After Charles Taylor, Get Moammar Kaddafi… and Blaise Compaoré

By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 19, 2004

According to the Paris-based magazine Jeune Afrique, authorities in Mali arrested twenty young Liberians two weeks ago, accusing them of being "mercenaries". The Liberians were supposedly illegally carrying arms and entered Mali, with the intent of going to destabilize a neighboring country. They were locked up in the Southern Malian city of Sikasso and are awaiting trial by a special tribunal.

According to reports from Mali, the group was coming from Burkina Faso and headed for Côte d’Ivoire to join rebel groups in that country. They had been recruited in refugee camps. Like many young Liberians who died in prison in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, these "mercenaries" would most likely be locked up and forgotten.

Since the outbreak of the rebellion in Côte d’Ivoire, former child soldiers from Sierra Leone and Liberia found a new ground of prosperity. Like in Liberia in the 1990s, they do not receive salaries but are left to mind checkpoints throughout rebel territories and live off the land and the innocent. They have provided a cheap manpower that allows the rebel groups to resist the national army and continue to make demands for more jobs and more money from the government. Just a few years ago, Ivorian leaders ignored warnings that sooner or later, the rebels being trained in Danane and sent to destroy Liberia and Sierra Leone would return to the last bastion of stability. Greedy politicians did not listen.

Côte d’Ivoire is paying a dear and regrettable price for its involvement in the Liberian war. The saddest part of it all is that again, as in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the innocent get killed, raped, tortured and uprooted. Those who profited from aiding Taylor with facilities and manpower are now living in Paris or Geneva, with the exception of General Robert Guei who was found dead in Abidjan during the September 19, 2002 uprising.

Libya and Burkina Faso
However, Côte d’Ivoire is not the only country to be blamed although, had it closed its borders and kicked Taylor and his NPFL/RUF out of Danane, there would have been no war in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea and 300, 000 people would still be alive. However, to reach Côte d’Ivoire, Charles Taylor and his killing machine that comprises every nationality in West Africa received his greatest logistic support from Burkina Faso and Libya.

The first group of Liberian and Sierra Leone fighters was trained in Libya, at the Mataba military base. In his dream to destabilize and conquer "black" Africa, Colonel Moammar Kaddafi turned Mataba into a training camp for African "revolutionaries". Graduates from the camp fought in every war in Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Congo, Uganda, Chad, Central African Republic, Angola, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Casamance and the list goes on. The late Jonas Savimbi, the late Foday Sankoh, the late Joseph Kabila and the still-alive Charles Taylor all went through Libya.

From their countries in deep sub-Saharan Africa, these warriors of doom transited through the desert city of Ouagadougou. After Mataba had trained the elite corps, the rest of the rank and files of the rebel armies were trained in Burkina Faso, at the Po military base, near Ouagadougou. This is where, as recently as ten days ago, young Liberians were being trained and sent to continue their destabilization work in Africa.

After he was elected president in 1997, rebel leader Charles Taylor put into his first national budget $26 million "to pay war debts". The money was going to Libya and Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, former soldiers took out a center spread in a Ouagadougou-based newspaper in 1998, posting their pictures and the names of those of their comrades who died in the Liberian war, demanding "money promised" to them once they had completed their mission in Liberia.

With allies in Burkina Faso and a strong foothold in Ghana, Kaddafi’s grand design in West Africa almost succeeded, had it not been for the readiness of the Guinean army and the British intervention in Sierra Leone. After Liberia and Sierra Leone, the rebel machine was to move to Guinea. After Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire was next and so on. With thugs at the head of mineral rich countries throughout the continent obeying his every order, Kaddafi would have achieved his dream of conquering the continent.

After the gun, fistfuls of petro-dollars
As the desert rat, Kaddafi never gives up. Seeing that arms have failed in many places because human nature is unpredictable, he resorted to money. In cash-strapped Africa, money trumps political ideology, except in rare cases. Kaddafi’ s former Minister of Foreign Affairs and now in charge of his "African policy" Ali Trikki is known to have said: "there is no political problem in Africa that a fistful of dollar could not solve." However, in 1998, after Taylor failed to invade Guinea, the same Ali Trikki went to Conakry "to sympathize" with President Conteh. He brought an attaché-case filled with dollar bills. Conteh sent him back with the money, saying that there are other countries in the region that need cash more than Guinea does….

If Charles Taylor has to face a war crimes tribunal for his role in the Sierra Leone war, Blaise Compaore and Moammar Kaddafi must also be indicted. The Libyan leader has trained Foday Sankoh just as he trained Taylor and his rebel army. Blaise Compaore participated in the scheme by training more troops in Po and providing logistical support to both the NPFL of Charles Taylor and the RUF of Foday Sankoh.

When the Tribunal re-opened last week in Freetown the Chief Prosecutor, Mr. David Crane did not dismiss the possibility of indicting Kaddafi. If Taylor were brought to face the tribunal in Freetown, no doubt he would call names, he would say who provided the guns and who bought the diamonds. It could be the trial that would end the impunity Blasé Compaore and Kaddafi have enjoyed so far.

The international community has so far done well by not only getting Taylor out of Liberia but also freezing his assets. But he was not alone and should not be the only one to pay. After him, the UN must go after Kaddafi and Compaore. Kaddafi paid $3 billion for the Lockerbie bombing that took some 300 lives. Would he have enough money to pay for the lives of 250,000 Liberians, 60,000 Sierra Leoneans, the thousands of Guineans and citizens of Côte d’Ivoire and the destruction his terrorist agents caused in those countries?

Kaddafi is now trying to charm the West, dismantling his nuclear facilities and talking about human rights. Can a leopard change its spots? He has even instructed his ministry of foreign affairs to create a special cell to lobby for a Nobel Prize… because The Guide says that he has contributed to world peace by dismantling his nuclear weaponry…

With over 300,000 lives of innocent West Africans lost due to his scheme to destabilize and conquer black Africa, Kaddafi lobbying for the Nobel Peace Prize would be so tragically funny. But then again, if West Africans don’t speak up or seem to care, who would? Kaddafi believes that he can buy anything with oil money. Would Liberians continue to blame each other and forget other actors who participated in the destruction of their country?