Liberia crisis: aid agencies call on EU to act as Bush dithers

 Major British development agencies CAFOD, Save the Children, Action Aid, and Christian Aid are calling for the immediate deployment of peace enforcement troops within Liberia. The agencies have joined together to call on the international community including the United States, the European Union and others to make their intentions clear and act immediately to restore peace in Liberia. The waiting game currently being played by the US administration is costing lives. President George Bush has prevaricated for over a week since meeting with United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan about committing US forces to Liberia. Meanwhile the rest of the world has stood by as Liberia has disintegrated once more into chaos. Hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded, the work of aid agencies has been severely restricted and infectious diseases again threaten to get out of control. The aid agencies state that a UN resolution allowing international forces to enter Liberia should be passed as a matter of urgency to allow for effective and lawful military action. At the moment, no resolution has been tabled and Liberia remains in a violent limbo. If President Bush is unwilling to commit troops under a UN mandate then he must make a clear and immediate declaration to that effect and other countries including those of the European Union should step into the breach. While West African countries have pledged to send in troops, the agencies believe that their credibility within Liberia will only be assured if the US or other world powers play a major role in any mission. The Archbishop of Monrovia, Michael Francis, recently in London to talk to government ministers says that not a moment should be lost in sending in international forces. He said: "Lives are being lost while the governments of the United States and the international community sit back and discuss whether or not to act. A decision must be taken now to avoid further bloodshed." International forces must support the outcome of the ongoing Ghana peace process, which should include a swift and complete disarmament, the demobilisation of warring parties and the establishment of an interim government of national unity. The international community must also be prepared to accompany and support Liberia, including the provision of peacekeeping forces, for the medium to long term. The agencies call echoes the continual plea of their partners and staff in Liberia who believe little hope remains for peace unless external forces are brought in to impose and enforce a ceasefire across the entire country. The clashes between government and rebel forces within Monrovia that erupted over the last few days have cost many lives. Thousands more have been lost in previous clashes and to the silent killers of cholera and hunger that have taken hold during the chaos. The agencies further warn that if the violence in Liberia is allowed to continue and escalate, the hard won peace and stability in the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone could easily be squandered.

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