(Rapaport…January 8, 2003) Liberian rebels are fighting government troops for control of two diamond-producing towns in the northwestern part of the country, said Daniel Chea, Liberia’s defense minister.
According to Chea, soldiers of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) are trying to gain control of the area’s resources to further fund their rebel movement. The towns of Wesua and Wieju — located less than 50 miles from Sierra Leone and about 75 miles from Guinea — produce both diamonds and gold.
“We’re not going to allow them to take over,” Chea said. “For the last two weeks we have reinforced our positions.” He also slammed the United Nations (UN) embargo against Liberia — imposed over alleged conflict diamond trading — because it has hampered the government’s ability to fight.
“We are the victims of the embargo, which does not allow us to equip our armed forces the way we would like to,” Chea said. “The rebels go to Guinea, they are rearmed and they come back with more forces.”
In addition to Sierra Leone and Guinea, Liberia is bordered by the Ivory Coast, which has been plagued by a civil war since September 2002. Thousands of Liberians are stranded in the Ivory Coast because of the fighting, according to the UN. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, said in a new report that ongoing tensions in Liberia and the Ivory Coast threaten the withdrawal of UN troops from Sierra Leone.