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History, Civil War

In December 1989 a group of dissidents began an uprising against the government. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), a rebel group led by Charles Taylor, soon had an ill-trained army of 10,000 men, and within weeks they controlled much of the countryside. A split among the insurgents only increased the violence as fighting continued into 1990. An Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) monitoring group (ECOMOG) was sent to Liberia as a peacekeeping force, but failed to halt the fighting. Doe was captured and executed by a splinter group of the NPFL in September 1990. The destruction of Liberia’s economy begun by Doe was completed by the war.

The war spread through Liberia, as the NPFL battled ECOMOG, the Liberian army, their splinter group the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), and the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), composed of former allies of Doe. By early 1991, ECOMOG held Monrovia and the NPFL controlled the rest of the country. In October 1991 ECOWAS and the NPFL agreed to disarm and establish an Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) under civic leader Amos Sawyer; this agreement failed, however, when Taylor refused to disarm out of fear of being attacked by ULIMO and distrust of factions within ECOMOG. The NPFL began to disarm in early 1992, but clashed with ECOMOG forces, and in August was attacked by ULIMO from Sierra Leone. In September the NPFL launched an all-out assault on ECOMOG forces in Monrovia, recruiting boys as young as eight to fight, and executing civilians who refused to join. The siege temporarily shut down all transportation in or out of the capital and killed thousands of civilians in the crossfire. ECOMOG responded offensively, bombing NPFL positions outside the city, and by January 1993 succeeded in pushing the NPFL back into the countryside. In the meantime, ULIMO had captured much of western Liberia, but had split along ethnic lines into two warring factions, ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K.

At a peace conference in July 1993 the leaders of IGNU, NPFL, and ULIMO-K drew up a plan for a Liberian National Transitional Government, led by a five-member Council of State consisting of one NPFL leader, one ULIMO-K member, one IGNU representative, and two other civilians. A cease-fire was implemented, but again Taylor was slow to disarm. Rural hostilities flared up in late 1993, with two new armed groups sprouting up, the Liberian Peace Council (LPC) and the Lofa Defense Force (LDF), a strongly anti-ULIMO faction from the western Lofa region. In early 1994 ULIMO-J, led by General Roosevelt Johnson, refused to give up its weapons. By mid-1994 the cease-fire had completely failed, and fighting raged between the LPC and the NPFL, between ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K, and between ULIMO-J and ECOMOG. The United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) was deployed to cooperate with ECOMOG in March. At this time the United States issued a report condemning widespread human-rights violations in Liberia, noting in particular an LPC massacre of civilians suspected of being NPFL supporters. The leaders of the factions secretly met in August 1994, and negotiated a timeline for disarmament and the institution of a Council of State based on the 1993 plan, but with six members. A cease-fire in December was interrupted by skirmishes until a formal peace accord was signed on August 19, 1995. The implementation of the Council of State was hampered by Taylor’s insistence on being its chairman. The council was tenuously established, consisting of a civilian as chairman, Taylor, ULIMO-K leader Alhaji Kromah, LPC leader George Boley, and two other civilians. The peace was broken in April 1996 when an uprising by ULIMO-J in the outskirts of Monrovia quickly spread into the capital, sparking street-to-street fighting and looting. Another cease-fire was declared in August, and Monrovia was reclaimed by ECOMOG forces.

 

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