Bishop Diggs Sets the Record Straight

The Perspective
March 19, 2001

[Editor's Note: In answering questions pertaining to his alliance with Charles Taylor in their attempt to arrest Roosevelt Johnson in 1996, Alhaji Kromah stated in an interview that Lutheran Bishop Ronald Diggs who was asked by the Council of State to intervene, said that "Johnson did not have to report to the Justice Ministry because all of the government officials were criminals." Mr. Kromah believes that Johnson was to avail himself to the Council of State had Bishop Diggs, who "should have brought about true mediation", not made that statement. Bishop Diggs recently read the interview and subsequently sent the following response to The Perspective]

During one of my preaching trips to a suburb of Philadelphia, the August/October, 2000, edition of The Perspective was brought to my attention by a friend who had read the interview with the former warlord and Vice Chairman of the Council of State, Mr. Alhaji G.V. Kromah, in which he said that the Council of State asked the Lutheran Bishop Ronald J. Diggs to serve as mediator. To his surprise the Bishop said, "Johnson did not have to report to the Justice Ministry because all of the government officials were criminals."

Our basic concern is to see our country, Liberia, heal, and Liberians brought together again. The former warlord and vice council chairman is right when he mentioned, "our deceit, hypocrisies, laziness and wickedness."

It is indeed wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy when one openly puts himself in a position of being the best in every given situation. Throughout the entire interview, Mr. Kromah paints a picture of himself as being the peacemaker. At the moment, I do not wish to go into that. I will limit myself to the issue of the 1996 war in Monrovia.

In the first place, I was never asked by Mr. Kromah or anyone else to intervene. The Interfaith Mediation Committee which has been in the vanguard for peace since the beginning of the war, received reports from citizens about the tension that was building, and, if left, the explosion would be great and the peace process would he derailed.

The Interfaith Mediation Committee went to the Ministry of Justice and asked the Ministry to allow the Committee to intervene. The request was granted. On the first day of our encounter with former warlord Roosevelt Johnson, we called Mr. Kromah to hold a meeting with him since he was charged with the handling of the case. His words to us were, "I don't want to meet with any of you until Roosevelt Johnson is taken to the Ministry of Justice." As mediators we were trained to be patient and work with people. We called again to meet with Mr. Kromah. Once more he said to us, "Don't call me any more until you have taken Roosevelt Johnson to the Justice Ministry."

For the Interfaith Mediation Committee to have agreed to take Mr. Johinson to the Ministry of Justice would have meant that we were the arresting officers for the Council of State, and not mediators. We could only have done that if Mr. Johnson had wanted to turn himself in and requested that we accompany him.

Mr. Johnson's men were enraged and said that they would rather kill Mr. Johnson themselves and all who have come to carry him than let him be taken to the Justice ministry. Words cannot adequately describe the situation at the beach residence of Mr. Johnson. I saw weapons of all types, including cutlasses as sharp as a razor blade.

We held several meetings with the Minister of Justice, Mr. Francis Garlawolo. As these meetings were going on, the so called "combined government forces" were dispatched to Kakata, Todee and Bong Mines to remove the Johnson forces.

While we were still negotiating, the radio announcements were constantly asking all within the vicinity of 15 and 24 streets to leave. People ran to us again. We went to the chairman, Mr. Wilton Sankawolo asking him to call a meeting in order to avoid bloodshed and destruction in Monrovia. All he said was, "There will be no fighting in Monrovia."

Having exhausted every avenue available for negotiated settlement, we wrote the Council of State a letter in which the Council of State was asked to set up a national commission of inquiry to investigate the matter involving General Roosevelt and all others of similar position and character, past, and future. Since everyone looked to the Interfaith Mediation Committee, we gave the letter to the press when we determined that the Council of State had been given enough time to respond.

On Wednesday, April 13, 1996, while we were in a meeting at the Catholic Secretariat on Ashmun Street, I was issued a writ of arrest for interfering in the arrest of General Johnson. By the time I reached the court, it was so crowded that people were standing on the outside of the building.

Below is a copy of the letter we sent to the Council of State:

"INTER-FAITH MEDIATION COMMETTEE, C/o National Catholic Secretariat, Ashmun Street Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa, Fax: 231-220287

March 28, 1996

Chairman and Members Council of State
Liberia National Transitional Government (LNTG II)
Executive Mansion
Monrovia, Liberia

Your Excellencies:

The Inter-Faith Mediation Committee has been mediating in the present situation between Gen. D. Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO-J and the LNTG II for the past two days and Appreciates the co-operation extended thus far by all parties.

Our intervention has contributed, to some extent, in reducing tension and enhancing an environment for dialogue and negotiations. It has also afforded us the opportunity to gather relevant information for sober reflections and mediation. It is against the background of such opportunity that we humbly submit to your Excellencies the following for your timely consideration:

1. It is a universally accepted principle that an accused person should enjoy the benefit of a cold, neutral and impartial investigation.

2. Taking into account the role played by the Council of State prior to the occurance of the present controversy, it is but logical that General D. R. Johnson may not feel comfortable being investigated by those he considers opposing parties.

3. It is an open secret that since the induction into office of the Council of State, violations of human rights and other criminal offenses by those within and or associated with the national leadership have become rampant.

In light of the above, and given the delicate nature of the Peace Process and the potentially explosive nature of the present case involving General Johnson and others, we beg to recommend:

a. That a national commission of inquiry be set up to investigate the present matter involving General D. Roosevelt Johnson and others of similar nature and character: past, present and future.

b. Based on the findings of such an investigation, the alleged perpetrators should be brought to justice and accorded
Free and fair trial.

Finally, we wish to make crystal clear, that we are making these recommendations in good faith and with the ardent hope that the Peace Process will be enhanced with confrontation being avoided, lives and properties saved and above all the glory of God manifested.

Signed: Bishop Roland J. Diggs

Sheikh Vafumba Konneh

I am hoping that this gives a better picture of what really happened, and that Liberians will try to heal wounds and not blame others for their dirty deeds.

I am very sorry that I can not say any more in this letter about other encounters with Mr. Kromah before he even became Vice Council Chairman.

Congratulations to you for your very informative and provocative journal [The Perspective]. I consider it a journal to heal our wounds and bring about unity.

Ronald J. Diggs,
Bishop Emeritus
Lutheran Church In Liberia

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