Another Battle for Monrovia Rages as Thousands Flee
By Tom Kamara / © The New Democrat
Another bloody battle for Monrovia, which many have feared for its catastrophic consequences, has begun with reports of massive looting and arbitrary killings. Following a low overnight Friday, reports say fighting intensified today, with subdued but defiant President Charles Taylor warning his unceremonious from power entails serious consequences. He has vowed to fight for what he said is in defence of his people.
Fighting moved towards the centre today and there are reports of indiscriminate arrests on suspicion victims described as rebels. Ethnic Mandingos and Krahns, dominant in the rebel movements, are vulnerable. Schools. Offices and business have all shut down as rebels and Taylorís troops battle for supremacy.
Reuters news agency reports the rebels crossed the strategic St Paul Bridge Friday and stormed newr-by neighbourhoods. They were within 6 miles to the city centre on Friday. One report, unconfirmed, say they have entered the port of Monrovia. One aid worker, after witnessing herds of people in the suburb of Duala, said she has never seen such multitude of people before.
Tens of thousands of frightened residents are fleeing in unknown directions. IDP camps have been overrun, including those hosting Sierra Leone refugees. LURD rebels now control 17 IDP camps holding 145,000 people, reports say.
The fighting comes in the midst of political turmoil as the centre of President Taylorís regime falls apart. Claiming a coup had been planned against him while he was in Ghana, Taylor sacked and arrested his Vice President along with several officials. With the rebels now roaming the city, this is tragic mistake, coming from a man who rose to glory and wealth using the same methods now chocking him with few or no options. Indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Sierra Leone court, arrest and humiliation await him if he flees. Outside Monrovia, he can find no safe haven. The rebels control from north to south, east to west. His army, now totally another from the one at his command in the 1990s, made of Burkinabe cracked troops and assortment of mercenaries from around African and elsewhere, is ill-trained, in shambles, undisciplined and unpaid. The professional army has been purged to make room for President Taylorís loyalists, many rebels accused of many atrocities. Many soldiers have in recent months fled across the border into Sierra Leone, where they gave themselves up.
Fate has bestowed harsher verdict on Taylor than on Doe, the man he ousted in the midst of anarchy that left 250,000 dead. While Doe had the latitude to leave the country in 1990 but refused to do so, Taylor does not have such luxury, with arrest facing him wherever he lands. Sepculations are that his members of his team, convinced of the gloomy future ahead, may be begin escapting to escape what is to come.
Although Taylor had repeatedly vowed victory, it seems this is now a dream. That he will defend Monrovia and win this war is now highly inconceivable, because he faces an intractable enemy, mainly ethnic Krahns who have been his target since the 1990s and have now rteurned. In 1996, despite overt backing for his rebels and those of Alhaji Kromah, they were unable to defeat to the very men now in battle. Ethnic Krahns are reputed urban fighters and against Taylorís soldiers, many child soldiers, they stand superior.
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