With such look of despair, President Charles Taylor intoned, "...when will this end? It's not good for business. We are really hurting despite our investment. War is nor good for anything."
When asked why he was contemplating evacuating his family from the relative safety of Monrovia, his shoulders dropped and with the head lowered, he sighed twice, raised his eyebrows and staring straight ahead past me into the unknown, he pursed his lips and slowly hissed: "Two of our community were killed by the rebels when they attacked Kakata last month, April, and Gbarnga is under attack and soon it could be Tubmanburg, Buchanan and then Monrovia. The situation is killing our spirits."
The Lebanese ambassador in Monrovia has had two meetings with his community and advised them to evacuate. It is also understood that the Egyptian ambassador has added his voice. The NGOs are poising themselves to evacuate as strategic towns of Gbarnga and Clay are attacked and sacked by the rebels of the Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
Gbarnga, the provincial city of Bong County, used to be the headquarters of Taylor's rebel government until he won an internationally monitored and approved national elections in July 1997 with over 80% of the votes.
Gbarnga's central location links it to the rest of the country by one of two main highways from Monrovia to Ganta towards the borders with Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea to the east and the north respectively.
To the west is Sierra Leone and parts of Guinea, and Clay is also the strategic town on the 120 kms highway linking Monrovia with the counties to the west and north-west.
LURD controls the important town of Voinjama (on the border with Guinea) in Lofa County. Vainjama used to be the headquarters of the disbanded United Liberation Movement for Democracy (ULIMO) which fought Taylor's erstwhile NPFL first from Sierra Leone and later from Guinea. LURD has become the ghost ULIMO haunting Taylor's government.
The counties of Lofa and Bopalu (a new county carved out of Lofa about six months ago) have become contested zones with the government and population pushed out of key towns.
The ease of the attack on Gbarnga will make Bong County also a contested zone leaving the government in effective control of 12 out of the 15 counties.
Should LURD manage to exercise a stranglehold on Clay as they do Voinjama and also control Gbarnga, then Monrovia and the county of Montserrado would be placed under effective...