ECOWAS' Callous PR Against Sanctions

The Perspective
Feb 1, 2001

The Secretary-General of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Lansana Kouyateh, says criticisms against Liberia's President Taylor for backing the RUF in return for diamonds, are stupid. ''We think that the continuing accusations against Liberia are baseless and absurd,'' he said following a secret meeting with Taylor, now fighting tirelessly to avoid sanctions.

According to Monrovia's press, Kouyateh also confirmed that ECOWAS gave its blessings for Sierra Leone rebel commander Sam Bockarie to comfortably live in Liberia after executing 8 of his commanders and fleeing into Taylor's pleasing arms. Kouyateh further told journalists that an ECOIWAS' team was on its way to New York to inform the UN Security Council about the stupidity of its Panel of Experts Report and the absurdity of applying sanctions on Liberia.

We can hardly be surprised with such insensitive remarks, particularly after Kouyateh emerged from closed doors meeting with Taylor at the Executive Mansion. Very few men who have met the Diamond King can refuse to sing his songs, dance his music. Kouyateh is an African and he is one of the disciples of the failed and disastrous concept of "African Solutions to African problems", which means using dishonesty, greed and graft as a cardinal rule in crisis resolution. Liberia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and now Guinea are testaments to the inhumanity of this elusive concept strengthening dictators and serial killers around the Continent.

The logic of this ECOWAS lining up behind Taylor, defending their kind, is simple: when a young tree laughs at an older tree being cut down, the laugh is premature, for its time is also approaching. Thus to let Taylor fall would focus attention on the countries named in the detailed UN Panel Report as his co-conspirators. United in blood we stand and divided we fall, seems to be the logic driving ECOWAS to save Taylor while destroying the children and people of Sierra Leone.

But between a group of self-serving, compromising and crooked African politicians and a UN Panel which also included reputable Africans, international conscience should have no problem who to believe and trust. To give ears to men like Kouyateh and Mali's Alpha Konare, whose country is also named in the UN report, is to seal the death of the West African sub region. As UNHCR High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers recently warned, the refusal of the world to take concrete political or military action to stamp out criminals producing infinite numbers of refugees is pregnant with paying a greater price ahead. To listen to the likes of Kouyaeh or Konare, arguably the same characters aiding and abetting the ongoing horrors, is to ignore Lubbers' warning and set the stage for a greater calamity.

The fact of the matter is that the clowning group called ECOWAS should be ashamed of itself, for it is in no moral position to influence international resolve in dealing with the Liberian pariah. As Kouyateh admits, an organization that finds safe havens for brutish criminals like Bockarie, wanted to face justice, should itself be indicted. And knowing the character of many African politicians, many have immensely benefited from these transactions. Whether Kouyateh is one of the beneficiaries is not clear, but his statements show a crude lack of concern for crimes committed against the people of the sub region.

The deception and fight against sanctions are based on Taylor's fears that they could deprive him of much needed and reliable international criminal entourage depleting forests, digging diamonds and providing arms. His fears have nothing to do with the effect of sanctions on his "You killed my pa, you killed my ma (but) I will vote for you" people. The phobia is that sanctions could make the criminal business more expensive since they will deprive the Diamond King of the legitimacy needed as a president of a legitimate nation living on crime, a legitimacy he has criminally used for almost a decade.

This entire opera of deception to avoid sanctions can be seen in how they have handled the presence of RUF officials in Liberia since the UN report was released. First, Taylor lied that Bockarie, a disco dancer/hair dresser turned "General", had been kicked out of the country. This false announcement came after Liberian political parties, students, and religious leaders urged the Government to expel the RUF, all mercenaries and foreign military advisors. Bockarie immediately held a press conference to announce that he would not leave because Taylor wants him to stay. He later said Taylor was his father, had given him a diamond creek in Liberia, and would not therefore leave. The Sierra Leone Government asked for Bockarie's (and other RUF members') extradition to Sierra Leone but the request has been ignored. Now comes ECOWAS' Secretary-General with an excuse that the killer's stay in Liberia had been sanctioned by his organization.

The cardinal sin of the international community is to believe this team of cunning politicians promising to convince the Security Council against sanctions. The UN must be reminded that this is the same group that ignited the fires of destabilization by crossing deals with warlords, engaging in crooked businesses with them, and finally conducting elections that had proved to be the basis for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region with western powers looked upon to fund.

ECOWAS was in Liberia for 7-years and the imprint of their ability in crisis resolution can be seen in the spread of wars within the region. They have been in Sierra Leone for almost a decade and see what they have done. Despite the hype of stationing troops along the Guinea-Liberia and Sierra Leone borders, they are counting on the Western powers to fund their pet projects. Most of the money for these troops will end in bank accounts of the same politicians lobbying against sanction for Taylor, the single most dangerous destabilizer in the region. Relief and peacekeeping are becoming big business and there are some African politicians determined to promote such business.

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