd), had been defeated.

Protection

The president said he was not closing down political parties, but the aim of the ban was to protect them. Liberian troops

"We want to make sure that no political party is threatened in any way - nor do we want a member of a party hurt at a rally," he said.

If this happened, Mr Taylor added, "it would be said that the government encouraged it."

He said Liberia should understand that "these are not normal times for the country."

'Destabilisation'

The statement comes as the United Nations Sanctions Committee is reviewing sanctions against Liberia - which include a ban on diamond exports, an arms embargo and restrictions on travel by senior Liberian officials.

They were imposed after Liberia was found to be arming rebels in Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds. Refugee in Monrovia President Taylor has said the restrictions are hindering his ability to tackle the insurgency.

But in his statement, he predicted the sanctions would be extended, saying some UN members wanted to make sure Liberia was destabilised.

In recent weeks Lurd rebels have used the town of Bopolu, 100km (60 miles) north of Monrovia, as a base for attacks on towns in neighbouring counties.

Ten of thousands of people have fled their homes; Most of them are living in camps in the Monrovia area.


Monday, 29 April, 2002, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK


© Robert W. Kranz  09-02-2002