Liberia and Gambia Deny Helping Rebels

January 26, 2001

Liberia and Gambia Deny Helping Rebels

At a United Nations Security Council meeting yesterday, representatives of Liberia continued to deny allegations of helping RUF rebels in Sierra Leone smuggle diamonds. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, Monie R. Captan, said his country is the target of "grossly unsubstantiated allegations" of diamond smuggling and gun-running despite government-initiated reforms to help restore peace in Sierra Leone. Captan proposed the World Diamond Council set up a center in Liberia to help certify diamond exports. He suggested the U.N. monitor the export process and help with monitoring Liberia's borders, airports and seaports. Captan also told the council Liberia grounded all Liberian-registered aircraft Monday to assure they are not transporting conflict diamonds.

Despite the argument from Liberia, U.S. and British representatives found Liberia's promises unconvincing and advocated sanctions against the country (see "U.S. Proposes Liberian Diamond Embargo"). Referring to a Security Council report issued last month about violators of the Sierra Leone diamond embargo (see "U.N. Experts Advocate Stricter Barriers for Conflict Diamonds"), a representative from Sierra Leone said the government believed there was "unequivocal and overwhelming evidence" Liberia had been actively supporting RUF rebels. He suggested the council take "effective mandatory measures to deal with this threat to international peace." Representatives from Guinea also spoke out against Liberia, saying Liberian authorities have pursued a policy of terror that has affected the stability of the region for the last decade.

Also at the meeting, officials from Gambia expressed anger at allegations against their country in the U.N. report on Sierra Leone, asking if there was a hidden agenda to mount a smear campaign against Gambia. The report proposed an embargo on Gambian diamond exports, saying the country has no mines but is used by traders of Sierra Leone diamonds traveling up Africa's west coast. Burkina Faso was also accused in the report of aiding the RUF, but its ambassador said the government planned to create a system, with U.N. help, to control arms.

The Security Council is not expected to vote on possible sanctions against Liberia and others for a few weeks. Sanctions are supported by many countries, but some only approve the diamond bans and are hesitant about other measures.

- by Julia M. Duncan