October 16, 2003
Since the beginning of our present catastrophic civil conflict, which has lasted for almost a decade and a half, the fate of our country (Liberia) has come to be determined by our so-called facilitators in the West African sub-region, led largely by Nigeria and Ghana. Nigeria in particular, the largest and the most powerful military might of the region has often taken the leading role in helping to bring sanity to the Liberian situation. And every Liberian should be grateful for that. Indeed, I am. I have always sung the praises of the Nigeria-led ECOMOG, which ushered the country to relative sanity and civilian rule: albeit under the now evicted dictatorship of Charles Taylor.
However, one important question continues to linger in my mind since the unforgettable Abuja II conference of August, 1995. At that meeting, leaders of those facilitators (again, headed by Ghana and Nigeria) lavishly showered glory upon the now infamous “Big Guns” or “Big Three”, namely, Charles Taylor’s NPFL, Alhaji G.V. Kromah’s ULIMO-K, and George Boley’s LPC; all of which rained upon Liberia about the most devastating incident of the country’s civil conflict, in that disreputable April 6 fracas of 1996.
As I nervously sat through that conference, this disturbing question kept bugging me: “How truly accommodating are our so-called Facilitators?” And I mean, accommodating to ALL of the clientele that would be affected by their decisions – not only to the warlords and their followers, but also (and especially) to the unarmed and the defenseless, the displaced and uprooted villagers that have had to live in the squalors of Monrovia and its environs. As it was, our Facilitators chose to accommodate only the warlords and their retinues. And this disturbed me very much! For the end result of the fracas in April, 1996, was the inevitable conclusion of the Abuja decisions.
The warlords who had told the Facilitators and their fellow Liberians that only they who put “the boys”, the militias, in the bush were capable to disarm them and bring them to town. This turned out to be a colossal disappointment for the Facilitators, as their accolades in Abuja to the warlords failed to bring forth the desired result. And the conflict, with its resulting atrocities and devastation continued.
As in Abuja, so also in Accra, another end-of-war conference was convened; only this time it took far too long to be concluded. Except for its extraordinary length, the Accra conference had nearly all the trappings of the Abuja conclave. In Accra, as in Abuja, the warlords (of LURD, MODEL and GOL) held sway and became the centerpiece of all negotiations. But, of course, Charles Taylor a member of the now infamous “Big Guns” in Abuja was again, a major player in Accra. Thus his GOL (government of Liberia) group shared the lion’s portion of the Transitional Government positions and the rest is now part of our ugly history. Accordingly, the daunting reason behind my raising the question of accommodation supra still haunts our beloved Liberia to this day – even after more than a decade.
Meanwhile, two post war actions by leaders of our Facilitators send chills down my spine. The first has to do with President Olusegun Obasanjo’s granting asylum to Mr. Charles Taylor in a luxurious Cabala resort villa. He, no doubt meant well for Liberia and its people. But then he did not exert a strong enough clamp on Mr. Taylor from interfering with Liberian politics and governance; given the indictment hanging over him (Taylor) as a war criminal. President Obasanjo has vowed not to turn over Mr. Taylor to the UN-backed tribunal in Freetown, Sierra Leone; instead, he gives Mr. Taylor a little kingdom in Nigeria, reminiscent of the treatment given the late President Nkrumah in Guinea after he was overthrown in Accra. And then we read reports of the Nigerian government spending some $30,000 a day for the upkeep of Mr. Taylor and his entourage. This is clearly mind bungling!
As if all this were not bad enough for the Liberian people, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, the chief Mediator of the Liberian Peace process, no doubt appointed by the Facilitators, has thrown a monkey’s wrench into the fragile peace process, because of a complaint by the warlords of LURD and MODEL that the 15 representatives of the civilian (the noncombatant) group were inappropriately elected. Those warlords have reportedly argued that the elections of the 15 county representatives to the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) were held exclusively in Monrovia. They argue further that such elections should have been held in the respective counties. (Come on, folks, give me a break!) Indeed, this shows downright disregard for the civil society. One question I would like to raise with Gen. Abubakar is how he perceives this to be possible, given the situation where, as one report succinctly puts it: “Liberia outside Monrovia remains highly unstable”?
Clearly, the honorable general should be abundantly aware of this, more than any one else! Or maybe, he should seek some salient advice from Gen. Daniel Opande, who has walked this road before and who is now heading the UN peacekeeping contingents. More besides, the LURD and MODEL contention reminds one of Charles Taylor and his NPFL’s objection of the erstwhile IGNU government of Dr. Amos Sawyer, arguing that that government was unconstitutional because it was formed outside the boundaries of Liberia. But with fortitude on the part of the Facilitators then and the Sawyer government, things cleared up and Mr. Taylor eventually came to do business with the IGNU.
Surely, the warlords have had their fair share in the transitional government. They should therefore let the poor and unarmed civilians have their meager hold. To grant the warlords their request as has been reportedly done by Gen. Abubakar is a travesty of justice for civil Liberia. Please, let reason and justice prevail in this case, General! Our compatriots of the warring factions must learn the politics of compromise and give-and-take, of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. It’s now or never! Above all else, civil Liberia (which constitutes the majority of the Liberian populace) must be accommodated in these peace processes, if lasting peace is to be achieved.
In closing, I must herewith extend my most sincere commendation to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Security Council for the allotment of troops (man and materiel) earmarked for work in Liberia. Of equally deserving commendation, also, is the Hon. Jacques Paul Klein, the Secretary General’s Special Representative to Liberia who has shown himself up to the tedious task in that war-torn country. For some previous such representatives have only added to the Liberian nightmare. There is therefore every hope that with his kind of tenacity, Liberia will again rise.