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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Jeff Koinange Wraps Up His Time In Liberia

Aired August 20, 2003 - 19:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: After many heroing weeks covering the dramatic end to the long and bloody civil war, our man Jeff Koinange takes a look now at the west African country Liberia through his rear view mirror. Before moving on to his next assignment, Jeff prepared this reporter's notebook from Liberian capital of Monrovia.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was an assignment few reporters have wanted to take on. An unknown country in a far away place where danger seemed to lurk at every turn. It was a story about a stubborn dictator, Charles Taylor clinging on to power by any and all means including waging war against his own people.

But it was has story that shared a common history with the United States. Former slaves sent here to create a free nation. They were successful at this for 150 years, before the bottom fell out and the freedom gave way to a free for all.

We arrived in Liberia's capital Monrovia named after former U.S. President James Monroe in early June. We quickly discovered for ourselves that this was a nation in tatters. They say this was one of Africa's most peaceful and stable countries. It's hard to tell from the state of these buildings and the total breakdown in law and order.

Everywhere we went this is what we found. Bands of militia armed to the teeth with seemingly every weapon ever made both crude and modern. Many of them were teenagers and even younger. Boys and girls playing in a field clearly made for adults.

Despite their obvious predicament -- I guess that's one way of letting off steam. And this is another way of letting off steam. A frightening reminder of a country and a people run amok.

And this is the result. Tens of thousands of frightened Liberians fleeing the countryside for the relative safety of the capital, men, women, young, old. And once in a while man's best friend. Mothers with children, children with children, and just children. Their lives turned upside down forever. Many ended up here at the country's largest football stadium where a new disaster was unfolding. Hunger, disease, death.

But in the midst of all the chaos and confusion, the unthinkable happened. Charles Taylor finally bowed to pressure to step down. He handed over power to his vice president and then in front of our cameras and for the world to see, boarded a specially chartered plane and headed off into exile in neighboring Nigeria. Something not even his toughest critics would have predicted.

And just like that, no sooner was he gone than U.S. marines were landing in Liberia for the very first time in large numbers, and Liberians had cause to smile once again. The marines won't be alone in this operation. These are West African troops, veterans of Africa's widespread civil wars. They are here to form the vanguard of a peacekeeping mission.

After 12 weeks on the ground we managed to carry a story to its finality. Peace is on the horizon, security all be guaranteed, and much needed humanitarian relief finally coming to the country's suffering masses.

It's not every day you get a good news story out of Africa, but then again, it's not every day you get a good news story out of anywhere. Jeff Koinange, CNN, Monrovia, Liberia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: And it has been a dangerous assignment for Jeff and his crew and we appreciate all their work from Liberia.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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