Deceptions and Sanctions

By Tom Kamara

The Perspective
Jan 23, 2001

There is indeed a time to call it quit. President Charles Taylor, who just few months ago told US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Pickering that "no power on earth" would instruct him to sever ties with Sierra Leone's ruthless Revolutionary United Front (RUF), now wants the world to believe that he is ready to surrender his sovereignty in exchange for no sanctions.

The latest announced compromise for avoiding sanctions is not surprising. Taylor's main tactic in negotiations, so successfully exhausted during the Liberian war of horrors, which he led, was to concede when under pressure and then buy time, regroup when the heat is off in pursuit of the unchanged objectives.

When rival factions invaded his rebel headquarters of Gbarnga, he conceded to sit on a council of state and negotiate. When he failed to capture Monrovia and install himself president in 1992, he agreed to ECOWAS' demand for negotiations. In 1996, as a member of the state council, he augmented his rebel force to dislodge opponents from their position and established his military supremacy to complement his political standing. All these moves gave him the needed time to rebuild his shattered private army and to later sit in Monrovia and plot his presidential ambitions. By late 1996, he was well placed to burn down the city in order to send the message that he wanted no rivals in his path to the presidency. Hundreds of Krahns, one of his enemy tribes, were killed and thousands fled into exile. Now, he is telling the UN what the UN wants to hear even if his plans are the direct opposite of UN plans. This is another opportunity to buy time and move on with his butchering crusade for diamonds in Sierra Leone.

Now, in one of the yet God-sent opportunity interviews with the Washington Post designed to sell his deceptions on sanctions, Taylor is saying "it is the intention of Liberia to sever all links to the RUF, both formal and informal." The sanctions would "kill Liberia." And for Liberia not to be "killed" although it is killing other nations, Taylor has announced the "grounding" of all Liberian aircrafts. "Grounding" the criminal syndicate aircrafts is not the attraction here. Rather, it is the admission that indeed Taylor has a fleet of aircrafts illegally registered to execute his objective. This admission confirms the UN Panel's findings which the Liberian Government has vigorously condemned and denied.

Theoretically dumping his RUF comrades, he said, "We are saying, 'you used us to do what you wanted to do when you wanted us, and now we are supposed to be the bad guys... So do it your own way and just leave Liberia alone.' "

To justify his regional interventionist rebellions and present himself as a victim, he asked, "What has Liberia done that is so bad to deserve this?," Taylor asked "We have been allies for 150 years, but they shut every door on us. So what else can we conclude but that this is what happens when they want to take a guy out? It is terrible."

He further charged that the whole Sierra Leone affair and UN Panel investigation was designed by the United States in a campaign to "demonize" him and "bring this government down, or maybe even assassinate the president."

This is Taylor back at home with the basics, always ruthlessly and cunningly ensuring that his personal interests supercede all other interests. But his claim that the RUF used him is all the reason why he should be ignored in his latest circus of deception. If anything, he mercilessly used the RUF for his own agenda, which remains his proxy army, invading and causing havoc in Guinea and engaging his opponents along the Sierra Leone-Guinean and Liberian borders. Some of the best RUF fighters constitute his personal bodyguards. Furthermore, he has benefited immensely from the RUF, using them as his diamond diggers. It is via the RUF that Sierra Leone has become his personal diamond fiefdom, using RUF rebel child soldiers to dig his diamonds. Now that the world has awakened, he is, as usual, claiming to be the victim of the RUF. To believe a man who so callously manipulates truths is to serve his interests.

His question "what Liberia has done so bad to deserve this" tells us more about the mind of a man who passionately believes in the justness of his cold blooded political cause, even if hundreds of thousands refugees, towns, villages, schools, industrial and agricultural establishments lay waste as reminders of his presidency built on the bodies of 250,000 dead people. His handiworks in Guinea helps to answer the question. Say a missionary worker who fled from the Liberian-Guinean border as Taylor's sons and daughters advanced:

"Many of the children died from exposure. Many old people were not able to make the journey...They died on the way, they were just left behind. Many of the women either delivered on the way, had premature deliveries, lost the children, and many died themselves. And so the loss of life will not even be possible to estimate at this time. Who knows what will happen to these people. After all, they ran away from the RUF in the first place"

For over a decade, Taylor has manipulated many well meaning but credulous world actors who would later regret believing him. Former President Jimmy Carter, who gave Taylor the image of a victim misunderstood, remains a witness of the Liberian warlord's deceptive mind:
"I write to inform you that The Carter Center has decided to end our work in Liberia because prevailing conditions and the actions of your government have made it increasingly difficult for the Center and others to be effective in supporting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
"For a period following your election, you and I maintained a dialogue in which I repeatedly offered to assist you in efforts to demonstrate your commitment to building a genuine democracy in Liberia. On several occasions I raised serious concerns about developments in Liberia and unsuccessfully suggested specific actions your government could take to address problems. Unfortunately, however, the dialogue seems to have broken down, and it has become clear that your government does not share the same goals".

Added another witness, American congressman Donald Payne, one of the many African-Americans who hailed him a hero and redeemer from the onset but must now rethink their assessment in shame. Writes Jon Lee Anderson in a revealing article published in The New Yorker:

"I always felt Liberia was like a symbolic motherland to African-Americans," Payne says. He likes Taylor "because he's intelligent; he knows what sells here, and he's from over there. He has the knowledge of both worlds." Lester Hyman (another American Democrat) says he knew from the first time he met Taylor, in 1991, that he was "a man we could work with."

But despite such zealous endorsement by many American politicians, Taylor now believes his problems are the making of Washington and London. In the simplicity that dominates his politics and mind, he believes Blair, and until recently, Clinton spent sleepless nights thinking about how to rid Liberia of him. Wrapped in the belief that he can divert sanctions through gamesmanship as he did throughout the war to deceive the world, he has again put in motion some hilarious moves, prime amongst them - a confusing and a self-defeating account of how Washington and London have conspired to ensure his defeat pursuit of his aspirations, which are nothing more than his drive for personal wealth in abject mass poverty. Both America and Britain, the two he has consistently accused of wanting to kill him, have become the new scapegoats on the infinite "blame list," coming after Doe and the Krahns, the Mandingoes, the press, human rights groups, students, and the "politicians".

Now, Reginald Goodridge, his Press Secretary and Deputy Minister of Public Affairs, has reechoed his master's voice in a lengthy and fuzzy diatribe - denying stealing Sierra Leone's diamonds and amputating that country's children. Reading from Goodridge's thoughts, the war of denial and admissions has just begun. They have declared "disengagement" from his RUF, but they remain "engaged" in deception.

"During the past convulsive decade", Goodridge tells us, "a sustained, well organized and orchestrated 'assault' has been waged against Liberia, the intent of which seemed designed to impair the aspirations of Charles Ghankay Taylor, the man that officials in the out-going Clinton State Department have loved to hate". It is here that all people of conscience, including the gods of Africa, must ensure to defeat and "impair" Taylor's "aspirations" of amputating children's limbs for diamonds, looting national resources, instituting endless killing fields for personal wealth. The "aspirations" of the "Milosevic of Africa" against humanity would have long been thwarted had he been a European. But we are talking about Africa.

Writing simultaneously under another name, "James Sellie", (in a statement signed by Goodridge) Goodridge asked: "Does it make any sense at all for any Liberian, least of all the President of Liberia to be involved in trading diamonds from Sierra Leone when Liberia has so much diamonds of its own; or are the detractors insinuating that Liberia is smuggling its own diamonds? Is it not like saying that a person is stealing his own car?"

One can note the ambiguity here, particularly after Taylor's official statement of "disengaging" from the Sierra Leone rebels, adding that he was "reconsidering" his policy towards his rebel comrades. To "disengage", one must have been engaged. Nevertheless, Taylor and his loyalists believe that if they succeeded in bringing the world to their terms, if they butchered hundreds of thousands innocent people and were still honored by leading international figures of moral authority, there are no reasons why they cannot succeed now using the same notes that landed them in power. Goodridge again in denial and admission:

"In the aftermath of the publication of the draft report by the United Nations Security Council Panel of Experts, the people of Liberia remain unimpressed by the latest campaign orchestrated by detractors in the outgoing Clinton administration and the present Tony Blair government to deal a death knell to the Government and people of an impoverished country such as Liberia. (But you have announced "disengagement", which means you have been engaged!) Having repeatedly denied the allegations leveled against Liberia in the illicit diamond trade, and supply of arms to the RUF, it would serve the conscience of an objective observer to consider a case by case analysis of events that may have formed part of the general mis-conceptions that have probably led to the current efforts at selectively targeting Liberia for paralyzing sanctions that could derail the post-war development aspirations of the Liberian people". (You have just said above that the RUF "used" you!)

However, the Monrovia diamond-smuggling club's first act after the report was released was to throw paid demonstrators in the streets as a show of mass endorsement of the President's "wisdom" in amputating tens of thousands of children for diamonds. His supporters, led by the Director of Police and protected by hovering helicopters flown by Ukrainians or Russian pilots, stormed the streets to tell the world that they would be the victims, not the amputated thousands of Sierra Leone's children, if sanctions were imposed to stop their president from intensifying the heat in his incubator of diamond victims. Then followed hundreds of hungry and innocent children, who the President promised three years a computer each, as "demonstrators" against sanctions with the message that it is they who would be the victims of sanctions and not the helpless and amputated Sierra Leone children who will never have the benefit of marching or holding placards since they have no hands nor feet. Although they hardly know the meaning and issues behind sanctions, placards were shoved in their innocent hands to denounce the UN for suggesting that only thorough sanctions can their President be made to understand that his butchering war for diamonds in Sierra Leone must stop.

The next act was the announcement that a President who had earlier denied backing the rebels was now prepare to kick out RUF rebel operatives at home in Monrovia. The Government falsely announced that one of the ruthless rebel leaders, Bockarie, had left. Bockarie, however, immediately declared he was still in Monrovia and had received no instructions to leave. He said he wanted to be escorted out by human rights groups who had demanded his departure from Liberia. Whether they escorted him into Monrovia in the first place was immaterial. What counted was the deception surrounding his being in Liberia as chief of operations for the RUF and Taylor.

Taylor has consistently built his case on denials. He denied backing the RUF, but they openly operate in Monrovia, coordinating their public relations, as the UN Panel confirms. Liberia claims no links with the rebels, but the country is their exit station for boarding flights to attend endless peace talks. Liberian government's position on Sierra Leone is the RUF's position, which include the expulsion of British troops, allowing the rebels to keep the diamond fields, the release of Foday Sankoh, and the unconditional return to the failed Jesse Jackson-Taylor drafted diamonds for peace Lome Agreement. However, Taylor contends that the war would have ended if only Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were not around. Goodridge swims helplessly, searching for any straw to grab:

"From the start of the civil offensive launched in Butuo, Nimba County by the then NPFL in December/January (1989/'90)", writes Goodridge who served as Washington-based propagandist for rebel NPFL, "duplicitous initiatives were commenced by certain officials of the American Government to ensure contacts with the NPFL authorities, while at the same time, advising foreign embassies and consulates near Monrovia to withhold any diplomatic and consular inter-course with the NPFL, even in some instances, suggesting that their offices be closed down and their personnel returned home.

"Regular visits of U. S. Ambassadors resident in Abidjan, U. S. Embassy diplomats resident in Monrovia as well as State Department officials, including Chester Crocker and Hermann Cohen, two former Assistant Secretaries of State for Africa, who traveled all the way to the Ivorian-Liberian border to hold meetings, exchange ideas, and further
suggestions as to the objectives of the NPFL. Throughout these exercises, the U. S. Embassy never closed down its Mission but, remained in Liberia thereby making sure of the continuation of its diplomatic operations.

"Throughout these periods, promises of assistance were proffered to the NPFL authorities and these authorities were advised to suspend military advance to Monrovia with the assurance that the US would negotiate the departure of President Samuel Doe, deserted by his Government and besieged in the Executive Mansion, from Liberia. As the NPFL forces progressed from Tappita to Gbarnga, to the outskirts of Monrovia, high level U. S. officials continued these frequent visits and held long productive discussions with the Taylor officials..."

"To the surprise of many, with the ascendancy of the Clinton Administration, obstructing mechanism were suddenly placed between the NPFL authorities and these frequent interactions with the NPFL changed course. It is believed by many that the rebel leader - Taylor's decision to run for the presidency of Liberia, following the cessation of hostilities must have upset the Grand Design of erstwhile (sic) friends in Washington D.C. at the time who might have wanted to installed (sic) a hand-picked leader for Liberia. It appears that this decision triggered a negative reaction and, from this point on, a series of schemes were devised to stop the political aspirations of Mr. Taylor. Surreptitiously, European and other capitols were urged to abort all contacts with the NPFL authorities. Virtually, every possible area of NPFL cooperation with the outside world was thwarted".

A pathetic attempt at confusing minds through half-truths. But the facts say otherwise, for top American policy makers on Liberia during the war, including former President Jimmy Carter, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Donald Payne etc., felt at home more with Taylor than the spineless IGNU. Clinton's Washington initially had a soft spot for Taylor's concept of redemption, which means employing child soldiers to shoot and maim his enemies. Writes Lyan Lizza in The New Republic:

"If you treat Sankoh like a statesman, he'll be one... [A State Department official] used the term to explain what they had done with Taylor and what they were trying to do with Foday Sankoh."

Thus to the contrary, Washington refused to recognize IGNU. Taylor became one of the few rebel leaders around Africa accorded head of state status even before capturing the seat of government. Top European politicians, including the son of former President Francois Mitterand now charged with illegal deals with corrupt African leaders, were regular visitors of the rebel city of Gbarnga and we can only hope that Mitterand's trial will unearth his wheeling and dealings that have kept West Africans in living hell.

In Goodridge's eyes, however, amongst the crimes Washington committed were a) dissuading the NPFL not to drop bombs on Monrovia, then the home of over a million starving and frightened people fleeing from Taylor's storm troopers; b) saving key Krahns from slaughter; c) conspiring to blemish "NPFL's mission, philosophy and integrity as a revolutionary movement, (which) was embraced by the population, hence no amount of foreign intervention and trickery was able to derail the progressive agenda of the movement; and d), worst of all, conniving to deny Taylor the coveted presidency.

A key feature of the Liberia holocaust is that it defied the popular belief that evil does not pay, that morality and probity were supreme. One of Goodridge's problems is that an American official declared during the 1997 election that the "good people" would triumph over the evil ones. In the end, men like Goodridge, Taylor, Richardson, Pierre, Urey, Bestman, Monorkomana, etc. emerged as the "good people" because they "won." But Goodrige's anger is that he is convinced that the Americans reserved the description of "good people" for men like him who recruited children to fight for their personal wealth, who looted other people's properties, and sent to death 250,000 innocent souls all to make "victory" possible. Whatever the beneficiaries of the country's woes may want to believe, they will be remembered as amongst the most brutish, callous of Africa's multiplying killers and thieves who, far from Goodridge's fallacies, were backed by leading American political actors: Anderson again:

"Despite the fact that during the civil war Charles Taylor commanded one of the most vicious armies of modern times, and is widely believed to have abused his power for personal enrichment on a grand scale, he has an impressive roster of liberal American friends and acquaintances that includes the Reverend Jesse Jackson and former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Taylor enjoys an especially close relationship with former President Jimmy Carter, a fellow-Baptist, who travels frequently to Liberia to oversee "democracy building" and human rights programs that the Carter Center foundation operates there. Taylor's lawyer and PR man in Washington, D.C., is Lester Hyman, a Kennedy protégé and the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Massachusetts. Hyman says that when President Clinton was in Africa this spring he telephoned Taylor from Air Force One and gave him a "pep talk that was very encouraging."

That individuals who have left their footprints of poverty and death in West Africa, wiping out rural towns and villages, schools, clinics, farms; reducing once self-sufficient rural inhabitants to beggars in relief camps fed by young white hands, hiring foreign fortune hunters to put the finishing touches to the people's misery, in general making the pre-colonial era in what is today Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea seem like the era of enlightenment, can actually cry for being the victims, tells us far more about the minds of such individuals. We are dealing with callous, insane and terrible troubled minds prepared to cause more horrors oblivious of the dimensions of their crimes against helpless humanity.

Far from pretending to be a defender of Washington's interests and policy in Liberia, the idea of encouraging the NPFL to "soft land" in Monrovia, which is now seen as a betrayal of its "integrity" and "revolutionary credentials", was meant to save lives and property. It was not a new concept. In order to ensure order, in order to protect the same people on whose behalf Taylor and his hoodlums appointed themselves to kill, maim, and loot, 'soft landing" would have saved the country from its human and economic woes. In Ethiopia, the Americans pushed the same policy, and Addis Ababa today has electricity, water and a working economy long after Mengistu fled. The city was spared the horrors of Monrovia and its surroundings. In Kinshasa, Washington again pushed this policy of "soft landing of rebel forces. There is electricity, water and other necessities long after the bones of Mobutu melted with the earth. The logic was that if you cannot stop them, then try to control their thirst for destruction and killing. It worked in Ethiopia and Zaire because those leading the rebellions there had some sense of human value and nationalism. It failed in Liberia because those leading the rebellion where thieves lacking any sense of nationalism. That they have recruited Lebanese, Ukrainians and others to help loot the country is ample evidence of the minds we are dealing with.

Taylor and his entourage saw it differently. Political power and its attachments were all that mattered. If electric plants, water systems, the only hydro had to be blown to have an insatiable thief as a president, then so be it. In 1996, the jihad of destruction reached its apex with the imposition of the "Final Solution." Banks, schools, state and private media establishments, churches, public buildings, were set ablaze on Taylor's command. One year after such unsurpassed insanity, these "revolutionary" men of "integrity" who the Americans wanted to deny power, reached the conclusion that they needed $3b to replace what they destroyed, stole or shipped to Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, etc. This money, they contended, was to come from the same "evil" states that wanted to "impose" a leader (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) on the Liberian people thus depriving them of their sovereignty.

With Liberia destroyed beyond repair, these butchers had to look elsewhere. They found Sierra Leone and saw its diamonds and used it without compassion. Like in Liberia, they coined a political program of liberation, which in fact meant liberating the poor and innocent from their lives and property. Sierra Leone's diamonds became the reason to amputate five-year olds so that Liberia's new "liberators" could send their children to school in America, Europe or safe Ghana.

The primary objective of the horrors was not for righting wrongs, but for an opportunity to institute a bloody vendetta and recreate the good old days when name without ability to perform meant power and wealth. Goodridge is one of those who roaming around Monrovia and boasting about how the "natives" will pay for interrupting their parents' dynasty in 1980. Thus it is not strange when he contends that:

"The US Embassy in Monrovia airlifted the murderous Rebel Leader Roosevelt Johnson and his close associates to safety after they had used a fire canon to burn down the city. He was brought back surreptitiously into Monrovia at midnight aboard an unmarked helicopter following the elections in 1997. The presence in Monrovia of Roosevelt Johnson, leader of the erstwhile ULIMO-J faction, and the apparent backing that he received from "external sources" emboldened him to believe that he could challenge the authority of the newly elected government of Liberia."

But callous and insensitive individuals, buried in the accumulation of loot, which only take them to their ghastly and welcome end, are less concerned with truth as a measurement of integrity. Goodridge says:

"On reflection, it is noteworthy to mention that motive and opportunity for negatively targeting Charles Ghankay Taylor, and concurrently his democratically elected government dates back to the genesis of the civil war, when the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebelled against the brutal and inhumane regime of President Samuel K. Doe"

Except one is confused over the meaning of words, (and this ought not be a strange case for a man who left the US unable to enroll in a graduate school there only to opt for "education" at the "Banbangida Graduate School" in burnt down Monrovia with ill-prepared undergraduates as his "professors") to call, Doe "inhumane" and "brutal" in comparison with Taylor, with the human rights and other records of the two men available, is to have a sick mind, to be an incurable psychopath. Excluding the war victims, Doe supervised the execution of 13 political leaders with Taylor as one of his top advisors who urged him to get rid of the men before they make a comeback. On the other hand, Taylor supervised the execution of 250,000 and despite his reward with the presidency, his thirst for blood remains unappeasable. Moreover, Doe's notoriety ended at his country's border while Taylor's has annihilated Sierra Leone and now strangling Guinea. What can Goodridge tell the children of Sierra Leone, thousands of them, who are without limbs in this increasingly difficult world? That Taylor is a magnanimous man and that Samuel Doe caused their life burdens? Such insensitivity and penchant for bending truth reflects the mental state of such men. No compassion, no feelings, no remorse, only the quest for power and therefore wealth. This is Africa's time bomb---the rule by its enemies.

It is such banal arrogance against truth that carries men to their expected doom. Monrovia was not burnt down by Johnson alone. The burning of Monrovia was completed under Taylor's (and Kromah's) command. History is too fresh to be distorted. The agony that Taylor and his loyalists have put Liberians through may come to pass. What will not come to pass is the memory. Over 3,000 helpless people were gunned down in Taylor's bid to become president. That is history and Goodridge is far too incompetent to even try distorting it with a grain of believability.

"Far from the expectation of many Liberians", Goodridge tells us, "the war did not end with the death of Doe, but rather, a half dozen new factions emerged with "external"
support to oppose the NPFL. This turn of events created a new set of complications in the Liberian contemporary military, political and social psyche that this generation of leaders is saddled with for better or worse".

The fact of the matter is that the Goodridges of Liberia are blessed with the simplicity and cowardice of their opponents. Had the Interim Government believed in its own convictions if ever there were any, and seen the need to save Liberians, (now Sierra Leoneans and Guineans) of the horrors planned for them by men claiming the right to rule because they commanded drugged children, Liberia's story would have been fundamentally different. But this could not be, for the political leadership challenging these terrorists and thieves, claiming the right to rule because Gaddafi and Compaore backed them with instruments of destructions and innocent children as their canon folder, was feeble with a self-serving agenda. Thus men like Goodridge now believe that their numerous atrocities committed for personal wealth through politics are justifiable. They were "wronged" because power was not surrendered to them at the sound of the first AK-47. They were "betrayed" because Krahns, Mandingos, and others did not volunteer their heads to be chopped off, their women, mothers, daughters to be gang-raped, opting instead to fight with honor. History would have been different if the people were mobilized, under the right leadership, to send such psychopaths where they actually belong. That didn't happen, for the stupidity of one man one vote, with a gun hanging over heads, and Sani Abacha as a referee, prevailed to justify cowardice, greed and ineptitude. So we must listen to the voices of men who ordered Carter Camp and other massacres as the voices of good against evil. That men like Goodridge have emerged as moral authority, questioning and condemning the activities of others, is damnation in all its dimension.

It is such "logic" that tells these beneficiaries of horror that some how, others who see the world differently are evil, unjustly against them. When one is convinced that such atrocities as inducting teenagers in one's private army of mayhem and loot is a legitimate right, if such a person were in a normal society, institutionalization or prison would be the only option. But we are again talking about Africa and Liberia in particular. Men like Goodridge, after depriving hundreds of thousands of children in Liberia and now Sierra Leone and Guinea of their childhood, actually believe their crusade is just. In this, they are looking at their companions around Africa, men who saw them as sane individuals deserving a country to plunder. Goodridge cries for help on behalf of his master:

"Is it reasonable to expect that Liberia's proud heritage as a founding member of the League of Nations, the UN, the OAU, the ECOWAS and the MRU, as well as her role as a key player in the liberation and independence movements in Africa, will count for nothing? Can such spotless credentials be swept under the rug while the rest of Africa stands by idly? Where is Nelson Mandela? Where is Sam Ujoma? Where is Nigeria? Where is the OAU? Where is ECOWAS? Where is Africa when Liberia is in need of a friend to come to her rescue? Why is it that these vituperations originating from only two nations of the Security Council, directed against President Taylor and the innocent Liberian people are falling on deaf ears? Why is he being targeted with a torrent of proof-less accusations? What are the sources of these injustices? What are the real reasons?? The Liberian people have conviction that any well-meaning citizen of the world will see
through this false accusation. Liberians believe that the ordinary decent people of the United States and the United Kingdom will impress upon their respective governments to refrain from condemning Liberia at a mock trial in the UN Security Council. They should urge their governments not to dispense with or dismiss the Anglo-Saxon tradition of fairness".

This is the new Liberia. But one who laughs last laughs the last laugh, as the saying goes. It may not be long when good defeats evil. The UN sanctions will set the pace.

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