Justice for Sierra Leone's
December 21, 2000
The UN Panel investigating Liberia's role in diamonds for guns syndicate tearing West Africa apart has reached its conclusions: Charles Taylor's Liberia is the source of the horrors. This acknowledgement and the recommended actions serve as a great Christmas gift from conscientious humanity to the children and people of Sierra Leone. We are elated! What is left now is for the UN to quickly implement the recommendations of the Panel of experts.
The Panel, among others, wants air and travel ban on the Liberian regime. It wants a ban on diamonds coming from Liberia. It wants its timber also banned. These moves, we believe, will send a strong message to the criminals in Liberia that their end is near in using politics for criminal objectives.
The Panel's findings and recommendations are among the most straight forward and courageous steps since Charles Taylor, propped up by Libya, Cote D'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and international underworld criminals, began the process of disintegrating West Africa under the cover of political demands. Perhaps if such steps had been taken a decade ago, tens of thousands of children from Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Guinea, would have survived. But we believe the time is never late in isolating this rottenness masquerading as a democracy. We congratulate the Panel!
However, we believe that the circle of justice will not be complete without equally punishing Blaise Compaore's Burkina Faso. The Panel's discovery of Burkina Faso's role in the destabilization process of West Africa is far from strange. It was Burkina Faso that sent its regular troops to ensure Taylor's presidency by destroying Liberia and now Sierra Leone. For years, although Liberia has been under UN arms embargo, Compaore has defied the world body by simply shipping arms to Taylor for his own use and that of the RUF. Now, Guinea, hosting the second largest refugee population in Africa, is pointing fingers of destabilization at Compaore. If men like Compaore and Taylor are not stopped, West Africa will soon be one spreading refugee camp at the mercy of donors. The global consequences of such a development in which thousands of refugees are finding their way into Fortress Europe or America, are unimaginable.
But despite Compaore's convincing role in the creation of refugees and cementation of African misery, his regime is one receiving substantial aid from a number of European states. Although Compaore's authoritarian tentacles can be seen in the execution of a journalist that was investigating the killing of his brother's driver and more, many see him as a democratizing agent. We believe that such double standards reflect the hypocrisy in international politics and alliances. It is time to dump Compaore together with pal Taylor, for they represent the same evil. They are men devoid of conscience. Compaore should not be allowed to continue fanning the flames of other people's woes while he is rewarded.
Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the dramatic departure of the UN Panel from the politics of deception that has become the norm in Africa. While West African leaders, for over a decade, have been accommodating agents of anarchy and thieves as "presidents", it is refreshing to note that this is less the case outside Africa. The height of this deception in Africa came when Compaore was crowned chair of the regional organization ECOWAS. Soon, his most memorable contribution would be more amputations of children's limbs as he proceeded to strengthen the rebel RUF. The rebels soon saw him as their negotiator and loyal benefactor, at one point demanding that they would deal with no one but him. By 1999, strengthened by their agent serving as chair of ECOWAS, the RUF stormed Freetown, leaving over 6000 people dead. Now, ECOWAS is again selling another deception---that of insisting that the solution to continued wars in the region rests with the stationing of "peacekeeping" troops at the border of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. This was the "solution" adopted over a decade ago with terrible consequences, such as creating a safe haven for international criminals in West Africa----in Taylor's Liberia. And if we must learn from the findings of the former Commander of UN Force in Sierra Leone, such a Force is unlikely to solve the problem as foreign military advisors, mercenaries, roam between Liberia and Sierra Leone for diamonds.
The truth is that Sierra Leone has become a case of exciting but annoying village dance. Each fun-loving villager sent to stop the dance ends up taking the floor and joining the jumping dancers. A West African Force, under the current circumstances, may end up becoming part of the problem and not a solution.
Another ghastly dimension of the ongoing horrors in West Africa is the involvement of foreign fortune hunters in the region's decay. In league with criminals as presidents, weak states cannot withstand the powers of such operatives. If criminal Europeans, Americans, and others engaged in the production of refugees in West Africa are not censored, there is a nightmarish scenario ahead.
Signs are already prevailing. For over a decade, economic activities in Liberia and Sierra Leone have come to a grinding halt. Farmers have been forced to abandon their villages and seek refuge under tents to be fed by donors. UHNCR outgoing High Commissioner, Mrs. Sadako Ogata, has noted that without creating the conditions needed for a departure from emergency to self-reliance, the wars and problems will mount. The truth is the creation of such conditions is far beyond the capabilities of current African governments, many of them named in the UN Panel's report as collaborators. To expect them to take needed steps in saving their people against their personal interests is a sad dream.
This is why the international community, whatever the pitfalls, becomes the one big hope. Those who argue against sanctions for bloody pariahs, applying the age-old argument that sanctions will hurt the ordinary people, must only look at Taylor's Liberia despite his enormous personal wealth at the expense of the country. The country's only hospital has been closed down. There are now only 25 doctors for the entire health service, compared to the pre-election figure of 400. Government service, where available, has gone to pre-colonial times. For example, the Ministry of Finance has no vehicles, so it cannot ensure payment of salaries to workers outside the capital Monrovia. Those workers in the capital may have their checks, but there is no money in the banks to honor them. In the end, the checks are pawned to street moneychangers at a high percentage. All these are happening under a man who vowed to use the US dollars as Liberia's legal tender, promising every child a computer even if there is no electricity, water or chairs for schools, etc. Moreover, one must only ask the children of Sierra Leone the meaning of suffering, for what greater punishment is there than depriving a five-old child her arms and legs in the name of building a better society---Taylor's RUF pledge?
The UN Panel's findings and conclusions, when applied comprehensively, may give the children of Sierra Leone time to laugh. We hope that the findings will be applied. We are overjoyed!