If Kosovo, why not Sierra Leone?
A Joint Statement in Solidarity with Sierra Leoneans during their Rally on May 8, 1999,
at the United Nations
Delivered By Two Democratic Liberian Groups
We bring you revolutionary greetings from the Liberian Democratic Future (LDF) and the Coalition of Progressive Liberians in the Americas (COPLA). We have come to join you as you petition the international community for urgent humanitarian help for our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone.
A good neighbor is more valuable than a distant relative. The ties between Sierra Leone and Liberia go beyond politics. We share common borders, common families, and common ethnicities, including the relationships between the Creoles of Sierra Leone and our Americo-Liberians. There is even a Krutown Road in Freetown while there is a New Kru Town in Monrovia.
But the gangsters in Monrovia masquerading as leaders lack the commonsense to see the value in such ties. They see value in mass death, loot and mayhem. The Sierra Leonean war is an extension of horror in Liberia Liberian rebels, under the direction of Mr. Charles "Killer" Taylor, spearheaded the invasion of Sierra Leone as a part of a bigger sub-regional scheme to destabilize West Africa to satisfy Libya's Maummar Gadaffi.
Consequently, we are in a fierce battle for the political soul of West Africa. Just like insurgents and rebel regimes are driven by personal ambition and the obsession to become national leaders because the smell the booty, each progressive African organization must commit to removing such tyrants to establish a level political field. In the process, we must strategize against further armed incursions by power-hungry hyenas attracted by the loot.
We have come, in solidarity, to join you in your just struggle to restore democracy in Sierra Leone. As we converge here today, the banditry in Sierra Leone continues. The rebels are continuing their campaign of terror of mutilating civilians.
Last Wednesday when the Concord Times of Freetown reported President Tejan Kabbah's revelation of a plot to destabilize the sub-region, it was nothing new. Colonel Gadaffi of Libya has provided military support to governments in Burkina-Faso, Chad, Ghana, Sudan, Uganda and Liberia. President Kabbah reportedly responded to a question about speculations that rebel leader Foday Sankoh enjoys the support of Charles Taylor of Liberia, Blaise Campaore of Burkina-Faso and Moummar Gadaffi of Libya, and that the alleged plot would start off with Sierra Leone, go to Guinea, go to Ghana and then end up in Nigeria.
President Kabbah's discovery should be taken seriously because where there is smoke is fire. Taylor accommodated rebel Johnny-Paul Koroma and others at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia before the recent battle to take Freetown. Taylor's NPFL and Sankoh's RUF struck towns and villages in Bo, Freetown, Kenema in Sierra Leone, where thousands of Sierra Leoneans and Liberians sought refuge. Last year, some NPFL ex-fighters, who are now in America, revealed the sinister plan to expand terrorism in West Africa. At a meeting in Tripoli, Charles Taylor, Ben Laden and Colonel Gadaffi agreed to uproot American influence in West Africa. They further consented to expand terrorism in the sub-region to eliminate "harmful" opposition elements.
True to form, Taylor declared war on America on September 18 last year when he ordered his police and Special Security Unit to open fire on the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia, thereby violating acceptable international order. In the process, they wounded some American marines and killed over 1000 Liberians.
There is hardly any redemption for someone like Taylor who sees no ramifications for attacking a foreign embassy, and one belonging to a super power at that. Taylor has grown more blatant with each unresisted step toward having his way with everyone, which now includes the United States.
We have reached a point in our sub-region of accepting psychopaths as leaders. The little progress under men like Sir Milton Magai and Sekou Toure has been replaced by the worst kind of suffering in our entire history. The Mano River Union dream has disappeared in clouds of bullets and bombs thrown by men incapable of simplest act to build. Those underachievers have managed to hold the rest of us hostage. Unless we can stand up and stop them, we are all doomed. To continue hoping and believing that the likes of Sankoh and Taylor can be positive factors in our effort to rebuild our shattered societies is to ignore the enormity of the problems ahead.
West Africa can hardly afford Charles Taylor and his rebel friends. Our challenge is to ensure that the likes of Taylor and Sankoh do not succeed in further reducing our devastated societies to lower depths. To fail in this is to fail the future generations, young men and women, who may have no Fourah Bay College to attend, but left with the gun to create more predators to consume society.
Meanwhile, we are horrorstruck that the world continues to sit by in silent conspiracy and in apparent denial of the hideous and repulsive situation in Sierra Leone. In recent months, the battle for Freetown has displaced about 200,000 people. Another 350,000 Sierra Leoneans are refugees in Guinea. Add 90,000 others at border towns between Sierra Leone and Liberia. This war has consumed over 25,000 innocent civilians. More are dying daily! Something must be done right away!
As Sierra Leone undergoes her most difficult period in history, we call upon all Africans, Americans and the United Nations to give the same passion and attention to Sierra Leone as they have given to the crises in Kosovo, Somalia, Bosnia and elsewhere.
During the past seven years, we also have been watching closely to see what relief well-known and outspoken African-Americans would offer to help bring the African dilemma to an end. Hardly anyone in that Community has been publicly vocal as they have been in non-African situations. Take the current Kosovo media hoopla, for instance.
Conversely, however, too often, some African American leaders tend to promote tyrants to the distress of oppressed Africans. Instead, they should tell African despots and rebel leaders that what is being done to their compatriots is a disgrace to African peoples all over the world.
When, out of fear for their lives, Liberians elected Charles Taylor president, he promised to reconstruct the country. To date, the only real development that is taking place is in his wallet. He and his angels of death are raiding our national coffers and natural resources. As the loot continues so are constant witch-hunting and mysterious disappearances of those perceived as government's enemies. But still, some African American leaders see this war criminal as their best friend, and portray him as the legitimate leader of the oppressed Liberian people.
If those African Americans lack the moral courage to stand up to African tyrants, it would be best if they stayed out of our plight.
We commend ECOMOG's and the United Nations' efforts to resolve the war in Sierra Leone. We appeal to the United Nations to continue to strengthen ECOMOG to step up efforts to end this brutal human tragedy that has devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and threatens to get even worse in Sierra Leone.
There is a high potential of a regional conflict if an end to the Sierra Leonean war is not found soon. The smuggling of arms in the region fuels the war despite the embargo on Sierra Leone. Therefore, we appeal to the international community to bring to bear the full range of its financial, military and diplomatic assets to reach a negotiated peace settlement, which would ensure the cessation of armed hostilities and the reconstruction of Sierra Leone.
We also appeal to the United Nations to take strong measures to stop the arms smuggling to the Sierra Leonean rebels, including enforcement of arms embargo on Liberia and Sierra Leone. In the same vein, we appeal to the United Nations to exert its influence so that those who recruit and use child-soldiers in the war would refrain from contravening common standards of decency.
We further appeal to the international community to place a higher priority on meeting the emergency needs of Sierra Leoneans, who suffer from life-threatening shortages of food, water, and medical care. Full humanitarian access to the whole of Sierra Leone must be at the core of any peace negotiations.
We specifically want to call upon the Government of the United States and the Clinton Administration to take an aggressive posture toward the resolution of the Sierra Leonean crisis.
We would like to also appeal to the Government of Guinea to remove the bureaucratic barriers it has used to keep out Sierra Leonean refugees.
We strongly appeal to factional leaders and their surrogates to stop their senseless carnage of our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone and the wanton destruction of that country. We call on the factions in the conflict to disarm, demobilize and encamp their combatants to ensure an atmosphere conducive for the conduct of civility.
Finally, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians have an obligation to succeed against these bandits. With God above, and armed with the determination to defend our people, Good shall prevail over Evil. May the Struggle continue!
Siah J. K. Nyanseor
Chairman, Liberian Democratic Future
Bodioh Wisseh Siapoe
National Chairman, COPLA
Saturday, May 8, 1999
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