Alhaji Kromah's "Distortions":
By Abdoulaye Dukule
November 7, 2000
I read Mr. Alhaji Kromah's interview with The Perspective (http://www.theperspective.org/kromah.html) and was astonished with how the truth can be distorted, misconstrued and taken out of context. There are many things that one would question, but I would like to respond specifically to the issue he raised and his comments about the Interim Government of National Unity.
Unlike all the warring factions in Liberia in the 1990s, the
Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) was a coalition of
political parties headed by a man who believed in democracy (Dr.
Amos Claudius Sawyer). Kromah would be surprised to know that
every decision taken by Amos sawyer was discussed in various settings
The single issue I want to respond to here is that regarding IGNU and ULIMO (United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia) leadership. Kromah suggested that Amos Sawyer had welcomed Raleigh Seekie (now imprisoned by Taylor on treason charges) with a red carpet treatment and made him Chairman of ULIMO. This is far from the truth. Raleigh Seekie had come to Monrovia with a letter signed by the leadership of ULIMO as their representative. They had expressed their concerns and wanted a voice in Monrovia. In the same manner they were going to deal and consult with the Liberian Ambassador in Freetown, they asked IGNU to deal with Seekie and convey through him all information concerning ULIMO. Mr. Kromah may be interested in knowing that IGNU had the same contact with the NPFL, both in Monrovia and Abidjan. After the death of General Karpeh, IGNU was well aware of the ULIMO leadership tussle. The Government continued to treat Raleigh Seekie with the same courtesy he had received from the time he arrived in Monrovia. He continued to stay at Hotel Africa and was provided transportation. All of this happened before the leadership tussle. Of course, he tried to rally the Krahn elements in Monrovia, among them few in the Government (including Gbai Gballa) tried to help him.
But IGNU never declared Seekie leader of ULIMO. Some time in early 1992, Kromah arrived in Monrovia, accompanied by his front-line commanders, including Armah Youlu and others. Kromah was received at the Ducor by President Sawyer. He (Kromah) put his grievances on the table. Sawyer said that it would be a good thing if he (Kromah) worked with IGNU and get Taylor to abide by Yamoussoukro. At the end of the meeting, a communiqué was issued. In that communiqué, Kromah was referred to as "General Alhaji Kromah, Leader of ULIMO". This was the first time that IGNU had referred to anyone as leader of ULIMO. I know this because in the absence of Mr. Swanzy Elliott (Sawyer's deputy minister of public affairs) and Lamine Warritay (minister of information) who had both traveled, I wrote the communiqué and took it to the radio station. It was read the same night. As an instrument of cooperation, the communiqué stated among other things that the Interim Government was taking note of the ULIMO fight for refugees to return home. That President Sawyer and Kromah had reviewed the current deadlock in the peace process due to the stubbornness of the NPFL. That IGNU, as a national government, was calling on ULIMO to join it and work for peace in the national interest and start disarmament. And that ULIMO leadership reiterated their pledge to peace and that their sole objective was to return home and not to seek power.
A few months later, at the ECOWAS meeting in Cotonou, President Sawyer introduced Kromah to President Conteh, as the leader of ULIMO and that IGNU was collaborating with him. As the translator during that meeting, I remember during that meeting Kromah never called Amos Sawyer "President Sawyer" as did President Conteh. Mr. Kromah was taken the same day to meet with [Nigeria's then President Ibrahim] Babanginda, for the same reason.
Kromah must stop saying that Amos Sawyer tried to stop him from being what he wanted to be. Kromah's failures in recent years, after having been outsmarted by Taylor and Abacha, have to do with his personal vision about leadership. But the very communiqué was undermined because of Kromah's personal ambitions. He, through his tenure at the head of ULIMO and his work at the Council of State, has always tried to push one cause and one cause only: to be President of Liberia. Nothing else mattered. People worked for Alhaji, not with him. This has caused him to lose most of those intellectuals who had joined him at one point in time.
IGNU apparently made a big mistake in its involvement with ULIMO the way it did. It was a costly political move that those who advocated it will live to regret. That investment was the most single reason why the whole peace process was derailed and brought us many more deaths. But the decision was made because of Taylor's intransigence and his refusal to abide by the Yamoussokro Accords. Many thought that ULIMO was a lesser evil, but some suggested the devil you know... Whatever regrets we have and mistakes we have made, history will be our judge, but we must try to stick to the truth. I know, in politics this is hard sometimes...
It is crucial to also mention that the whole alliance was doomed to fail due to Kromah's personal ambitions, added to the internal fights inside ULIMO not being resolved. Right in Geneva, while IGNU was forcing the issue of disarmament, ULIMO was making contacts with the NPFL to work against IGNU. The failure to carry out disarmament before the elections was due to the fact that Kromah joined Taylor in Cotonou II and therefore tilted the balance in favor of sharing cabinet posts instead of making disarmament for any prerequisite. It is also a fact that during the Council of State I under Kpomarkpo (I was his executive assistant), ULIMO continued to fight along aside NPFL to hold elections without disarmament. This was shown during the first Accra meeting when Taylor and Alhaji got Bowen to join them and sign a communiqué to form a new coalition of warring faction. Kromah was for making himself President, or Vice-President under Taylor but never worried about the far reaching consequences of his blind ambitions.
Moreover, why would Amos Sawyer ask the minister of Finance to provide air tickets and per diem to members of ULIMO delegations to all peace talks if he was trying to harm Kromah?
We have all made mistakes. Some are best left alone. But when recounting the history of the past years and, mostly the recent history of Liberia, one must recall that many of the actors are still alive... we didn't all get killed.
(The author was a key aide and confidante to Interim President Amos Sawyer during the Liberian Civil war.)