African Peacekeepers Set for Liberian Deployment
The leaders met in Ghana for an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit.
ECOWAS member nation Nigeria has pledged to send 1,500 troops to the Liberian capital of Monrovia, The Associated Press reported. Ghana, Mali, Benin, Senegal and Togo will send additional troops, filling out an ECOWAS force expected to reach a total of 5,000 troops.
The peacekeeping force would provide the “appropriate conditions for the hand-over of power, and departure from Liberia, of President Charles Taylor,” The Associated Press quoted Mohamed Ibn Chambas, an ECOWAS representative, as saying.
An ECOWAS statement said the members agreed that Taylor must leave Liberia within three days of the deployment. However, it remained unclear if Taylor has agreed to that timetable.
ECOWAS said it was sending a delegation Friday to meet with Taylor, informing him of the summit decision, Reuters reported.
Previously, Taylor agreed to go into exile in Nigeria, but only once peacekeepers arrived in Liberia.
A former warlord who has been indicted by the United Nations for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, Taylor has presided over Liberia for six years, half of which have been dominated by civil war.
“We need to see his actions in addition to his words,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “Our position remains the same, that Charles Taylor needs to leave.”
ECOWAS said the United Nations will provide support for the peacekeeping force. The United States has committed $10 million for logistics support to the effort, and a State Department representative attended the ECOWAS summit. American military personnel are also working with the West Africans.
“We are going to do what we can and what is need to help support ECOWAS as they go into Liberia,” McClellan said. “The immediate task is for us to help support ECOWAS get a vanguard force in there, reinforce the cease-fire and create the conditions where humanitarian assistance can be provided to the people of Liberia.”
Fighting slowed in Monrovia Thursday, Reuters reported, following overnight and early morning clashes.
Since June, combat has escalated between Taylor’s troops and two heavily armed rebel groups. Hundreds of civilians have been killed during the fighting and tens of thousands of refugees have fled to Monrovia.
The capital, the site of much of the fighting between Taylor’s troops and the rebel groups, continues to face a drastic humanitarian situation, with famine and drinking water shortages threatening the city of 1.3 million.