LURD on Deadlines, Sanctions, New Strategies...

By Bodioh Siapoe

General Liberty inspects a captured anti-aircraft
weapon as other LURD fighters take cover.
[Washington, DC, March 1, 2001] -- Few days ago, LURD's defense spokesperson and senior military advisor, General Joe Wylie, flew from Liberia to inform other Liberians and the international community about his organization's latest stance in what he calls "the just struggle to liberate Liberia from the clutches of anarchy and daylight robbery." Below is what General Wylie discussed with COPLA in Washington, DC.

COPLA: It is a pleasure meeting and talking with you again. What has brought you this time to Washington, DC?

JW: I just arrived here from the battleground to solicit diplomatic and other support for our effort to make Charles Taylor see common sense and relinquish power without much ado. I am here to meet with members of the diplomatic community to make the LURD case. We plan to also meet with Liberians who have resolved to give us their moral support to ensure Liberia becomes free and green again.

COPLA: What happened to the 90-day deadline given by LURD last year to remove President Charles Taylor from power? What's wrong with that picture?

JW: There was a huge outcry when we first struck in Lofa county. There were concerns for civilian casualties and concerns for innocent refugees that made us to change our tactics, not our strategy. We decided to retreat to the mountains and give global public opinion and the international community a chance to compel Mr. Taylor to see reason and leave the Liberian people. But as usual, Mr. Taylor remains bellicose. His intransigence forced us back on the road of liberation to take power by force. Our silence in past months, therefore, did not mean we had abandoned our goal to liberate Liberia by any means necessary.

COPLA: In recent weeks, news reports indicated ULIMO-K fighters have been responsible for all the fighting along the Guinea-Liberia border. What has happened to LURD? Is ULIMO-K and LURD one and the same? What do you know about those reports?

Black and white, K-1 and other LURD officers in the jungle

JW: There is no ULIMO-K anywhere. ULIMO-K died a natural death when Alhaji Kromah transformed it into ALCO, a political party, which contested the 1997 elections and paved the way for Mr. Taylor's bogus victory. What has happened since is that LURD effectively has recruited remnants from defunct guerilla movements as ULIMO-K, ULIMO-J, LPC, the Lofa Defense Force, the Nimba Redemption Council and the NPFL. Under its control and guidance, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy has successfully put together a brand new military structure on the ground. Clearly, LURD is the group that is fighting to bring Charles Taylor down. As LURD's defense spokesman and senior military advisor, it is my duty to educate, motivate and inspire our people about the true nature of the Liberian conflict. Mr. Taylor is the common enemy that must be dealt with. As such, we have decided to put aside our former nomenclatures to deal with Taylor militarily.

COPLA: Why does LURD prefer to deal with Mr. Taylor militarily and not democratically through the ballot box in 2003?

JW: The year 2003 is too far. At the rate Mr. Taylor is killing our people and suffering the nation, the refugees in the region might also increase by the year 2003. So ours is a rescue mission to free our people from refugee camps, provide drinking water for our people, provide light that Mr. Taylor cannot provide, provide medical care and schools for our children and restore the dignity of the Liberian man once again.

COPLA: What do you make of the proposed controversial sanctions against the Taylor regime?

JW: The sanctions were a good attempt to pressure Mr. Taylor diplomatically and internationally to come to terms with the reality of West Africa, in general, and Liberia, in particular. That reality is Mr. Taylor must resign so that our country and the entire subregion will have peace once again. But as usual, certain West African leaders, who have a "mercenary mentality," have taken bribes from Mr. Taylor and Mr. Khaddafi to prolong the suffering of the Liberian people. We in LURD are of the conviction that this kind of pussyfooting with Mr. Taylor on the part of certain West African leaders is very dangerous even to those leaders who support Taylor. They should understand that anything less than Taylor's removal from power would be unacceptable and uncivilized.

COPLA: What if sanctions are not imposed against Liberia by the United Nations Security Council?

JW: We in LURD do not really need sanctions to liberate us. We are bleeding, we are dying, we are crying and we are sweating to make sure our dream of freedom is translated into material freedom; that our dream of freedom is translated into reality.

COPLA: Let's talk a little about territorial gains at the warfront.

JW: We are not in Liberia to make news about gaining villages, little towns and cities in the interior of the country. We are interested in waging a decisive war that will free the entire country -- from Cape Palmas to Cape Mount, from Gbezon, Grand Bassa County to Yekepa, Nimba County. And so we shall not announce having captured any village or town. It is not our place to take people's villages and turn them into military camps.

COPLA: Why is it taking so long to achieve your goal?

JW: For us, we are not interested in quick-fix solutions to the Liberian crisis. It was the same quick-fix solutions that certain ECOWAS leaders sought when they forced Mr. Taylor down the throats of the Liberian people after killing their mothers and their fathers.

LURD officers after a heated battle
in Voinjama, Lofa County, Liberia

We are not just fighting Mr. Taylor. We are also doing battle with elements in our midst who are bent on tribalizing the war for their own selfish reasons; elements who are bent on creating Buthelezi-type tribal militias -- militias that have no political direction to find their way to power.

We are also fighting the confusion in West Africa about the true nature of the Liberian civil conflict. This is the one conflict in which every citizen of West Africa has wasted his blood. This is a regional war that is being fought in Liberia and is now spreading into other countries. Mr. Taylor has turned our country into a springboard for visiting aggression, terror and intimidation on Sierra Leoneans, Guineans and La Cote d'Ivoireans. Our fight is also for regional security. We believe that until Mr. Taylor is thrown into the past tense of the grammar of West African politics, the whole region is not safe, because Mr. Taylor depends on the inexhaustible arsenal and finance of Colonel Khaddafi and has decided to take parts of Sierra Leone that are diamond-rich to sponsor ambitions that extend beyond Liberian territory. Any West African leader who does not understand this ought to be ashamed of himself.

COPLA: Reports have it that Guinea is helping LURD forces in your liberation struggle. What can you tell us?

JW: Guinea has never helped LURD forces in fighting Taylor. Like I stated in earlier interviews, LURD is a homegrown political-guerilla movement that gets its ammunition, its food and other supplies right from the enemy. Guinea is not in the picture. When we become a government one day, we hope, of course, to restore the cordial and friendly relationship that existed between the people of Liberia and the people of Guinea for more than 50 years before Taylor came on the scene.

COPLA: Before we end this conversation, is there anything else you might want to say?

JW: I want to use this occasion to appeal to the United Nations, the OAU and ECOWAS that their strategy and policies on Liberia have to be rethought. From now on, anybody doing business with Mr. Taylor in Liberia is doing it at his own risk. We ask all those who love human beings to isolate this monster so that his downfall would be quickened.

Our cause is just and God is on our side. Victory is certain for the Liberian people. After Mr. Taylor is overthrown, we are going to call the Liberian people in the shortest possible time to elect their own leaders through the ballot box.

COPLA: Thank you.

NOTE: There are more pictures on next page.

© Robert W. Kranz  24-02-2002