Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD)
Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) is an insurgency group that seeks to build and sustain a stable democracy in the Republic of Liberia through the removal of the Taylor government. The group structure is divided between the military campaign designed to oust Taylor and the political campaign to restore law and order in Liberia. The group mandates that no former warlord become involved with any activity of the group. Many of the military commanders of LURD were Taylor associates at one time or another during the 1990s.
LURD was formed in 1999 by Liberian refugees in West Africa led by Sekou Conneh, and is the largest insurgency group in the state. LURD was supported by Guinea from the outset, and has received the tacit support of Britain and the United States.
LURD has a two-tier organizational structure. A political campaign to establish rule of law, and a military campaign to free the Liberian people from the tyrannical rule of the Taylor-led regime.
Initially, LURD used Guinea as a base, and it received religious, political and military support from the Muslim–dominated government of Guinea. Observers note that LURD has a significant Muslim element, and it has reportedly received arms from sources such as the United Arab Emirates.
LURD is split along ethnic lines, with Krahn, Mandingo and Gio factions. The earlier split between the Krahns and the Mandingos in 1994 that gave birth to ULIMO-K and -J had to do with the ethnic hatred that developed between Ziah and Sheriff at the Council of State elections. The leader of LURD is a Mandingo and it is understood that seventy percent (70%) of their forces are of the Mandingo ethnic group. The LURD is a coalition of ethnic Mandingos and Krahns, although many ethnic Lorma are members of the rebel group as well. The continuing violence in Lofa County exacerbated ethnic tensions between the Mandingos and the Lormas. In Lofa, conflict erupted between the Mandingos and the Lormas and Kissis on one hand. During the civil war in 1990, it was alleged that some mosques were burnt by the Lorma group.
Many members of the predominantly Muslim Mandingo minority encountered hostility when they sought to return, after the end of the civil war, to their villages in Lofa, Bong, and Nimba counties. Many Mandingos were unable to reoccupy their homes, which had been taken over by squatters. Members of the Lorma, Gio, and Mano minorities generally held all Mandingos responsible for atrocities committed by the ULIMO-K faction during the civil war. The lack of competent security forces and a fully functioning judiciary in these areas prevented many Mandingos from seeking redress. Mandingo citizens faced growing discrimination, arbitrary arrests, and violence based on their ethnicity; many ethnic Mandingos sought refuge in Guinea after the Government increased arrests following the detention of journalist Hassan Bility.
In a statement issued on 25 April 1999 in the United States, the Liberia Coalition for Reconciliation and Democracy (LCRD), referring to itself simply as RESISTENCE, said it had decided to carry out tactics of “positive resistance” to degrade and disable Taylor’s ability to reign in Liberia. The group confirmed that it was made up of former fighters of Taylor’s NPFL, and the disbanded Liberia Peace Council of George Boley, the break-away ULIMOs of Roosevelt Johnson and Alhaji Kromah, the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Lofa Defense force of Taylor’s incumbent Youth and Sports Minister, Francois Massaquoi. The provincial city of Voinjama in Lofa County is a one-time stronghold of the former ULIMO-K leader, Alhaji G.V. Kromah.
Despite LURD’s declared commitments to the peace process mediated by the West African regional body, ECOWAS, the group has developed a strong mistrust for West African leaders, who they allege seem to back Taylor.