The Mandingo Factor in the Liberian Civil War
By Varfley Dolleh
Posted July 26, 2008
The "Factor" is a series of articles written in five parts below, each with a Title, focusing on the impact of the war on the Mandingo ethnic group of Liberia and how this group met the challenges of their plight. These articles were first published on the Liberian Orbit web magazine in late 2002. The author, Varfley Dolleh, holds a bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of Liberia, and once served as a legislator from Lofa County in the Transitional Government of Liberia.
The Mandingo Factor in the Liberian Civil War:
A Balance of Power Calculus
The Internet and recent books are loaded with whatís supposed to be accounts of the seven-year Liberian civil war, which began 1989. But we have seen in most cases that these accounts are not a reflection of what actually happened. Players and eyewitnesses therefore have the obligation to posterity to narrate the real story. One such statement of reality has to do with the ethnic tragedy that dominated the conflict.
Some say 150,000 and others say 200,000-250,000 people died in the war. While the exact figure of the casualties of the war and the method of arriving at a number are yet to be established, posterity will realize that the Mandingoes were the most victimized during the course of the entire war. They were the first and largest unarmed target of the invading rebels of Charles Taylorís so-called National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
The Mandingoesí adherence to the principle of peaceful co-existence and refusing to be rebellious against the government culminated in their mass persecution and execution. They were butchered, starting from the town of Butuo in the east, to Monrovia in the west, and Barkedu in the north of Liberia and up to every corner of the country. It is an open secret that Mr. Taylor and his sponsors, a couple of whom are now aspiring for the presidency, masterminded and directly ordered the killing of the Mandingoes.
I do not wish to dig up memories of the ugly past, but distortions of the events and the gross underreporting of the plight of the Mandingoes propel me to testify that this ethnic group was systematically killed in all forms and shapes unprecedented in the history of Liberia. Their homes were set ablaze; properties confiscated while thousands of sisters were enslaved and abused throughout the rule of the NPFL.í
The NPFL overall commander, Gen. Isaac Messan (Musa), now an advisor to President Charles Taylor, said something to a US Time Magazine reporter it is hard to forget. When asked about the Mandingoes who were fleeing from NPFL destruction in Kakata some 45 miles away from Monrovia, he said, "they have completely run away, and for those who could not run, we killed them like chicken."
With tears pouring out of my eyes as I pen these realities, it is mournful to note that in my home town of Barkedu, Lofa County, the NPFL did attack this historical center and slaughtered over six hundred persons in cold blood. I can vividly remember how the town people, including the elderly, women, vulnerable children, and renowned scholars were all assembled under the "Palaver Hut" on that fateful Thursday and told that they were equated to dogs and were in alliance with the late President Samuel Doe.
Amidst cries, my brother, the late Mohammed Dolleh, who happened to have left Monrovia and was in the town at the time, served as the interpreter and spokesperson for those innocent and peaceful people. The Mandingo elders presented five thousand dollars, plus five cows to welcome the "strangers."
Before my brother could finish his first statement, Mr. Taylorís forces began slaughtering the people. My brother was the first to be eliminated, followed by our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and even some of the livestock. As the killing spree went on, the rebels were forced to resort to point-blank execution because their knives became dull. What an abominable and heinous crime against humanity!
As people ran amok for their lives, the remaining people who were wounded and unable to escape were buried alive and the town set ablaze. With the pandemonium unfolding, many young women were taken as hostage and abused. Their breasts were later slashed off and set free while others were thrown in crocodile infested rivers.
For the sake of the reading public, it is only logical to note that what is being catalogued is only a synopsis of atrocities committed against the Mandingoes. You will note that the killing spree did not end in Lofa County. Thousands were killed in Monrovia, Fendel, Kakata, Gbarnga and the entire Country with impunity. In fact, direct orders were given to kill every Mandingo, including the unborn fetus. Thousands of gates were erected and the stomachs of pregnant Mandingoes were cut open. At Gbah in Grand Cape Mount County, "Gbah Ray," the NPFL Commander, could "smellí Mandingoes from several miles. At his "Kangaroo Gate" and at other "Mandingo Gates" thousands were killed.
These are the facts, and nothing but the facts, some have conveniently left out when talking about atrocities of the Liberian war. Mandingoes constituted the majority of the one or two hundred thousands killed, if the exact number is ever established.
It must also be noted that the religious rights of most Mandingoes as Muslims were violated with impunity. Despite efforts by advocates to impartially interpret the secular nature of Liberia as enshrined with in the constitution of Liberia, the practice never changed. The organic law of the land guarantees freedom of religion, and emphasizing that no religious denomination or sect shall have any special privilege, and the country shall not establish any state religion.
Personally, I do not believe in hardcore religious dogma. I am liberal when it comes to worshiping the Omnipotent God as a Muslim, and I believe religion is a matter of personal conviction. And as our constitution says, no one should be subjected to tyranny because of his faith. The NPFL violated this principle.
The subsequent military involvement of the Mandingoes in the civil war may therefore be seen as a "Balance of Power Calculus" that had the effect of serving notice to the aggressors that wanton destruction could not continue unchallenged.
It is public knowledge in Liberia that prior to the War, introduced by Mr. Taylor and his foreign mentor Moammar Khadafi of Libya, Mandingoes lived side by side with their fellow Liberians throughout the length and breadth of the country in harmony. Mandingoes were considered one of the most peaceful and law-abiding groups in Liberia.
The respect for neighbor and the law is based on the moral upbringing and resolute commitment of the Mandingoes in building a vibrant society. This wasnít a manifestation of weakness as was construed by many political manipulators and those ignorant of the history and culture of the Mandingoes. In fact, most Mandingoes are traditionally involved in commerce, and seldom worked for the government. They nevertheless gave honor to those honor was due, respect to all, and abuse to none. They contributed to development programs affecting the social economic formation of our common patrimony. What an allegiance to oneís own Country! Instead of this serving as an impetus for co-existence, the rebels and some of their compatriots took the Mandingoes for granted.
Why did Taylor and his killing machine attack the Mandingoes? It is imperative to note that "Political Idealism" was the foundation under which Mandingoes conducted affairs in pre-war Liberia. This political paradigm gives credence to morality and compassion in all of our social and political endeavors. With this philosophy, it wasnít a surprise that the Mandingoes didnít give Mr. Taylor a heroic welcome in his criminal and malicious destruction, which has always been used as one of the reasons for the attack on the Mandingoes during the inception of the condemnable civil war.
Objective political analysts will agree that the hypothesis formulated by the Mandingoes in refusing to join the NPFL has been justified with the glaring destruction of Liberia and the ungodly murdering of thousands of people in cold blood. What a crime and how long can this continue!
Today, all should now see why Mandingoes refused to join Mr. Taylor. Donít you think that it was the most prudent and justifiable option? Even with gun at my throat I will admit that it was the best decision with not regret, though my people paid the ultimate price.
Indeed, it was a well-organized and orchestrated attempt to exterminate the Mandingoes, failing to know that the right to self-defense is a fundamental God-given right that cannot be compromised.
Armed Resistance as Last Resort:
Massacre of the Mandingoes
Deciphering credible pieces of information and pin-pointing the nature of the abomination committed against the Mandingoes during the Liberian civil war will fall short unless we gauge the tangible factors that necessitated the Mandingoes subscribing to the "Realist Paradigm," necessitating armed resistance as a last resort.
As we pointed out in Part I, it is not our purpose to revisit the pains of yesterday. But if we must be fair to posterity, we cannot allow the facts of history to suffer as we see today in the Internet and other deliberately or innocently misleading publications, nor should we allow the truth to be corrupted by prejudice, avarice nor unsavory political objectives. It is a national and solemn obligation that we give a genuine picture of events. It is from this platform that the untold tragedy of Liberian Mandingoes during the civil war must be fully told.
And as one looks at how the enormity and visibility of the Mandingo tragedy could have escaped the vociferous media, it seemed as if though some sort of national conspiracy had been hatched to persecute, dehumanize and kill Mandingoes. Many among the public kept silent while the media underreported the killings of Mandingoes by Charles Taylorís NPFL rebel forces. There was the general notion that the NPFL was hunting only the Mandingoes, besides the Krahns.
The nation soon realized that the virus of ethnic cleansing was spreading in unprecedented speed, as the killers accused and killed non-Mandingoes who looked like or worshiped like the mostly Islamic Mandingoes. Many people of the Vai tribe, predominantly Muslims, were killed. It was a crime that the Vais, who are ethnically and linguistically related to the Mandingoes, had to die because they carried popular "Mandingo names" such as Seku, Salia, Kromah, Kamara, Hawa, and the list goes on. It is true that Mandingoes had to change their names, calling themselves Peter, Johnson, or Brumskine in order to avoid being killed by the NPFL.
It was evident that the NPFL leader was using indigenous people to reduce their own majority population. Though Taylor did not represent the "finest" of the Americo-Liberians who ruled the country for 133 years until the 1980 coup of indigenous soldiers, he was clearly on a mission of vengeance, to restore the oligarchy with himself this time at the head. That the Mandingoes were the first targets, looking at their century-old record of resistance in Africa, provided little surprise to historians. Reasons for the NPFL killing Mandingoes included the excuse that they were pointing out rebels, who in the first place began eliminating Mandingoes in Tiaplay and Gborplay in Nimba on the first day of the invasion from the Ivory Coast. Why does the police in the United States ask that 911 be dialed for emergency. If all the Mandingoes did to deserve massive annihilation in all parts of Liberia was to point out those who first killed them upon arrival, then more grease to those who complain about any other kind of tragedy experienced during the war, and to those who justify Taylorís coming to dethrone Samuel Doe.
It is both a national and universal reality, that even when a chicken is facing death, it will attempt resisting. This is a fundamental principle that is applicable to every being. Being cognizant of this fact, coupled with the reality that a whole nation was being systematically put under the tyrannical control of one individual who had a not-so-hidden plan to enslave the indigenous population of Liberia, the Mandingoes had no alternative but to resist to this unholy and despicable crime.
Accordingly, opinion leaders from the oppressed met and agreed unanimously that we fight back in self-defense, which gave birth to a new thrust in the lives of our people giving them courageous hope. This dream invigorated the mind and spirit of every Mandingo in Liberia, West Africa and every other part of the globe. It was like a dam that had been broken under opposite pressure. What was of paramount concern was the emancipation of the oppressed Mandingoes. And anyone who had a track record of national leadership among the Mandingoes, such as Alhaji Kromah and his peers, was encouraged to take on the responsibility. This dream remains fresh amidst the atrocities being committed against us Mandingoes, even today.
The series of inhumane incidents at the beginning of the seven-year conflict in 1989/90 pointed to the inevitability of the Mandingo resistance. I can vividly recall when the NPFL massacred more than 300 Mandingoes in Bahn, Nimba County, where they had taken refuge at a public high school, the survivors wanted to acquire single-barrel riffles. The late President Samuel Doe initially accepted this idea, but following the heinous machination by some of the paid agents of Mr. Taylor, the President bowed out and refused to allow the issuance of arms to the Mandingoes. This was one of the worst mistakes on the part of Doe, leading to the killing of over a thousand Mandingoes in the Bahn surrounding, and the area being overrun by Taylor forces. Some say if the Mandingoes had been armed at that early stage, the NPFL would have been a miscarriage in its pregnant tracks.
Indeed, the Mandingoes were also a victim of suspicion and deceit even in the Doe government, for which they were being persecuted. This was probably due to the aggressiveness they showed in wanting to defend themselves. There was stiff opposition when the President ordered that Mandingoes be recruited in the Armed Forces of Liberia so that they wouldnít have had to organize a militia group by themselves as they had requested. Some told Doe this would have been a mistake. They even went back narrating the stories of the ancient West African Mandingo empires of Songhay and Mali, ruled by Sundiata Keita and Mansa Musa. They told Doe that soon after quashing the Taylor rebellion, the Mandingoes would remove the government. Hundreds of already recruited Mandingoes were suddenly discharged from the army. By the time the decision was reversed under the pressure of the rapidly advancing NPFL and INPFL forces for Monrovia, it was too late. Thousands of Mandingoes, and other ethnic people, were already on the run to neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Objectively analyzing the trend of event you will note that the military preparedness of the Mandingoes was not an over night venture, but a protracted event based on the level of risk to life and political betrayal. Though like the Lormas, Kissis, Manos, Mendes, Gios, Krahns and many other tribes found in the neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast, the thousands of Mandingoes who left the country of their nativity found it difficult to wallow in shame as refugees and displaced people. Thanks to their hosts, whose hospitality was undermined when the NPFL attacked Kailahun and Zimmi in Sierra Leone, and the towns of Jomandu and Mansadou, killing over one thousand Mandingoes that were involved in farming in the Guinean towns. This became the most decisive moment for the entry of the Mandingoes in the war. Earlier, the Guinean Government was requested to help, looking at the cross border attacks, but the Guineans refused to allow anyone use their country as launching pad for attack on Liberia.
The situation was different in Sierra Leone. The NPFL, which had converted itself into the so-called Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh, had quickly taken the areas bordering Liberia, and was visibly moving to unseat the government of President Joseph Momo in Freetown. Most of the Mandingo and Krahn refugees were in Kenema, headquarters of the southeastern district that bordered Liberiaís Capemount County. The Sierra Leone government accepted the offer by the Krahns and Mandingoes to take up arms and push away the rebels that had followed them from Liberia. This was the beginning of the Liberian United Defense Force, which later became ULIMO.
The principle of the logic that "the enemy of my friend is my enemy" was embraced and upheld. Thousands of Mandingoes from all walks of life came to join the militia group. This was the beginning of the training of many of the contemporary Mandingoes. Mandingo refugees poured in from Guinea and the rest of the West African Sub-region.
It was a matter of life and death that even those Mandingoes who didnít have any idea in warfare learned the art as in the case of the Israelis in the aftermath of the genocide against them by the Germans. Thousands of Mandingoes capitalized on opportunity and joining the struggle for the total emancipation of not only the Mandingo tribe, but also other Liberians and West Africa as a whole.
Gradually, Sierra Leone was liberated and most parts of Liberia were freed, ending the "In control of 99% territory" rationale the NPFL was using to invite international recognition as a legitimate government. One can only wonder what would have happened if Taylor had been left to militarily take over the entire nation and set up a government without even the 1997 semblance of the democratic process. Indeed, I donít feel boastful if I say that the Mandingo intervention was a selfless and heroic act. I am happy that generations to come will know that their brothers and sisters, although paid the hard price, laid a positive edifice that they will build upon. Never again will anyone willfully and illegally kill Mandingoes or anyone for that matter in Liberia and think they can get away with it. Our efforts were intended to bring about an enabling atmosphere of security and political opportunity for all, but as it turned out even after the elections, Liberia is still looking for its bearing.
The peaceful demeanor and culture of tolerance exhibited by the Mandingoes led to their suffering and easy targeting when the war broke out in Liberia. The initial and still constrained acknowledgement of what the Mandingoes went through during the war has been part of the overall attitude in and out of Liberia that has contributed to the present reign of insecurity for all in Liberia. The political will had not been sufficiently developed by Liberians and the "International Community" in acting collectively for all victims in the Liberian conflict. Thank God today, concerns are being expressed about the plight of Liberians by Liberians and the international community irrespective of their ethnic or religious background. The show of solidarity and sympathy for Hassan Bility and the other Mandingoes currently detained by the Charles Taylor government is progress.
AS long as we as Liberians feel that some people must be left out when we talk about democracy and the rule of law; as long as we donít recognize the contribution of each other; as long as we donít realize that in diversity lies strength; as long as we donít learn the lessons of the Liberian conflict, it will be impossible to get to the promised land. Justice for all is the way to go. There has never been democracy in Liberia, because true democracy does not exclude its constituents. If we dwell only on the tragedy of one group and rationalize the destruction of another, our journey to freedom and progress will remain a cruel illusion. Let us make progress.
LOFA Debacle: An Analysis of Contending Claims
The Mandingo Factor
As the unfolding controversy regarding the destruction of Lofa County continues amidst claims and counterclaims of the various actors, it becomes a compelling duty to unearth the roles of the feuding parties, especially using as a case study, the Mandingoes who participated in the war in self-defense and are one of the eight original tribes of the county.
As a direct witness to many of the events during the war, I have been reading with utmost consternation, insinuation being made by a few of my fellow Lofa citizens, without any in-depth investigation and for purely political reasons, that the Mandingoes through the ULIMO warring faction, were responsible for the destruction of the county. I am taken aback by this unsuccessful campaign to discredit the heroic stance of the Mandingoes who did not only help to save fellow Lofa citizens from destruction, but also helped to halt the destructive forces of Charles Taylorís so-called National Patriotic Front in many parts of the country.
The early decision of the Mandingoes, one of the early victims of the war, to stand aggressively against Taylor was evidently the right decision, as we can see what has become of Liberia today under Taylor. It was and is still Mr. Taylorís plan to particularly eliminate the Mandingoes, whom he fears. The number of innocent Mandingo citizens in jail today as attested to even by Amnesty International can attest to this.
In Lofa County, history is replete with unquestionable pieces of evidence that Mandingoes and other tribes lived side by side in peace prior to the war. There were interactions with our Lorma compatriots in all spheres of human interactions. There were joint military expeditions to protect common enemies of the Lormas and Mandingoes in the area now known as Voinjama District today. But the political proclivities of certain individuals from the county along with the inciting to war of some Lofa citizens by the Interim Government in Monrovia at the start of the war targeted the Mandingoes.
As we examine claims in the past several months on destruction in Lofa, as particularly alleged by one of the elderly Lofa citizens, E. Sumo Jones, it is amazing how the role of the NPFL has never come under attack. If one were to rely on his accusations made on the Internet, one would think the NPFL went to Lofa County to deliver paradise. People like Mr. Jones completely ignored what the NPFL did to Lofa, despite some of our fellow Lofa citizens quickly aligned with Taylor and opened up a training camp in Voinjama for the NPFL, producing more than 2000 fighters for Taylor as early as 1991, according to top Lofa citizens in their own account spelt out in an official statement.
In the statement presented by a committee of officials on March 5, 1991 in the City of Voinjama to "Major Charles Ghankay Taylor, Chairman and President of the NPFA government," the Lofa citizens headed by Chief Tamba Tailor confessed about their disappointment in the atrocious character of the NPFL fighters. The committee said, "Mr. Chairman and President of the National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly, it is sad to state that since that fateful day of July 14, 1990,(when the NPFL fully established their presence in Lofa) the climate of activities prevailing in the county has compelled us to bear mixed-feelings." In the statement to Taylor, which was signed by Hon. Augustine Zaizay, Joseph K. Kabbah, James K. Morlu, Cecelia Quiemorlu, Robert Bolay, William T. Jallah and Hon. Philip S. Tamba, County Administrator at the time among others, the citizens pointed out the following:
It is surprising that these accounts, which were distributed among the refugees in Guinea and everywhere else, have never been mentioned by people like Mr. Sumo Jones. Although the NPFL from the onset had planed to kill the Mandingoes and then move on with their general destruction as narrated by the Lofa citizens in their statement, the Mandingo treatment was in consonance with some anti-Mandingo elements, of which Mr. Jones is of no exception. As the saying goes, "If your house doesnít sell you, the street wonít buy you".
Mr. Jones in his parade on the web does not mention how 2000 mostly Lorma young men were trained as NPFL fighters as revealed by his fellow Lofans to Taylor. If these fighters came to fight the Mandingoes in ULIMO and lost, would you call that "atrocity?" Certainly our civilian relatives from all sides were killed during these battles, incidents that cannot be painted as deeds of Mandingoes.
The citizens presenting the statement to Taylor made specific mention of the exiling of the Mandingoes, which had become a concern to them during their presentation. They talked about the notorious commander of the NPFL in Lofa County, one Gonkarnue Mehnaquinagbay, who was notorious for the killing of Mandingoes, in addition to his looting of their properties and the infrastructures of the County.
It is politically superficial that Mr. Jones would find solace in failing to address the root causes of the Mandingoes involvement in the war. Apart, he falls short in unearthing his role in the formation of the Lofa Defense Force which never fought in Lofa. This was clearly a political outfit to show Lofa citizens in general that someone was doing something about the fighting in Lofa. Mr. Jones does not talk about the "Cutlass Brigade" which he and others organized to specifically target, kill or ostracize the Mandingoes.
It is with sheer political disservice that Mr. Jones failed to adequately gauge the destruction of the Lofa human resource, but instead, he focuses on his false sense of glorification and personal aggrandizement in a resume he presented on the Internet calling it an article on Lofa. This pre-supposes his anti development frame of mind.
As the saying goes, "The viability and potentiality of any nation-state is contingent upon its intellectual and manpower capability." I am of the opinion that Mr. Jonesís focus should have included the Killing of Mandingoes of Lofa County in the thousands, the decimation of the population creating a brain drain by the NPFL. Failing to concede to the fact that thousands of Mandingoes from Lofa were killed with impunity is a total miscarriage of justice. This action is very munch unpatriotic and condemnable.
Another point of concern is the failure of Mr. Jones to see the dichotomy between an oppressor and the oppressed. The Mandingoes were unjustifiably attacked, and their action against NPFL fighters, whether or not they were Lormas, was in self-defense, a legitimate and natural reaction. Mr. Jones out of die-hard ethnic and religious sentiments failed to admit that it was the NPFL that entered the County for three consecutive years and destroyed it before ULIMO of mostly Mandingoes and Krahns entered the county. You will note Mr. Jones was not among those who cried injustice when the Mandingoes were driven from Lofa for over three consecutive years. The action of the NPFL was applauded openly by Mr. Jones and others.
Where was Mr. Jones, when the infamous Barkedu attack took place killing over 600 persons in cold blood? Is it not true that Mr. Jones was one of those that advocated for the re-drawing of the boundaries of the Quadu-Gboni Mandingo Chiefdom, Voinjama District, during his tenure as Superintendent? Is it not the same Jones along with some top men of his administration who initiated secret killing in the chiefdom, abducting Mandingoes and killing them for the "Masonic Society"?
Apart, it is with absolute political absurdity, insinuation on the part of Mr. Jones that the County was to be Islamized changing the tribal configuration of the County. It is laughable that one would use Islam as an instrument of division in the County. Islam has never been a factor in Lofa County. Apart, for your information, Liberia is a secular Country, and article 14 of the Constitution of Liberia says that the Country shall establish no state religion. What an elementary fact! In the same token, Mr. Jones naively compares Liberia with Saudi Arabia. Please note that unlike Liberia, Saudi Arabia is an Islamic autocratic state, spelt out in her constitution. Please, there is no room for religiosity as a factor in selling political intrigues.
Although we have vowed not to transcend boundaries, but we are obliged to correct the deliberately misleading reporting of Mr. Jones for political self- aggrandizement. I have had in my possessions many documents that reveal activities in Liberia before the war, and served as witness through direct family members and friends, of what has happened in the destruction of the Lofa fabric before the war.
We just could not understand why Mr. Jones as an elderly Lofa citizen could use the Internet to comment about Lofa destruction when he would in the process actually expose his bias by not mentioning the devastating role of the NPFL. Why would he paint himself as excellent in narrating achievement he was supposed to have made in Lofa, talking about Robert McNamara and all of that?
Since he wanted to talk about himself, Mr. Jones should have told the public how and why he was disgracefully dismissed by the late President William R. Tolbert and told to pay for someoneís house he had illegally demolished. This is not only well known by people from Lofa, but it is also recorded in President Tolbertís presidential papers. In that document, it is written:
The former Lofa Superintendent who wants to throw stones from a glass house should have also explained that it was because of his conduct that President Tolbert banned superintendents and others from running for elected positions unless they first resigned their positions, for fear they may manipulate the people. The President in fact heard a case where it was reported that Mr. Jones in 1975 was among ambitious House of Representative Candidates who had paid money out to the Zorzor District local party leaders of the ruling True Whig Party to "petition" them to run for the House. Again the following is reported in the Presidential Papers:
This was Mr. Jonesís general attitude in the county, and with his assertion that he never had problem with Dr. Guluma, leading into the arson committed against the popular medical doctorís farm, is simply misleading. During the visit of President Tolbert to Voinjama when Mr. Jones was Superintendent, the President revealed that Dr. Guluma had complained to him about the status of the medical profession in the county under Mr. Jones. According to the Presidential Papers, the medical doctor reported to the President that the medical profession was being ignored in the county. He complains to President Tolbert about the poor condition with which mothers of triplets had to put up and of the need to provide housing for nurses. (page 95, Presidential Papers)
Sumo Jones boasts of the hospital, administration and other development projects during his tenure without telling the public that in fact these were central government projects in preparation for the True Whig Party convention and other national programs that Lofa was chosen to host. It is in fact the handling of some of these activities that angered certain prominent Lofa citizens resulting into complaints about the way things were going on in the county. All of the major development projects he attributes to himself were all national development earmarked by President Tolbert. This is false political glorification at the highest level, which impeaches the credibility of Mr. Jones to make any truthful comment about what happened in Lofa during the war. It is just his way for wanting to come back to public attention and demonstrative of his prejudice against the Mandingoes, and even some of his own Lorma tribe, not to speak of the Gbandis, Kissis, Mendes, Kpelles and Golas in Lofa.
As for the Mandingo being targeted by Mr. Jones even before the war, my family is a living testimony. Can Mr. Jones deny that he undermined the growth of the Quadu Gboni Mandingo Co-operative Society because of the refusal of my father, Blama Gboni Dolleh, along with Chief Musa Kamara, for not bribing him? Can he deny that he was not the one who initiated the erection of gates in Lofa arresting Mandingoes claiming that they were Guinean, despite the fact that everyone knows Jones is originally a Guinean hailing from Koyama, across the border from Zorzor? Although it is not a crime to be Guinean, but accept the fact that you came from Guinea and be proud of your origin, Sir.
Finally, it is worth noting that it is because Mr. Jonesís sheer dislike for the Mandingoes that he would undertake such fruitless campaign that wonít carry him anywhere. He knows within himself who looted "Curren Lutheran Hospital in Zorzor, the teacher training school, ZRTTI, the only radio station ELRV in Voinjama that was dismantled by the NPFL, the local bank, the LCADP and the power house in Voinjama. He knows it was the NPFL that looted the Telewoyan hospital among others.
The Mandingoes were among the harshest victims in Lofa, Mr. Jones must say. It was our homes that were all burnt down in Mandingoes Quarter in Voinjama, our Mosques burnt down, our gas station and businesses set ablaze, our population decimated and destroyed. Indeed, the blame lies with the NPFL, the Lofa Defense Force, the Cutlass Brigade among others. If the Mandingoes ever fought in Lofa, it was in self-defense. We know Mr. Jones does not represent the Lormas in Lofa because as clearly stated, he had serious problems of criminal nature with his own people. And of course, with all that has been happening with Hassan Bility and other Mandingoes, as well as with other innocent human rights advocates and journalists being tortured and politicians like Dokie being killed by State Security, Mr. Jones has remained mute. I wonder why?
What we all can look forward to is to move toward a new beginning for the collective prosperity of all of our people. If we must talk about the past in the process, let us not be stingy with the truth, let alone deliberately mislead people.
Culpability of Liberiaís White-Collar Rebels
Amidst the unfolding debate regarding prosecuting those who committed atrocities during the Liberia Civil War, it is only logical that proponents of this action seriously ponder over the applicability of the concept of equitability as a remedy in addressing the situation. This must be done if we should render untainted justice to all of those victimized, specifically the over fifty thousand Mandingoes killed with impunity.
I have been cautiously following the debate regarding trying warlords, but have heard nothing about those lords who organized and actively assisted them. It is imperative to note that while I interpose no objection to this political mechanism, I am of the political conviction that it must be characterized by objectivity and sincerity in bringing to book all of those responsible.
Accordingly, it becomes logical and paramount that we draw a dichotomy between those who were victimized and forced to resort to armed struggle as in the case of the Mandingoes, and those without any reason, caused harm to innocent Liberians, as was perpetuated against the Mandingoes and others by Charles Taylorís NPFL.
Having set the premise, it now becomes compelling that we dwell on the real subject, namely, the military rebels versus the civilian rebels, as possible culprits in our actions. Unlike the military rebels, the civilian rebels, who someone has referred to as the "white-collar rebels," are those who financially, politically and diplomatically organized and sponsored those warring factions, leading to the destruction of Liberia. Indeed, they are as guilty as those "warlords" they are now trying to prosecute for their own selfish election objectives. These white-collar rebels are the worst culprits because of their hypocrisy and deceit among the Liberian people.
Although my critics will argue that unlike the white-collar rebels, the military rebels were physically seen in the vanguard of their military adventures, I find this concept difficult to digest personally. It is beyond reasonable doubt that both actors are guilty and they must both be treated, particularly those responsible for organizing the machinery that destroyed with evidence civilians.
It is tantamount to sheer miscarriage of justice to see focus being placed on the faction leaders only without mentioning the roles played by people like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Amos Claudius Sawyer, and Charles Walker Brumskine, among others. These are the white-collar rebels who were very active financially, socially and diplomatically, leading to the destruction of Liberia.
And I am baffled by the level of political prostitution on the part of some publishers who have now reduced themselves to paid errand boys for these white-collar rebel politicians. This is clear with the Perspective web magazine and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ignoring the overall interest of the oppressed masses. It is an elementary fact that upholding the trust of the citizenry must supercede every other interest, but this is to the contrary with these publishers. What a shame to the journalism profession! Most of these "journalists" have refused to unearth the roles of these white-collar rebels, but instead have become a forum to target rivals of their non-uniform rebel patrons. In recent times, since we initiated our awareness campaign, we have made it our business to send our writings to the Perspective for publication, but they have refused to publish them for one reason or the other, and yet they publish commentaries on what we write elsewhere. We understand.
On the key issues, we must indicate that Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is known for giving both covert and overt support to Charles Taylorís rebel NPFL during it formative stage as well as at the height of its destruction of the country. She admits to having given $10,000 through the Association of Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL) as seed money to the infamous group. Apart, she is on record during the heat of the civil war calling for Monrovia to be leveled, not taking into consideration the hundreds of thousands of Liberians who were in the city at the time. It is one of the most unforgivable crimes for posterity yet unborn.
Mrs. Sirleaf failed to be remorseful or be apologetic realizing that thousands of Mandingoes were being killed. Up to today, none of her statements has even mentioned this. While Mandingoes are currently being tortured in Charles Taylorís jails, Mrs. Sirleaf goes in and out of Liberia freely, and without a word on the issue, and while her son, Charles Sirleaf, enjoys the confidence of Taylor as President of the Housing and Savings Bank. It is clear that the organizer-agent relationship between her and Taylor still continues. Who can you fool by coming out and condemning Taylor, Mrs. Sirleaf? You boast of having international contacts. How come you have done nothing about the release of the Mandingo brothers or any of the victims of Taylorís draconian rule? You have not said anything about my revelation in another writing that you constantly have secret meetings with Taylor at Paul Mulbahís house when you visit Monrovia. What a crime, especially coming from a lady.
If anyone should be a leader of Liberia, it will be someone else, not a wicked lady that sanctioned the killing of the Mandingoes and others. We will never forget nor forgive until you redeem yourself. Even the least conscious person will realize that Mr. Taylor and Ellen are equally murderous. She advised him to murder thousands of Monrovians, even though he postponed it to the 1992 "Octopus" invasion of the capital. Liberia would have ceased to exist as a nation if the city had been leveled to the ground, only to allow the Madam and her disgruntled cohorts to drink Champaign as she stated on international radio.
For his part, Amos Claudius Sawyer was part of the ACDL that went on the rampage collecting money to support Taylor, assuming that the agent would have passed on power to people like him. When he found out that Taylor was himself greedy, he ran to Banjul with his colleagues and they divided themselves up into all kinds of frivolous organizations and elected each other into an interim government for Liberia. He ended up actively creating the Monrovia-based warring factions Ė ULIMO-J, Lofa Defense Force and the LPC and had ECOMOG to supply these groups. Today, he is a big crusader against warring factions. What a hypocrisy!
We saw Sawyer on the documentary, "Liberia, Americaís Stepchild," in which he said he "got sick at the stomach" when he heard about the execution of the 13 government officials by the coup makers of 1980 in Liberia. What was striking was when he said he went home, took a bath, and went to sleep. Isnít this a betrayal? Only someone confident that nothing would happen to him at that critical moment would go take bath and go to sleep. Doesnít it look like somebody who was relieved, and could now sleep? Of course, Sawyer was one of the coup leaderís teachers at the Marcus Garvey High School in Monrovia. So he had nothing to fear, though he was "sick at the stomach," for the execution of the Americo-Liberian government officials. If his statement is not political grandstanding for the consumption of Americo-Liberians and those who donít know him, than I want to know what it is.
This is hypocrisy at the highest level, certainly one of the root causes of the Liberian problems. Here is a man who was part and parcel of the PRC coup maker initial activities, even serving as their chairman for the revising of the Liberian Constitution. And for public relations and political purposes, he is now talking about being sick at the stomach for the execution of the same people he was agitating for their death shortly before the same coup. People are dishonest and prejudiced against one set of people while trying to hide their own dirty deals.
Mr. Sawyer, you failed to acknowledge that we the Mandingoes were the most victimized tribe in Liberia throughout the civil war and even up to now. There was no concern shown in any of your action throughout your tenure as Interim President. The only thing you ever tried to do was to bundle all of us as "rebels" while ignoring your own role as one of the two leading white-collar rebels.
Under all of this psychological pain, it disheartening to note that Charles Walker Brumskine, who is now making big speeches on democracy in his campaign to be "President" of Liberia, was in the forefront in building the destructive empire of Mr. Taylor. He was instrumental in selling the social, economic and political platform of Mr. Taylor before and after the war. Brumskine must believe that people have forgotten how he was all over West Africa and other places trying to convince people in the early Ď90s that it was not a good thing to place international sanctions against Mr. Taylorís NPFL.
Mr. Brumskine was instrumental in ECOMOG peacekeeping force leaving Liberians in the murderous hands of Charles Taylor after the elections. He argued that ECOMOG did not have a status of force agreement and if there was one, it did not allow them to stay after the elections. We saw how that resulted into the death of people like Samuel Dokie and his whole family, Madame Nowai Flomo, the jailing and torturing of journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary citizens.
Brumskine was certainly a hypocrite to even Taylor, who accused him of harboring presidential ambitions. Soon he ran to the US, he indeed declared his intention to become president, proving Mr. Taylor true. And in all his activities, not once has Brumskine talked about the atrocities meted out to the Mandingoes. Of course it is understood that he could not be that active in the hierarchy of the NPFL war machine and criticize what it was doing.
These are the people promoting themselves today as potential leaders of our country, thinking that we are fools. What did you say about Hassan Bility and the other Mandingo people still in Taylorís jail, Mr. Brumskine? Is this the time for presidential campaign when you don't even have a country to be President of? We will not forget you, white-collar rebels who organized the destruction of Mandingoes and other Liberian civilians.
With tears pouring out of my eyes, I am ever more optimistic that justice will be rendered to the thousands of innocent Mandingoes killed with impunity. I am aware that this struggle will invigorate the spirit of the dead and rally the souls of the living to seek for justice and permanent peace for Liberia, the land of nativity and heritage that the Almighty God has given to all of us.
Refusal to Capitulate
Mandingoes, Krahns vs. Gios & Manos
It was simply a pleasant personal surprise when I saw the audience roar in applause as a response to an enthusiastic declaration of a historical fact by former Liberian Chief Justice Chea Cheapoo at a recent program hosted by the Association of Liberian Journalists in Philadelphia. Justice Cheapoo, making a point in his keynote speech, cited that when the American Colonization Society arrived in what is today Liberia in the 1800ís, the region was already being governed by King Sao Boso, the powerful Mandingo leader. The compassionate intervention of King Sao Boso between the ACS agents and a local tribal group formed part of the basis for the founding of the Republic of Liberia. Freed black Americans who returned to Africa under the sponsorship of the ACS were allowed to settle in Monrovia despite the opposition of ethnic groups who felt they had been cheated out of their land.
Why was I surprised at the clapping of the crowd? If one were to look at the volume of misinformation the Liberian people are being treated to, one would be tempted to believe that they have given up on any notion that the Mandingoes and the other ethnic groups of Liberia have made contribution to the existence of their nation. Some Liberians with parochial and unholy political interest have used what someone has described as the tool of "divide and destroy" to keep the peace between ethnic groups almost non-existent. And this is at the bottom of the staying power of individuals like Charles Taylor, who controls numerous groups of government militiamen wholly consisting of ethnic people he has no connection with.
Part of the divide and destroy strategy has been to focus on the differences between groups, translated into tribal animosity. When the Gios and Manos of Nimba County led by the late Jackson Doe and 1980 Coup Maker General Thomas Quiwonkpa ran into a political stonewall with the Krahn ethnic group led by the late President Samuel K. Doe, the conflict was quickly taken over by individuals in the United States, including a female politician, who did not belong to these tribes. From this, Quiwonkpa was sent to overthrow Doe. When the Gio general was killed in the abortive coup, little was heard from the sponsors.
The sponsors gave a failed verdict and rejected the idea of supporting another Gio or Mano leader, though they felt that these tribes were still useful foot soldiers and were still bitter. So they deployed one of their Americo Liberian sons, Charles Taylor, who led an invasion into Liberia in the name of trying to right the wrong for the Gios and Manos. This was the magic motivator for the two ethnic groups who joined the movement in the thousands.
When the Taylor rebels came by way of the Ivory Coast and entered Nimba County, their home, somehow, the conflict quickly drew in the Mandingoes, who are mostly Muslims. The Mandingoes were the first civilian casualties in the invading Nimba town of Butuo. At the mosque in Tiaplay, the Imam leading his congregation was shot in the head. And later in Bahn, more than a thousand displaced Mandingoes were slaughtered in the public school building.
Up to today, the only reason we have heard for all of this killing in Nimba is that the Mandingoes were pointing out the rebels to government forces. It goes without saying that this is no reason for the murdering of civilians en masse under the rules of war or any rules of civilization. And what actually punctures this flimsy excuse is that Mandingoes were subsequently hunted and killed wherever the Taylor rebels reached in the rest of the country.
The irony about the targeting of the Mandingoes for refusing to fight the government was that important Gio and Mano citizens were holding key positions in the Doe government, up to the time of the invasion. Down to Doeís personal medical doctor and cook as well as his powerful aide, Johnny Kpor, were either Mano or Gio, not mentioning several Ministers. But somehow, the Mandingoes were to be killed because they were pointing out those who had in the first instance killed them upon arrival in Butuo. Was this an accident? Hardly.
The non-ethnic sponsors of the Gio-Mano foot soldiers evidently schemed that one way of succeeding was to preempt any resistance by ethnic groups like the Mandingoes, who the sponsors knew, from history alluded to by Justice Cheapoo, would resist one way or the other. These sponsors included at least one University professor who knew the historical potential.
From this, it has not been surprising that even up to now, little has been heard of how thousands of Mandingoes were killed, and form the largest percentage of whatever hundreds of thousands killed in the Liberian war. To add insult to injury, the sponsors, through their surrogates on the Internet, continue to portray the Mandingoes as the aggressors.
As thousands ran from the Taylor rebel advances in the country, the Krahns and Mandingoes became the direct targets of the invading group. In the neighboring country of Sierra Leone, these two tribes, now refugees, led other tribes in organizing the ULIMO warring faction and returned to Liberia. Interestingly, it was this group in 1992 that helped ECOMOG, the West African peacekeeping force, to stop the takeover of Monrovia by Taylorís NPFL rebels. That was the invasion the rebels styled as "OCTOPUS." This is when the Catholic nuns were said to have been executed by the NPFL.
But guess what! As soon as the NPFL was stopped, the Interim government in Monrovia, which happened to have been headed by one of the original NPFL organizers, kicked out ULIMO from Monrovia. But it did not stop there. When ULIMO eventually took over Lofa, the countryís largest county, from the NPFL, the sponsor in Monrovia called a press conference to ask what were the Lofa people going to do about the "atrocities" being committed by ULIMO in Lofa. This led to the formation of the so-called Lofa Defense Force, which never made it to Lofa.
But you can see what was happening here. Jackson Doe and many other prominent Gios and Manos had been executed by Taylor, but the sponsor in Monrovia had nothing to say. He did not find it necessary to call on the Gios and Manos of Nimba to revolt against Taylor. In fact, Monrovia became the center of the proliferation of more warring factions initially to oppose or breakup ULIMO, headed by a Mandingo.
The stage was now set for the sponsors to sell the idea of a "senseless" war going on in Liberia among feuding ethnic groups led by "warlords." And what about all the atrocities being attributed to Taylor? The sponsors also had solution. They had to be the political alternatives to all these "warlords." So effectively, all warring factions were described as being the same as Charles Taylor's. All of this even when a female member of the sponsor group wanted Monrovia to be leveled to the ground if it took that to achieve an NPFL takeover of the government of President Samuel Doe.
All of this divide and destroy propaganda has gone on, notwithstanding these same sponsors are now all living outside the country, and that their agent, Charles Taylor, all by himself, has shown to the world that indeed he was the warlord of atrocities. The world has come to see that "leopard cannot change his spots." Not only in Liberia, but Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast, the agent has made his character of destruction tragically felt.
Yet, the sponsors are again parading themselves in front of the Liberian people as the natural saviors. They are positioning themselves in anticipation of national elections. They are asking the Liberian people to look at track records. Absolutely, their track records will be dissected starting from the administration of President Tolbert.
As far as the sponsors are concerned, the problem is among the ethnic groups Ė Mandingoes, Krahns, Gios, Manos and Lormas. We hear Taylor, the agent, regularly scares his Gio and Mano gunmen that the Mandingoes and Krahns are the ones leading the dissident LURD group, and their main target is the Gio and Mano fighters with him. Outside Liberia, surrogates of the sponsors are on a daily basis talking about how Mandingoes associated with Taylor in the Monrovia 1996 clashes against the Krahns, whom they the sponsors have been out to eliminate from the beginning. What a hypocrisy! It appears that the sponsors and their associates are angry that the Mandingoes and Krahns did not totally eliminate each other in Monrovia.
If the sponsors and their associates are in the company of the Mandingoes, they talk about how the Krahns and Gios and Manos were "brutal." On the Internet and other places they talk about how the Mandingoes joined Charles Taylor to fight the Krahns in Monrovia. And of course, they keep up the bogus flame between some leading Lormas and Mandingoes.
While all of this is going on, the sponsors keep their faces in front of the world as the clean and good Liberians who will rescue the country. They have the big proposals that are supposed to bring peace and progress to Liberia. They naively believe that the circumstances are still the same when they organized, financed, and promoted Taylor and his NPFL. They believe Liberians are still living in a dream world. They believe that the work of their tribal surrogates on the Internet is having serious impact.
These sponsors have the biggest and rudest shock awaiting them when their agent is finally off the scene. They fail to realize that those faction leaders they have been vilifying are from the same ethnic groups they, the sponsors, have been suppressing and causing death among in the past twelve years. Indeed, the sponsors and their associates have some surprises awaiting them on the ground.
What is even more crucial is that the sponsors are not aware that the leaders of the ethnic groups named in this article are closing ranks and quietly culturally reviewing the past. What the sponsors are counting on is that the ethnic opinion leaders will continue to see each other in wartime animosity. The sponsors do not realize that even the child that was born in the year of the NPFL invasion, is now a teenager. What about those who were adults.
We, the Mandingoes, the Gios, Manos, Lormas and Krahns, along with our brothers and sisters of the other ethnic groups, refuse to capitulate to the divide and destroy strategy against us that has carried away thousands of lives.
When we talk like this, then they say we are tribalistic. In other words, as someone once said, if we are pro Mandingo, pro Krahn, or pro any tribe, it means we are anti-Americo Liberian or anti-another tribe. But hey, you donít have to be against someone to like yourself or promote your legitimate interest, or have the right to defend yourself. Those who donít want you to succeed in life are the ones who see your determination to do so as being against them.
No. We realize that all Liberians, irrespective of ethnic, Americo Liberian or any other background, are all one big family. But when one class of the family thinks it has a natural right to oppress and suppress the others, particularly pitting one ethnic group against the other, we fiercely refuse to submit. The cycle has ended. We all must live together in justice, peace, and progress if anybody is to move forward. We refuse to capitulate.