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Liberia's Nervous Leader; Taylor Focuses on Security While His Nation Lies Shattered
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Civil war; Government
Author: Rupert, James
Date: Jan 14, 1999
Start Page: A.21
Section: A SECTION

These days, (Kimmie) Weeks is hiding from Liberian security agents, condemned by government officials as a dangerous subversive. His crime was that he checked out a rumor last month that Liberia's army was training child soldiers.

In a Liberia two years past its civil war, Weeks's story is not farce, but rather evidence that the government of President Charles Taylor remains fearful and defensive, often treating criticism as a threat. After 17 months in office, Liberians and foreign observers say, Taylor's government focuses on armed security rather than on rebuilding a shattered economy and society. And Taylor, who started Liberia's 1989-97 conflict by revolting against then President Samuel Doe's corrupt rule, vacillates between presenting himself as a democratic political leader and operating much as the militia commandant he was during the war.

"People feel as though we are still in a war zone," said Philip Wesseh, director of the Inquirer, an independent daily newspaper. Taylor's militiamen who helped wreck Monrovia in a spasm of combat and looting three years ago still carry guns, but now wear uniforms of various military and security agencies. Their behavior is little improved, residents say, and newspapers carry stories every week of police or soldiers robbing or beating civilians.

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