When Is A Warlord Not A Warlord?
September 18, 2002
Former warlord Alhaji Kromah
Besides, perception is what counts in most human undertakings. The adage, "By their fruits we shall know them" cannot be dismissed as a mere cliché, because it has become a reality in Liberia's case. No matter what one's good deeds in the past, one major cardinal mistake - and being a warlord is more than a cardinal mistake - may end up haunting innocent people for the rest of their lives. And the sooner we realize this reality in life, the better we can devote our energies on how best to resurrect our once positive public image and not waste time on how people feel or think about us. Surely, any politician should know this common truism about mankind and the world, and a warlord ought to know.
The challenge therefore for these warlords who participated in the Liberian civil war, is what to do after knowing that their brutal image will not simply go away because the war has ended. The image of a warlord cannot also go away simply by blaming other people for not seeing things in the same way as the warlord. The relatives of persons who died under the command of a warlord, whether they died were in support or against a particular warlord, is immaterial to the gravity of suffering and life-altering changes the surviving families of the dead might have to undergo to survive. Certainly they cannot be expected to cleanse their minds of memories of the pains and sufferings occasioned by the loss of their loved ones and join in a chorus of praise of the warlord as their redeemer as some former guerrilla leaders are claiming to be. No! No!! No!!! That is not possible! These people must be held accountable, and sometimes look down upon with disdain, by the relatives and friends of those who were killed as a result of their direct or indirect actions.
Now, early last week, this magazine published an article from Alhaji G.V. Kromah, a warlord in the Liberian civil war of 1989-1997, in which he listed a litany of charges of bias on our reports of his activities, or the activities of the warring faction he headed. Kromah seemed self-fulfilled in his attempts to exonerate himself and his group of any form of atrocities attributed to them during the civil war. In his accounts of events, the ULIMO-K faction he headed was most likely "the saints" in the entire war as compared to the other warring factions, notably NPFL and ULIMO-J, and that persons who died under his command died in error or were simply the proverbial "unintended casualties of war".
And Kromah may have a valid point about the roles of ULIMO-J and other factions during the civil war. But the onus is on Kromah and those other factional leaders, not The Perspective, to explain to the Liberian people, and the local and international public as to what really transpired during the brutal seven-year war. Even if Kromah had strategic and compelling reasons for doubling as an ally and foe of Charles Taylor and his NPFL rebels during the same civil war, it is the responsibility of Kromah to explain himself to the Liberian people and the world, not The Perspective. And it is the right of the Liberian people to accept or reject Kromah's explanation for his role as a warlord, or for his alliance with the NPFL.
Kromah also has only himself to blame if his leadership as a warlord or if his strategic alliance with the NPFL during the civil war cost him his credibility with the Liberian public to the extent that some Liberians are beginning to question his motives for joining the anti-Taylor political camp. Here, the issue has nothing to do with efforts to malign or persecute a tribe, nor with individual rights to political or social affiliation. It has everything to do with the credibility of an erstwhile warlord who wants to portray or redefine himself as a credible opposition politician. And he may very well be a credible opposition politician, but it is the right and responsibility of the Liberian people to decide who should lead or represent them.
The Liberian people also have the right and responsibility to express their concerns and misgivings about any leaders or potential leaders, whether such persons are government officials or opposition politicians, and The Perspective would be honored to publish such viewpoints. Our role and responsibility at The Perspective, like any news gathering organization, is to report what we know to be the truth by way of our own research, and by information provided to us by credible sources. And in the case of the seven-year Liberian civil war, we consider credible sources to be persons who served in the hierarchies of the Liberian warring factions or who were themselves eyewitnesses to the crime scenes--in this case any theater area of the seven-year civil war.
The Perspective will not permit itself to be the public relations arm of any warlord. We are not in the business of cleaning up the dirty image, and polishing the good image, of any warlords or individuals. We are not in the business of character assassination, nor do we perceive ourselves as the propaganda arm of any Liberian politician or group. Ours is a commitment to report the truth and nothing but the truth, though we understand that sometimes the truth becomes uncomfortable for some of us. But we remain confident in our belief, and resolve that every Liberian needs, and deserves, to be heard whenever he or she has something to say concerning the wrongs, or good deeds, of the Liberian society. And thank God, we are in a position to provide a forum for the frank and mutual exchanges of views by persons of every political, social, economic, cultural and intellectual persuasion - a groundbreaking phenomenon in Liberian journalism and democratic debates.
The Perspective prides itself as the foremost authoritative online news source on Liberia run by Liberians, and we want to keep it that way. The quality of articles and the caliber of persons who contribute to our magazine speak volumes about our objectivity and our scope of coverage. We do not prevent our staff from identifying with particular social or political groups in Liberia or in Liberian communities across the world, but we are straight on our editorial policy. No political, social, cultural or intellectual persuasions will dominate our coverage of events, nor will undue advantage be given to coverage of events of particular interests to some of our members. And, true to this policy, we have carried volumes of articles critical of every Liberian politician or group whose public or private actions were inimical to peace and progress in Liberia. Any persons in doubt of our veracity may search our database to ascertain if there are contemporary Liberian politicians or warlords involved in the most recent and ongoing carnage and human catastrophes in Liberia we were less critical of in our news analysis and reports.
The Perspective is here to stay! We believe we are making great inroads in the dialogue on the future of Liberia. The fact that our friends and competitors find it befitting to not only criticize our editorial policy but also castigate and malign members of our editorial staff speak volumes--It means we are hitting some nerves by being objective. And we are jubilant that we are having the desired impact on the Liberian reading public so much so that some politicians and warlords are coming under pressure from their supporters upon reading articles in The Perspective, which pressure have forced some of them to attempt to explain their actions, even if it boils down to shifting blames and absolving oneself of responsibility and accountability. But whatever the case, we are serving the public good, and to us a warlord will always be a warlord unless proven otherwise!