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Liberians Cheer New Leader as Cease-Fire Begins

August 20, 1996

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ As a cease-fire took effect Tuesday in Liberia’s nearly seven-year civil war, thousands flocked to greet the country’s new appointed leader _ a woman charged with ending the fighting among feuding warlords.

Waving placards and accompanied by dancers and a band, well-wishers arrived at the airport to greet Ruth Perry, named by regional leaders on Saturday to head Liberia’s ruling Council of State.

The crowd dispersed after learning that Perry’s arrival from Nigeria had been delayed a day, but the number of people and their enthusiasm showed the strength of Liberians’ desire for change.

Perry _ the country’s first female leader _ replaces Wilton Sankawulo, who was seen as ineffective in controlling the warlords’ rivalries.

``Previous interim governments did not deliver the much-desired peace to Liberian people because they sidelined women,″ said acting planning minister Aminata Jabateh, as people in the crowd displayed banners reading ``Women in control″ and ``We love you, Ruth.″

A summit of West African leaders meeting in Nigeria over the weekend chose Perry, a senator in the former government of President Samuel Doe, to be chairwoman of the six-member Council of State. The summit also announced a cease-fire to take effect Tuesday and elections for a new government May 30.

It was not clear what delayed Perry’s arrival.

Charles Taylor, leader of the National Patriotic Front faction, started Liberia’s war in 1989 with a rebel assault on Doe’s ethnic Krahn dictatorship. Doe was toppled and executed by a rival faction, one of six that emerged as the war continued.

More than 150,000 people have died in the conflict, including more than 1,500 killed during the April-May battles in the capital, and about half of the country’s 2.3 million people have been displaced.

The accord is an amended version of last year’s truce that called for an immediate cease-fire and placed Taylor and warlords Alhaji Kromah and George Boley on an interim Council of State with three civilians.

The cease-fire that went into effect with the seating of the interim government last September broke down in April when a standoff between Taylor and rival warlord Roosevelt Johnson led to widespread fighting in the Liberian capital.

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