The Kakata Attack: Is It Real Or Another Taylor's Gimmick?

By Musue N. Haddad

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 8, 2002

There have been reports of another outbreak of fighting in Liberia. This time the ‘fighting’ took place in Kakata, about 35 miles from the Liberian capital, Monrovia. The alleged attack on Wednesday, April 3, 2002, left citizens in the capital, Monrovia, panicking. Taxi drivers refused to reach the outskirts of the city fearing that the close proximity of Kakata to Monrovia, meant that the ruthless government security forces would be merciless to the people as they normally are.

Many people are skeptical of the government’s claims that Kakata has been attacked because in the past, Taylor surrogates are known to have fabricated such attacks – like the ones in Klay and Sawmill. Many observers believe the Klay attack was planned by the government in order to use it as a pretext for Mr. Taylor to impose a “state of emergency”, which would then be used to restrict the civil and constitutional rights of the Liberian people in the name of security. The alleged Sawmill attack took place when British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was visiting the sub-region.

Similarly, the so-called Kakata attack took place as members of the United Nations’ Panel of Experts were in Monrovia to assess Mr. Taylor’s compliance with the UN sanctions imposed on him for his involvement in destabilizing Sierra Leone. US Congressional Staffers believed to be associated with the Black Congressional Caucus were also visiting the country. Few hours after the alleged attack, the Taylor government took the UN experts and a representative of the US Congressional staffers to Kakata to observe the damage. This move by the government made many Liberians as well as some in the international community to wonder if this was a coincidence or another gimmick by the Taylor regime.

Most people believe the latter to be the case since LURD, who in the past had fallen for many of Taylor’s gimmicks has not taken responsibility for this attack. Perhaps, they have caught up with Taylor’s fiasco. It seems that this time LURD does not want to give the UN Security Council reasons to lift the arms embargo against Liberia. Recently, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) placed a travel ban on LURD for not attending the recent “Reconciliation Talks” in Abuja, and for the intermittent war in northwestern Liberia.

There is a common pattern in most of Liberia’s rebel attacks. The Liberian government usually says there is an attack by rebels when their are visitors from the international community visiting Liberia or the government uses alleged attacks as a pretext to arrest and imprison those the government view as enemies - in the name of “security”- as it has done since the state of emergency was declared (many journalists and human rights defenders have fallen prey to the absolute powers claimed by the Liberian ruler).

To fully understand the pattern and purpose of these orchestrated attacks and events that precede them, let’s look at a few examples. Mr. Taylor’s lack of respect for human lives and his determination to do anything to perpetuate his reign of terror, even if it means killing innocent people, can be seen in the examples.

Prior to the September 18, 1998 fracas, President Charles Taylor had his familiar and well publicized fast and prayer service. Few days after the “fast and prayer”, government forces led by his son, Chuckie Taylor, raided Camp Johnson Road area in downtown Monrovia in their efforts to capture Roosevelt Johnson, one of Taylor’s factional rivals during the Liberian civil war. Street battle ensued on September 18, 1998, between government security forces and loyalists of Roosevelt Johnson of the Krahn ethnic group. Several innocent Krahn women, and children were killed, while many prominent members of that tribe were imprisoned. The government claimed that “over 45 persons” died, but independent sources placed the number of persons killed at over 1000.

The government is on record to have described the fracas as a surgical operation to rid the society of fugitives. It is an open secret that such operations or if I may use the government’s description of the event - “surgical operation” are not abruptly carried out. Surgical Operations are planned and reviewed before being carried out. Thomas Doeway and the ten Liberian Armed forces personnel were arrested, taken into the Barclay Training Center (BTC) prison and later murdered.

The government then announced that Thomas Doeway and the ten Liberian Armed Forces personnel were killed during an exchange of fire between government forces and a group that wanted to release them. Yet at the BTC, there was no evidence of fresh bullets anywhere in the vicinity after the alleged exchange. The government refused to release the bodies of Thomas Doeway and the ten Liberian Armed forces personnel that were killed? There are strong indications that Thomas Doeway and the ten Liberian Armed forces personnel were slaughtered by government forces, and not killed in exchange of fire as the government claimed. For several years, Doeway’s colleagues, General Joseph Jarlee and the others who were arrested during the infamous September 18th incident languished in prison. This act by the government is seen as part of its ongoing strategy to purge the Armed Forces of Liberia and security agencies of those it considers loyalists of the late president Samuel K. Doe. The ongoing elimination process is not limited to rival groups of the NPFL but extended to all persons in various sectors of the Liberian society, since Charles Taylor and his cohorts see anyone who speaks of the shortcomings of his regime as enemy of the state.

Another scheme was staged again in April 1999 while members of an international humanitarian organization was visiting Lofa County, the infamous northern part of Liberia associated with instability. There were reports of fighting in Lofa. During that fight, many persons lost their lives; “rebels” allegedly took relief vehicles and items away. Relief personnel fearing for their lives fled from the area.

Later, when the “fighting” subsided, the government said it had gained control of the area. Sources from Lofa said the looting was carried out by security forces - some of them were armed and dressed in civilian outfits; a replica of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebels.

Again in October 2001, few days before the United Nations’ Panel of Experts were due to arrive in Liberia, the government announced that it was attacked again by rebels in Lofa County. Several persons were killed, many others were displaced; again, the rebels were “pushed” away and the government without fear on October 6, 2001, led members of the United Nations’ Panel of Experts to Lofa County to “see the effects of the fighting” - the area it claimed had been a battle zone less than a week.

A close confidant of Taylor and the so-called battlefront supervisor, Lieutenant General Cocoo Dennis stated on BBC news coverage of the United Nations’ Panel of Experts visit that it was easy to identify the dissidents. “They speak Mandingo (a local language) and French (the official language of Guinea)”. For the Liberian government, the United Nations team visit was a suitable time to play on their sympathy. How did Cocoo Dennis determine that the rebels speak Mandingo and French? Was there an interaction between Cocoo Dennis and the ‘rebels’? Were any of the ‘rebels’ arrested and interrogated to enable Cocoo Dennis and the government to determine the languages they spoke? If so, where are the ‘rebels’ that were arrested?

The patterns of attacks can be traced to the scheme perfected by the disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) led by Charles Taylor during the civil war. This scheme is one of the numerous strategies NPFL used in frustrating the efforts of leaders of West Africa and international organizations, who genuinely intended to resolve the Liberian crisis in its early stage.

So, the news of Wednesday, April 3rd attacks did not come as a surprise since another United Nations’ sanctions team was in the country to investigate whether President Charles Taylor is complying with the selective sanctions imposed on his government for his role in fueling the crisis in Sierra Leone. To focus the attention on others, Charles Taylor concocted this scheme like he always does - to tell the world that similar attacks have killed several people, displaced many others, destroyed people’s properties and left families homeless. The Liberian ruler believes that the international community will buy that - thereby lifting the UN sanctions imposed on him

Like in most of the government-orchestrated attacks, several hours after the attack, with unwavering confidence, the government led a team including journalists, to Kakata to see the destruction carried out during the “attack” in which two Lebanese businessmen were killed. How did the rebels get to Kakata? How many government forces were killed? How many rebels were killed?

The government claimed the attackers overran the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) and the students were asked to leave the area. Citizens fled the city leaving government troops parading in their usual display of long-range weapons.

As the saying goes, “you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.” This is what the Taylor government thinks it can do with its latest scheme - in order to gain sympathy from the international community.

The Liberian government in an April 2nd publication quoted the head of the visiting UN Panel of Experts, Ambassador Harjit Singh Sandu of India as saying that “ There is evidence that Liberia is complying with the UN demands.”

However, after having being led on a tour of Kakata after the alleged attack, the Times of India in its April 4th publication on the coverage said, "One of the UN members declined comment [on the attack] saying he needed more information from other sources before making a statement".

The question lingering in the minds of many persons is what kind of influence such orchestrated attack that killed innocent civilians, destroyed their properties, leave them homeless, which is perpetrated by Taylor and his partners-in-crimes will have on the decision of the visiting UN Panel and the international community? The Panel will present its findings to the UN on April 11 and the Liberian people are waiting to see!

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