Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy
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The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) was a rebel group in Liberia that was active from 1999 until the resignation of Charles Taylor ended the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. While the group formally dissolved after the war, the interpersonal linkages of the civil war era remain a key force in internal Liberian politics.
The group's only stated political purpose during the civil war that followed its rebellion against President Charles Taylor was to force him out of office: "Taylor must go". The group received support from Liberian diasporas in other African countries, Europe and the United States, but especially from the government of neighboring Guinea after the Taylor-supported invasion of the country in September 2000. Like the other two warring factions during the Second War, even LURD was accused of committing atrocities during the war.
According to Käihkö, LURD is best understood as a loose coalition united by an equally loose ideology, which focused on getting rid of Taylor. Initially there were different groups that shared the same goal, but acted independently in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. When the plan to wage this kind of two-front war failed due to Sierra Leonean reluctance, and especially when Guinea began to support the Liberians in the country against Taylor's aggression, these various groups moved to Guinea. Because Guinean support was channeled through the Chairman Sekou Conneh, he gained some leverage to unite the movement. While the cohesion of LURD always remained bristle, it was widely recognized that unity was necessary if Taylor was to be removed from power. Many in the LURD leadership also remembered what had happened to its predecessor, the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), which had split in 1994. As a result, the LURD internal organization assumed power-sharing, not least between the dominant Krahn and Mandingo groups and their leaders.
Early on in the war the anti-Taylor elements launched hit-and-run attacks from Sierra Leone and Guinea, but after the Guinean support LURD established its headquarters in Voinjama, the county capital of Lofa County. Once it had gained territory in the south this headquarter was moved south to Tubmanburg in Bomi County. After years of fighting LURD laid siege to Liberia's capital, Monrovia on June 4, 2003, although it was unable to capture it. During the siege, the group was accused of firing mortar shells into civilian areas of the city, killing dozens of people.
LURD's successes in occupying northern Liberia and besieging Monrovia, in addition to the successes of another rebel group in southerneastern Liberia (the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, or MODEL) and heavy pressure from the United States and the international community, effectively forced President Taylor to resign and go into exile in Nigeria on August 11, 2003, as part of a peace agreement. A transitional government headed by Gyude Bryant was established on October 14, and it included many representatives of LURD. One of LURD's founders, George Dweh, became Speaker of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly.
In January 2004, LURD was divided by a power struggle between its chairman, Sekou Conneh, and his wife Aisha Conneh, an adviser to the President of Guinea, Lansana Conté. The group promised to disarm as part of the 2003 peace agreement, although it was accused of simply moving most of its weapons into safe keeping across the border in Sierra Leone. In June 2004, Chayee Doe, the vice chairman of LURD and younger brother of Samuel Kanyon Doe, was briefly appointed chairman despite an illness, but died two days later.
George Dweh was suspended indefinitely as Speaker of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly on April 28, 2005, along with his deputy Eddington Varmah and Ways, Means & Finance's Committee Chairman Tarplah Doe, for widespread corruption.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have completed the disarmament of 100,000 ex-combatants from LURD, MODEL and the ex-government of Liberia. The process commenced on December 7, 2003 but was abruptly stopped after militia men demanded money for handing in their guns. The process re-commenced and each ex-combatant received 300 United States dollars.
Testifying before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on August 28, 2008, Sekou Conneh said that, during the war, Sierra Leone and Guinea had allowed the LURD rebels free passage "through their borders with our arms without any questions from them".
- "Liberia:Ex-Warlord says Sierra Leone and Guinea cooperated with his faction", African Press Agency, August 29, 2008.
Käihkö, Ilmari (2015). "'Taylor must go' - the strategy of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy". Small Wars & Insurgencies March 2015 vol. 26 no. 2 248-270.
- International Crisis Group, "Liberia: The Key To Ending Regional Instability", ICG Africa Report N° 43, 24 April 2002