Kaddafi, the Bishop and Taylor
By Abdoulaye W. Dukule
September 24, 2002
It is rather sad, when we have to repeatedly say to our compatriots "we told you so..." It is sad to be proven right after predicting the worse. From the time the so-called conference started, we have said and repeated that there was nothing to look forward to, that whatever was taking place in Monrovia was but a charade and that Taylor would never come out with a solution to any of the issues that are paramount to the people of Liberia: create and maintain an atmosphere of peace and start a real process of reconciliation.
Last Monday, we published an article where we questioned for the second time the wisdom of Archbishop Michael Francis to associate with an enterprise that would never benefit the people of Liberia. This writer received a few calls from people arguing that we were hard on the Bishop. They said that the "Bishop knew what he was doing." Of course, the Bishop knew what he was doing but he was thinking in biblical terms, that redemption for any soul is possible.
I remember the Bishop, at the Cathedral, on Broad Street delivering a sermon during a memorial service for the 5 Catholic nuns that were raped and killed by the NPFL. He talked about the deeds of the devil and he said that Liberians would have to pray hard so that the blanket of evil that had befallen on the country could be lifted. He said that for the country to regain its sanity, people who unleashed terror must be made to be accountable for their crimes and that they must repent and ask for forgiveness. The crowd shed tears. Octopus was in full swing. That was ten years ago.
There is no doubt about the Bishop's commitment to peace and the welfare of the people of Liberia. Everyone consulted him and at times, he sought counsel; he asked for others opinions and exchanged ideas with anyone who listened or had an idea about advancing the peace process. He was frequent visitor at the Executive Mansion or at the residence of the president of the Interim government. People know where his heart is and when news came that he had accepted to chair the conference, many thought that: "God moves in mysterious ways."
Evil will have short victories and this is exactly what happened on that Monday, when Taylor went to the Conference center and showed to the world he is nothing more than a ruthless dictator, a leader with no equal but his puppet master, Colonel Kaddafi, under the tent in the desert. Appointing Bishop Michael Francis, as Chairman of the national conference and then humiliating him is a short victory, because in the end, the greater cause the Bishop was defending will survive. Liberians will survive Taylor just as the people of Zaire survived Mobutu, just as the people of Uganda sent Idi Amin packing and just as Nigerians woke up one morning to learn that Abacha, a patron of Charles G. Taylor had died and had been buried.
The Bishop did not understand that he was being played in a game of greater dimension. He did not understand that Charles Taylor and his master were still working on their plans. Kaddafi has been in power since the late 1960s, when coup d’etats were fashionable and the only way for power transfer in Africa. He changed the world oil market, financed and trained terrorists of every nationality, from Ireland to Zimbabwe, caused the deaths of millions of people everywhere in world, including some 300, 000 in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He has not given up on his master plan of an Africa living under the doctrine of the Green Book. He only changed tactics. He still maintains training camps in Palala in Liberia and in Po, in Burkina Faso. He still calls the shots in Monrovia. Of course, as a good master, he no longer wants any “embarrassing visits” from his Monrovia puppet, but he will not relent on his master plan. Kaddafi was seen as a terrorist, condemned, and now, the world is starting to look at him differently. Not because he has changed, but because he has matured in his game and provides a different shade on the world political screen. What would the world be without a Kaddafi after losing USSR? Taylor expects to go through the same changes Kaddafi went through. After all these accusations of terror and everything, he expects the world to warm up to him, just as it is now warming up to Kaddafi.
Kaddafi escaped a bomb that killed members of his family. He survived embargoes of all sort, did not travel for years just to come up as a new “leader” on the African political scene. His dollar diplomacy is again being used to put pressure on impoverished states. His dream is to conquer through surrogates the whole continent and he is still bent on exporting his “revolution” and turning much of Africa into his playground. He now has a stronghold in Monrovia that would have allowed him someday to control Sierra Leone and Guinea, with eyes on Cote d’Ivoire. Kaddafi is very present in Ghana where his agents formed a shadow police state during the reign of Rawlings. His people are in Burkina Faso. He had become a financial backer of Malian Konare. The tactics have evolved but the ambition is unabated.
Next door, in Cote d’Ivoire, the recent attempt by Gueï, the Napoleon of the Tropics had “foreign flavor.” Most of the insurgents killed along with him were foreigners. It is a known fact that he had close ties with the regime in Monrovia. The insurgents in Cote d’Ivoire used AK-47, arms unknown to the Ivorian military and a favorite in Monrovia. He had tens of young Liberians, "loaned" to him from Monrovia for his protection.
There are closer links between recent events in Monrovia and Abidjan. General Gueï, like in a tantrum, called a press conference and said that he was withdrawing from the government of national unity, insulting Gbagbo and making veiled threats against the government. Taylor goes to the Unity Conference center and using the same language, changes the course of events, withdrawing “the olive branch” he had been extending to the Liberian people. Coups d’etat don’t happen by accident, they are carefully planned, always with some kind of backing to serve as an exit route. Gueï did not find his exit route. His rise to political power brought more death in Cote d’Ivoire in two years than in the entire history of the country. Just as Taylor would be remembered as the man whose reign caused the death of more people than any other time in the entire history of Liberia and without exaggeration, West Africa, except, perhaps during the Biafra civil war.
A successful coup in Cote d'Ivoire would have put in power a "cash-strapped" Gueï. He would not have received a dime from the international community and as it happened during his first reign, the country would have faced total bankruptcy. But Gueï would have been president and would have had a companion in his misery because next door, Taylor, with plenty of personal cash and at the head of a pariah government desperately needs a friend. With Teejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone another close friend of Kaddafi things could have become easier for Gueï. He would have survived. Cote d’Ivoire would have hit rock bottom but people like Gueï and Taylor do not care what happens to their countries, as long as they are in power. Once, while he was in power and seeing that the coffers were empty, Gueï sent armed men to the seat of the Bank of West Africa, demanding cash. Isn’t the same thing in Monrovia, except that in Monrovia, the bankers bring the money to the president? The brutality of the coup in Abidjan would have been such that nobody would have dared to resist just as the brutality of the Liberian war has sent chills through every opposition member and created an unprecedented political exodus.
Christmas eve 1989 - Christmas eve 1999, two dates, ten years apart, two men, two nations changed for ever, with hundreds of thousands of corpses on their trail to power. At least, one of them has been stopped in his second coming. Two men who chose a holy night to launch their evil deeds. Evil comes in disguise.
And now, even more scarier is that other rising hoodlum, sitting somewhere in the bush of Voinjama, swearing to become the next president, after getting rid of Taylor. Sekou Damateh Konneh says he is “predestined” to rule Liberia and he would stay in power for three years and then organize elections. Does anyone recall Charles Taylor in his BBC interview of 1990, somewhere in the bush, near Gbarnga? Sekou Damateh says that God has called on him to save Liberia. So said Taylor. The advantage now is that nobody in Liberia, even the staunchest enemies of Taylor wants another redeemer. Let Damateh and his men and women keep digging Lofa Bridge for gold and diamond. Are we supposed to be surprised that for the duration of the comical "national conference" LURD disappeared of the radar just to pop its head out again when Taylor decides that he needs no conference? What is between Damateh and Taylor? Whatever they are working on, they have the same agenda and that agenda does not include any positive outlook for Liberia and West Africa. It sounds like a bad joke but in Liberia, bad jokes always turn into deadly realities… Doe, Taylor, Damateh, God forbid!
It is high time to put an end to the Taylor regime of doom, to curtail the grand plan of dictator Kaddafi of Libya and stop another hoodlum from taking the sub-region into new deadly spin. Taylor must be brought to justice; Kaddafi needs to account for the death of some 300,000 people in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the destruction of infrastructure. And Damateh must be stop from going anywhere further then the little buffer he has been assigned at to protect the Guinean territory.