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Possible Coup Plot Investigated in Liberia


At least two men, including a former army commander, have been arrested in Liberia for allegedly planning "subversive activities against the state." A government official says there is strong evidence showing that the men have been plotting against the Liberian government, but analysts say the threat may be exaggerated. Selah Hennessy reports from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Gabriel Williams, Liberia's deputy minister for public affairs, says several individuals are currently being questioned in Monrovia, suspected of involvement in subversive activities.

One of the men known to have been arrested is General Charles Julu, a former army commander who led a 1994 coup attempt. He was arrested along with a former colonel, Andrew Dorbor.

Williams says there are video clips of the suspects plotting against Liberia's government.

"On the video clippings that is with the security agency you have these people, perpetrators plotting how they are going to distribute money, how they are going to get arms from whatever sources and how these arms and ammunition are going to be transported to Liberia to carry out their evil plan," he noted.

He says the men have been meeting in both Liberia and in neighboring Ivory Coast.

"There have been consistent reports that there have been criminals from Liberia who have been going to the Ivory Coast and trying to recruit and to acquire arms and other means to create chaos here in Liberia," he added.

This is not the first time that Liberia's current government has warned against possible attempts to overthrow its leadership, but in the past no evidence has been produced or individuals arrested.

Some opposition politicians have accused the government of using apparent security threats to create instability in the country.

But Alex Vines, an analyst with London-based Chatham House, says this would have been an unlikely motivation for the recent arrests.

"Certainly the government is wanting to attract investment and business, and making the place sound unstable is not in the interest or policy priority for this current administration from everything I have seen," he explained.

Vines does say that security forces may be overreacting to the current threat.

"The quality of the Liberian law enforcement agencies and intelligence gathering is variable, and so I think a cool analysis needs to made on what actual information they do have, what is the quality of it," he added. "And was this more hot air and a few individuals speculating, or was this a well-executed plot that was dangerous to the Liberian administration."

He adds that it seems unlikely that those who oppose the government have the ability to cause a serious threat.

"I think there are individuals who would like to see organized regime change through unconstitutional means in Liberia, but whether they have the ability to carry it out I have my doubts," he noted.

Liberia's civil war, which lasted over a decade, ended in 2003, leaving the country's economy and infrastructure in ruins.

Current president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has waged a war against corruption and has devoted much her presidency to debt-relief for the country.