Liberian Leadership Conference: Deception in Bethesda

By Paul Japheth Sunwabe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 6, 2002

Again, the search for long-term peace and stability in Liberia has started in earnest in the age-old “African Garden” of lies, cajolery, and deceit. And, as always, it seems like Liberian warlords and self-proclaimed politicians are determined to continue to vituperate the victims of the country’s seemingly endless civil war. For example, a spineless warlord who has yet to assume full responsibility for his actions, and some opportunistic political figures, recently decided to gather at a forum dubbed deceitfully as the “Liberian Leadership Conference (LLC)”, as they claimed, to strategize and help liberate our country from the refractory social degenerate that we fatuously refer to so often as President Charles Taylor.

Although the concept of a Liberian Leadership Conference is noteworthy, however, the participation of former warlord Alhaji G. V. Kromah in that and other conferences is humiliating as well as insulting to the countless Liberians who have been murdered by him (Kromah) and his erstwhile ULIMO-K thugs. Furthermore, the involvement of a Liberian-lawyer who once provided the vacuous Taylor regime with desperately needed legal advice and representation that eventually frustrated and threw West African Peacekeepers out of Liberia discomfits the purpose of such a conference. Additionally, this author finds it difficult to fathom why a group of decent Liberians, who purport to pioneer change and a new direction for Liberia, would sit with a man whose hands are stained with the blood of innocent Liberians to, among other things, discuss peace when this individual is no better or probably worst than their sitting stooge, Charles Taylor.

And, as I begin to read the declaration emanating from the just concluded Liberian Leadership Conference, I’m nonplused, perturb and profoundly overwhelmed with sorrow. But, knowing Africans, particularly, so-called political leaders of contemporary Liberia, I’m not surprised at all that this is happening amongst Liberians, especially those of us residing in the United States. For the many caring Liberians who continue to have the courage to stand up for what is right, and who may have left Liberia long before the avarice driven calamity called the “Liberian Civil War” befell our country, let me say this: welcome to Liberia the land of charade and deception!

Again, don’t be totally surprised or even disturbed by Liberia’s recent obsession with conferences. For, it is the Liberian way of resolving a burgeoning, pervasive and alarming conflict that now threatens our very existence as a nation-state as well as the welfare of others within the whole West African sub-region. I’d like for Liberians to note with seriousness that this is the way our politicians wanted it (situation presently occurring in our country) to be, and this is the way it is going to be as long as they want it so! It is not a matter of fortuity that we find ourselves today in a quandary. Rather, it is the result of decades of deceit, gross malfeasance, injustice, ethnic and religious manipulation and now, political prostitution that are unfortunately driving the affairs of our country. Sadly enough, our self-proclaimed leaders have apparently not learned anything from their past mistakes. For example, one would expect our leaders to review our history critically in this date and age with the expressed intent of cultivating policies and adopting measures that would address the social injustice and ingratitude that have got us in this misery today. But this is just not the case with this particular group!

Let’s say that I usually become emotional when discussing Liberia, and as such, my reasoning becomes a little bit cloudy. Wouldn’t it then only make good sense that we return to the Bethesda Conference in order to find answers to some unsettling questions? Personally, I really think it does! To begin with and as far as I’m concerned, the title of the Bethesda Conference is intriguing, and moreover, raises some rather interesting questions that must be addressed. A few of the questions are: Who are these so-called Liberian leaders? Where have they been in the past twelve years? Who have bestowed leadership titles upon them? Where are they based, etc.? My fellow Liberians, let us take an in depth look at these men and women to determine whether or not they are qualified to be in the leadership position they’re desperately seeking at the expense of the Liberian people and nation.

Nowadays, Charles Walker Brumskine, a Liberian-educated corporate attorney, professes to be a serious Liberian-presidential aspirant and expect people
to see him as such. But here is some background as to his real role in Liberia since Taylor threw the country into chaos. In the heyday of the now famous Liberian Civil War, Brumskine joined Taylor’s camp, and campaigned vociferously for him (Taylor) and his NPFL, although they (Taylor and his camp) were allegedly involved in genocide, ethnic cleansing, theft of natural resources and all forms of torture, including, the mass raping of women and children. During the 1997 electoral fiasco, Brumskine traveled between Gbarnga and Buchanan, urging the nation’s traumatized population to vote for his man, Charles Taylor.

Meanwhile, in Monrovia, Brumskine and Taylor entertained penury stricken Liberian students to daily dosages of eloquence and promises that are yet to be fulfilled. On the campaign trail, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine repeatedly lauded Taylor for his brevity, perspicacity, and exemplary leadership. Eventually, Brumskine’s political mentor was selected in Nigeria by the ECOWAS’ Executive Secretariat and imposed on Liberia in 1997 - thanks to the support of Brumskine and others. For his loyalty and dedication to the criminal empire of Taylor’s NPFL, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine was appointed President of the Liberian Senate.

But Senator Brumskine’s relationship with his political icon did not last very long, as we all know by now. In fact, things started on a very sour note from the outset! Before the official duty of the “rubberstamped” Liberian Senate began, Senator Brumskine was demoted and divested of his President Pro Tempore position by “con artist” turned NPP Secretary General Cyril Allen, and, of course, NPP strongman Charles Taylor. My fellow Liberians, can a lawyer who knowingly campaigned for a notorious criminal dissociate himself so easily from his former boss whose reign of terror has reached alarming proportion in the entire West African sub-region? On one hand, common sense demands that the Liberian people be given the utmost opportunity to pass their own judgment (whatever it is) on this matter. But on the other hand and in compliance with the dictates of common sense, I’m also allowed to render my little opinion on it as opposed to remaining completely mute. In this regard, I would sincerely say that Liberia is experiencing pain today partly due to Brumskine’s brand of politics. Indeed, it took the legal skills, savvy and intellectual prowess of Charles Walker Brumskine to turn a lackluster and empty-headed buffoon like Charles Taylor into the monstrous statesman that he has disappointingly become.

Further, it is interesting that Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine wants peace and stability in Liberia now, as he seems to be urging the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to seek a negotiated settlement to our latest war. But, Senator, please note that in 1997, we had a negotiated agreement then, called the “Abuja Accord” which empowered ECOMOG to train an ethnically balanced national army for our country. Instead, pro-Taylor doctrinaire like you were very uncomfortable with the security component of the “Abuja Accord”. As a consequence, the “Abuja Accord” was discarded or permanently abandoned. I’m very sure that many Liberians can still recall vividly the remarks that were made by Senator Charles Walker Brumskine at the time, to the effect that the presence of a constitutionally elected government in Liberia after seven years of lawlessness invalidated it - the [“Abuja Accord”].

Well, Senator Brumskine, Liberia definitely is now reaping the fruit of ‘your’ legal labor. Isn’t she? Have you thought about how your past blind support for Taylor, and the greed-driven policy you fatuously followed during the Liberian election in 1997, helped to set the stage for the predicament that we find ourselves in today? Maybe, if people like you had allowed ECOMOG to fully implement its peacekeeping mandate, then Liberia would have been peaceful today. Please, do not go to Bethesda, Maryland, the Liberians you want to lead are in Lofa, Bong, Monrovia, etc., and not in Bethesda. Senator Brumskine, what’s about the ethnically charged remarks attributed to you by some Liberian writers? Did you really say, “We want our thing back”? If so, what were you talking about? What “thing”? Were you talking about a return to the Americo-Liberian exploitative political and economic systems? Please elaborate lawyer Brumskine for the sake of posterity! Lastly, did you provide legal representation for the Oriental Timber Company (OTC) or not? And by the way, could you tell us what your present position is on the continuing decimation of the Liberian rain forest by the OTC and your political hero, Charles Taylor? Senator Brumskine do you know that the Taylor-OTC threatened Liberian rain forest is the only surviving virgin forest left on the West Coast of contemporary Africa? Just in case you didn’t know, Senator, it is! Now Brumskine, can you please speak also to the many accusations leveled against you by the vast majority of Liberians?

For instance, was Senator Brumskine an early associate of Mr. Charles McArthur Taylor as Cllr. Mohamedu F. Jones alleges? Senator Brumskine did you team-up with Taylor in Gbarnga and Buchanan when war was waged on us? According to Cllr. Mohamedu F. Jones, Senator Brumskine associated with Charles McArthur Taylor during the violent “Monrovia-April 1996 War”. Is this true Senator Brumskine? Did you knowing provide legal representation for Western Capitalist crook Gus Kouwenhoven when it was established back in the corrupt era of Emmanuel Shaw that the dual of Shaw and Kouwenhoven were looting our people and country to abject poverty? Again, I’m seeking clarification from no none else, but Cllr. Brumskine. Senator, a convincing answer from you will be highly appreciated!

While you’re pondering that, Senator (Brumskine), I’d now like to turn my attention to one of your associates, none other than Alhaji G. V. Kromah, who is no stranger either to many Liberians. This thief and murderer led one of the most notorious rebel factions that killed thousands of innocent Liberians during the tumultuous days of the so-called Liberian Civil War. As a grown man, he has never had any ideological conviction or aspiration of his own. His political life can best be described as a tale of pure opportunism and deadly obsession with power. During his high school days at the St. Patrick’s High School in Monrovia, friends knew him as “Pozik” because of his love of positions. He has always lived up to his opportunistic reputation. When Liberians of indigenous descent were battling the American-Liberian oligarchy for political inclusion, Alhaji “opportunist” Kromah was busy making deals with the detestable Tolbert regime.

Today, he proudly boasts of being one of the youngest ministers in the late Tolbert’s regime. He was with Samuel Doe too. Do you remember? Again, he teamed up with Charles Taylor in April 1996, and Liberians know about that history perfectly well when thousands of lives were destroyed; when women were raped mercilessly; when ethnic cleansing was ubiquitous; when personal properties were looted uncontrollably; and finally, when Monrovia was reduced to complete rubble. Alhaji G. V. Kromah and Taylor have been on the same side of the Liberian madness for quite sometime now. Ghana’s George Ayittey puts it this way, “The booty was in addition to Taylor’s share of the $16 million to $20 million in ship registry revenue which Taylor and five other members of his Council of State shared among themselves in 1995”. Kromah, can you and your brother Lasannah Kromah please tell us (the Liberian people) what happened to the over ten million US dollar that the “Kromah Family Inc.” transferred from the Ministry of Finance to Blanca Commerciale Italiana Bank in New York during that dark period?

It can be recalled that in the late 1980s, “Alhaji Pozik Kromah” worked his way up to the heart of dictator Doe, and through his mastery of opportunism, managed to get the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) to secretly select him as Doe’s running mate for the 1991 Presidential Election that never took place. Kromah has never made any positive contribution towards the advancement of Liberia. As Liberians very well know, his record in the department of human rights is as criminal as those of his wartime buddy, Charles Taylor. To get a better idea of what I am talking about, just ask our brothers and sisters from Lofa, Cape Mount, and Bong Counties about Alhaji G. V. Kromah and his ruthless ULIMO-K. This little rascal and his ULIMO-K brutalized our parents, killed, raped and destroyed the lives of countless Liberians. But somehow, he managed to obtain a visa, entered the United States of America under falsehood and now shamelessly proclaims to be a political leader - obviously living in perfect peace, while the people he left behind continue to live in abject poverty and misery.

Let us now visit Kromah’s wartime record. In his quest for political power, Alhaji Kromah turned young Liberians, especially members of the Mandingo ethnic group, into killers. His faction, ULIMO-K, was instructed to kill Mano, Gio, Lorma, Krahn and Kpelle because Kromah’s ‘twisted’ logic deemed these ethnic groups as obstacles to his quest for political power in the country. In Lofa County, Kromah did not only target members of the Lorma ethnic group, but he also went after their cultural heritage and religion. The “Poro Society”, a proud heritage of the Lorma of Lofa County had its headquarter ransacked by Kromah and ULIMO-K. Upon the instructions of Alhaji G. V. Kromah, the “Poro Mask”, which is an important symbol of the Poro Society, was looted by ULIMO-K fighters, and subsequently auctioned in Europe by a Guinean business associate of Kromah’s. Today, the stolen cultural heritage of the Lorma people can be found in countless European Museums. So-called Liberian leaders, how do you describe the total obliteration of one’s cultural heritage? Did you guys research the UN’s definition of what constitutes crime against humanity before parading Kromah in Bethesda recently as a Liberian political leader? It doesn’t seem so!

As for Ms. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, one is always tempted to give her credit. Among the Liberian political leaders, it can be said that she is the only person who has accepted some responsibility for her actions. In an interview with The Perspective Newsmagazine in 2000, she acknowledged and then stated bluntly that she donated ten thousand US dollars to Mr. Taylor’s initial war efforts. But admission of past mistakes or a remorseful sentiment is not enough, given our peculiar situation today! There is a whole lot that Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf can do to help our cause. For example, she can use her past and present international influence or standing to help seek a UN Tribunal for Liberia. This would be a noteworthy venture both for Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf and our innocent parents who were murdered by Kromah, Taylor, Roosevelt Johnson, Prince Johnson, George Boley and now Mr. Sekou Conneh of the little known dissident group, LURD.

Surprisingly, Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf has not done any of the above. Yet, she continues to meet with the very men who destroyed our lives to supposedly discuss the future of Liberia. What Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf and other caring Liberians have failed to understand is that Liberian warlords, especially Charles M. Taylor, Alhaji G. V. Kromah and George S. Boley, do not understand the future. They are thugs who live in the past, and are obsessed with violence. Angry Liberians do not know why Ms Johnson-Sirleaf who purports to be a “redeemed” politician continues to meet with these sycophants. Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, we are angry that you of all persons have not added your voice to our call for a UN indictment against known Liberian warlords. Are you afraid of being indicted as your archenemy “Alhaji The Executioner Kromah” claims? Is there something deeper than what you have admitted to in public? Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, if you cannot help our cause, then please do not continue to hurt us needlessly! We are seriously fed up with the shuttle diplomacy and political meetings (i.e. Bethesda, Burkina Faso, Abuja, Taylor’s Executive Manson, etc.). We do not need these meetings at all. Instead, Liberians want a UN Tribunal, the repatriation of the millions of dollars stolen out of our country by the warlords and their associates. Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, you should know that your presence at these meetings is lending credence to crimes. Don’t you think?

While you too ponder that, Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, I’d now like to turn my attention to the latest political news that has been circulating within the Liberian community both abroad and at home - that Dr. Marcus Dahn is considering running for the Liberian Presidency. In fact, Dr. Dahn recently told Mr. F. Aagon Tingba Jr., (a Liberian MBA student at Rutgers University Camden Campus) that it was about time that a “true son of the land” ran for president. Why was Dr. Marcus Dahn at the recent Bethesda Conference? For me, the reason is simple - to launch his political campaign. Period! The thought of Marcus Dahn running to become President of Liberia is laughable and sad. What has Dr. Marcus Dahn actually done for the Liberian people lately that warrant their support? And since when did he become a political leader of national appeal? Where was he and what was his position during the throes of the brutal Liberian civil war?

As far as we know, Marcus Dahn has historically been a staunch United People’s Party (UPP) partisan or stalwart. But, in the 1997 climate of political opportunism, he switched political affiliation and thereafter became an Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-Unity Party (UP) loyalist. It was widely speculated then that Dr. Dahn was supposed to have become Liberia’s Foreign Minister in an Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration, although his educational background was devoid of international politics. But, when the stupidity of the likes of Marcus Dahn and Gabriel Baccus Matthews resulted in a Charles Taylor victory, Dr. Dahn flew out of Liberia to Ohio, where he continues to enjoy life peaceably. As for our parents, they were left out in the cold in Taylor’s “Pepperbushes”, and with devastating consequences we all are aware of today.

Seriously, what have Marcus Dahn and other so-called Nimba County Ph.D. holders done for their home county, Nimba? The answer to this question sadly can be found in today’s Nimba, in which a vast portion of its young men and women are amputees. If the likes of Marcus Dahn had taken to the BBC airwaves and other international news agency to tell Mano and Gio boys and girls to lay down their arms and go back to their villages, maybe Nimba County would have had a bright future today. As one angry Nimba student at the University of Liberia puts it, “Marcus Dahn falls in the category of the ‘do nothing’ African Ph.D.’s”. This is not an understatement by any stretch of the imagination, and the student seems to be right!

Dr. Dahn, where is your recent publication on the Liberian predicament? When last did you undertake serious academic research on Liberia? I wish to remind you that the Ph.D. degree is a research degree and at this time in the history of our nation, we need more books from folks like you. Am I not correct, Dr.? Can you please write textbooks for Liberian schools? Dr. Dahn please note that when an individual with a Ph.D. fails to undertake serious academic research, his or her degree becomes obsolete very quickly, therefore the need for sustained research. Again, you should definitely know that, don’t you? In fact, Liberia actually needs more books as opposed to more ‘for nothing’ Ph.D presidential candidates or ‘wannabes’. Admittedly, I really don’t know who is currently managing Marcus’ political campaign, but a word of advice would surely serve his interest. Dr. Dahn, please do me one big favor - drop out of this race and allow a more competent Liberian to run against Taylor, because, you cannot even win your own quarter (The Dahn Quarter) or even your home county, Nimba, much more the entire country.

It is a pity, though, that some of our Liberian brothers and sisters have hailed the “Bethesda sham” as a success - something that’s kind of strange. While one does not know exactly how those individuals may have reached their poor conclusion, it is however fair to say that this conference was a pet project for dictators and criminals who normally thrive on deceptions and lies. In fact, Alhaji G. V. Kromah took charge of this conference and demanded that The Perspective newsmagazine’s representative, James W. Harris, be thrown out of the conference room, though the newsmagazine was sent a written invitation by Cletus Wotorson - Chairman of the conference. Does this ring a bell? If Alhaji Kromah cannot live with a Liberian news organization that is “objectively” critical of Liberian warlords, and in democratic America of all places, can he then be trusted to respect freedom of speech and of the press in Liberia? Certainly not! By the way, why have “Alhaji The Executioner Kromah” and Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine refused to comment on the expulsion of Mr. James W. Harris from the “Bethesda Cant”? The Perspective learned that Mr. Harris was thrown out of the conference because Cletus did not consult Alhaji Kromah and Charles Brumskine. When the information about the expulsion of Mr. Harris reached The Perspective - George H. Nubo of The Perspective called Mr. Brumskine and left a message. Few minutes later, George H. Nubo and Abraham M. Williams again called Mr. Brumskine and left another message. Mr. Nubo also called Mr. Kromah that night and left a message on his answering machine. But The Perspective has gotten back no return calls from either of you. Please be aware that we are still expecting phone calls from you guys regarding the expulsion of Mr. Harris. What is going on, presidential aspirants? Please explain! Do you believe what you preach?

The hard truth is that Kromah is a murderer/dictator just like his former associate Charles Taylor. And please don’t allow yourself to be misled into thinking otherwise! What differences are there between a group of men and women whose political failures have negatively contributed to the abysmal political climate in contemporary Liberia and the one man (Taylor) that their foolishness has unfortunately imposed upon us? Fellow Liberians, isn’t it interesting that the so-called opposition now claims to be operating in unison, when, during the 1997 elections, Mr. Cletus Wotorson, a Liberian Geologist turned politician, was their chosen candidate to run dismally against Mr. Taylor? Is history about to repeat itself? I hope not!

Before what was supposed to have been a single candidacy was fielded by the opposition, it can also be recalled that things rapidly disintegrated into political schism of unmanageable proportion with every known political party putting forward its own candidate. No wonder Charles Criminal Taylor is today the sitting president of lamentable Liberia. Has anything changed since? Nope! How many candidates do we have now? The answer is eighteen! And how many of our political degenerates are seeking a UN Tribunal for Liberia? I’d deliberately leave that answer up to you, fair enough? Are our political opportunists interested in the prohibition of Liberian warlords from future Liberian politics? Again, the answer is no - and for very good reasons - some of the self-proclaimed opposition leaders are the same killers that we would like to bring to justice. And, where are our Liberian lawyers in all of this? Well, the vast majority of them are lined up behind fellow lawyer and former Taylor loyalist, Charles Walker Brumskine. However, Liberians are profoundly thankful to the few (Liberian lawyers) who are unshaken by Brumskine’s empty rhetoric and rubbish.

As far as many of us are concerned, the “Bethesda Cant” epitomizes everything that has gone wrong with our country, Liberia. Yet, some of the participants and organizers are of the unanimous opinion that a lawsuit should rightfully be brought against the Presidents of Libya and Burkina Faso for training, equipping, abetting and providing diplomatic supports for Charles Criminal Taylor and his NPFL rebels. In this connection, I’d like to add my voice to the call for justice, at least, for the increasing number of victims of Liberia’s maddening and senseless wars.

Indeed, those of us who are residing in the US really need to pull together (as a matter of necessity) in order to file civil lawsuits in the United States against Taylor, Blaise Compaore, and Colonel Mouammer Gaddafi of Libya for their respective roles in our country’s sad demise. But truthfully, I’m very troubled by the fact that the names of warlords Kromah and Boley are somehow being omitted from the list. Worst of all, the name of arch-African dictator Lasannah Conteh of Guinea, who also provided military, monetary and other assistance to the notorious ULIMO-K faction, and as some people are now saying, also to LURD, was too not mentioned. Are we saying then that the victims of Alhaji G. V. Kromah’s crimes are not humans? Hope not, because something’s definitely wrong with this picture!

Again, we were and still are strongly opposed to the Ouagadougou and Monrovia Conferences and for very good reasons. And frankly, we should equally be upset [darn upset] with the “Bethesda Nonsense”. Why are we continuously allowing ourselves to fall victims to the chicanery and lies of the likes of Kromah and other Liberian opportunists? To be blunt, there are no appreciable differences between Alhaji G. V. Kromah and Charles McArthur Taylor as we’ve demonstrated here via examples after examples.

The fact remains that theses guys have the proclivity to further threaten and inflict pain on our country and its people indefinitely if we only allow them to do so. But for the sake of fairness, let us always try to be consistent as much as possible by applying the same standards to each of them if we are going to isolate one - it’s simple as that! To sit and talk to a notorious warlord while attempting to single out one person is despicable. And so, let us bring Taylor, Kromah, Roosevelt Johnson, Prince Johnson, Boley and Conneh of LURD to justice for their individual or collective crimes.

Regardless of its ethnic background, skin pigmentation or spoken language, HUMANITY is naturally endowed with the same rights. And, when those rights have been flagrantly violated by warlords and dictatorial regimes, those of us who are in a better position [comparatively] to do something about it, must rise above our ethnicity and do what is right in the eyes of God. Liberians, let us bring Taylor, Kromah, Boley and other warlords to justice for their crimes as I’ve suggested in this article and on many other occasions. More significantly, let us end our obsessions with conferences that insulate these killers and compel them to give accounts of their wicked deeds. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for from all concerned Liberians, or is it? When all is said and done, the bottom line is this - something must be done urgently to bring Alhaji G. V. Kromah and people like him to book for their various crimes against our country. It’s only then that we can move forward together as a nation!

About the author: Paul Japheth Sunwabe is a co-founder and President of Freedom and International Justice Foundation, a Washington DC organization seeking Justice, Democracy and economic reforms in Africa.

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