News / Africa

    Rights Group: Liberia Fails to Stop Cross-Border Mercenary Attacks

    Anne Look
    Human Rights Watch says mercenaries in eastern Liberia are running deadly cross-border raids into Ivory Coast and recruiting child soldiers.  The international rights group reports Liberia has failed to investigate and prosecute Liberian and Ivorian fighters who set up camp in Liberia after committing atrocities during the 2011 post-election crisis in Ivory Coast.

    Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)
    x
    Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)
    Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at International Criminal Court (file photo)
    As former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo awaits his first hearing on charges of crimes against humanity this month at the Hague, Human Rights Watch says pro-Gbagbo mercenaries continue to run deadly raids into western Ivory Coast.

    Gbagbo lost a November 2010 presidential election, but refused to step down, sparking a nationwide conflict that killed 3,000 people.  Ivorian militiamen and Liberian mercenaries who fought on the Gbagbo side took refuge in eastern Liberia.

    Human Rights Watch says those fighters, motivated by revenge and disputes over land rights, have waged four cross-border attacks in the past year that have killed at least 40 people, including children.  A new HRW report says the attackers are targeting ethnic communities believed to support current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

    HRW Ivory Coast researcher, Matthew Wells, said Human Rights Watch interviewed members of a core group of 100 to 150 fighters who are planning and carrying out the attacks.  

    "The mercenaries and militiamen made clear that their ambitions are much larger and that they plan to conduct additional attacks throughout the rest of this year and beyond," Wells said.

    Wells said their level of organization was particularly concerning.

    "They have set up around gold mines along the border of Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia.  They are using the money from gold mining to fund recruitment and mobilization to conduct additional cross-border attacks into Cote d'Ivoire.  They also told us they are receiving money from individuals in Ghana, which is where much of the pro-Gbagbo military and political elite remain to again finance these attacks," Wells said.  

    Human Rights Watch said mercenaries are recruiting Liberian children as young as 14 into their ranks.

    Since the Ivory Coast conflict ended in April 2011, Liberian authorities have detained more than 100 Liberians and Ivorians suspected of mercenary activity.  But Human Rights Watch says many have been released.  In an investigation published in December 2011, the U.N. Panel of Experts on Ivory Coast said many more fighters were thought to have entered Liberia and evaded authorities.

    Human Rights Watch says among those released by Liberian authorities have been two commanders suspected by both the United Nations and Human Rights Watch of war crimes and human-rights abuses during the 2011 crisis.

    Wells said the cross-border raids are a threat to regional stability, and Liberia needs to "get its head out the sand."

    "These people are often just crossing in the middle of the night attacking a village and then going back to Liberia so the solution really has to come more from the Liberia side than from the Ivorian side because all of this planning is being done in Liberia," Wells said.

    Dense vegetation and the sheer expanse of Liberia's 700-kilometer border with Ivory Coast make it difficult to patrol.

    Human Rights Watch says on at least one occasion, Liberian authorities tried to intervene to stop a cross-border attack.  The group says  Liberian security forces arrested 76 Ivorian and Liberian fighters, but the men were later released for lack of evidence.

    Human Rights Watch says Liberian authorities have routinely failed to follow through on investigations and prosecutions of suspected mercenaries, despite provisions in the nation's penal code that would allow them to do so.

    Liberia's Information Minister, Lewis Brown, said he disagrees with the report's findings.  He said the government is well aware of the risks these armed groups pose to Ivory Coast and Liberia, and is taking appropriate action.  

    "There is a high level of commitment and engagement from either side to rid our border, our vast border, of the presence of non-state actors," Brown said.

    The minister said Liberian and Ivorian forces as well as the U.N. peacekeeping missions to both countries would "very shortly" begin participating in joint exercises to further secure the border area.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora