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2/12/04 - LIBERIA’S RECOVERY - 2004-02-13

Officials of the U.S., the United Nations, the World Bank, and the National Transitional Government of Liberia met to consider how best to promote the social, economic, and political recovery of that war-ravaged country.

After 1989, civil war took the lives of more than two-hundred thousand Liberian men, women, and children. A million others were made homeless. Businesses and industries were destroyed or heavily damaged. “What Liberia desperately needs today,” says Liberian human rights attorney Tiawan Gongloe, “is to rebuild a culture of respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

The U.S., France, Britain, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Commission, and others are working to restore security. Liberia’s former president, Charles Taylor, is now in exile in Nigeria. Presidential and congressional elections will be held next year. “The citizens of Liberia,” says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, “now have the opportunity to put fifteen years of war, chaos, and misery behind them and to build a future of hope”:

“A Liberia at peace will be critical to peace and well being throughout the West African region. And Liberia’s successful reconstruction would send a powerful message to other long-troubled parts of Africa that the international community will stand behind those who seize the opportunity for peace and who set the course for democracy and sustainable development.”

The U.S. has provided nearly ninety-million dollars in humanitarian aid to Liberia. Food donated by the U.S. through the World Food Program has helped to feed hundreds of thousands of Liberians. The U.S., says Mr. Powell, already has contributed an initial eight-million dollars to provide interim police from the U.S. and other countries and to train and equip a Liberian police force that will respect the rule of law:

“Together with our partners in the international community, we will help the people of Liberia build a country ruled by a constitution, and not by kleptocrats.”

The U.S. wants to see Liberia’s great natural wealth invested in its most precious resource, its citizens.