Government of Liberia'sArbitrary Detention of Mabutu Kromah, Tiawon Gongloe, et al
Posted April 27, 2002
Having returned from a lecture I delivered yesterday at Indiana University on the shortcomings of the Western media in the portrayal of Africa, it was embarrassingly painful to have learned today that the Liberian government has carried on another act to demonstrate its continued commitment to the blatant violation of human rights.
While seeking detailed information this morning on the arrest and brutalizing of my young friend and fellow Lawyer, Tiawon Gongloe, I was in fact informed that my brother, Mabutu Kromah, was picked up by Government of Liberia security agents, who manhandled him and detained him at the National Security Agency. My cousins, Mohammed Dukuly and Molley Bayor were also arrested and detained. I tried calling government officials in Monrovia to ascertain reasons behind the detention, but there was no response.
Other relatives tell me the government accused Mabutu of "talking" to me via telephone. Indeed, I did not know that it was a crime for my brother, a civilian struggling to survive the severity of Monrovia's hardship, to talk to me. Dukuly and Bayor were arrested on similar charges.
I hereby call on the Liberian government to release Mabutu and the other two relatives who have committed no crime. I called on the government to release Counselor Tiawon Gongloe and allow an independent investigation into the circumstances of his injury in police cell.
When I joined my colleagues in signing the various peace agreements of the Liberian conflict of 1990-1997, and then dropped objection to the inauguration of Charles Taylor as Head of State, I did so along with my collaborators for the sake of peace. Since the inauguration in 1997, prominent and ordinary Liberians have been subjected to death, brutality, and intimidation, in violation of the peace agreements, Liberia's Constitution and Laws, and in contravention of public morality and good governance.
My family and those who share principles and organizations with me have not been frequently spared. A young Liberian, returning to Liberia two years ago from the refugee camp in Nzerekore, Guinea, was prevented from reaching his mother in Monrovia to present his hard-earned high school diploma. Seku Bemba Alieu Jabateh was picked up at the Liberian border town of Ganta and charged with the "crime" of being in possession of my photograph. Security agents also abducted his five travelling companions. In Monrovia, Alieu was ceaselessly beaten until his lungs collapsed, leaving him dead. His colleagues were also brutalized and put into cells, surviving only on water for two weeks.
The Liberian Human Rights Center went to court and requested the issuance of the writ of Habeas Corpus. The government could not present the living bodies of Alieu and his fellow travelers. Alieu had been killed, and the others were bearing scars of wickedness. They were later released secretly to the custody of former Executive Mansion Chief of Protocol, Musa Cisse, who sent them off to various refugee camps outside of the country.
Despite all of this, I undertook a mission of peace and reconciliation in March 2001, to the headquarters of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. In the discussions I was honored to have met with President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and the then ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate, we prioritized reconciliation and peaceful settlement of the unending Liberian debacle, which has taken a toll on the West African region. I was also honored to make similar conclusions in discussions with Togo's President Gnassingbe Eyadema, a veteran leader who did make significant contributions to the settlement of the Liberian war.
Exactly one year after my West African mission, I was again at the ECOWAS headquarters where I joined other Liberian opinion leaders to ponder approaches that would bring peace to Liberia. The result was a consensus position statement, which suggested realistic steps that would ensure security for all and a politically level playing field. The Liberian government sent representatives to the Abuja March 14 conference to convince everyone that the government was serious about reconciliation and that a conference would be held July this year to consolidate its objectives.
Barely a month after Abuja, the Liberian government has resorted to closing independently owned newspapers, incarcerating journalists, and now detaining human rights lawyer and friend, Taiwon Gongloe, and my brother Mabutu Kromah, as well as my cousins Dukuly and Bayor.
I appeal to the international community and the Liberian people everywhere to impress upon the Liberian government to release the detainees and put a permanent stop to the violation of the fundamental rights of the people.
My involvement in the Liberian war was based on a principle of no choice and the need to help defend helpless people under persecution. While I am still committed to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, I hereby state here that I will not remain idle until all of my family and the rest of the Liberian people are decimated. Never.
Alhaji G.V. Kromah
Former Vice Chairman - Council of State (Collective Presidency) and former leader of ULIMO-K warring faction