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Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso Responsible For Liberia's Carnage...Herman Cohen

former United States assistant secretary of state for African Affairs Mr. Cohen said the war was started by the two presidents who wanted regime change for personal reasons.

"Why did these countries start the war anyway? There would not had been a war in Liberia if these two outside powers had not sponsored it," Cohen, who was charged with the responsibility to mediate by Washington at the inception of the Liberian civil conflict told the audience at the just ended Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Diaspora Public Hearings at Hamlin's University Sundin Music Hall in the US City of St. Paul, Minnesota.

The hearings, part of the TRC's ongoing public hearings were organized in collaboration with the US based partners: The Advocates for Human Rights, to hear the role of key US actors in the Liberian civil conflict and Liberians living in America. The hearings in Minnesota marked the first time ever any truth commission systematically sought to include its Diaspora citizens into the process of national healing.

Discussing "The Role of the United States in the Liberian Civil Conflict," Mr. Cohen said some of the greatest tragedies in Africa have come about because of the kind surrogate war that was supported in Liberia by Presidents Boigny and Campaore.

He insisted that the people of Liberia were not prepared for war in 1989 saying that it was only promoted and forced upon them by outside powers.

Mr. Cohen said the war in Liberia was totally unjustifiable, adding, "although Samuel Doe was a bad leader but I don't think the people of Liberia wanted war."

He said during a meeting with the President of Burkina Faso in 1990, Campaore expressed apologies for his country role in the war saying that Doe was a horrible leader but he thought the war would have been over in 30 days. He however said the late Ivorian leader Houphuet Boigny showed no remorse as he denied complicity in the planning and execution of the conflict.

The veteran American diplomat cautioned African countries to discourage surrogate wars that are imposed by outside powers.

He apologized to the people of Liberia for the failure of the United States to intervene in the conflict.

"I think it was a lot foolish on the part of the administration to sit by and allow the conflict to rage leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. I think this could have been avoided if we had gotten really involved into finding a lasting solution but they did not see it necessary. I however express my deepest apologies to the people of Liberia for the sufferings," he regretted.

Cohen retired from the U.S. Department of State in 1993. His last position was assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993). During his 38-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service, he served in five African countries and twice in France. He was the ambassador to Senegal, with dual accreditation to the Gambia, from 1977 to 1980. During assignments in Washington, he also served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan (1987-1989), principal deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and research, and principal deputy assistant secretary for personnel.

From 1994 to 1998, under contract to the World Bank, Cohen was a senior advisor to the Global Coalition for Africa, an intergovernmental policy forum that works to achieve consensus between donor and African governments on economic policy.

Cohen is a member of the boards of directors of the Council for a Community of Democracies and the Constituency for Africa. He has been a professorial lecturer in foreign policy studies at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies since 1998. He is a member of the panel on Transatlantic Relations of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He is the author of a book on conflict resolution in Africa entitled Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent (2000). This book won the award for distinguished writing on diplomatic practice for the year 2000 from the American Academy of Diplomacy.

The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.

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