Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)

LURD are an irregular military and political organization based primarily in northern Liberia, with a strong presence in Guinea and representatives in Sierra Leone. Their stated objective is the removal from political office of the current Liberian president, Charles Taylor. According to senior LURD military personnel, the movement was born in July 1999 in Freetown after a series of meetings between groups of Liberian exiles in Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The name, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, was reportedly coined by LURD’s current Senior Military Adviser (SMA), Gen. Joe Wylie, who is now based mainly in the United States. LURD was formed by Liberian exiles in response to feelings of frustration and perceived exclusion from the implementation of the ECOMOG-sponsored 1997 Abuja Peace Accords that ended Liberia’s 1989–97 civil war, initiated by Charles Taylor’s bid to overthrow the then president, Samuel Doe.

Initially, LURD consisted of mainly disenchanted Mandingos and Krahns, ethnic groups from the north of Liberia that had long been opposed to Taylor and had fought him during the civil war. The dominance of these two tribes persists, though not to the exclusion of all others, owing to the fact that LURD’s military hierarchy was, and still is, dominated by ex-combatants from Charles Taylor’s old adversaries, the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy, or ULIMO (itself comprised almost uniquely of Mandingos and Krahns).

The fact that the Mandingo tribe are predominantly Muslim and the Krahns are mainly Christian does not in itself influence or affect operational cohesion. Splitting into two rival factions in 1993, ULIMO and Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) dominated the fighting that plagued Liberia in the mid-1990s. LURD’s creation can be seen in essence as a reunification of the two former ULIMO factions, ULIMO-K, formerly led by Alhaji Kromah, and ULIMO-J, previously commanded by Roosevelt Johnson.

ULIMO formally ceased to exist following the 1997 disarmament programme resulting from the Abuja Accords. Withdrawing en masse from Liberia’s political and military structures, ULIMO’s fighters and political cadres claimed harassment, betrayal and assassination at the hands of Charles Taylor’s NPFL forces. Citing evidence of a ‘witch-hunt’ against them, and consequently a breach of the Abuja Peace Accords that were supposed to incorporate their faction into the re-formed Liberian military, ULIMO personnel fled to neighbouring Guinea