But this comes as no surprise: Ours is a society where those who pull the trigger and the white-collar thieves who engage in gross pillaging are not considered “bad guys” or “troublemakers” but those who seek to put the country back on the path of decency. At the same time, our nation’s culture of impunity has given rise to the illusion that political power belongs to thieves and murderers, so when Adolphus Dolo complains about a wave of “negative media reports” against him, he’s aware that there are many other Liberians like him who are not being grilled.
What is vexing is that one of such individuals could muster the courage, although in a vain attempt, to clear muddied water. This is an open challenge to those who know the truth, individuals desirous of breaking the culture of impunity, and men with a vision for the troubled nation far divorced from our current state of decadence.
To say the least, I held my breath near suffocation when I read, with awakened memories, an article attributed to Adolphus Dolo. The article, captioned, “I’m Not a Monster – Adolphus Dolo Opens Up”, was published in the February 16, 2005 edition of the Analyst newspaper and posted to the web (allafrica.com) on the same date.
The paper reported that Dolo “took nearly three hours” to share his experiences during the war with journalists he had invited to his Adolphus Entertainment Center, giving reasons why he decided to fight, and wondering at the same time why “so much negative things are being written about me. Why are journalists not getting my side?”
And so Adolphus Dolo decided to give his side but faintly, so faintly that he raised more questions than answers.
But before dwelling further on the former general’s reasons for joining the war, we must establish the fact that the April 6, 1996 fighting was masterminded by two warlords – Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah – men driven by bigotry and insatiable greed for power and wealth, with the sole intent to loot Monrovia and militarily force the people into submission, thereby securing for themselves a comfortable political leverage in the 1997 elections under the guise of enforcing law and order. Consequently, the idea of bringing their rebel fighters under the banner of “Government Forces” to persecute such a war was ridiculed by Liberians who branded the ruthless militias as “Government Forced It”.
This is the war Adolphus Dolo says chose him. “I did not start this war, the war chose me,” he told journalists, claiming that he escaped death many times during the 1990 fighting, “including one at the UN compound in Sinkor at the hands of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) acting on behalf of the late President Samuel Doe.”
But Dolo was not clear as to why he didn’t join the war at that time and why he waited six years later to fight.
It’s no secret that Charles Taylor took advantage of the aggrieved situation of the people of Nimba to quickly marshal a large rebel army. And it’s also no secret that “you fight for me – I free you” alliance carried a heavy price, but we must be careful not to confuse the real victims of the war with con men thriving on ethnic sentiments to advance their selfish agendas.
Adolphus Dolo played a leading role in the April 6, 1996 fighting that left many people dead and Central Monrovia massively looted and burned Hundreds of residents were made homeless, some permanently. That was not fighting for the people of Nimba and Dolo’s flimsy reasons for joining the war can’t hold water, at all. Reasons?
1. President Samuel Doe was captured and murdered by one of Dolo’s kinsmen as far back as September 1990;
2. Concerted and tireless efforts by the West African subregion and the United Nations aimed at restoring lasting peace to Liberia were already bearing fruits, with the security of the capital in the hands of the peacekeepers and the timetable for disarming all the warring factions in place;
3. Life in Monrovia was relatively normal as businesses were flourishing and people were once again resolving their grievances as civilized through the court system; and
4. Under these circumstances, no one was chasing Dolo except his ambition to acquire wealth at all costs.
It was this motive, not a call to liberate anyone, that ignited Dolo’s involvement in the April 6 fiasco, leading to his first meeting with Taylor and Kromah, as the two enemies came together to strategize Liberia’s biggest, most monstrous robbery yet.
Notwithstanding, Dolo tells reporters, “I’m not a monster that people think I am. I am intelligent and I know what I want in life.” Dolo’s life is public record, whether he’s a monster or not; intelligent or not, the record is there to speak. What concerns me and perhaps other Liberians is his claim that he knows what he wants in life. What a man wants in life is one thing, how he goes about acquiring it quite another. And this is where this “intelligent” general’s trouble lies – getting what he wants by grossly violating the fundamental rights of others. What Dolo needs to understand and desist from blaming the media for his troubles is that there are consequences for breaking the law. Charles Taylor knows that. Foday Sankoh knew that. Adolphus Dolo should know that.
By the way, memories are still fresh how Adolphus Dolo used the diplomatic safe haven of Mamba Point as citadel to rain bullets and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) on Downtown Monrovia. And everyday Dolo and his henchmen struck was a busy day for the widely respected Liberian pathologist, Dr. Isaac Moses, a true humanitarian worker who organized a group of volunteers under difficult circumstances to bury the corpses Dolo and his agents of death always left behind.
On a daily basis, the rebel commander, accompanied by an entourage of hooligans, frequented the area surrounding the American Graystone Compound where over 45,000 people had sought refuge in just two days after the Taylor-Kromah “government forces” began their offensive against loyalists of the late Roosevelt Johnson, then warlord Kromah and Taylor accused of murder and vowed to bring to justice. The Liberian people called that “pot calling tea kettle black”.
And that coining leads us to a number of questions: Who killed more people during the Liberian crisis, Roosevelt Johnson or Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah combined? If Taylor and Kromah are men who operate within the confines of the law, why they never allowed the justice system to take its course in dealing with this matter. Why the offensive that started as a “resolve” to prove that Liberia was a “country of laws, not a country of men”, quickly erupted into the most bizarre looting affair Liberians had seen since December 24, 1989, when Taylor ordered the first shot to be fired in Butuo to start the war that ravaged Liberia so callously? Why Mamba Point, which housed most of the foreign missions in Liberia, relief organizations operating in the country, and top expatriate staff, was the prime target instead of the Barclay Training Center (BTC) where Johnson and his loyalists openly remained defiant? Why every office, every home in Mamba Point, except the United States Embassy and the Mamba Point Hotel (where Dolo dined regularly during the crisis), was broken into and looted?
Indeed, it was a sad state of affair that international organizations that had come to Liberia to help Liberians rediscover their humanity could be victimized in such a dastardly way. And Adolphus Dolo was in the center of it all, openly and proudly playing the hero then.
A spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Liberia told reporters at the time that the world body alone lost 489 vehicles in just two days. According to him, that was the fastest the UN had lost that number of vehicles in a conflict situation, adding, “We never experienced that even in Rwanda”. This disclosure was heartbreaking, shameful, and embarrassing to my friends and I who had contacted the UN official as to the impact of the looting on the UN Mission in Liberia.
But for those who throw bumps into overcrowded cities, looting is a child’s play.
If Adolphus can truly recollect all of his experiences during the war, he would remember hooligans under his command breaking through the Mamba Point compound of Archbishop Michael Francis and desecrating his residence, flooding the Graystone “displaced center” and other areas under their control with cases of communion wine and other religious items. One intoxicated fighter even wore a white gown, officiating attire probably belonging to the bishop, and sacrilegiously recited the Holy Rosary.
Just a day later, Dolo’s men bodily brought a captive, a man probably in his fifties, and laid him face up in front of the south gate at the Graystone. The displaced people surged forward to take a glance at man’s inhumanity to man. Trigger-happy men and boys, in a triumphant mood, danced around the sun-gazing captive in a circular motion. They brandished their weapons, mocking him with death but truly decidedly welcoming yet another victim to the silent city of death.
Then came day the displaced people had been waiting for – the day the West African peacekeepers declared Central Monrovia safe for residents to return. The people burst out of the Graystone like a mighty river overflowing its banks, rushing to see what was left of their homes and to search for missing relatives. But the happiness generated by the peacekeepers’ announcement was short-lived. Some individuals collapsed and died amid the harsh reality of returning home to meet no home. This caused many displaced people to overstay in the American compound until they were forced out.
I left the Graystone the second day after the peacekeepers’ announcement. The farther I walked from the compound, the more the city appeared like a field that has been prepared by farmers who apply the burning method: Most zinc-round homes have been leveled to the ground, while many concrete structures had their roofs ravaged and the walls breaking apart from the intense heat.
Then I remember the day I took advantage of the lull in the fighting to visit a friend at the Mamba Point Hotel. A group of fighters I met half way to the hotel were bragging about the number of houses they had burned the previous day and mapping out an area they said needed to be burned. A blanket of thick, black smoke that covered the city later in the day proved the fighters were not joking. Then I also remember Adolphus Dolo placing an order at the hotel while he was having a drink and being served with an appetizer. I asked myself: “How can this man cause over 45,000 people to be clustered up in a little compound as displaced people, living under most difficult, unimaginable and dehumanizing conditions, while he lives like a king?”
As I continued my journey towards the city center, an object I saw in front of the Wells-Hairston High School on Michelin Street attracted me. That object turned out to be some one who had been burned to death. From what I gathered at the scene, the victim was obviously overpowered by his captors who put his head through a motor vehicle tire and set the flammable material ablaze, thereby causing the neck to burn completely, severing the head from the body. When I lifted my head up, I saw another body, then another one, then another one, all killed in the same fashion.
My journey ended abruptly, but the images from the horrific scenes still hunt me. I’ve never told this story before in this manner, and I may never have had a better opportunity to do so if Adolphus Dolo didn’t decide to bite more than he can swallow.