IGNU, Moniba And Transitional Order: Responding To E. Sumo Jones, Sr.


By Dr. Amos Sawyer

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 9, 2004

I do crave indulgence to provide some information to Mr. E. Sumo Jones, Sr. and others who have raised an issue regarding Dr. Moniba and the interim government which I headed. I wish Mr. Jones would have raised the issue separately instead of intermingling it with a discourse regarding the appropriate governance arrangements for post-conflict Liberia, an issue of immediate concern to a wider audience of Liberians, as can be seen from published comments. I also wish he had raised his concerns as questions rather than structuring them as charges as if based on facts. Be that as it may, let me suggest that such allegations of wrongdoing leveled against me and anyone else for that matter be written up, published or otherwise submitted at the proper time to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the courts or other competent bodies. I have often said—in fact as recently as Friday, August 27, 2004 in Minneapolis at the reconciliation workshop organized by the Federation of Lofa Associations in the Americas—that reconciliation demands justice and justice can hardly be served without accounting; and that all interim and transitional governments including the IGNU which I headed and all armed groups should be held to account for the use of the human and material resources of Liberia entrusted to their care or over which they exercised control. I stand by that position. In my view, the proper way to ensure such accounting is through the establishment of appropriate commissions of inquiry, the TRC and mechanisms designed to address impunity. So let us all compile our charges against each other, publish them if we want to and take them to such bodies at the proper time. But let us be able to proceed with a discussion on the best system of governance that can ensure peace and sustain democracy in Liberia, mobilizing the wealth of experience of our former public officials and others, the wisdom of our elders, and the best tools that can be offered by scholarship and praxis. In this statement, I have chosen to address the charges leveled against me by Mr. Jones. In a separate statement I contribute to the discussion of the substantive issues regarding pre-elections governance reforms for Liberia.

Unsupported Charges

Although the personal charges made against me by Mr. Jones are wholly irrelevant to the issues I raised in my Philadelphia statement regarding governance arrangements that are appropriate for Liberia, I have chosen to respond to them because he is a respected former senior public official whose informed views can be very useful in national reconstruction. I feel a need to provide him with accurate information even when he has not chosen to seek such information from me or others who know the facts. Mr. Jones alleges that I and presumably others who met in Banjul under the auspices of ECOWAS and formed an interim government under the aegis of that regional organization “forcibly and illegally took over the Liberian Government from President Samuel K. Doe whose Government was not overthrown and the Constitution was not suspended while his (Doe’s) elected Vice President in the person of Dr. Harry F. Moniba was alive.” In short, Jones alleges that a coup was made by ECOWAS and all those who formed the Interim Government. He asks, “Why did Dr. Sawyer, at this time, fail to allow the Constitution to work by allowing the Vice President to act as President if Doe had to step down?”

The Facts

Let me say the following: First, the decision to intervene in Liberia was made by ECOWAS on its own and at the urging of the international community and with the support of the Liberian people who broadly welcomed them. The formula for peace that was accepted by the armed groups, participating civil society organizations and participating political parties—including the National Democratic Party of Liberia, the party of President Doe and Dr. Moniba, called for disarmament, a transitional government and elections among other provisions. The core of this formula was proposed by the Interfaith Mediation Commission, a panel of respected religious leaders of Liberia and adapted by ECOWAS. A high-powered delegation of the NDPL participated fully in ECOWAS mediated negotiations held in Freetown and later in Banjul. The NDPL participated in the vote for the interim government and took up senior-level positions in that government. I have no idea as to what claims Dr. Moniba or President Doe had been pressing with ECOWAS prior to the Sierra Leone negotiations. I do know that by the time of the Banjul Conference, nobody doubted that the government had collapsed and that the disarming of all armed groups and the constitution of a transitional government were among the measures essential to restoring order. There was not an ounce of conspiracy or intrigue in these developments—at least none that I know of.

Second, after the formation of the interim government in Banjul and before going in to Monrovia, we had a meeting at Cape Sierra Hotel with a large group of Liberians who had sought refuge in Freetown. Dr. Moniba attended that meeting and made a statement offering full support for the interim government. Not for a moment did he express opposition to the establishment of the interim government.

Third, it was Charles Taylor and the NPFL that rejected the interim government and called for a reconsideration of the formula under which it was constituted. This is why the All-Liberia Conference was convened in Monrovia for more than two months in early 1991. During that conference Mr. Taylor proposed that the interim government should have an executive triumvirate. Negotiations took place for days around this proposal. When the proposal was finally accepted, Mr. Taylor promptly rejected it and reshuffled his delegation. The head of the NPFL delegation, Dr. Toga McIntosh Gayweaye felt hounded if not hunted by Taylor and sought sanctuary. The INPFL of Prince Johnson demanded the replacement of Bishop Diggs as vice president of the interim government. At the end of more than two months of difficult negotiations, all participants, except the NPFL which had withdrawn from the conference, agreed on an interim government. It was at the time of the All-Liberia Conference that the NPFL launched its invasion of Sierra Leone. More importantly for this purpose, let us recall that it was Dr. Harry Moniba who, at the All-Liberia Conference, cast the “white ballot” that confirmed the agreement on the interim government.

Fourth, let us recall that Dr. Moniba had had an opportunity to press his claims following the death of Doe in September 1990 and before the installation of the interim government. The Armed Forces of Liberia had remained loyal to President Doe to the end. As Vice President, Dr. Moniba could have claimed to be the new Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia and sought to be installed in office by its leaders. Instead, it was General David Nimley who declared himself leader of the Armed Forces of Liberia and head of a ruling council of state. Later, General Bowen became Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia before the induction of the interim government. In November 1990, during the installation of the interim government at the Centennial Pavilion, it was General Bowen who presented to the interim president the symbolic key to the Executive Mansion.

After the All-Liberia Conference, I had conversations with Dr. Moniba requesting him to take on the role of senior ambassador and plenipotentiary resident in New York. In that role he would have been able to help the transitional process amid international resistance organized by Charles Taylor and a number of lawyers and businesspeople who operated to promote Taylor’s interest. Dr. Moniba accepted and said that he would go to Sierra Leone where he was based at the time to settle personal matters and return to Monrovia in order to take up the assignment. He never returned to take up the assignment. A year or so later when he returned to Monrovia, we offered to establish an office for him but failed to do so due to resource constraints compounded by considerable foot-dragging within the multi-factioned interim government. Dr. Moniba has expressed to me his disappointment with my failure to meet this promise. Indeed, I do regret not succeeding in establishing an office for him in Monrovia. As far as I know, since our discussion of issue of his office, we have remained on cordial terms.

So where are all of the intrigues and diabolical acts perpetrated by me and the interim government to deny Dr. Moniba his rights, and, in the process, commit treason? I again suggest that Mr. Jones and others who feel this way would do well to marshal their evidence and make submissions to the courts or to the soon-to-be-established TRC of press for a special tribunal and seek justice through these institutions. Only before such bodies will I revisit this issue.