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Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 12:38:24 -0500
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>>> Item number 9077, dated 96/09/15 23:08:17 -- ALL
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996 23:08:17 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Organization: PACH
Subject: Group Says Logging Used To Fund Civil War In Liberia

/** headlines: 72.0 **/
** Topic: Group Says Logging Used To Fund Civil War In Liberia **
** Written 2:57 PM Sep 9, 1996 by econet in cdp:headlines **
From: Carlos Sergio Figueiredo Tautz <tautz>

Logging Used To Fund Civil War In Liberia

The Society for the Renewal of Nature Conservation in Liberia, West Africa... USA.
Press Release, 15 September 1997

Contact: The Society for the Renewal of Nature Conservation in Liberia, West Africa... USA
45375 Escalante Court
Temecula, California 92592
Tel: (909) 676-3309
(909) 676-3663

For several years it has been rumored that logging activities have been carried on in the Republic of Liberia to raise foreign capital to fund the civil war. Initiated in late 1989 by a cross border invasion from Cote D'Ivoire, the war has claimed over 150,000 lives, dislocated over half of the population and experienced countless failed peace accords.

Anecdotal and speculative information has come to the attention of the Society about logging operations which were being carried out along several areas of the Liberian border in collaboration with operatives in the Ivory Coast. Timber is used principally of this type is typically used for export as hardwood logs and for processing into plywood. Without the cooperation of officials in Cote D'Ivoire this traffic in forest spoils would not be possible.

Observations of logging truck traffic along major motor roads just north of the Liberian border has been officially described as legitimate logs from Guinea, Liberia and Cote D'Ivoire's neighbor. Recent eyewitness accounts, however, indicate that this relentless traffic originated from forested regions near Mt. Nimba. During the past several years logging yards were established in the Ivorian town of Danane, as assembly points for export and processing.

The plunder of the country's natural resources has been well-organized by both warring factions as well as outright profitteers. Other resource commodities which have bankrolled the conflict in include sales of Liberian diamonds, gold and rubber. U.S. Ambassador William Twadell, who served as chief of mission in Monrovia from 1992 to 1995 has said that almost all weapons reaching Liberia arrived through countries in the West African sub-region. As reported recently in West Africa Magazine, he further stated that arms reaching Charles Taylor's NPFL (National Patriotic Liberation Front) most likely transit Burkina Faso and Cote D'Ivoire and that those destined for Alhaji Kromah's Ulimo-K are likely to pass through Guinea. Ambassador Twadell, the deputy assistant Secretary for African Affairs said, in testimony to the U.S. Congress in late June, 1996, that this steady flow of arms and munitions has kept the civil war going for over six years. The primary source of funds appear to be from the sale of Liberia's natural resources.

Citing trade records, Twadell said that most of the diamonds from Liberia probably go to Belgium and that the timber from Liberia's forests have French and Malaysian buyers as primary customers.

Curbing the generation of funds that fuel the Liberian war has been under discussion in U.S. State department circles, though it is admittedly difficult without serious committments from neighboring states. Among the sanctions in the offing are tougher measures against states such as Cote D'Ivoire. Other mechanisms include seizing the known assets of Liberian war-makers in the U.S. and refusing visas for known contributors to the prolongation of the conflict.

While overt sanctions by the US have beem minimal, the Minister of Defense in Cote D'Ivoire announced in July that tighter controls would be implemented to restrict the movement of armaments and those known to engage in conflict-making. Some subsequent field reports indicate that some such actions may actually be taking place, however for a long period prior to this, no attempts were made to disguise the movement of arms and ammunition through Cote D'Ivoire to the Liberian frontier. It remains to be seen whether profiteering from forests will slow.

The port of Greenville, which earlier was a threat as an exit port for timber in eastern Liberia was blockaded some time ago by the sinking of a vessel in the entry channel. Sapo National Park, a 500 sq mi rain forest wilderness and the country's only national park, and its proximate forests were previously at risk for exploitation for war money and now seem to have a reprieve.

Liberia is a small coastal country about the size of Massachusetts which was founded as a republic in 1847. It has more historical connections and American influence that any other African nation and was founded by freed slaves from America and others liberated from slaving vessels in the 1800s along the West African coast. While operating as a one party state since its beginning, efforts to provide for more inclusive representation of its many original inhabitants were subverted by a coup d'etat in the early 1980s which created a military dictatorship headed by Samuel Doe.

While still fortunate to have significant areas of tropical moist forest and unique wildlife resources, these environments have been encroached considerably by settlement, bush fallow agriculture, mining disturbances other factors. The Society for the Renewal of Nature Conservation in Liberia is a non-profit, non-governmental organization formed in 1991 to promote the restoration of sound forestry and wildlife utilization programs. It acts as an extension of the in country NGO, the Society for Nature Conservation in Liberia. It supports its activities through tax deductable donations and grants in direct liaison with Liberian conservationists, international conservation organizations and biologists concerned with the survival of West Africa's unique ecosystems. It publishes a quarterly news magazine, The Pepper Bird, which provides both current and historical information about the Liberian environment.

In the April conflagration in the capital, Monrovia, which was massively reported by the media, the Society's only office in Liberia was looted and all assests were lost. Peace keeping forces are now being bolstered and significant developments have taken place to again attempt disarmament and peace-making. A woman will now get her turn as being the chief peace-maker as Ruth Perry, a Liberian Senate member during the 1980s, is installed as head of the ruling State Council on September 3, 1996.

The latest timetable for disarmament is by the end of January and elections by May 30, 1996. Plans to examine the long-unmonitored Sapo National Park are being formulated by a team of biologists, in collaboration with Alex Peal, the director of the Division of Wildlife and National Parks.

Dr. Phillip T. Robinson
Secretary, SRNCL...USA