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Lessons and Reflections on the Past Present and the Future

Excerpts from the Pending Book: 

Operation Jungle Fire 

Narration of the  Untold Dimensions                                                                    

Of the Liberian Civil War

1989-1997

By Alhaji G. V. Kromah

(BA, LL.., LL.M., MA,, MAIR, SJD-cand.}

Posted July 20 2008

Written in 2003

 

Chapter I - Before the Rebel Invasion

When Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe and his 16 colleagues stormed the Executive Mansion on April 12, l980, and left President William R. Tolbert dead, they seemed to have consummated a decade of unprecedented agitation for national reforms. The enlisted men coup also brought an end to a de facto one-party state administered by a minority class for more than a century, ushering in a rule by an indigene since Independence in 1847. From April 12 on, the internal indigenous power struggle ran full cycle, resulting into elimination or isolation.   By l985, Doe seemed to have emerged sufficiently confident to have elections that transformed him into a civilian president. The elections were conducted amidst winding controversies that saw many opposition leaders jailed or their parties banned. While some considered the voting rigged, the US government endorsed the new administration as a start in democracy that should be encouraged. The international community generally accepted this. 

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The Kitchen Cabinet

Understandably, it is this group that had a critical stake in Doe's remaining as President beyond l991. The more Doe seemed to have vibrated toward his academic ambition, the more desperate the "Kitchen Cabinet" became. If the President were to ultimately prevail in relinquishing the presidency, these men thought the best thing to do then  was to increase dramatically their personal financial gains in the government.  

A few Americo-Liberians succeeded in meandering their way into the Doe political clan. Outstanding among them was a protégé of Steve Tolbert, multimillionaire brother of the late President William Tolbert. This protégé made a reputation of creating a niche for himself in every administration. He gained Doe's confidence and coached him to adopt an Americo-Liberian dress code, just short of the tailcoat and the top hat. Doe's "afro" hairstyle was symbolic of the resulting courtship. The protégé never forgot to embrace the Doe cousins as part of the design to perpetuate his sway over the boss and maintain his own consultancy.

He was good at conceiving special commissions and committees sorely structured to place him at the head. From these ad hoc bodies, he skillfully usurped functions of regular government institutions. By l989, the protégé had roved his way into a weighty Ministerial position. From this pinnacle he was able to promulgate the economic policies that incidentally eventually helped to nail Doe's political coffin. When the cabinet met to deliberate on his proposals for the withdrawal of government subsidy from the price of rice, the nation's staple food, as well as increase in gasoline price, the actual decisions had already been made. Despite opposition to the package by several ministers, the proposals were officially adopted. Hiking the price of rice was clearly a political gamble, besides the domino effect the rise in gasoline price would have on goods and services in an already frail economy. The secret package was intended to reap millions of dollars for the Minister and probably the President, some argued. .......... With the academic progress and general exposure Doe had made, he  could not match the machinations of his beloved friend..

The aftermath of the protégé's financial maneuvers revived the dwindling public discontent that Doe was laboring to neutralize. People returned to their criticisms of human rights violations, and Doe was back to square one, broadening the way for the Charles Taylor rebel invasion. By the Christmas season in l989, Doe's popularity had severely dived. Everybody knew what could happen to any government that tampered with the price of the nation's staple food.

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External Milieu

The l980 coup makers' arrest of A. B. Tolbert at the French Embassy in Monrovia and the subsequent death in mysterious conditions in prison of this popular son of President William Tolbert served as  the most fundamentally external support base for the Charles Taylor rebel invasion in l989. The death of President Tolbert and particularly his son, AB, triggered an unending bitterness in President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of neighboring Ivory Coast. Boigny's foster daughter, Daisy, was AB's wife. ........... Most of the Tolbert families and friends were among several hundred Liberians who had taken refuge in the Ivory Coast following April 12. The Nimba raid and the Quiwonkpa invasion increased the Gio and Mano exiles in the Ivory Coast, which runs along Liberia's Nimba County border.

President Doe made continuous attempts to pacify the Oldman in Abidjan, but usually ran into a stonewall. Besides, the Oldman  was disdainful of the style of government in Monrovia. He simply considered Doe a mockery of the leadership legacy that had been established by the founding leaders of independent Africa; not to speak of the aristocratic arrogance that nearly isolated Boigny from his colleagues in the sub-region.

Liberian dissidents' decision to invade Liberia through the Ivory Coast constantly confirmed the Doe regime's fear of attempts to destabilize him from the country's eastern neighbor. Maj. Gen. Nicholas Podier, one time number two man in Doe's military government, was captured and killed along the Liberian Ivorian border while bringing forces to fight the government as well.

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.........Relations with Sierra Leone and Guinea could best be described as lukewarm. The Quiwonkpa invasion from Sierra Leone had sowed seeds of distrust between the two governments. Doe considered President Conte of Guinea as harmless, but dormant in West African politics.

From the beginning of his leadership, Doe probably had psychological problems with Ghanaian leader Jerry Rawlings, who came to power as a low-ranking, youthful military officer. Doe was obsessed with being the youngest to have staged a coup in Africa (elaborated in previous chapters). He also saw Rawlings as a protégé of Libyan leader Mohamed Khadafi, the growing nemesis of everything Doe thought he stood for.

........The former master sergeant's desire to woo the friendship of the United States for the elections in l985 induced him to adopt an impulsively belligerent stance against Khadafi and his associates and went allot to befriend Israel (Previous chapters). In one instance at the l988 Non-Aligned Summit in Zimbabwe, Doe threatened to physically assault Khadafi if the latter included Liberia in his condemnation of countries that had started resuming diplomatic relations with Israel. The joke from the  Harare conference was that Khadafi was bewildered by the presence of someone who was in all manifestations showing that he was "more aggressive" than the Libyan leader.........

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Doe had on the other hand picked up a number of idols among African leaders. Topping the list were Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria, Denise Sassou Ngueso of Congo Brazzaville, and King Hassan of Morocco. He was fond of talking about how he and Babangida would call each other IB and SK. Doe also wanted to know from his classmates at the Mansion whether his suits were as distinct as Nuguesso's.

Outside Africa, relations with the United States in l989 was at its lowest in years. Doe cherished himself for writing his bachelor thesis on the exploits of the United Sates in international affairs. Actively critiquing US international domination became a daily chore for Doe. This growing anti-American posture did not go unnoticed by the Americans. In fact, I knew that much from Ambassador James Bishop who told me before my l988 reappointment into the government that he was only concerned about the Liberian people and not the government. It was however clear  the Americans were not  unanimously prepared to encourage a Libyan-backed Taylor takeover (other chapters), even though a few days before the invasion, Ambassador Bishop drove from Monrovia through Nimba to the Ivory Coast.

I saw a self-assuring Doe who felt that the United States was intimidating him. He felt he could develop Liberia without reference to the United States, and there was no need to look up  to Washington for everything.

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NPFL INVASION

The Christmas season was again engulfing Monrovia's seven hundred thousand residents. Everywhere people were asking for their 'Christmas,' a sort of mandatory Liberian gift culture that has more to do with begging for money than commemorating the religious holiday. The soaring prices of basic goods only aggravated the begging spree. Liberians were determined nevertheless to ensure that the season was celebrated festively, which meant more partying then praying. There was plenty of time as the celebrations ran into the New Year, thereby giving a full week of merriment. Political problems, at least for the time being, seemed to have been relegated to a secondary importance. People had gotten used to the government's crying wolf about coup plots since the failed attempt by Brig. Thomas Quiwonkpa in l985.

As it turned out, that Christmas and the ensuing New Year would be the last joyous occasions for Liberians for the next eight years. On that fateful Sunday, the day before Christmas, an unprecedented bush war began with a cross border attack into Butuo, Nimba County, about seven miles from the border of the Ivory Coast. A second group of insurgents was already in Monrovia in what was proven to be a  grand design to bring an end to the nine-year old regime of President Samuel Kanyon Doe once and for all. There was no serious sign in the capital to show that anything other than merriment was happening outside the city. Only those in the President's military and security inner circle knew what was happening that weekend.

The Monrovia rumor mill, nonetheless, was again also at work as usual. Give it  time, the mill people would tell you what the President ate for breakfast. I was a beneficiary on that Tuesday afternoon, the day after Christmas. Only essential workers, broadcasters and engineers of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) had reported to work, albeit the mid holiday season hangover. I hardly had taken seat in my office that morning when the secretary prompted me on the intercom to respond to a visit request from Lieutenant James Krahyee, who said he wanted to see me 'urgently.' A year earlier, the then sergeant Krahyee was commander of the military contingent assigned to provide security at LBS, the government radio and television network. Krahyee had impressed me as a diligent and active soldier. I gave him latitude to visit me at anytime, whether I was at work as Director General of LBS or at home in the company of my family.

I told the secretary to let Krahyee in, even though on this day I was suspicious that he was using the word "urgent" to access my office for "Christmas." He barely closed the door behind him when he began his nervous expose. "Good morning Chief, it's not easy! Fighting started this weekend in Nimba and some people have been arrested in Monrovia here. Right now the boys are moving to the front." Exactly who are carrying on the fighting, I wondered out loudly. I could only get my answer by extracting it from his unabated narration. "Chief, these people came from the Ivory Coast to overthrow the government. We've been hearing about this attack for long time. But some of us did not take it too seriously because we have already collected Podier (former Vice Head of state) when he entered Liberia secretly from the Ivory Coast two years ago," Krahyee said, assuring me that the army had quashed the attackers from the Ivory Coast. I had reasons to believe some of what the man was telling me. Krahyee was not only a member of President Doe's Krahn tribe, but had also become a platoon commander in the elite Executive Mansion Guard Battalion since his departure from LBS.

While the matter was strictly security, I thought the President or one of his key military brass would have informed Information Minister Emmanuel Bowier and me as frontline government information personnel. This had not happened, and we were becoming apprehensive about the implications. I tried verifying what the soldier had told me without alerting others. By Friday, my curiosity began winding down. A call came in from the Executive Mansion that President Doe was going to make an important statement to the nation on Saturday, December 30, and I should prepare the LBS television and radio crew to record the statement for transmission that evening. Bowier had gotten a hint of the Christmas Eve incident, but he could not get the President to confirm what was going on. We began digging and confirmed that indeed rebels had attacked Liberia from the Ivory Coast. The next big question was the identity of the group and its leader. There was neither information nor clue. Bowier was not only a personal friend going back to our student political era at the University of Liberia, but he was also an assistant Minister of Information during my tenure as Minister in the same ministry in l984. I was now serving for the second time as Director General of LBS but this time "elevated" to the membership of the President's Cabinet.

We candidly but frustratingly discussed the Nimba incident, fearful of what it portended for the scheduled l991 presidential elections. We were expected to defend the government or inform the public, and yet we were about to be informed along with the public simultaneously. In any case, we were present that Saturday afternoon, to record the President's speech.

President Doe announced that the Liberian government had dismantled an attempt by dissident forces to overthrow the government. He said the insurgents had entered the Liberian town of Butuo on December 24 from the Ivory Coast and attacked the customs and immigration checkpoints, killing a Liberian army sergeant, Geoffrey Macarthy and injuring another sergeant, Thomas Corker. He said the rebels burned down several parts of Butuo, including the Customs office. They took down the Liberian flag and hoisted something else, which we came later to know was the NPFL flag, with an image of a sprawling black scorpion engraved on a red background.

President Doe said the dissidents dispatched another group to Monrovia to destabilize the government. He claimed that the dissidents were so impressed with the streetlights and the generally brisk outlook of the capital until they decided to "join the citizens to have a good time."

Doe was visibly angry, pointing fingers to the government of the Ivory Coast, which he said helped the dissidents launch their operation. He was therefore recalling from the Ivory Coast, Ambassador Harold Tarr, a Krahn and a relative of the first lady, Nancy Doe. The United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Economic Community of West African States would be immediately notified, Doe declared. It was then that I realized how grateful I was to Krahyee for the tip.

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Confessions and the Man Charles Taylor

In his interview, Charles Taylor said his forces were in control of Butuo and several adjacent villages, and that he had ordered the operation as leader of a National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). He said the Patriotic Front was originally organized by the late Brigadier Quiwonkpa, "of which this is a continuation of the l985 situation," referring to the abortive coup led by the General. Taylor quickly released some statistics, professing that they entered with l05 men on December 25, and has since expanded the number to 600. He claimed that his forces had killed about 250 AFL soldiers, with NPFL losses he could not specify. Taylor said fierce fighting was going on, refuting Doe's assertion that everything was under control.

Then came the statement that was soon to be exposed as a reckless treatment of the truth. The rebel leader said he was not personally interested in becoming President of Liberia, and only interested in removing Doe. He said with the departure of Doe, democratic elections would be held after ninety days.

When the BBC interviewer suggested that Mr. Taylor was a discredited person who had stolen government money and fled, Taylor opted to tie himself with the United States and grant himself university degrees he never earned. He said he was trained in the Unites States and received a master's degree in economics. ........ In his official biography following the elections in l997, Taylor finally said he was "a candidate" for the Master's degree.

That Focus on Africa interview on New Year's Day was the beginning of a series that converted the focus on Africa program into a multiple instrument in the Liberian war. Taylor used it so effectively as his war propaganda machine until Liberians accused the BBC of fighting about forty percent of Taylor's war. Second, Liberians dispersed as refugees all over the sub-region used the program to keep in touch with the fluctuating events in their country. The international community monitored the Liberian situation mostly through Focus.

With that interview, everything was now in the open. People were now concerned, but not panicky. President Doe decided to emphasize the Ivorian and other external connections with what effectively became known as the "invasion." The NPFL men captured in Monrovia had confessed about their recruitment in the Ivory Coast, and their travel to Burkina Faso unto Libya for military training. Doe was determined to rally public and international support by convincing everyone that Taylor was just a tool in a wider scheme to dethrone the government and subjugate Liberia. Doe was contemplating on invoking the mutual defense pact with Guinea if it became necessary, using the invasion by foreign forces as a basis.

Several days later, Justice Minister Jenkins Scott sent videotape of three captives Doe mentioned in his speech. A joint security team interrogated the men. In the tapes, which were transmitted on national television, the three men identified themselves as Samuel Dahn, Augustine Gonkanu and George Nuahn, distinctively Gio and Mano names of Nimba County. They alluded to a massive insurgency plan to topple the Doe Government, and indicated that Charles Taylor, the former controversial Director General of the General Service Agency and confidante of Doe led their coterie. The linkage of Taylor was surprising to Monrovia residents, who remembered Taylor being locked up in a United States Prison since l985. He was imprisoned at the Plymouth House of Corrections in Boston, Massachusetts, in connection with the extradition suit filed by the Liberian government. Taylor was being sought to account for nearly one million US dollars he allegedly stole as head of the GSA.  ........

The televised confession by Nuahn, Dahn and Gonkanu dwelled understandably only on the exploits of Taylor starting with his presence in Burkina Faso and how the plans had quietly prioritized Manos and Gios recruitment and mobilization. The men individually repeated how they and others were lured by special emissaries and Taylor himself by making repeated references to how the Gios and Manos were disenfranchised by the Doe government and the only way to return and live freely in Liberia was to get rid of Doe.

The captives revealed that simultaneous attacks were planned for Monrovia and Nimba County and they were part of the group that traveled to Monrovia. Their contacts in the AFL were to provide the necessary arms and ammunition, and join them for final action. Officers from the First Infantry Battalion in Schieffelin thirty-three miles south of Monrovia had been contacted, along with some from the Sixth Battalion in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, and 43 miles west of Monrovia. When asked by the security interrogators why the mission failed in Monrovia, the three men said they were confused upon arrival in the capital, which was all lit up with streetlights. They said the city had indeed undergone dramatic infrastructure changes during their three-year absence. They said what they saw was contradictory to the deplorable and depressing images Taylor had dosed out to them about Monrovia and the rest of the country.

This confusion and the delay in the arrivals of their Monrovia contacts at designated points undermined the execution of their mission. They wandered about suspiciously until government agents picked them up at various points in the city. The three men never gave account of what happened to the rest of their colleagues who came along to Monrovia from the Ivory Coast. The Justice Ministry said they escaped.

The nation's concentrated population in Monrovia had mixed reactions to the government pronouncements about the coup attempt. Some felt that the three men were coerced and coached into narrating the story about Libya and Burkina Faso. Others believed the confessions were genuine, and sighed that a potentially devastating war had been averted. Yet others actually wished that Doe would go.

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 The Gio-Mano Attraction

Associating his war endeavor with Quiwonkpa and the NPFL was a continuation of the strategy Taylor deployed in mobilizing many members of the  Gio and Mano ethnic groups of Nimba County. The scheme attracted Quiwonkpa's military companions such as Cooper Miller, the designated Taylor Vice President; and Prince Y. Johnson, who later broke away and organized the Independent National Patriotic Front. Others were Isaac Mehnsa (Musa) who later became Taylor's military chief.

The Taylor civilian team, which involved former labor minister Moses Duopu, another Gio named Secretary General of the NPFL, seemed to have convinced the two Nimba tribes that this was an opportunity to revenge against Doe. Taylor is said to have promised lucrative government jobs, and that upon entering Monrovia and unseating the government, they could takeover any private residence of their choice.

The Doe-Quiwonkpa animosity was the most important but not the only compartment of Taylor's grand design to exploit Doe's internal and external antagonists. Houphoet Boigny and the Ivory Coast had problems with Doe over the death of their son-in-law, A.B. Tolbert. Boigny had extended his influence over the Burkina Faso leadership, which had developed its own steep ties with Khadafi, a sworn enemy of Doe. The United States had become weary of Doe, a mood induced among other factors by anti-Doe Liberians in the United States. From all of this, Taylor became the point man.

Taylor concretized his West African and Libyan connections only after his escape from the Boston prison............ All the US government could say about the jailbreak was that Taylor was wanted in connection with the felonious act, and he was being held in extradition proceedings for corrupt charges in Liberia. He had miraculously gotten out with two other inmates, and said to have found his way to Mexico and then out to an unspecified European country. He was again jailed along his African sojourn in Sierra Leone and Ghana, on suspicion of subversive activities. His "lady-friend,"  .......... is said to have played a crucial role in his release from the Accra prison and handed to the Burkina government. She is said to have been shuttling between Abidjan and Ouagadougou and won the admiration of key people in the Burkina political hierarchy.  

In Ouagadougou, Taylor quickly entrenched himself, and secured a soul mate in  Blaise Campaore, Deputy to President Thomas Sankara. Many have described the ties with Campaore as the most fundamental in sustaining Taylor's  quest for the Executive Mansion. Some sources say Taylor and his men helped Campaore in taking power during which President Thomas Sankara was assassinated. Sankara was himself a protégée of Houphoet Boigny, but grew too "radical" and was dumped by the Old man. Doe was clearly the next to go at all cost, even if it meant destructively putting tribes and states at odds in the sub-region, one French-Speaking Diplomat intimated.

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Gio and Mano officials had genuine concerns. Besides the intense aura of suspicion in Monrovia about their loyalty to the government, they could not be sure about an invasion that was led by a  presumably reckless Charles Taylor from an Americo-Liberian settlement near Monrovia. The only Gio name of consequence disclosed as a part of the leadership of the NPFL at the time was Moses Duopo, former Labor Minister in the early days of the Doe government. He had fled Liberia and together with Quiwonkpa, founded the NPFL. Duopo spoke from Lagos, Nigeria on the radio,  indicating he was secretary general of the NPFL, and insisted that Doe must go. The former labor minister was to meet his death when he went to Nimba to join Taylor.  

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President Doe knew the rift which led to the death of Quiwonkpa haunted him. And without genuine reconciliation, Nimba would remain his nemesis as long as he was President. Doe arranged a solidarity meeting in November, l987, with the largely Gio and Mano people of Nimba in their provincial capital of Sanniquellie, a historic city which hosted President Tubman, Seku Toure of Guinea and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. The gathering attempted to sort out differences among the parties, which were essentially as Krahn and Gio and Manos. The ethnic groups concluded a peace agreement and returned to Monrovia in high spirit with celebrations that were supposed to mark a new beginning. Even when former Vice Head of State Nicholas Podier entered Nimba from the Ivory Coast allegedly on his way to overthrow the government in Monrovia, Nimba was not blamed.

The aftermath of the peace agreement helped in some ways to secure a check and balance in ethnic power politics that was devastating the Krahns and their Nimba cousins. When news of a plot emerged some time after the Sanniquellie meeting, some local chiefs felt it was unfair to carry on that scheme against Doe. Clan Chief Jerry Gonyhon alerted authorities in Monrovia about the plan, which was apparently the recruitment phase of the Taylor invasion. Doe instructed the Minister of Internal Affairs, Edward Kumo Sackor to investigate the complaint immediately. Sackor in turn ordered the Superintendent of the county, Stephen Daniels, to do the investigation. Near the end of the investigation, Minister Sackor himself traveled to Nimba. Sackor wielded lot of support in the county. His father was a prominent Mandingo Chief, widely respected in the area.  

Superintendent Daniels and Sackor concluded in their report that Clan Chief Gonyhon had lied in aledging  dissident activities in the county and that his aim was to besmear the image of the Gios and Manos again. I could understand the rationale in the Sackor ruling. He did not want to be seen as the Mandingo man with Gio connections who again invited the wrath of the Doe regime following a long struggle to bring peace. He may have sincerely believed that it was nothing  but local wrangling for power and importance. Sackor chose to placate his people and let the President know that the allegations were coming from a miscreant bent on making trouble for the people. The clan chief was jailed. 

It came to past that the words of the clan chief were proven with the insurrection of the NPFL forces. Doe promptly dismissed Minister Sackor after the New Year, but stopped short of arresting him. Sackor had been an otherwise faithful and loyal activist for Doe in mobilizing people throughout the country during the l985 elections. Sackor himself was elected as a Senator for Nimba on the President's National Democratic Party Ticket. Besides, Sackor's connection with two crucial tribes in the conflict could not be ignored nor could Doe forget that his Minister was once a very a senior officer when he served as Lt. Colonel and commander of the presidential honors guard in the Administration of the late President William Tolbert.

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THE MANDINGO FACTOR

The involvement of Mandingoes as victims of the Taylor onslaught was a source of bewilderment for me, personally. I had heard some past accounts of conflicts among the tribes in Nimba, but that was neither peculiar to that county nor the tribes. Throughout Liberia, Africa, and outside the continent neighboring ethnic groups waged wars against each other. Reference to this type of history could not justify brutal killing of Mandingoes in Nimba, where a mutual peace treaty and oath has guided interactions for several generations between the Mandingoes on the one hand and the Gio and Mano on the other. Original indigenous configuration of Nimba consists of these three tribes, along with the Gbees (a Bassa subgroup) and the Krahns of Belehwallay.

Since their kingdoms collapsed in northwestern Liberia in the mid l9th century, Mandingoes had become apolitical and concentrated only on commerce. Most non-Liberian reference books configured the country's population as l0-l5 percent Christian, l5-20 Percent Muslim, and the rest as "animists." But historically, Mandingo Muslims were isolated by the predominantly Christian Americo Liberian settlers who ruled the country for l33 years. This domination began ironically following efforts by Mandingo Muslims to protect and defend the settlers from hostile tribes on the shores of Monrovia in l821. The American Colonization Society (ACS) and family sources give account of how the great Muslim Mandingo King Sao Boso otherwise called Sar Boi by his people  (known as  Boatswain by the American Colonization Society) came to Monrovia and decisively settled a land dispute between the American Africans and the indigenous Dei people. King SAR Boi strongly warned against enmity between the two groups and encouraged the Deis to regard the American Africans as their kinsmen who had returned home. The Deis took the advice as an order due to the powerful reputation of Sar Boi.

The new comers to the continent feared that the Mandingo King would ultimately extend his control over the disputed area and declare himself absolute ruler for all. The settlers soon began maneuvering to strengthen the nearby Kongba Gola King Zoga, a  rival of  SAR Boi. The Golas were told that the Mandingoes had to be aliens because of their religion. This was reasonable to Zoega. Sar Boi and his people had persistently refused to become members of the Poro, a secret African society whose tenants contradicted those of Islam. Though Sar Boi was never defeated until his death in l826, the various warring factions incited by the African Americans kept him busy.

Mandingoes for a long time refrained from national politics. They sent few of their children to formal Liberian (English) schools and restricted the marriage of their females to fellow Muslims, even though they succeeded in marrying others and eventually converted some of  these women to Islam. 

The heavy presence of Mandingoes  in Nimba and Bong Counties as part of the  permanent tribes of those counties hardly changed the perception. Despite their confirmed genealogical roots in the original ethnology of these areas, Nimba was generally seen as the home of only Gio and Mano people, ignoring the Mandingoes, Gbee and Krahns. Lofa was seen by mostly Monrovia urbanites as land of the Lorma tribe, even though the county has eight of Liberia's l6 officially listed ethnic groups. Some Liberians are usually surprised to know there is an exclusively Mandingo Chiefdom in Lofa, where the Mandingoes and their Lorma and Gbandi cousins had cohabited several hundred years together. In their war and peace they intermarried and interacted with their ancestors from the great Mali and Songhay Empires. My mother comes from the Mandingo-Mecca Chiefdom in Bomi County where most of the direct descendants of Sar Boi can be found. In Rivercess and Nimba itself, Mandingoes served as Paramount chiefs, the most prestigious and powerful authority in the hierarchy of officially recognized indigenous leadership.

Another contributor to the suspecting Mandingo citizenship in Liberia is that the country has a  relatively small percentage of the overall Mandingo population of nearly ten Million in eleven of the l6 West African countries. Neighboring Guinea has the largest of about 2.6 million. Nevertheless, the flow of French speaking Mandingoes into Liberia from the Franco-phone Guinea and Ivory Coast was being overplayed than the new and frequent arrivals into Liberia of Guinean Lormas and Kissis; Mano, Gio, Krahn, and Grebo from the Ivory Coast; and the Mande, Kissi and Vai from Sierra Leone.

It was during the l985 multiparty era that Mandingoes again began actively developing interest in politics. A number of them joined Doe's NDPL party while the vast majority of them enlisted with the Unity Party of Dr. Edward Binyan Kesselly, a Christian Mandingo. Kesselly, a British, American and Swiss educated international relations expert, served in several ministerial positions under President William Tolbert. As an indigenous and son of the Commanding General of the Armed forces of Liberia, Kesselly stirred up emotions among the ruling class when he suggested the changing of Liberia's national motto: 'The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here." Kesselly said the motto as coined by the Americo-Liberians in l847 did not refer to the majority indigenous population. Brigadier General Binyan Kesselly was quickly retired from the AFL and his son Edward appointed Minister of Information. The Americo-Liberian elite was fearful of the implications of a well-educated radical indigenous whose father happened to control the fighting forces of the army. .............

When the Taylor rebels arrived, the Mandingoes had no compelling reason to take up arms massively against the Doe regime. Yes, Doe had jailed Kesselly along with other politicians before the elections. Mandingoes in the NDPL were angry but not enough to join a rebel war started by Charles Taylor.

Individuals who wanted particularly to target Mandingoes using the justification that the Mandingoes were exposing the Gios to the AFL soldiers got reactions. The Mandingoes said they did not have weapons to protect themselves against the rebels, who targeted some of them in the first place for reasons ranging from party affiliation to "betraying fellow Nimbaians". Where they suspected rebels planning to attack them, the Mandingoes  had no alternative but to alert the AFL soldiers.

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AFL "Mopping"

In the days following President Doe's maiden statement on the insurgency, AFL Chief of Staff Henry Dubar and Justice Minister Scott continued to echo the Commander-in-chief's claims that the rebels had been thwarted, and the army was now carrying on 'mopping' up exercises. Jenkins Scott, who spent nearly a decade in the United States before returning to Monrovia with a law degree in l981, was the bastion of American style characterization that graphically illustrated the intensity of the speaker's opinion about his enemy. Scott described Taylor and his group as "two-bit swindlers and yellow belly-people who had taken to terrorist tactics."

The word 'mopping' was above all the magic wan that was supposed to allay public fears, but it ended up having the exact opposite effect. The public rapidly perceived the   government assurance with jaundiced eyes. The security authorities used 'mopping' until it simply became ridiculous to mention it even to the shoeshine boys in downtown Monrovia.

..............The illusive movements of the dissident fighters were a source of frustration for the government troops, who were practically unfamiliar with guerilla warfare. The 'mopping up' exercise evidently became meaningless, and news began to filter in Monrovia about AFL  conduct  in Nimba. Most who fled towards Monrovia feared being rebel targets, while those fearful of the government troops fled mainly into the Ivory Coast. Having survived rebel cruelty, many of the displaced people coming to Monrovia were naturally unenthusiastic relaying AFL wrongdoing. 

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The Shape of Monrovia

Nimba certainly did not have the monopoly on fear. Unfolding events in Monrovia showed that Liberia was plunged into a nightmare. On the heels of the government's revelation of the border incident, Monrovia woke up to the knee-shaking news about the killing of a prominent businessman and budding politician, Robert Philips. His body was found at his Monrovia Sinkor residence. Rumors quickly circulated that it was the handiwork of government agents. The government vehemently countered. 

Some argued that many Americo-Liberians at the funeral were concerned only because an Americo Liberian had been killed, and that the death that was being inflicted by Taylor, another Americo Liberian,  meant nothing to them. Others responded that it was alarming for such a killing to be taking place at the seat of government, which was condemning the invasion and the destruction of innocent lives. Two other alleged mysterious killings occurred in the suburbs of Monrovia. The Justice Ministry announced the alleged murder of a Togolese national identified as David Opati and a sergeant of the Executive Guard Battalion, Peter Koleh, who was killed on the Saturday night President Doe revealed the coup on television.

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External Calisthenics 

Across the border in Danane, the Ivorian government was panting under the surge of Liberian refugees, who were crossing in there thousands. The first two weeks saw ten thousand people, and by the end of January, the number was being estimated at 30, 000.

But that was the slimmer side of the problem for the Ivorian government. It was faced with the outright condemnation by the Liberian leader that Abidjan nourished the rebels and opened their borders to unleash the venom. Doe thinly veiled his threat to push the war across the border. He warned that Liberia could exercise the right of hot pursuit under international law. "Liberia is prepared to protect its borders, and this country will not be used as a battle ground," he added, in contrast to the battle that was already spreading. Then the protest note went out to the Ivorians without any immediate reply.

The Liberian government sent messages to the Libyan and Burkina Faso government asking whether they knew about the NPFL. The government certainly did not expect an answer from Khadafi and Campaore incriminating themselves. Doe insisted that the two countries had to respond since they had been categorically mentioned as the recruitment and training centers for the rebels. Doe said Libya was anxious to endanger American interest and lives in Liberia, and that Taylor was prepared to kill any American on the orders of Khadafi. How these statements were to shape international policies towards the Doe administration and the war would have been seen later. The names of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Libya from there on were  the strategy Doe adopted in attracting international sympathy for the government, outrage against the NPFL. 

............................

The United States, Nigeria and Guinea were the key targets for the Doe outreach. Relations with the United States were not at their best when the rebels arrived, but Doe was confident the danger of a Khadafi-backed takeover was sufficient to attract Washington. But analysts could not help but wonder how Taylor had broken jail in the United States in the first place. US complicity was suspected, and with the tough stance of Ambassador James Bishops in his demand for proper government accountability in Monrovia, it was speculated in Monrovia that the Americans were behind the invasion.

........President Ibrahim Babangida, on the other hand, was a personal friend whom Doe felt he could rely on. They were regularly on the phone, calling each other SK ad IB. Though Nigeria was to play the most crucial role stopping the war in Liberia to pave the way for the elections of l997, Babangida was having his share of leadership strife. He had just carried out a major reshuffle in his military leadership that was threatening some dire security and political consequences. The number three man in the government, Lieutenant General Domkat Bali was unceremoniously dropped from his portfolio as Defense Minister/Chief of Defense Staff and given the Minister of Internal Affairs assignment. IBB himself took over the Defense Ministry in addition to his presidency. Bali cried down the move and threatened to resign, claiming the transfer was an "insult" to him. 

 ..................................

President Conte of Guinea and Joseph Momoh of Sierra Leone showed immediate concern for good reasons. Besides their membership in the Maon River Union, grouping the three countries under customs arrangements, refugees had started flowing into Guinea. The two countries had much closer ethnic, commercial and political links with Liberia than the Ivory Coast. Relations between Monrovia and Freetown were at best lukewarm from the onset of the Doe administration, worsening with the Quiwonkpa invasion from Sierra Leone territory. With the latest problem, Momoh dispatched an envoy with a special message to Doe while Conte cautioned all dissidents that might have been residing in Guinea to vacate. In all of this, Doe remained evidently confident that the NPFL bush war was not really a serious threat. Thus the Commander-in-Chief himself decided it was time to visit the battlefront.

........................

House of Representative member Mohamed Kromah, commonly known as 'Chicken Soup' by his colleagues for his amiable personality, left the crowd laughing in Ganta, Nimba when he innocently likened the Charles Taylor rebel  movement to that of a goat. "You want to be like Billy goat want woman. You see, the woman goat does not have underclothes and the male is equally naked. But the whole day, the male is running behind the woman. Do you want woman or running around. Doe is in Monrovia and not in Nimba. If Taylor wants the government, let him go to Monrovia and stop running around in Nimba and destroying our people." Then the legislator turned to Doe and said, "No one will remove you unless the God that put you there." Indeed, God must have allowed Doe several months later to voluntarily go to his death at the port of Monrovia, when his enemies had failed to capture the Mansion where he was holed in for nine months.

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Civic and Political Group Reactions

Bishop George W. Browne was one of the ardent church leaders conspicuously left nervous over the utter destruction image the Liberian government was arduously ascribing to the Quiwonkpa planned coup if it had succeeded. The Episcopal Bishop, the first indigenous to hold the post in the Episcopate's 100 years of existence in Liberia, was literally spellbound as Doe personally exhibited various pieces of captured military hardware, meticulously describing their deadly capability. Doe succeeded in convincing the mostly militarily ignorant clergy in that Executive Mansion morning gathering that not even the men of the cross would have survived.

"God knows what would have happened to some of us if this thing had succeeded," Bishop Browne frightfully confessed, as he responded on behalf of the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC). He said he could not recognize Foreign Minister Ernest Eastman when the minister entered the parlors of the Mansion that morning. Eastman, like many other Doe officials who thought they had been to hell and back during the failed coup, was still visibly shaky and did little to conceal it when he came in to remind the President about something during the meeting.  

Six years later, Bishop Browne was among leading Liberia Council of Churches members waiting on the President's fourth floor office to discuss the Taylor rebel transgression. When the aide de camp led the prelates in, they immediately began with a prayer and then waited for the President to explain the NPFL attack. Sufficient details of the Nimba incident were again laid out;  illustrating Taylor and his group as nothing but killers and scaremongers who would stop at nothing to take power. Brown and the LCC President, Rev. Levi Moulton, wasted no time in abhorring the invasion and assured the President that the Church had nothing against the government.

Levi Moulton 's position as national president of the Liberian Baptist Church allowed him to engage in full time lay career. He worked as a Ministry of Public Works civil engineer in the administration of William Tolbert, who concurrently served as national head of the Baptist Church. The Reverend/layman Moulton dexterously avoided discordance in the presence of Doe that morning, and at the same time stalled possible criticism that he had compromised his religious independence. Since the demise of Tolbert at the hands of Doe and his fellow coup makers, people like Moulton had carefully played out their activities within the country. Those linked with the old regime tactically cashed in on promises of democracy by the new rulers and at other times simply dropped out of public sight for fear of  inciting enmity.

Bishop Brown, though an indigenous like Doe, faced a more delicate problem in endorsing government's position in the Nimba confrontation. Unlike Moulton, Browne wielded power as a full time cleric and administrator of a widespread institutional domain. He was Board Chairman of the Cuttington University College, an Episcopal institution that has not only produced some of Liberia's best professionals and statesmen, but also served as a center of student activism. Archbishop Browne was faced with the challenge of upholding this religion-academic credibility image and at the same time expected to console the government. Bishop Brown had himself inspired admiration over the years for his stance against injustice in Liberia. But people thought the unprecedented intrusion of the army in national politics had emasculated the Bishop or he was inhibited by rumors relating to his liberal association with some members of his Church. In the LCC meeting with Doe, Browne said killing innocent people was not the way to help the same people, and so the Liberian Council of Churches did indeed condemn the rebels. When it came to government's behavior in the war, the Bishop vaguely alluded to the excesses and said the churchmen were only expressing concern about the losses of lives. No blame. He then quickly injected the concept of dialogue, as an alternative the rebel could use instead of violence. The context of dialogue in the Bishop's remarks gave the impressions that the Episcopal leader was hoping that the word would have helped in portraying the Church as a moral authority seeking peace and not blindly supporting the government.

..........................

The prelates were not destined to monopolize group response in the rapidly growing crisis. Professional politician Gabriel Baccus Matthews was quick to declare that his United People's Party (UPP) was against any effort to destabilize the country and "undermine the constitution" of Liberia.  Baccus always prided himself with being a grassroots politician who remained on the ground to tackle problems, and despised rivals like Togba-Nah Tipoteh and Amos Sawyer, who he said should not stay abroad and fight. He did not spare the opportunity to once again caution those in exile against "lawless ways to solve problems, and wait for the l991 general elections." As a little spice for public consumption, he called on the government to respect the rights of those captured.

The UPP leader's credibility as an independent force had begun dwindling by the time the war erupted. Doe was encouraging his former Foreign Minister to shun other opposition parties and work with the NDPL government. Doe knew that Matthews' profile, as a street politician, was annoying to parties like the Liberia People's Party, which grouped intellectual activists like Tipoteh, Fahnbulleh and Sawyer. These University professors with their doctoral degrees from reputable universities in the United States could easily secure jobs internationally, why Baccus, with only a worn-out bachelor degree in political science seemed doomed to groping on homegrown resources. Under this environment, and with his range of financial and political resources, Doe did not take too long to adopt Baccus and his UPP group as the opposition that was to be tolerated in the upcoming l991 elections. Sawyer, Tipoteh, Fahnbulleh, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other opposition leaders were effectively living in exile in the United States and Europe. Both Doe and Matthew wanted the political goal limited to a ruling NDPL and an opposition UPP. The constitutional clause of disqualifying presidential aspirants who did not live in Liberia for ten consecutive years stood as a waiting tool for the exiles. Gabriel Kpolleh's Liberia Unification Party and Edward Kesselly's Unity Party were part of the local recipe Doe decided to integrate in his NDPL menu. That plan evidently failed. Kpolleh was out there languishing in jail on the usual treason sedition charges Liberian governments have unsparingly used to decimate political opponents. Soon a weary Kpolleh would be released and the generous offer of cooperation would be made.

With Kesselly heavily depending on the Mandingo and Muslim constituencies, twenty percent of the Liberian population (CIA fact book), Doe calculated that my involvement with the NDPL would undercut UP. The only risk in this calculation was that I did not have an NDPL membership party card, even though I was a member of the Cabinet.  I had not finished my consultations as to whether I should become a member of NDPL or any other political party. 

.........

Tipoteh said he was speaking on behalf of the Association of Constitutional Democracy, another acronym in the series adopted by the professors to rally public support since the advent of the Doe Administration. While this US based ad hoc body listed Amos Sawyer, Momo Rogers, etc, on its letterhead as officials and members, Dr. Tipoteh's name was conspicuously non-existent in the list. And yet he was in London giving a press conference on behalf of the ACDL. The truth of the matter was that bitter internal rivalry was taking a toll on the intellectual politicians as well. Tolbert regarded Sawyer as the most moderate in the group while Tipoteh, Fahnbulleh and Dew Mason were seen as the slogan-chanting extremists. Tipoteh projected a more forceful and popular impression, often moving outside of the intellectual circle to cater to labor union members and farmers in rural Liberia. Sawyer was shy and tactical.  He was  often seen   as the safest choice among the radical  group that anyone could  deal with. President Tolbert often appointed Sawyer on committees to show impartiality in policy development processes. And even Doe used Sawyer in a similar role when the professor was appointed chairman of the Committee to revise the Liberian constitution in l984. Supporters of Sawyer argued that he was indeed a better personality that could attract confidence outside of the group. The Tipoteh,  Sawyer, Fahnbulleh rivalry went full blast in the l997 post war elections when each man distinctively lined in opposing parties, Sawyer again initially pretending that he was supporting Tipoteh in a budding multiparty alliance that eventually collapsed. Fahnbulleh was considered as the most consistent.

---------------------------------------

.....I left Buchanan later that afternoon with little assurance that the AFL was going to succeed. Interestingly, when I got out of Grand Bassa, along the route to Monrovia, I ran into a small convoy of AFL officers and soldiers led by Brig. Gen. Edward Smith, who had led the first government counterattacks in Nimba. General Smith asked where I was coming from, and I told him Buchanan. I remembered he was accompanied by the US military attache in Monrovia. The attache specifically asked me whether the rebels had not reached Buchanan. And the look on his face did not seem like somebody who was afraid of  rebels entering the city. It was more of a curiosity and General Smith's men were heavily armed as if though they had already gotten information that the rebels were in Buchanan. So they were relieved when they saw me coming out of there as a civilian making no alarm. That was an interesting situation that left me wondering what was going on.

..................................

THE Seeds of  ULIMO

I had just returned to Monrovia from the United States via Dakar, Senegal. I was out there investigating whether we could find a mobile radio transmitter that would have the power of covering the entire nation and be imported to Liberia. On the flight home, I met with the former powerful director of police, Edwin Smythe, commonly known as 'Bob" in Monrovia. He was a well-lubricated scion of the Tubman elite era, but was strangely in good books with the ghetto communities in Monrovia. He seemed to have combined a symbolism of a tough police chief with a character that virtually made him a friend to small time offenders and hustlers of the Monrovia back streets.

On the flight, Bob looked visibly shaken and was naturally curious to know what he was returning to in Monrovia. He inquired from me about the latest development back home, but I could not assure him of safety, based on information I had. For sure, however, I told him I was definitely returning home. From there, I lost sight of Bob during our overnight transit in Dakar, Senegal. I learned Bob continued the journey home but shortly after went back to the United States before  Monrovia erupted into battle flames. He died of natural causes a couple of years later.

When I met President Doe to report the outcome of the trip, the broadcast plan was no longer a priority. Perhaps the heat of the battle up country ironically undermined the President's sensitivity to the need to launch a counteroffensive media campaign against the advancing rebels. I was told to "wait yet." With all of that, I was not actually convinced that the rebels would have succeeded, or at least that was naturally my wishful desire. I knew that the most critical moment was still ahead in the war. The rebels seemed determined to capture Monrovia, and the government was poised to resist the collapse of the government at all cost.

I returned to Monrovia from the United States and......later went to Conakry, Guinea to sympathize with friends who had gone there following the death of an important dear one. ....I asked President Doe's permission to attend the ceremonies, and that became the beginning of the external elements that ultimately led to the formation of ULIMO.

In Guinea, I was shocked and sad to see that thousands of Liberians had poured into the Guinean capital. The majority of them were Liberian Mandingoes and their families from various other ethnic groups. Nevertheless the non-Mandingo configuration of the escapees was dramatically changing. At the Liberian Embassy ground, which became an instant shelter, I saw hundreds of Krahns and other groups that were continuously pouring in from Monrovia. The Guinean countryside, known as the "Forestiere" near the Liberian border, was already inundated with several hundred thousand Liberians.

It had a severe impact on me. For the first time, I saw the effect of the war outside of the country. The traditionally proud Liberians had instantly become homeless and beggars in a neighboring country, that they rarely visited. Leaving other relatives behind either missing or killed was even more unbearable. I quickly learned Sierra Leone, Liberia's neighbor to the west, had equally become an involuntary sanctuary for thousands of fleeing Liberians. The story was the same in the Ivory Coast.

.........Ordinary Liberians became even more frantic in leaving Liberia. If officials were leaving in droves, it meant there was little hope for the populace, particularly in Monrovia. The regular Air Guinea flight became a multiple daily shuttle in pandemonium. There was only one aircraft with the capacity of about 75 to 100 passengers. Obtaining a seat on the flight degenerated into physical fights at the Spriggs Payne Airport just outside Monrovia. Flight safety was no longer an issue. Seats were actually removed and people sat on the floor of the plane to make the 45-minute flight to Conakry. The aircraft returned to Monrovia empty and brought back to Conakry, human and luggage all in a bundle.

The experience in Conakry narrowed and sharpened my vision of the options available in rescuing our country from total rebel takeover and the attendant establishment of a draconian bloody rule. I was curious about whether the Guinean government was preparing to intervene and stop the rebels. This help was implied several weeks earlier by Guinean President Lansana Conte's visit to Monrovia along with his Sierra Leone counterpart, Joseph Momo.

My presence in Conakry was private, and it was therefore difficult to access officials who could reliably indicate the precise government military disposition on the situation in Liberia. I visited Liberian Ambassador Marcus Koffa many times to inquire, but he could not ascertain any specific decision from the Guinean authorities.

The dilemma for me at that point was to rejoin the government in Monrovia,  demonstrating that I did not abandon the government, and at the same time indicate to my  refugee family members in Conakry that I was not abandoning them deliberately voluntarily exposing myself to death. I actually packed a small piece of luggage and started contemplating on how to approach the family on this matter. It was a shocking relief to me that Thursday morning, June 15, when my wife asked how I felt being in Conakry "when some of your colleagues are still in Monrovia and the government has not fallen." I had already bought a ticket, and with bag packed, I was at the Gbessia airport in no time. The pilots and crew of Air Guinea did not only think I was going crazy by returning to Monrovia, but they actually said it out loud to me. I was their only passenger when we arrived in Monrovia that morning to the amazement of the crowd waiting to begin their usual rush to get onboard the plane.

It was at the airport that I discovered that my name had been actively added to the list of officials who had abandoned the government and fled. Security officials and some of my fellow employees I met at the airport explained to me that even the President had begun to feel that I ran away. Close friends at the airport took me aside and quietly advised that I get back on the flight and return to Conakry, as there was no hope for the government.

The aura of Monrovia certainly spelt doom. There was talk that the rebels had taken over the important port city of Buchanan, the local capital of Grand Bassa County, and they had also virtually taken over the central Bong County. The fall of these strategic counties not far from Monrovia would mean the virtual collapse of the government. Without immediate foreign military intervention, the government would have had to come up with a miraculous plan to reverse the worsening military equation.

When I returned to work the next day, I was told that one of my two deputies could not be on the job that day because he was ill. The employees told me further that the Deputy actually was staying away because he was in the midst of the rumor mill that I was not coming back home. I felt that this and the nature of the reception the airport adequately prepared me to meet with President Doe that afternoon. But it was one of the bitter days of the war for the President.

-------------------

The Liberian Ambassador to Sierra Leone, retired Major General Albert Karpeh, was waiting to see the President. As usual, top officials waiting to see the President sat in the office of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, next door to the President. Karpeh and I were the only two scheduled to see the President at that moment. Karpeh was considered one of the country's highly trained army officers. Before being appointed as Minister of Defense in l982, Karpeh had undergone advanced training abroad, including one that qualified him as a military 'ranger' in the United States. . Karpeh had an uneasy relationship with Doe. During his tenure as Minister, Karpeh's brother was executed for alleged involvement in a coup against President Doe. In fact, it was widely believed that Doe appointed Karpeh Ambassador to keep him away from the army and home.

As in every Liberian setting at that time, the topic of our discussion was of course the war. And Karpeh was not happy with the tactics the Armed Forces of Liberia was deploying in the war. He felt the guerrilla combat methods of the insurgents had to be dealt with in a superior tactical approach and not through the conventional war approach the AFL was carrying on. From our talk, I was left with the impression that Karpeh was willing to assume the command of the war and wanted for Doe to give him that opportunity. I personally did not feel that it would have been a bad idea. Karpeh was ushered into the President's office, and spent less than thirty minutes. I did not have the chance for debriefing. I was immediately asked to meet with the President. The next time I saw Karpeh was in November when he came to visit me in Conakry from Sierra Leone.

The meeting with Doe was short. He seemed relieved to have seen me, as if my presence was somehow a renewed hope that the government would not fall. Otherwise, why would I come back to Monrovia knowing all the things I knew outside of the country? Our conversation concentrated on the need for possible external intervention to help the government. While in Conakry, I had managed to see President Conte just before I left. The Guinean leader told me that the Liberian government had not made any official request and that President Doe indicated that he could handle the situation. When I relayed this to Doe, he was visibly upset. "What did he want me to say. I beg you, come help us. It is clear that this is an invasion which calls for intervention from Guinea under the military agreement between our two countries," Doe exclaimed. I then suggested that an official request be made to the Guinean government outlining the circumstances of the war, and establishing the ground for invoking the military pact. Doe told me to draft the document immediately at the Mansion and prepare to take it to President Conte.

Two hours later, the "special message" was completed, with the help of the Mansion staff. Doe had left office and gone upstairs to his living quarters. I was instructed to meet him there. Upon arrival, I saw Doe keenly attentive to the BBC focus program again with Taylor swearing that he would never allow him to remain as President. "I will hold that boy's feet to the fire until he can get out of that Mansion. This is not one of those disorganized coup operations Doe is used to. We are coming," Taylor went on. Doe and I exchanged looks and it was indeed embarrassing to be seated with a President, that was being insulted on international media by a former crony, and was left helpless to do anything about it. This is where my simmering decision to face the ultimate task in organizing a resistant movement, if peace efforts failed, started turning to a vision of reality. It was at that moment that I said something to Doe that continued to echo in my ears from the last day I left him, throughout the war, and up to the writing of this book. I asked Doe whether the AFL could actually stop the rebels. He frankly told me that he was worried that the government soldiers were not accustomed to guerrilla warfare, and had not been involved in actual war. His only hope was to wait for the rebels in Monrovia, where he thought he would have the upper hand with the high concentration of men and military largesse. I then said to Doe: ".............. We the civilians cannot continue to die lying down. What will posterity say? What will our children say?"

The following day when I came to bid the President farewell on my way to deliver the special message to Conte, I could not meet him. The Executive Mansion was gripped with an ominous sense of grief and despair. The commander of the government contingent in Bassa, Col. Appleton, had been brutally killed by the rebels, and it was now confirmed that the rebels had taken over the whole of Grand Bassa County. They were now on their way to Monrovia, just 75 miles away. I met Joe Taye, a  cousin and confidante of the President. And even he was told to go home, as the President did not want to see anyone. That was not the only problem for the President that day. Various civic groups had organized massive demonstrations in the streets of Monrovia with placards calling for dialogue and peace. The parade quickly turned into a clearly anti-Doe campaign, when a number of other groups joined and began shouting, "Monkey come down," a call for Doe to resign.

I left for Guinea via road through Cape Mount County and Sierra Leone. Air Guinea had just taken off in its last flight from Monrovia, in fear that the rebels would hit Monrovia anytime. My journey through the government roadblocks exposed the extent of the distrust, mistrust and anger the soldiers and security personnel had developed against government officials. I had to literally display the special message I was carrying in order to be allowed through the checkpoints. I had a copy of the message, which I had to read in some instances at some of the checkpoints. I told them that I was going for possible help, which could include air support. .......... Throughout the  trip on those seriously impaired roads in the Sierra Leone forest, I could not just understand that in just a few months Liberia had become international headlines for not only a war effort to unseat a government, but for inhumane and brutal acts against civilians. When would it stop? What were the responsibilities of individuals who had one time or the other been activists or intellectuals advocating the observance of human rights. I recalled my student days and scanned the rest of my life. Everything appeared meaningless if we did not pick the challenge of resistance against the rebels.  

It was difficult to deliver the special message to President Conte. The Liberian Ambassador was told to wait as the President was on a brief rest vacation in Dubreka, his hometown some twenty miles from Conakry. A follow-up delegation from Monrovia, headed by Defense Minister Boima Barclay met me at the Embassy and expressed concern about the delay in my mission. When we finally met President Conte, it was too late. The rebels had actually taken over most of the country, and the Economic Community of West African States was now trying to organize a peacekeeping force that would also include Guinea. In the end, the military pact between Guinea and Liberia remained mute. The focus shifted to the role of ECOMOG, as the rebel spree now became indiscriminate and rampant.. 

.................................................

 Commandant (Major) Facine Toure delivered a message to me from President Conte, which I considered rather cold at the time. Minister of the strategic Ministry of Public Works and Transport and a former foreign Minister, Toure was a powerful member of Guinea's ruling military Council. He was a fellow coup-maker and confidante of Conte. Toure (no relations to the late President Sekou Toure of Guinea) was officially put in charge of Liberian affairs, and he led delegations to see President Doe in the last days of the government. It was through Facine I was trying to obtain an appointment with the President. When the appointment could not be secured, I requested Facine Toure to relay our concerns to the President and help convince him to assist us in the development of a citizen militia as a supplement by the subregion to contain the NPFL violence. My colleagues and I had no doubt that Minister Toure had sufficient clout to convince President Conte. The Minister told us how he was concerned about the crisis in Liberia and narrated his personal experience when he went to Monrovia to deliver his government's final position to President Doe. The Minister said his government was actually conceding that it was too late for Doe to solve the problem militarily and therefore other options, including leaving the country, should be considered. Facine said Doe lit a cigarette, got up from his seat and paced briefly behind the seated Minister and returned to his seat, and slummed his head in meditation for a few seconds. Doe then raised his head and told Facine that it was not the question of remaining as President of Liberia. It was a question of whether what Taylor and his internal and external supporters were inflicting on Liberians would not have an effect on stability in the West African subregion. Facine said Doe's statement had a tremendous effect on him, and as a result, he decided to end his discussion with the President. Facine said he left Liberia with the distinct impression that Doe was a courageous man, prepared to give up his life for something he truly believes. .....................

With that, the Minister assured us he would do everything to convey our request to his leader. We were therefore disheartened when Facine returned and said: "President Conte says you should thank God you have survived the war, and should now see how to move on with your life as a refugees." Conte said Guinea could not support nor help to organize any militia as his country had been officially enlisted in the peacekeeping arrangement of ECOMOG. From there, it was clear  that Guinea could not be the venue from which we could launch a military resistance against the NPFL. The killings continued in Liberia while we  sat in the neighboring countries helplessly...........

President Momo

In our morning meeting with President Momo, Mr. Brownell, Oldman Gumba, Mr. Williams and I expressed gratitude for the reception given the Liberian refugees who were still pouring into the country,....... We then told Momo that we were concerned about the invasion of his country, and were prepared to bring up to 2000 additional men to hasten the eviction of the rebels from Sierra Leone. The president excitedly welcomed our proposition and requested us to meet with Force Commander Trawally and staff the next day to work out the details. That evening at Paramount Hotel, we celebrated the event without a sleep throughout the night. But alas, the turn of events proved that our celebration was simply premature.

........................

More in the book, including how ULIMO was organized, entrance into Liberia, battles against the NPFL, the secret discussions in the African capitals, the roles of the leaders of Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Togo, the United Nations missions, International and national NGO's, How Taylor's headquarters was captured, Why and How Taylor returned, the politics of the war, including the effect of the BBC Focus on Africa program, the activities of the Interim governments, the 1997 elections, the  ECOMOG conspiracy against the author, the Krahn - Interim government battle of Monrovia, the Executive Mansion assassination attempt on Taylor, the Sankawulo and Tamba Tailor affairs, the Geneva meeting, the Tom Ikimi-Taylor marriage suspicion, etc. 

Publication of this book is expected before the end of 2008.

 

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