Liberia - A New Chapter Note: From June 18 through August 11, 2003, "US Marines to Liberia" tracked events in Liberia from the time of the American diversion of the USS Kearsarge through the departure of Liberian President Charles Taylor. With Taylor's departure, it is time to start a new chapter following Liberian development. With little choice remaining, former Liberian President Charles Taylor departed Liberia to undertake his exile in Calabar, Nigeria. As Taylor waved a white handkerchief to supporters and boarded a plane loaded with relatives and a few select spoils of wealth, the former bush soldier and diamond trader left behind a troubled presidency that started with the toppling of former dictator Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe and reached its high point with a 1997 electoral win to legitimize his rule. In the six years since, Liberia has plunged deeper into chaos. But the bitter war against Taylor's government stands at a cease-fire despite rebel complaints that Vice-President Moses Blah, who assumes power in Taylor's wake, is a crony with twenty years at Taylor's side. As word of the transition spread, American warships steamed into view off the Liberian coast. Though "cheered by thousands of ecstatic Liberians", the US Marines did not come ashore. And whether or not they will remains a question. While Africa's history of self-regulation and peacekeeping is spotty and unnecessarily complex at best, the American position as described by the Defense Department is that the US is "there to help the Nigerians succeed ... We're here. We're watching. We want the transition to go smoothly." US Secretary of State Colin Powell described future plans: "If the cease-fire remains in place, I would not expect any large commitment of US forces." Thus, barring further trouble, the Marines who will not go ashore while there is trouble afoot will not have need to go ashore. In the meantime, Liberia faces an uncertain future. A tenuous ceasefire holds in Monrovia. The situations in Buchanan and Grbarnga are unclear. Vice-President Moses Blah, empowered to lead the country until at least October, has worked alongside Taylor for twenty years, helped him launch the insurrection that would result in Taylor's presidency, and trained with his former boss in Libya during the 1980s. And Taylor, known for using his wealth--accumulated from Sierra Leonean diamonds among other ill spoils of war--to influence events in neighboring countries and even go so far as to support proxy wars (Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea) and prop up the Compaore regime in Burkina Faso. With political connections in Chad, Libya, Ghana, and elsewhere, fears remain that Taylor's influence could spread back into Liberia, very possibly through Blah. As one Bush administration official put it, "So many people are partners in crime with Taylor, and he has so many chips that he can call in, that it means he can make mischief for a long time if he wants to." That mischief, of course, includes rape, looting, and mutilation. And, of course, the recruiting of child soldiers. An ominous shadow spills from Taylor's words and chills the Liberian peace: "God willing, I will be back." But for now it is enough to tally up the dead, scrub away the stains, and look past the nightmare that hopefully fades from this day forward. The score at the break: Rebels: 3 Taylor: 1 Citizens: 0 The days ahead are uncertain. Liberia has fallen off the Human Development Index; rebuilding a nation will bring challenges, some untold. And, of course, tracking Liberian developments with any sense of relevance includes learning those things I've not bothered with yet, including economy and internal social history. Hopefully, those will be the next posts. - Washington Post. "Taylor May Be Gone, but His Influence Remains" by Douglas Farah. August 12, 2003, p. A10. see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46240-2003Aug11.html - Guardian Unlimited. "US troops approach Liberia as Taylor makes his exit" by Rory Carroll. August 12, 2003. see http://www.guardian.co.uk/westafrica/story/0,13764,1016864,00.html - New York Times. "Leader of Liberia Surrenders Power and Enters Exile" by Somini Sengupta. August 11, 2003. see http://nytimes.com/2003/08/12/international/africa/12LIBE.html (registration required - temporary link) - New York Times. "U.S. Aims to Back Nigerians, Without Sending in More Marines" by Thom Shanker. August 11, 2003. see http://nytimes.com/2003/08/12/international/africa/12MILI.html (registration required - temporary link) :m:, Tiassa Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!