Nuns’ Slayings Revives Bitterness Against U.S.
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ Slayings of five American nuns trapped in the siege of Monrovia have revived bitterness about the U.S. role in Liberia.
″The Reagan government and the Bush administration have to share some of the responsibilities for what has happened,″ Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael Francis said in an interview.
He and others believe the United States has a moral responsibility to help end the country’s brutal, nearly three-year-old conflict.
Meanwhile, in Liberia-related developments Thursday:
-U.S. officials said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, trying to install a radical regime in Liberia and perhaps exert influence on the entire region, has been funneling weapons to rebel leader Charles Taylor’s group.
The officials said Libya has been involved in the conflict from the beginning and recently increased its arms shipments, using Burkina Faso as a transit point.
In November 1990, the Bush administration threatened to withhold aid to Burkina Faso if it did not stop supporting Taylor.
-The State Department announced it is recalling its ambassador from Burkina Faso to protest that country’s arms shipments to Taylor’s NPFL faction. Spokesman Richard Boucher said Burkina Faso has ″actively undermined″ the peace process in Liberia but declined to say where Burkina Faso got the arms.
-An AP reporter has spoken to Taylor fighters who say they received training in Libya and Burkina Faso.
Taylor in March 1991 invaded Sierra Leone alongside Siere Leonian rebels that trained with him in Guinea.
This year, Gambia accused Taylor of being behind the rebels who attempted a coup there.
-Drumbeats and prayers for peace rang from churches marking Thanksgiving Day in Liberia’s besieged capital Thursday, replacing the terrifying booms of cannons, rockets and mortars.
Gunfire crackled from a strategic double-bridge leading to the Gardnersville-Banersville area, northeastern suburbs where Catholic priests pray they still may recover the bodies of the nuns, killed two weeks ago when Taylor’s fighter advanced on the city.
-Shipments by air to Taylor’s forces have been stopped for two weeks since Nigerian planes in a multinational force bombed Roberts Field International Airport, built by the U.S. Army in World War II, and a new airfield Taylor built at his headquarters in the central town of Gbarnga.
Taylor was also receiving supplies by road from the Ivory Coast.
Taylor began the war with an invasion from Ivory Coast on Christmas Eve 1989 that initially was a popular rebellion against a brutal and tribalistic military dictatorship. Samuel Doe was an illiterate master sergeant when he seized power in a bloody 1980 coup, the same year Ronald Reagan won elections.
″Reagan’s government gave half a billion dollars to Doe in the first four years, more than they had given in the entire history of this country″ founded by freed American slaves in 1847, said the archbishop, Francis.
He said the U.S. government ignored the fact that most of the money lined the pockets of Doe and a clique from his Krahn tribe, while Doe oppressed the nation of 2.3 million people, killing opponents, and winning U.S. approval for rigged elections in 1985.
In return, he said, the United States had carte blanche to use Liberia as a CIA listening post through Voice of America installations and the Omega navigation plant, one of the world’s six biggest ship-tracking stations that the archbishop said also was used to monitor Soviet satellites.
″All we have to show for that period is arms, arms and a big army they (the Americans) helped train,″ Francis said.
That’s not exactly true, say U.S. officials.
In Washington, U.S. officials said that at the time of the Doe takeover in 1980, the United States had the option of ″cutting and leaving or trying to work with him.″
The officials said Doe was promised help if he would restore constitutional rule. Doe did hold the elections in 1985 but they were marred by widespread cheating, the officials said.
There then was a coup attempt against Doe after the election, and the United States began cutting aid after Doe responded with massive human rights violations. Military aid was eventually suspended.
But hundreds and maybe thousands of civilians already have been killed by bullets, rockets, shellings and bombing raids by a West African army defending Monrovia since Taylor’s fighters started besieging the capital on Oct. 15.
Nobody can say why the American nuns, aged 50 to 70, were among the latest victims.
The most likely explanation would be that one or a group of Taylor’s fighters, who are notoriously ill-disciplined, went out of control at the battle front.
One of three remaining American nuns in Liberia, Barbara Brillant of Brunswick, Maine, said Taylor’s fighters also ″see the CIA behind every white face.″
Throughout the conflict, Taylor has played on ethnic differences and indulged in anti-foreigner rhetoric.
Like others, Francis hopes the nuns’ murder and this week’s election of a Democratic government in the United States could prompt change.
Added The Eye, an independent Monrovia newspaper: ″How many more innocent and harmless civilians will have to pay for their lives before the U.S. realizes that Liberian are struggling against a band of monsters?″