Digging in for Diamonds
By Tom Kamara
November 25, 2000
That diamonds are forever is indeed a terrible omen haunting Sierra Leone as key actors in its tragedy dig in their heels to control these stones of sorrows and impose their will. If international opinion yields to now orchestrated demands from Liberia, Nigeria and the rebels for the imposition of an "African Solution", the country's bloody war, with thousands of amputated children as its trademark, may last forever. Evil will again emerge triumphant.
Rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), their Liberian
backers, and the Nigerians are making no secret of their schemes
to impose an "African Solution," their Solution. In
a purported RUF press release sent to various news organizations
(Reproduced here in its entirety for its clarity on the hailed
ceasefire.) including The Perspective, the rebels, after the recent
ceasefire agreement, have issued their accompanying edict:
"Reports reaching RUF Headquarters suggest that the media does not understand the Lome Peace Agreement. We herewith again refer the media to the terms and conditions agreed to when our leader, Foday Sabayna Sankoh signed the Agreement on 7 July 1999.We do not believe it necessary to instruct the British government and President Kabbah on the point.
"RUF states again, clearly, that it did not authorize its delegation to go to Abuja to sign a cease fire which would permit the Blair Government to resume business as usual; and to use the UN troops to seize the diamond fields. RUF did not go to Abuja to sign a cease-fire for the British companies to take over the diamond mines.
"It is the beginning of the dry season in our land; the fighting season, and the British have moved men and equipment into position on and in our land for this very purpose. RUF agreed to a temporary cease fire (consistent with Lome) in order to show a continuing desire to experience the full implementation of the Lome and not support continuing to give away the wealth of our beloved country to the hands and pockets of Kabbah and his foreign masters.
"RUF points out to the British government and (to quote a source) its' propped-up government' of President Kabbah, that RUF signed the Lome Peace Agreement as an equal partner. RUF did not sign the Lome Peace Agreement to concede power to the British/Kabbah government, -nor do we legitimize Kabbah.
"RUF does not need to remind its fellow Sierra Leoneans that our country was for many years used as a slave trading outpost by the British until it was gradually phased out. During the terrible period of British colonization, our country served as the seat of Government for other British Colonies along the West Africa Coast.
"Today, the British and their followers have and control most of the aboveground wealth in the Freetown area. What the British seek is to resume control of all of Sierra Leone's in-ground wealth. It is this situation which has produced the degradation of our country".
Similarly, Taylor, upon consulting Libya's Col Gaddahfi, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, his key allies in the region, has also issued his declaration that, in any case, was shoved into hands of RUF delegation before they boarded their plane in Monrovia for Abuja ceasefire talks. In France where he was reportedly snubbed by French officialdom, the ex-warlord demanded, "Wars in Africa need African solutions to solve them."
Taylor said he wanted Britain out of Sierra Leone and fast. According to comments broadcast by his private radio and monitored by news organizations, Taylor repeated his accusations against London for stealing diamonds. In a contemptuous disregard for Sierra Leone sovereignty, he accused Britain of plotting "mischief" in Sierra Leone, saying there was no reason for British forces to be in the country independent of the U.N. peacekeeping force. He accused the British Government of selling 30 million carats of diamond in Brussels, Belgium, adding that, "Britain has no resources, but yet it has the fourth largest economy in the world. The only resource it has is the oil in the North Sea. This Ghankay Taylor does not have to smuggle diamond. It is the British who are smuggling diamond in Sierra Leone."
In an amazing twist, the Nigerians, with now clearer signs of opting for "Liberian Solution" and "peacekeeping" in Sierra Leone", have joined the bandwagon and are campaigning for this dubious "African Solution"," the solution they endlessly congratulate themselves for in Liberia even if it sparked more chaos and horror in the region. Reports a Liberian newspaper following a visit by Obasanjo's envoy to Monrovia:
"Plans by some outsiders to undermine efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), aimed at resolving the current impasse amongst member States of the Mano River Union (MRU) have been disclosed by chief Ralph Owechue, a Nigerian diplomat and Special Envoy of president Olusegun Obasanjo. (Owechu was reportedly one of late dictator Abacha's henchmen. He is said to have called for reconciliation with Abacha when most Nigerians were demanding an end to the Abacha butchering.)
"Making the revelation last weekend in the Parlors of the Executive mansion in Monrovia, when an ECOWAS delegation met with Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Taylor, the conflict resolution expert accused those whom he described as 'outsiders' of doing all they can to destroy ECOWAS' efforts aimed at keeping the sub-region free of armed conflicts. Chief Owechue explained that in spite of this, sub-regional leaders need to hold and work together in the spirit of Pan Africanism for the political, economic and social advancement of the region, noting that all that has transpired within the Mano river Union are the work of 'outsiders' whom he did not name".
Whatever the self-declared "Pan Africanists" and "anti-imperialists" may say, whatever their charges levied against those who refuse to dance to this callous deception, here is a perfect stage for the imposition of an "African solution" on Sierra Leone. Here is the beginning of regional entrenchment of theft and horror unimagined. West Africa is set to complete a circle of rogue states surviving on international crime through rebel wars waged in the name of politics. In this sinister scheme, strategies will change, but the objectives remain the same. If this is paranoia, then it is a necessary one to halt this scheme for the thousands killed and amputated, and millions uprooted from their towns and villages by men and women claiming to be Africans and fighting against "imperialism".
This writer was once a diehard disciple, a tireless crusader of the "African Solution to African Problems" until caught in a trap of zealousness that served the callous and inhumane. It was 1996. A white American military officer had written a secret report detailing how NPFL rebels had infiltrated crowded Monrovia in their thousands under their leader, Taylor's, directive for seizing power. He predicted that ECOMG had aligned with the rebels and that in any case, the soldiers were ill-trained, ill-prepared to confront the rebels. He described most of them as not disciplined and drunken. His Liberian secretary leaked the report to ECOMOG. The Force's Nigerian PR men went to work, launching an intensive smear campaign against the American and leaking it to the unsuspecting press with clear message of the evil of the "imperialists" whites against our "African brothers". With America's nonchalant policy in Liberia, many Liberians saw the Nigerians as their heroes not to be questioned. They were next to God. The leaked memo was a story that played into many hands.
I went to work, unsuspectingly, for men who were preparing horror all in the name of the presidency and money. ECOMOG and the warlords hailed my analysis. The "enemy", the "imperialist" white man, was exposed in the local media. The "imperialist" American was later recalled to the satisfaction of the Nigerian officers. Then insanity struck. A few weeks after, his findings came to pass. As the American warned, Taylor, Alhaji Kromah, unleashed terror under the scheme of arresting Roosevelt Johnson on murder charges. Hell descended on earth. Over 3000 people were killed, according to UN figures, as ECOMOG stood by and watched, joining in the looting orgy. "ECOMOG will not standby and watch", the Field Commander assured frightened civilians in a radio broadcast. But they did just that. Our desktop publishing equipment used to castigate the "white imperialist" ended on ECOMOG base, shipped to Lagos. Although the Field Commander, a generous man, confirmed to me that the equipment were there and should be turned over to me, I was greeted with hostility by the Chief of Military Intelligence. In such mayhem, computers, things, were insignificant, only the chance to live again. But there was one unforgettable message in this in this incident: never be obsessed with the color of the skin in analysis and reaching conclusions.
As we struggled to survive in hail of bullets, hunted by marauding rebels, witnessing our buildings and presses deliberately burn down by our "African bothers", we encountered a rebel commander and an Ecomog soldier. "You know the mandate", the rebel commander reminded the soldier who behaved as if he was receiving orders from superior. That encounter told all we needed to know; an "African Solution" was in full swing. I was eyewitness to horror and its evolution. Sierra Leoneans would do well to learn from Liberia, for their war is an extension of the Liberian war. Charges of a hidden agenda in exposing such evils are simply absurd.
The deception paraded as an "African Solution" in Sierra Leone is not difficult to see. The RUF admits that, "It is the beginning of the dry season in our land; the fighting season, and the British have moved men and equipment into position"
Says The Economist Intelligence Unit:
"In truth, both the RUF and the government see the truce as a tactic to gain time and prepare for later fighting. The rebels are divided over who should be their leader and are wary of the British troops. For its part, the government's army is not yet ready to attack rebel-held areas in the north and east, where diamond fields provide the means to buy guns".
Thus the prime motive behind their calls for a ceasefire is to buy time in regrouping after a disastrous leadership crisis and due to their fears of British military presence. An added factor is the increased attention on their weapons supplier and international isolation of their Liberian kingpin. With a new British trained and equipped Sierra Leone Army, combined with Kamajor militias and British technical backing, Taylor-and the RUF know they are against a more determined and formidable force. To offset this, they have decided on endless talks aimed at taking the enemy off guard when the time comes. It took 13 peace agreements to make Taylor president. The RUF has signed only 3 agreements, with 10 more to go.
Time is a prime factor here, and Taylor and his rebels' calculations,
tied to time, are many. If the Republicans win the White House,
Taylor's gamble is that not much attention will be focused on
Africa, since indeed, George W. Bush has already made this clear.
Secondly, if he and the RUF can buy enough time for Britain's
next elections, the Conservatives, in victory, are less likely
to have such immense interest in Sierra Leone. Taylor, the Nigerians,
and the RUF can then set the agenda and impose their will. In
Liberia, there was no big power interest. Men like former President
Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Donald Payne, etc., ensured that
by selling the killers as "democrats". With the same
scenario, Sierra Leone will be Liberia, a Nigerian fiefdom of
personal interests tied around key actors getting rich fast. When
the money runs out, particularly now that the UN is footing the
bill, threats of pullout, heard before, will increase, forcing
a makeshift election as a respectable way of capitulation. Meanwhile,
in all this, regional destabilization will spread, creating more
opportunities for so-called "conflict resolutions experts
that cannot resolve their own domestic quarrels. The Economist
"The Liberian president, Charles Taylor, may now be encouraging the spread of the war to Guinea. Claiming that Guinea is backing rebels in Liberia's Lofa county, he seems, in retaliation, to have sent the RUF to attack Guinea. This intensifies the risk that Guinea could fall victim to the sort of brutal war both Liberia and Sierra Leone have already suffered. The Guinean government this week postponed parliamentary elections, citing security reasons".
The issue here is not, as some believe, one opposing, exposing such schemes to grab power and advance a non-existing agenda, but the very survival of a nation and people, particularly children who have no part to play in the horrors waged against them in the name of money and politics.
During their encounter with Taylor in Liberia recently, 11 UN ambassadors emerged from Monrovia satisfied that the Liberian President cum warlord was now seeing reason is backing off from the rebels. He promised to relinquish the diamond fields. Well, the chips are falling. The diamond fields, Taylor's personal insurance for wealth, will never be surrendered on a silver platter. He wants Britain to surrender to him just as Nigeria surrendered to him using so-called elections as a camouflage. He is digging in to protect his diamond strongholds.
Now, the new Liberia-Nigerian-RUF strategy is to portray the British as "outsiders" wanting to impose a foreign solution on Sierra Leone in contempt of Africans. This conspiracy would have been laughable had not the Nigerians, with the largest number of men within the UN force, joined the evil designs in self-interest. Once these bedfellows can morally disable Britain and others for an "African solution", the deal is done. Kabbah, an admirer of Taylor and Gaddahfi, can be handled. A sort of "unity government", already proposed by the Nigerians, will then materialize. Those who oppose such madness are seen as "imperialists agents" against the efforts of our "African brothers." We heard such nonsensical rhetoric before in Liberia.
In this scheme, the "African Solution" Lome Agreement will be taken from the shelves as Taylor and the RUF now demand, cleaned up, and imposed. The rebels will sit in Government while they control the diamonds fields along with their Liberian and Nigerian allies. New elections will be held. The rebels, with their looted millions and backed by Nigeria and Liberia, Burkina Faso, Libya, will field a candidate while they remain armed. This should not be difficult because there are enough thieving politicians and opportunistic journalists in Sierra Leone, as in Liberia, to dance for the rebels and sell their agenda as "our African brothers". Then there is the tribal factor, with some northerners increasingly regarding the rebels as allies of political convenience. Claims that the playing field is level and that the rebels have been disarmed "90%", (made by Gen. Victor Malu in Liberia which he later regretted) will be beamed and believed by a world wanting to end the terror and get out. And with the British out, just as the Nigerians frustrated the Indians into leaving, there will be no voice of opposition within the UN force. Farcical elections a la Liberia will be conducted. The rebels will be baptized as "democratically elected leaders", perhaps winning 96% of the votes as an indication of their popularity. The terms of the Elections agreement will be so soothing, including the training of a new army, rights of individuals and political parties, democratization, role of civil society, etc. But these will only serve to disarm critics and skeptics into buying the scheme. After elections, the Agreement will be thrown into the dustbin and "the Constitution enacted", meaning the might of the winner to crush opponents. The new Sierra Leone rebel president under this deal will see Nigeria as a savior, spending more time in President Obasanjo's bedroom holding discussions, as Taylor does, than figuring out how to run a country and stop looting resources. Their will be done! This is the "African Solution". The obstacle is Britain. The Indians tried to oppose it, but failed and honorably pulled out instead of being part and parcel of a criminal ring that uses human beings as pawns in the acquisition of crude wealth in a ruined nation. "Paranoia" at times prepares one to prepare for the expected.
Honor is a scarce commodity with many African leaders, and the deception of "Africa Solution to African problems" is one that many African leaders find appealing without bothering to see its inbuilt genocidal dimensions that serve con artists. Ironically, Africans did not see an opportunity to apply their "solutions" when one million Rwandans were being butchered. Instead, the OAU Panel of Experts, last year blamed the United Nations and shamelessly requested reparations for the genocide. In Sierra Leone, the "African Solution" Lome Agreement, drafted by the African-American the Rev. Jesse Jackson using Taylor's scripts, ended in disgrace and humiliation after the rebels captured and disarmed UN troops. Decent African must simply face the fact that what is today sold as African Solutions are solutions from thieves and mass killers parading themselves as leaders and determined to enrich themselves over of heaps of dead bodies and millions of refugees. There can be no apologies in jumping in bed with "white imperialists" when black ones are more beastly.
The ineptitude of the "African Solution" is exposed when one looks at the level of chaos and disunity on a continent incapable of solving its own problems. Despite Gaddahfi's pep project of the funny "United States of Africa", not even West Africans, with a lot more in common, can agree on their priorities. The recent senile "ECOWAS Parliament", composed of dysfunctional individuals with no influence in their own states, ended in uproar, with "parliamentarians" failing to decide on where to have offices or their leadership. They never thought of where the money would come from (perhaps from "imperialist" Europe or America as usual) to have another white elephant when serious steps are needed to stamp out underworld characters paraded as politicians and leaders in West Africa. No money for their "deliberations", they left in disarray. Here is the beginning of the "United States of Africa."
But the question is, who decides what solutions are African? A con artist sitting in Liberia and directing terror within the region? The less than 3000 rebels against six million helpless Sierra Leoneans? Or the Nigerians who, recent positions now indicate, have (or should have) no interests worth protecting in Sierra Leone? Perhaps we need a continental referendum to determine what constitutes "African Solution."
The burning anger and agony felt by helpless Africans is the rise of new and beastly "neocolonialists"----underworld criminals in league with warlords hammering the final nil in Africa's coffin----stealing their resources to enrich Europe, America, etc. Taylor's Ukrainian pilots are dropping bombs on Guineans. His partners and advisers include Dutchmen, Americans, the English, etc. South African Neo-Nazis form his inner ring and train the RUF along with his own fighters.
Simply put, Africa's sorry legacy is that were Sierra Leoneans left to choose their role model or "neocolonialist," deciding between Tony Blair and Nigeria's Obasanjo, the contest would be ludicrous, for Blair has won the hearts and minds of Sierra Leoneans. Many Sierra Leoneans, including many Nigerians, would opt for colonial administrations over current interchangeable circle of thieves. Perhaps Nigeria, the world's raking corrupt society according to recent survey, needs British "neocolonialists" to rescue its crumbling economy and arrest its cancerous mismanagement, the kind of gross theft that reduces a key oil-producing country to a beggar nation. Unlike its counterparts in oil wealth (Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc) Nigeria can show little for the oil boom it enjoyed in the 1970s. Thousands of Nigerians (amongst other Africans including Liberians) in search of jobs, were recently subjected to Libyan pogroms, with reports of several deaths. This again is an African shame!
Injecting "neocolonialism" from the lips of thieves and murderers who loot their nations to enrich other nations (as Taylor is doing with villas and huge European bank accounts while he begs for aid, and as Abacha did by leaving billions in European banks) depicts the evil and insensitivity in the African. To accept slogans of "neocolonialism" from men who split the bellies of women for the determination of a child's gender, as was the practice amongst Taylor's rebels, or align with men who cutoff the limbs of a 5-yerar old child who would only ask her mother if her legs and arms will grow like those of her friends, exposes the barbarity of the African "politician." Today Africa is nothing to be proud of. It needs redemption.
Arguments of neocolonialism in defense of international criminals imposed on their people only desecrate the memories of those true sons of Africa who truly knew the meaning and dangers of neocolonialism. Nkrumah, Murtala Mohammed, Nasser, and Mwalimu J.K. Nyerere, etc., must rest in peace. To compare them with men like Taylor is shameless and inhumane.
To condemn the "imperialists" when the root causes
of horrors are internal is hypocrisy. Spare Sierra Leone's children
the "African Solution" and give them "Imperialism
instead." At least they will have their limbs and a promise
of a better, more humane future.