Alhaji Kromah: Disappointments
and Denials (An interview)
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor & J. Kpanneh Doe
Oct 25, 2000
[Editor's note: The Perspective presents this all-encompassing interview with Alhaji G.V. Kromah, founder of the Movement for the Redemption of Liberian Moslems during the formative days of the Liberian horrors. The organization's announced aim was protecting Liberian Moslems persecuted by Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) at the height of the Liberian war.
The war saw a concerted campaign against Moslems, (mainly Mandingoes) and Krahns, the two ethnic groups Taylor and his largely Gio-Mano fighters identified as supporters of the late President Samuel Doe, a Krahn. Hundreds of Moslems were massacred and dozens of Mosques burnt down around the country by marauding NPFL rebels. Kromah later forged a union with the Krahns, forming the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO), with the declared objective of rescuing Krahns and Mandingoes from ethnic cleansing instituted by the NPFL's Gio-Mano fighters, declared enemies of Krahns and Mandingoes who were similarly persecuted by the military regime of late President Samuel Doe. ULIMO soon split along ethnic lines - Mandingoes and Krahns. Kromah became leader of ULIMO-K (for Kromah) while the Krahn warlord Roosevelt Johnson led ULIMO-J (for Johnson). Bitter rivalries ensued between the two groups. In one of the surprising twists in the Liberian crisis, Kromah forged an alliance with Taylor's NPFL against the Krahns. In April 1996, Kromah and Taylor, uniting their rebels under "Government Forces", and with the open backing of Nigerian commanded ECOMOG, attacked the Krahns in Monrovia, overtly to arrest Johnson for an alleged murder. The city war, which lasted till May 1996, left over 3000 people killed, according to UN figures. Their forces, other rebels, along with ECOMOG, thoroughly looted the city and millions of dollars worth of property were lost. What remained of Monrovia, after series of NPFL attacks such its 1991 Operation Octopus, which sought to drive Liberians into the sea, was burnt down. Thousands of Liberians and foreigners fled the city in leaking boats.
As it gained military strength, ULIMO-K began a series of vendettas against non-Moslems around the country, mainly in Nimba and Lofa Counties. Non-Moslem shrines were identified and destroyed, Christians persecuted, and their properties looted. It became a vicious circle of revenge that earned ULIMO-K notoriety.
Kromah was one of the 13 candidates that contested the July 1997 elections, coming third but with no significant numbers of seats for his paralyzed All Liberia Coalition Party. Following Charles Taylor's victory, Kromah was appointed head of the Reconciliation Commission, but he was forced to escape after the horrific killing of Opposition politician Samuel Dokie, his wife and two others. Mr. Kromah, a Moslem married to a Christian, rose from a journalist at the Ministry of Information to become head of the country's broadcasting system now in ruins and replaced by President Taylor's private media outlets.
In this interview, The Perspective team of editors takes Kromah, now in exile in the U.S.A., on a lengthy tour of several issues and developments that plunged the country into 7-year gruesome war that left 250,000 killed and paralyzed the economy, his roles, his perception and his excuses. Here is the interview]:
TP: You've been around Liberian politics and have had a public service career in government for a relatively long time, first serving as Press Secretary to former Vice President Bennie Warner, in the Tolbert Administration. Later, you served as Minister of Information in the Doe regime from which you were dismissed and then re-employed at a lower level as Director-General of the Liberian Broadcasting System (LBS) a couple of months later. You also worked closely with Charles Taylor from 1995-1997. These were three diametrically opposed individuals. What is different about these individuals and do you share either one of their philosophy? If not, what is your philosophy?
Mr. Kromah: I actually started my public career in 1973 when I was employed as a cadet in the Press Bureau of the Ministry of Information, and later became Chief of the Recording and Broadcast Section and Head of the Public Affairs Division. I thereafter applied to work with Bennie Warner when he said he was out to "oust the crooks" in the government. President Tolbert later appointed me as the youngest Assistant Minister in the history of Liberia. In the Doe regime, I served as Director General of LBS and then as Minister of Information, from which I was dismissed in l984 for "accusing the government of dictatorship and planning to re-introduce a rubber stamp government in the new Republic." My reappointment as Director General of LBS came after four solid years, not two months, and then the portfolio was officially upgraded to a cabinet position.
Charles Taylor and five others, including me, worked as members of the Council of State (the collective Presidency) as provided for by the ECOWAS peace agreement. The experience was a delicate act of balance. As military rivals and potentially political competitors, Councilman George Boley and I remained suspicious of Taylor and vice versa. Sometimes, I felt Taylor had convinced Boley to work against me, but I could see no concrete outcome.
On philosophy - well, Tolbert, in my opinion was a down-to-earth person who found it appealing to be an African in Africa instead of an American in Africa. He did not only speak Kpelle fluently, but was proud to do so openly. Tolbert's problem was a catch-22 situation. A civil servant, politician, businessman and Baptist preacher, Tolbert introduced some changes in the political modus vivendi. He sent signals that although he was a prominent member of the country's minority ruling class since independence in 1847, he was prepared to respond to the yearning for reform. He attempted loosening the grip of the ruling True Whig Party, threw away the cassock, tail coat and top hat, dislodged the elitist Masonic craft from politics, and preached a doctrine of self-reliance.
It was now 1980, and the high-energy crusade had Tolbert in more trouble than when he started. He was caught between the demands of the conservative diehards he inherited and half-heartedly encouraged, and the rebellious intellectuals and street politicians he involuntarily motivated. The latter wanted power in the name of the people, while the others felt the minority hegemony was fading. In the process, the nation was left in economic hodgepodge, general insecurity, and repulsive social practices. The citizenry was now stranded in a vehicle without brakes. In the early morning hours of April 12, while imprisoned opponents faced threats of physical elimination, a group of 17 young soldiers climactically stepped in, and Tolbert was fatally left behind. The nation had indeed begun a rough course of rebirth in its old age.
As for President Samuel K. Doe, I must reveal that Mrs. Nancy Doe, Thomas Quiwonkpa and I were three of the few individuals who, I personally know, encouraged Doe to put off running for the civilian presidency to another time. He had already made history in some way.
The young military leader identified himself as a potent leader, but was caught between the power play of nearly the same opposing groups that operated in the Tolbert episode. A third group emerged and " stole the show" actually leaving the educationally ambitious leader desperate, powerful and insecure at the same time. The result manifested itself in dangerous conflicts. At a critical time in the Doe regime, I was persecuted. A number of my young friends like Charles Gbenyon were killed. What I personally observed in all of this, however, was that Doe was thoroughly used by a number of confidantes just as he thought he was using them. Somehow, that scenario plus what we have seen in the last three years, tempted me to conclude that Doe was not the worst thing that has happened to Liberia.
The philosophy of Taylor is easy to see, but difficult to understand. He once told me he wanted to be like the late President William V.S. Tubman and at the same time [be like] the late Steve Tolbert. Well, Steve Tolbert was reputed to be a businessman, among other things, who became a multimillionaire from the private sector. Tubman, though said to have been similarly wealthy from politics, was known for his zero-tolerance for political challenge. Imagine someone trying to be these two individuals at the same time in a country in dying need of money and freedom.
My core philosophy is that all are created individually with a purpose complimentary to each other. The challenge of the individual is to search for the gem of that objective and utilize it as an instrument for human advancement. I believe that once Liberia is free for virtually any Liberian to live there, that would be the foundation for a prosperous society. It would unlock the productive synergy that quality human resource can provide. I believe people should always look for the good in each other, though one must remain determined to resist lurking evil.
TP: We understand you are writing a book. What is it about?
Mr. Kromah: The book is a life long objective. For the past 27 years, I managed to keep notes on many national events and activities, including those I was personally involved with or witnessed. With the proliferation of books now on the market about Liberia's recent history, it is necessary for some of us to narrate the real facts. Our writing will necessarily be subject to critique, analyses, etc., but the real story would have been told. I have specifically read Mark Huband and Stephen Ellis's versions of recent events. The work of Huband is commendable; Stephen Ellis too, but he seemed to have been rushing to meet a publication deadline. Everyone, besides him, knows that Taylor's Gbarnga headquarters was captured during the war by ULIMO, and not the "Coalition Forces." Otherwise, we would not have been able to rescue NPFL-captured and jailed ECOMOG soldiers, whom we passed on to the Field Commander's representatives in Voinjama. We would not have been able to deliver to ECOMOG during the disarmament, long range artillery pieces captured in Gbarnga from the NPFL.
I hope when my book comes out, which now seems to be in two volumes covering from JJ Roberts to the "elections" in Liberia, a small contribution would have been made in the preservation of true Liberian history.
TP: We want to ask you about recent developments in Liberia regarding the armed incursion in Lofa County by LURD (Liberians United for Reconstruction and Democracy). Mr. Taylor has linked you among a number of names of being a part of this group to topple him from power. Are you involved? If you are not, would you back an incursion of violence to get rid of the Taylor regime?
Mr. Kromah: Well, the first thing is that I don't consider this an incursion because incursion means movement particularly with the connotation that is prevailing - I do not consider this as an incursion - incursion being that someone or some group is coming from another country. This is an internal activity as far as I know and I am not familiar with that group's name - that name you called LURD. I have heard some people talking on the radio and calling that name among other things. What I am aware of - for sometime now, Liberians from various backgrounds have been victimized by the regime in Monrovia, politically, economically and socially. Many of them are in exile and in refugee camps, and those that are in Liberia are disaffected and history will tell us that - especially Liberian history that it is only expected that an extremely depressed people will react and this is what's happening, and I am aware that people of various factional backgrounds including the formal NPFL are all part of this uprising as Taylor himself used to say. So what's happening in the country is cancerous, and will spread throughout the country, including Monrovia. This is my reaction with respect to the question!
TP: Are we understanding you to say that you support the current uprising?
Mr. Kromah: Let me put it this way! I support the stoppage of the reckless rule in Liberia at present. Mr. Taylor has been given three years to try to do something in the country to redeem his name and to try to prove that he can do something. But we all have seen [during] the three years have been nothing but a dismal failure, and beyond that the country has deteriorated beyond pre-election period. And what do you expect with his involvement in the Sierra Leone situation - where the RUF has been involved for sometime, amputating babies limps, women, elderly people, even previously handicapped people. So this is what Liberia has become as the result of the misrule of Mr. Taylor, and he thinks that the presidency is some glamour thing. He has been called all kinds of things by people and groups everywhere. He's been called a gangster because of the style of his activities in Monrovia. The government sucks! If you look at its hierarchy, it lacks credibility and integrity - both in terms of the characters of the individuals as well as their behaviors and the activities of the government itself.
When you put all of these things together, there is a complete disappointment to all of us who signed the peace agreement, to all Liberians who have been yearning to return home hoping that the elections would have been the end of the crisis and the beginning of efforts to reconstruct the country. This is disappointing to all of us! Therefore, it is understandable that people will not sit and put their hands between their legs and have these things to happen. Therefore, Mr. Taylor has nobody to blame but himself. We all want to return home and live peacefully. If he is an obstruction to that, he has to go. My only concern is that in the process we will have innocent lives spared and whatever has to be done, will be done in a surgical manner, and that may be rendered unnecessary if Mr. Taylor will listen, either by dramatically changing his policies or resigning and leaving the country or if he wants to live there, fine, and pass the helm of his leadership and the presidency to his vice president, and then fresh elections can be organized. Otherwise, his refusal to do so or to change will only encourage more fighting and more agitation against his government.
TP: Why did you leave Liberia immediately after the elections?
Well it was not quite immediate. I spent the first thirty days after the inauguration, when most of the 13 or so presidential candidates had already left. I went to Voinjama, my district of origin, and later on to the Guinean refugee camp near the border where my aunt and other relatives had died. Finally I journeyed to Conakry to see my wife and children. Taylor had accused me on the day of my departure from Monrovia of planning to restore President Kaba to power in Sierra Leone and than later overthrow his government in Monrovia. I simply did not have time for foolishness. I left for Voinjama, Lofa, openly travelling by road, personally helping to haul out commercial vehicles stuck on the muddy road.
Taylor visited and sent numerous representatives to President Conte in Conakry, still accusing me of planning to overthrow him. Taylor eventually sent an assassin squad that shot bullets into our family vehicle. Fortunately, the lone operator of the vehicle escaped without injury. The gunmen were spotted but never caught. It was then that ALCOP partisans, former commanders of ULIMO as well as diplomats advised that I leave the region for a while.
TP: Why did you refuse Taylor's appointment to serve as Chairman of his Reconciliation Commission?
Mr. Kromah: It was nothing but a ploy to kill me after he got rid of Dokie. Before I could take off for Monrovia, he had sent people to raid my house and loot my vehicles and properties. It was about the same time the assassins attacked my vehicle in Conakry.
TP: How do you assess the government of the NPP after about three years in power?
Mr. Kromah: Taylor is a plague inflicted upon us, Liberians, for our deceit, hypocrisy, laziness and wickedness. As I said in response to a journalist question during the election, the emergence of Taylor as President would mean - "God had decided for Liberians to suffer." Quite frankly though, I thought Taylor was so egotistic that he would have at least had electricity and running water throughout the capital by now. One has to be a curse to do what he is doing and ignore what he is ignoring. Besides, Taylor cannot persecute more than 20,000 former fighters, including his own men since the elections, assassinate opposition figures, prevent several hundred thousand citizens from returning home, and then expect to enjoy his waterbed.
TP: You have been out of Liberia for quite some time now. Has your alliance with Charles Taylor ended?
Mr. Kromah: You mean the type of alliance that was between Hitler and the Jews, or the one between the devil and Jesus in the wilderness, or between Mohamed and Satan. That coinage is a propaganda tool that has apparently become contagious as many of the other fallacies that were generated out of the war by our covert and overt antagonists. If there were ever any kind of "alliance" between me and Taylor, the BTC barracks and its Krahn contents would have been "carpet bombed and flattened" during the l996 hostility between pro-government forces and the Krahn oriented forces (AFL, LPC, and ULIMO-J). If there were alliance, H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr., Catholic Bishop Michael Francis, C. L. Simpson, Jr. and others would have been all wiped out during the same conflict. If there were alliance, the whole of Bushrod Island in Monrovia would have been completely vandalized.
Those who were close and honest would quickly confirm that the 1996 conflict came from the ongoing internal Krahn rivalry between Arma Youlu and Roosevelt Johnson within ULIMO-J. The ECOWAS agreement had apportioned the post of governor of the National Bank to be appointed by the leader of ULIMO-J. Johnson initially submitted the name of Raleigh Seekie, who was appointed to the post. Some counter lobbying went on, and Johnson asked for the removal of Seekie and then submitted Ignatius Clay . Seekie appealed to Arma Youlu, the first Field Commander of mainstream ULIMO and archrival of Johnson in ULIMO-J. In the ensuing squabble, the Council of State received a letter from "ULIMO J" indicating that the organization had removed Johnson and one Kaye was now the new leader. The conflict soon deteriorated into mutual midnight raids. Youlu called me one night to say he was on his way to launch a massive attack against Johnson for killing his cousin, one Bawu. He was calmed down, and the police was sent to investigate the matter the next day. The dead body was only few yards away from Johnson's seaside residence. The tension in the neighborhood and the inaction of the transitional government in the matter incited residents to lay roadblocks in Sinkor, preventing the convoys of Chairman Sankawulo, Taylor and me from travelling to work at the Executive Mansion. UN representative Nyanki even issued a press release condemning the weakness of the government.
The matter was brought before the Council, which invited the ECOMOG Field Commander and asked for his opinion. The Commander requested that a warrant be issued for the arrest of Johnson, but ECOMOG would carry out the actual arrest because the suspect was fully armed. Johnson had been cited to submit himself either to the police or the Justice Ministry for investigation. Johnson said he did not trust the vicinity of the Justice ministry. I sent for his friend, Hezekiah Bowen and quietly told him to convince Johnson to respond to the invitation. I even suggested that if he can't go, he should send a lawyer. After a week, Bowen confessed to me that few of Johnson's military aides were encouraging him not to give up. To our greatest shock also, when Lutheran Bishop Ronald Diggs was asked to intervene, he came out two days later to say Johnson did not have to report to the Justice Ministry because all of the government officials were criminals. That was the religious leader that should have brought about true mediation. Even today, I sincerely believe Johnson was about to cooperate until the Reverend made that statement.
The ECOMOG commander asked the Council of State to issue a statement asking people to vacate the Johnson vicinity within 24 hours. I was equally shocked to hear shortly after that there was fighting around Johnson's residence. George Boley had already left the country, and I could monitor Taylor's appointed police Director Joe Tate on the government mobile radio that there was massive fighting, and that the AFL and LPC members had joined Johnson to fight the police. ECOMOG never engaged in anything. Within hours, I got information that the Krahn forces were just two miles away from Congotown where Taylor and I lived. Civilians fleeing the fighting told my men that the Krahns were on their way to Congotown for the Councilmen. With my residence coming before Taylor's, it was obvious that I would have been the first target as well. We had no alternative but to defend ourselves.
TP: During the Doe mayhem and raid on Nimba County in 1983 and 1985, hundreds of Gios and Manos were killed. Why didn't you speak out against these atrocities at the time? Was it because the Mandingoes and Krahns had an alliance with the regime? Please comment.
Mr. Kromah: The only "Nimba Raid" that I know took place in l983 was the Samuel Dokie-led anti-government attack on Yekepa, Nimba. Then there was the Quiwonkpa November 12, l985 coup attempt against the Doe regime. The failure of the coup brought widespread reprisals, including threats against those of us, who had been freshly dismissed and dubbed as anti-government. Where does the Mandingo issue arise in this case? Those who are actually familiar with the Nimba situation at that time would tell you that most of the Mandingoes in Nimba were actively supporting the Unity Party of Dr. Edward Kesselly, a Mandingo. Kesselly and Jackson Doe had been in and out prison up to l986 at least half a dozen times and were operating under the Grand Coalition of (opposition) Political Parties. If anything, most Mandingoes were seen as opposed to the NDPL because of Kesselly at that time.
TP: You were very critical of IGNU under Amos Sawyer at one stage. Is it true that this was all posturing as IGNU financed your movement-ULIMO-K from the start?
Mr. Kromah: Perhaps you mean to ask whether IGNU ever financed ULIMO-J. I was leader of ULIMO, the mainstream organization from which ULIMO-J broke away. There is no official document in the peace arrangements mentioning any ULIMO-K. Amos Sawyer from the very start actively worked to suffocate ULIMO's birth and growth. His agent in Freetown regularly sent reports to Monrovia on organizing activities of our organization, as reflected in one of his letters with reference number LEF/JMS/W A-RL/80-91, dated July 16, l991. When President Momo of Sierra Leone asked whether we could obtain the Liberian government weapons that short-landed in Conakry during the last days of Doe, I took the ultimate risk of flying to Monrovia in l992. I met and asked Sawyer as head of the successor government to request the arms from the Guinean government for our use against the NPFL. Sawyer faithfully promised he would send his Defense Minister Edward Kesselly to arrange the transfer. What we saw instead was the massive recruitment of Liberians by the Sawyer interim government and sent for training in Guinea to serve as presidential security guards. Upon their return from the Kankan training (erroneously mentioned by a western writer as ULIMO trainees), they were converted into the Black Beret and given the weapons. When Sawyer failed in his military bid, and aware that he had lied to me, he decided to maneuver for a split in ULIMO. That's when he invited Raleigh Seekie to Monrovia and gave him a red carpet welcome on radio as leader of ULIMO, when he knew I was just a few miles from Monrovia in Tubmanburg effectively in control of the organization and resisting the NPFL. As I said, Sawyer was from the very start a sworn enemy of ULIMO for various reasons.
TP: By most reported accounts, it is estimated that 250,000 people died in the seven-year civil war. Do you or your organization take any responsibility or have any regrets for the death of innocent Liberians?
Mr. Kromah: The Mandingoes were the highest casualties in the first three years of the NPFL invasion, because they did not have arms. The Krahns and the Gios were the initial opposing armed belligerents. I am continuously surprised that reference is not made to the massive annihilation of Mandingoes. It is always a matter of passing reference for some individuals.
Second, I don't know who is spewing these casualty figures from time to time. As one of the original victims, I am at total lost. At the end of l996, I heard 125 to 150,000 people were killed. I guess Taylor must have eliminated the additional 100,000 since he became President to bring the figure up to 250,000.
Statistics aside, we do not accept that even one Liberian should have been illegally killed in that country. One of the temporary successes Taylor and politicians like Amos Sawyer achieved was to put Boley, other faction leaders and me in the same boat with Taylor. For the unredeemable Taylor, it was convenient for the rest of us to be called warlords and lumped into all of the other subcategories along with him, even though it was we the survivors of his destruction that organized and began to resist him. For Sawyer and some politicians, it was a strategy of ascendancy by default. With Taylor out along with the rest of us, Sawyer thought he would have been selected by acclamation (default) to continue as head of the government. The Liberian people were to have been left for the easy take, with the acquiescence of the sub-region along the path of the Banjul meeting that installed Sawyer. Well, things were too serious to work out for the diminutive professor.
From the volumes of articles and books I see on the market about the Liberian crisis and events before then, few people know or refuse to tell the truth about the Lofa and the Lofa Defense Force issues. In Monrovia, where Taylor and his former comrade Laveli Supuwood were no longer sweet on each other, Taylor told me that after we all concluded the Cotonou Agreement in 1993, and a ceasefire was declared, Supuwood and other prominent Lorma figures with him in Gbarnga asked that he, Taylor, should help get ULIMO out of Lofa. Taylor said the Lorma men were concerned that their people might not have elected them to the senate if they remained outside up to election time. I knew Taylor was on a divide and rule scheme. So I asked Supuwood, who promptly denied and in fact said he was aware of the fact that ULIMO saved the lives of several thousand Lorma people in the town of Zolowu, which had fallen to the organization after combat with NPFL a year into fighting between the two groups. Supuwood said NPFL soldiers in the area threatened his own life and he had to escape to Guinea through the border town of Yella, near Zorzor.
Between the two rivals, I preferred to believe Supuwood perhaps because he had been a friend for more than a decade, beginning in Washington where he was part of the elections that brought me in as the first President of the Lofa County Association of the Washington DC metro area. Nevertheless, the reality on the ground reflected pieces of the story from both sides. About the same time the two men referred to, ULIMO received a series of surprised attacks in the Zorzor and Voinjama Districts. In their resistance, ULIMO discovered from the identity of the POWs that nearly all of them were Lorma fighters from the NPFL. Taylor said Supuwood and Augustine Zeze had asked that the Lorma NPFL soldiers should form the crux of the attack against ULIMO because the Gios and other groups were reluctant. Apparently, Taylor did not want to risk too many of his weapons, and so the attackers were poorly armed. Lorma men in refugee camps in the Fasakoni Township of Guinea were also recruited to join the NPFL/Lorma contingent. They suffered heavy casualties. This was all after the ceasefire agreement was signed in Cotonou. News of the NPFL/Lorma casualties went out as people who were being killed as civilians. And up today, from what I read on the internet and these hastily written books and reports even by some international groups, that propaganda continues to stick.
The misinformation has been painful to me personally because atrocities against Lorma civilians would be destruction not only of human beings and Liberians, but my own kinsmen. My two maternal grandmothers were roundly Lormas, and with the multiplier effect, one should imagine the range of my Lorma aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, and nieces, not to speak of the in-laws from each of these categories. The irony of the whole propaganda was that a commission of Lormas in Voinjama was visiting Guinea every fortnight to invite others to return home. The Lorma Mayor of Voinjama, William Baysah, was one of the founding pillars of ALCOP, and came to Monrovia with me to serve as Assistant Education Minister in the Interim government.
Certainly, many innocent people, including my sister and several cousins, died as innocent victims of crossfire in these exchanges in Voinjama and Zorzor. When ULIMO entered Lofa, there was virtually no fighting in the districts of Kolahun, Foya, Vahun, and Fassama. In fact, it was ULIMO that rescued the legendary Kissi Chief, Tamba Taylor, in the Foya area, where Gen. Fayah, a former NPFL had broken away and was causing havoc among his own Kissi people. I personally dispatched ULIMO Gen. Isaac Quawah, a Kissi, and Philip Kamara to rescue the Chief, who, upon my recommendation and insistence in Akosombo, Ghana, became a member of the Council of State.
One of the satires of the Lofa affair came about when we heard that a Lofa Defense Force had been established in Monrovia. We learned from a Monrovia newspaper that Sawyer had assembled some Lofa citizens in Monrovia to ask what were they going to do about the "atrocities" being committed against their people in Lofa. The result was the Monrovia Lofa Defense Force that ended up fighting in Grand Bassa against the NPFL in partnership with the LPC.
The pieces of information are intended to make factual corrections. But all Liberians must take responsibility for the calamity in our country. It is our collective deceit, hypocrisy, laziness, and selfishness and in latter cases, sheer wickedness that have invited the disgrace and destruction. Yes, some attempts will be made to explain deliberately distorted facts, but we must learn how to live normally in our hearts before we can restore normalcy among us as a nation. Personally, I pray everyday for the lost souls, and pray that if the plague that is Taylor cannot change, he should be taken away from our nation without innocent people dying again. I pray that those I have caused anger, bitterness or confusion among should find in their hearts the strength to forgive me as I have long since done for those I consider enemies. If I could sit at the same table and signed a peace agreement with Charles Taylor, there is no bitter pill I can't swallow.
TP: After the Cotonou Agreement which divided the ministries among the various factions and IGNU (Interim Government for National Unity), making government a fiefdom and their personal property, you handed the Ministry of Finance to your brother, Lasannah Kromah, who had no background in Finance or Economics. What was the purpose?
Mr. Kromah: Your question sounds very mechanical. First of all, I did not hand any ministry to my brother. We had an organization called ULIMO, and we had a Special Committee that included the soldiers, the elders, the Executive members as well as some ordinary members who looked at several applicants who actually applied; some people were recommended, and at the end of the day, those were the names that came forward - that were discussed extensively and Mr. Lasannah Kromah who happened to be my brother was one of the forerunners in the organizational arrangement from day one to the end. He was one of the victims of the initial onslaught by the NPFL rebels. At least 75 of our immediate relatives were killed, and we were part of the organizing efforts to try to resist the rebel. As you notice, we never considered ourselves as rebels because we were resisting those who were rebelling.
Having said that, Mr. Kromah [Lasannah] himself has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Liberia, which deals with economics and finance management; he has a Masters in Public Administration from the Sacramento State University in the United States, which includes management, finance and economics. He worked as Director of the Civil Service Reconstruction Program at the Civil Service Bureau during the Administration of President Tolbert and he went to the Education Ministry as Assistant Minister for Administration - looking at the administrative procedures and policies including those of finance. He worked at the University of Liberia as Deputy Business Manager that had to do with finance and management. He also worked for the Air Liberia Corporation, I think as Business Manager. I can't quite recollect his specific title; and he was also at Libtraco Company in Monrovia. A company that sold heavy earth moving equipment, and heavily involved in the commercial and financial sectors. He worked there as Sales Manager, and he was also involved in private business. So if you look at all that background spending 20 to 25 years with his educational background and his connections with banks as well as his involvement with special committees that were set up, I think he was qualified. In addition, if you are implying the issue of accountability - we had a system in the Council of State that during that the 1995 -1997, two years period that we were there. If you had the opportunity to nominate someone for a ministry or agency of government, and that person was selected and appointed by the Council of State, you have one of the members of the Council of State to serve as the individual with oversight responsibility over that ministry or agency of government - somebody else on the Council of State who did not appoint that individual providing a system of balance accountability. And in the case of finance, you can imagine Charles Taylor was appointed as the man with oversight responsibility, over the Ministry of finance.
In addition to that, you also had three or four deputy ministers at the Ministry of Finance appointed by the other groups, factions who received allotment under the ECOWAS Peace Plan. So if you had a minister, a senior deputy will be appointed by somebody else, who is most likely your rival, the next deputy will be appointed by another group and so on. So, beside the oversight man being responsible for the overall supervision of that ministry as far as the Council of State is concerned; you also have deputy and assistant ministers in that ministry who were appointed by other Councilmen or organizations. So, it was an excellent opportunity for a balance situation. So there was no way for any one individual who wanted to do something - inappropriate could do it and get away with it. Otherwise, Mr. Taylor would have - in the case of the Ministry of Finance; Mr. Taylor could have used it as a theme to build up his campaign leading to the elections.
TP: Mr. Kromah, could you be a bit brief in your answers?
Mr. Kromah: OK, but the questions are loaded - I will try my best; I will cut it short.
TP: Mr. Kromah, granted your brother's educational experience and other professional experience he has acquired over the years, would you consider his appointment to that position as being the best person for that position. And given our own history of nepotism in Liberia, didn't the appointment of your brother as Finance Minister give it the appearance of a family affair at the time the country was in search of change - and was trying to move away from that?
Mr. Kromah: Well, yes, it gave it that appearance but in reality, it wasn't. Because - first of all, the Committee we talked about was very diverse - soldiers, of elders, of women, common people, came up with these suggestions, and I only approved of them. Certainly, he was not the best in the country. We may be lucky that somebody is the best in the country. But what is the yardstick for selecting them as the best
TP: I think the yardstick would be he
Mr. Kromah: That's a rhetorical question. I am just asking that rhetorically. So I don't think he was the best but this was the individual that the Committee selected and as I said all worries that are implied with that kind of decision were taken care of by the balance that was created by the positions of the ECOWAS Agreements in the form of oversight responsibilities going to somebody completely opposite the organization. In this case, Charles Taylor who signs the vouchers, I mean, how you call it - the Presidential warrant for anything above USD5000.00, he had to sign it, and you had other officials in the ministry, the Deputy Minister for Revenue, the Deputy Minister for Finance and Expenditures and all sort of things. So that kind of arrangement in any kind of system provides check and balance. And it is not just a question of appearance; it is a question of what is in practice that makes a difference. So, to answer your question more directly, whatever worry associated with the appearance was taken care of by the system that was in place.
TP: Now, as you look back on your alliance with Taylor with disgust, but you once accused "politicians" of sowing seeds of discord between the two of you. You called him brother, how do you reconcile this shift?
Mr. Kromah: Well I have answered that question substantially in your previous questions. You keep on saying alliance, alliance. There was no alliance. We were all required by the ECOWAS Agreement to work at the Mansion - to work with Boley, Oscar Quiah, Oldman Tamba Taylor, [Wilton] Sankawulo, and Mrs. [Ruth] Perry later on. There were six members of the Council who were together, and I tried to read the implication into that word alliance with two major things - one the 1996 problem, fighting that took place in Monrovia which I fully dealt with, I think in the previous questions. Calling him brother, I don't remember calling him brother. I think all of this, I don't want to say that you're deliberately trying to create some artificial alliance but that doesn't scare me or worry me. The only important thing is that whatever is stated must be true. There hasn't been any kind of alliance. I cannot form an alliance with the likes of Taylor; it doesn't make sense for us to fight somebody who was our main target and form an alliance with him against whom? I told you in my previous answers to your previous questions that we were the potential target of a physically ongoing attack, soldiers, fighters from the ULIMO-J and LPC, AFC, the AFL groupings were actually on the road coming from Sinkor, from the JFK area reaching to Vahnmuma's house, the junction of the Airfield and my house was the first house that they would have reached and they were shouting that they were coming for the Councilmen who were not Krahn. So, we had a collective fate when it comes to that particular incident, and as I explained - people will tell you; people who want to speak the truth that I was the restraining factor. Because Taylor was telling me the whole barrack, which at least had about 10,000 people in there - that were indirectly being held hostage too, by people there - that we should bomb the entire area. I told him that was not only foolish but also criminal. And of course, most of the anti-violence activities that were going on were planned right in my house. Because, once we found out that people wanted to take advantage of things, especially Taylor, we coordinated with ECOMOG immediately to stop it. I mean that particular moment during that period, the Catholic Radio Station was burnt and NPFL fighters were looking for certain people to get rid of that evening.
When the Catholic Station was burnt, Archbishop Michael Francis, Boima Fahnbulleh, you name it, the boys - my boys on the front informed me that this is what they have been told. The NPFL fighters had been told that they were helping because there were no standing government army, so they were substituting for government forces. So, I moved immediately to forestall all of that. I moved some of the people from where they were. I don't want to go into details because if I do good for somebody, I feel that the more I talk about it the less blessing I will get. Those people are aware, Mr. C. L. Simpson, Jr. and others that I talked about were moved from place to place and they themselves were not even fully aware of the danger that they were facing, and we never told this to Archbishop Francis, even Amos Sawyer, he ran and went to the ECOMOG base and was hiding in one room there next to the Field Commander. He (Taylor) played a very dirty role in the whole process. But we will discuss those details in other areas. Basically, there has been no alliance of any sort, if anything, we always resisted his intention of doing wicked things to people.
TP: What about the statement made by George Boley regarding you and Taylor? On May 16, 2000, Reuters carried an article written by James Jukway. The article quoted George Boley as saying "The reason behind this [April 6 when fighters loyal to Taylor and Kromah, who were both vice-chairmen in Liberia's ruling State Council, tried to arrest Krahn faction leader Roosevelt Johnson on murder charges] is naked greed for power at all cost... This crisis was pre-planned and Roosevelt Johnson was just a ploy." According to the article, "George Boley, an ethnic Krahn warlord, blamed rival faction leaders Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah for the fighting in Liberia's capital Monrovia which has killed hundreds of people and sent thousands of refugees fleeing." And that the decision was not made by the Council. Could you comment?
Mr. Kromah: First of all, when this thing came up, Boley who is a very good friend of mine - we knew each other. We were at risk when he was arrested 1980. In any case, we were all friends and his coming to the Council had something to do with me, in these different caucuses, in addition to his own merits. So, if that statement is a correct quote - it is not quite true. In fact, it is not true. I have already explained to you in [answering] your previous questions how the whole thing happened. The answer to that question I will consider quite sufficient.
TP: Once you said, you saved Taylor when he ran into your house in search of refuge. Looking back now, would you repeat such a godly act?
Mr. Kromah: I didn't say so! I said when he ran from the Mansion, he was attempting to come to my house. When he ran from the so-called assassination attempt and he had blood all over his clothes, of course, he wasn't wounded, I think his soldiers were shot, his bodyguards were shot, and he ran from there coming towards Congotown where we live adjacent, side by side with one or two embassy buildings separating us; and his first attempt was to come towards my house, and the boys with the radio contacted me and said that Mr. Taylor got blood all over him and was trying to come to my house. I said ok, you tell him to move right over to his house and call me from there and let me know what's happening.
So, I cannot actually conclude what he was thinking. I can speculate that coming to my house, he would be saved. Maybe because, he felt that I am not a wicked person. I can't! And I think he always said that whenever he spoke with me, he always found strange things - strange in the sense that - he never thought that there were people in Liberia, I feel a little strange talking about this because he tried to indicate that we were profound in our thoughts, and I think he discovered that we were strong enough to deal with him as an enemy as well as to do good things; at the same time, strong enough to tolerate him as a human being, as a Liberian despite his wicked background. So, when he left the Mansion running that day, crazy as he was, he thought that by coming to my house, he would put me on the defensive to try to give him some sanctuary. But I told him his house was sufficient sanctuary because the ECOMOG troops [were] there. So, he went there, and I told him to talk on the radio to tell the Liberian people that he survived. I felt that some of his soldiers would have looted Monrovia, not that they would've fought, but they would have looted the place upside down and there would be chaos all over the place - whereas, he had not actually die. And true to what I said, within one hour of the news that he had been attacked, at least 16 vehicles were looted in Monrovia by some of his men, and so his going on the radio to make that announcement did a lot of good you know, to the sanity of the city. This is the kind of personality or character that perhaps come out of us. We organized to stop this man [Taylor], his barbarism, to stop his destruction, and at the same time, he saw sufficient in us to think that we were not wicked enough to have him eliminated. I told Charles Taylor when we were at the first two conferences we met in Akosombo and Accra, Ghana, because he was complaining to somebody that I was trying to assassinate him or kill him at the conference. That's how paranoid he was. I met with him privately and said, let me tell you something. You are not sufficient to be killed. You are not sufficient for me to have you eliminated because that will not solve the problem - that will not take care of the anguish that is in us - the Liberian people. I think you should live; you should be able to see the results of the destruction you have brought upon this country, and you dying or being killed quickly, we will be doing service to you. Thinking about it, I won't in the corridors of the conference settings, arrange to have somebody killed, because that would be very cowardly. But, maybe on the battlefield, if I knew that the elections would have been arranged so that Taylor would take over and bring about this kind of nonsense that is going on in the country, maybe, had it been on the battlefield, he won't have been spared.
TP: You founded the Movement for the Redemption of Muslims (MRM), which later merged with the Liberia United Defense Force (LUDF) led by the late General Karpeh, which then gave birth to the United Liberia Movement for Democracy (ULIMO). A reported rivalry developed between you and General Karpeh for the leadership position of ULIMO. Karpeh was killed in Freetown, and it is alleged that you masterminded his murder because the Saudi authorities had promised you financial assistance only if you were the leader of a Muslim dominated ULIMO. What is your comment?
Mr. Kromah: I can tell that you are so ill-informed, your one question is like ten questions, and I am sorry, I am not trying to be negative but I can tell that from the premise of your question as I indicated earlier that you are fully uninformed. First of all, I personally did not form MRM. Secondly, Mr. Karpeh was not the leader of ULIMO. Thirdly, I did not take MRN into an already organized group to come up with ULIMO; and fourthly, if the Saudi were giving us money, won't it make sense for them to have given us the money if we were only a Muslim by ourselves, and we had to blend with another group and to take on the leadership before we could be given money. It doesn't make sense particularly and logically; and then fifthly, the death of the Ambassador. The death of the Ambassador Karpeh was regretted sincerely by all of us, and whatever news came out of it was part of the propaganda thing, strangely that was encouraged by Amos Sawyer from Monrovia. All that I can tell you for the sake of time is that I and Karpeh were part of the efforts to establish the LUDF - Liberia United Defense Force which later on became ULIMO, and there was lots of friction - internal, Krahn friction which you people seem not to be aware of or probably aware of but choose not to mention it. As I indicated in the 1996 uproar in Monrovia, you know it doesn't do us good to try to portion blame on what happened with respect to some of these organizations encountered activities. Where the question comes up, we have the obligations to answer or say something about [it].
But to answer your question directly, with respect to the death of Ambassador Karpeh, I encouraged Karpeh who was in Sierra Leone, and I was in Guinea - I was the Secretary General of the organization of Displaced Liberians and also of the MRM. We came on the air to condemn Taylor and insist that he give account of both missing and dead people as the result of his activities - his NPFL activities. That was very strong and powerful, the wording of it was very, very strong because they implied that if he did not do so, we were going to take some serious actions. Karpeh and I were friendly in Monrovia and at some point before we finally left Monrovia to live as refugees, few days before the arrival of the rebels. He and I were in the office of the President, President [Samuel] Doe, not really in the actual office but in the office of his Minister of State for Presidential Affairs waiting to meet Doe individually. Karpeh and I began to discuss the status of the war. He was a ranger, a military class considered to be of high standard, and he was naming some of the things that should have been done by the Government in order to take good position in the war. And we were sharing ideas, and I will not tell you my own background with respect to the kinds of things. But he thought that we were saying something common, and of course, he was Ambassador to Sierra Leone, and when he got out and heard the statement that I read against Taylor, threatening war against him, he came over to Conakry. Actually before that, when I made the statement, reflecting on that now, I traveled to Kenema, Sierra Leone, where most of our people were, Krahns, Mandingoes, Vais were very, very large in numbers at the refugee camps, in Kenema itself and surrounding towns. I had a meeting there to reiterate what we said because I was on a mobilization campaign; that's when Karpeh came to me - after that meeting. He came to see me privately. He said I know you spoke for the MRM, but I heard the ODL (Organization of Displaced Liberians) and we are displaced here too. So if you are going to do anything, I think we all should join together to do it. I said it was very good Mr. Ambassador, I am very happy to see you in Kenema, I thought you were in Freetown; he said no, I heard that you were coming, that's why I came. By then, the organizations had not started - ULIMO and LUDF (Liberian United Defense Force)
It was after that [meeting], Karpeh came to visit me in Conakry - actually, and he came to complain that Sawyer had dismissed and replaced him. And I told Karpeh never to accept his dismissal, his replacement by Sawyer because - as far as I am concerned - Sawyer was not legitimate. He was just put in that place by default and machination. I even helped Karpeh to look for a place because he told me his life was being threatened. So I said look, bring you family over here to Conakry. We helped him found a place and he brought his family over and went back. I said to him don't give up that embassy, and don't make yourself venerable.
In short, this is how the whole relationship started and fortunately or unfortunately, while this thing was going on, the NPFL attacked Sierra Leone, and later on adopted the name of RUF. It was 75% NPFL and 25% Sierra Leoneans and they gave that name later on. Karpeh called me, he said look, what do you think, these guys are here this is an opportunity to go to the press and tell Momoh that we can't go any further, we will help to fight these people here because that is what you and I are trying to organize. By then we were actually planning to attack the NPFL by secretly passing through Guinea. This is what we were planning but when the opportunity came, the NPFL moved into Sierra Leone, we had no other alternative but to ask the government. So Karpeh went along with former Senator [James] Chelly, the late Madison Wion, Bropleh, the former St. Joseph President. I can't recall all of the names. I think, they were about five or six people that went with him. At that time, there was no name like Raleigh Seekie and other people like that. They went to ask President Momoh that they could help. His initial response was "Those that attacked us are Liberians, and you Liberians have come here to say you can help?" They said, yes, because these same Liberians are the ones that are persecuting us [that's why], in fact, we are here - in Sierra Leone. After some discussions, President Momoh agreed for them to organize and do something. By that time, we were hearing all over Liberia that various groups were organizing themselves [as] Grand Gedeh Defense Force, Sinoe Defense Force. All these defense forces were coming up. So, what Karpeh did - he discussed it (uniting under one organization) with people in Kenema, including the already organized MRM, who were representing us directly, and they all agreed that they would form under the name of Liberians United Defense Force. Immediately, after that meeting, they sent two persons to me in Conakry to inform us of what had happened in terms of the implementation of what Karpeh and I had discussed on the telephone with respect to the appeal to President Momoh to join the Sierra Leone Forces to fight the RUF. The first thing was to try to get some T-shirts and jeans, so we could have some uniformity among our boys. The whole batch of things was bought in Conakry, at the local market, and was sent along with food and other things.
After three weeks of successful fighting against the NPFL and RUF rebel forces, I officially visited Kenema. Our forces had their base near Kenema, which was called Trauma base. Karpeh also informed me that he was going to be the Field Commander - that's the highest military officer in the organization. So, I said you can't do that - you need that position [Ambassador]. You can't be Ambassador and at the same time be called Field Commander. So, he said ok, and he brought in Ammah Youlu. I didn't know Ammah Youlu before. I probably heard his name in Monrovia. He was not a regular military man, but he was working with the National Security Agency as some deputy director. He was brought in by Karpeh and made Field Commander, given the rank of Colonel. When I got to Kenema, I met Ammah Youlu; he introduced himself. At that time Karpeh was in Freetown, so he briefed me on the activities there. And then, respectfully said that for details of these things, Mr. Karpeh will come to inform you. A day after, Karpeh came and briefed me about all that was going on. We then decided to reinforce our activities and coordinate it ourselves. That was the genesis of the whole thing.
Later on, it was decided that the name ULIMO, United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy be adopted. Raleigh Seekie becoming the chairman of the group was not the consensus in the beginning. It was some sort of partial decision that was made in Freetown, and our people in Conakry were angered about it. But in the end, we compromised and allowed Mr. Seekie to stay there [in the position] Later on, we heard that the Konobo group of the Krahn [tribe] and the Gbazon [group] developed some kind of rivalry, and Ammah Youlu was from the Konobo and Karpeh was from the Sapo oriented group in the other District. They were having some internal rivalry there between Ammah Youlu who was appointed by Karpeh, and Karpeh himself, to the extent, in fact, we had to send at one point Oldman Nayou. We sent for him from Monrovia with others like Philip Davis and other Krahn people to go and settle this thing among them. In the end, President Momoh was changed in a coup d' etat in Freetown and Strasser became the new leader - the young military fellow. [The situation] was becoming a problem that was even affecting the boys on the front because they wanted to cross into Liberia and move against the NPFL as per the original objectives of our organization, but this was being hindered by the internal rivalry between Ammah Youlu and Karpeh's groups. Alright, so what happened? The Karpeh group was based in Freetown , in the Waterloo Refugee Camp with lots of people there, and the Ammah Youlu group was in actual control of the soldiers on the front, from Kenema Trauma base. Mr. Chelly was on the side of Karpeh. They used to come [as a] delegation by way of boat from Freetown straight to Conakry to inform us about what was happening and needed this and that. We would rally around for two to three days, put materials and other things together - food and money and they will carry those items. Then after two or three weeks, we would see another group from the Trauma base itself, from Ammah Youlu operation. From here on, we knew that a serious internal rivalry was taking place and that something needed to be done about it. We noticed that they will come and ask for the same material. And when we asked what is happening, [because] two weeks ago, the Freetown Executives - they were the Senior Executives, just came here for this and that. Their response would be, we haven't received it, and then I said it seems that you people are not communicating!
Unfortunately, one day, the two groups arrived, simultaneously in Conakry, the meeting was held at my house. I am telling you, it was a pitiful sight to see. I mean, the two groups condemned, insulted and almost fought each other there; we had to separate them. That's when we really discovered that there were serious problems in Freetown and Kenema. We then told them to go back; it was within this time that the Strasser government put up an ultimatum that if the ULIMO people did not solve their problems, they were going to kick them out of the country. They sent me a letter to that effect. That's how come we as members of the Executive Board left Conakry and invited everybody else to Freetown, from Kenema and we met at the Paramount Hotel in Freetown. We were informed that Karpeh said he was not coming to the meeting if Ammah Youlu was coming to the meeting. I then said, it was Karpeh who appointed this man [Ammah Youlu], I didn't know him before, and the problem is between both of them. And if he doesn't come, how would we resolve the problem! We then sought an appointment with Strasser, so that after our meeting we will be able to go to him and tell him that we have solved our problems.
Eventually, most of the commanders came, their representatives came from the front; the Kenema people came and some of the Freetown people came. Karpeh sent somebody who said that Karpeh could not come personally because he was running after some logistics. In the end, we had discussions that led to the dissolution of the Executive Committee that was set-up from Freetown. The whole thing was dissolved and then eventually, a board was set-up, and I was appointed as acting chairman of that board. We rejected the position, and then some of the elders and the commanders that were there said if your want the whole thing to split, we can just resolve it and go. After some hours of discussions, I finally accepted the appointment, and we formed a delegation the next day to go to Strasser to inform him that we have taken control of the situation. The quarrel was not completely finished but we will try our best to do so. The BBC correspondence that was there reported this, and within the next two hours, we heard Karpeh on the BBC saying that "Alhaji Kromah has come here, he has dissolved whatever that was here, I am the supreme commander of this group and I am giving orders to all of our men on the front. If you see anybody there that represents Ammah Youlu or Alhaji Kromah [that person] must be arrested." Having heard the announcement, the guys began to laugh because Ammah Youlu's men, and not Karpeh's, controlled the battlefront. Karpeh was mostly in Freetown with a house in Kenema, so it was kind of funny, but it wasn't funny to me because this was an international exposure of the division within our organization.
Anyway, we set up a committee to try to get in touch with Karpeh to resolve these issues, and I had to leave. We went by boat; we took the boat from Freetown, arrived in Conakry on Monday. Tuesday morning, I was lying down and somebody ran to me and said that there is [someone] on Network Africa talking about the death of Karpeh. I said, don't talk foolishness here! We went and listened again, because it was repeated, and I was so shocked to hear Karpeh had been killed. As far I was concerned, he was in Freetown. But I heard he was killed in Kenema. So I called Sam Brownell, former Minister of Rural Development, because he was a member of the Board in Kenema, he and Oldman Bomah. I asked, what happened? He (Brownell) said it is not easy here; the Sierra Leone government has arrested most of our people because there was some commotion that resulted into the death of Karpeh.
Later on, we found out - according to our own investigations that when Karpeh said on BBC that he would go and personally arrest people in Kenema, he got down there that evening and called a few men, along with the few men he carried with him from Waterloo who he felt would be loyal to him. They met at his house in Kenema; he tried to win them over. They said that in the morning, he sent for some soldiers to come to him. I heard that the soldiers took Ammah Youlu's vehicle, Red Pick-up to drive it and go to him - to Karpeh's house. Of course, Karpeh had his own bodyguards there! I wasn't there but they said that when Karpeh's people saw the Red vehicle, the Pick-up coming, they ran into the building and told Karpeh that Ammah Youlu is coming with his men to attack us. Right away, they said Karpeh gave his men instructions, commands and they started firing in the direction of the vehicle, and of course, the people jumped out of the vehicle and a big exchange went on until Karpeh himself was shot. They (Sierra Leonean authorities) arrested a Krahn fellow whose nickname is Cobra and a Mandingo fellow by the name of Banbagida, and later on they arrested Ammah Youlu because they said he was the commander of the entire area.
As far as I know, this is how Karpeh died. From there on, that's Johnson [Roosevelt] came into the picture. Johnson was in Bo; he was as a liaison between Karpeh and Youlu. He had a Jeep; he was very useful. He used to laise between the boys in Kenema and the Sierra Leone command in Bo, which was the regional command. He was closer to Karpeh than Youlu. Johnson and Youlu were crowd of boys, I mean the same age group. They made Johnson, Major. He used to work at the Ministry of Finance in Monrovia. [He] served as a schoolteacher back there in Grand Gedeh County. They said that Johnson was very angry because he was on the side of Karpeh. The people in Freetown remain there and reorganized themselves as leaders of ULIMO and appointed Johnson as Field Commander. For a very long time, there was a Freetown ULIMO and they had a Kenema ULIMO until I finally came to Bomi Hills when ULIMO captured and entered Liberia. We form our headquarters in Bomi Hills and I invited Johnson there, made him a General and harmonized between all the Krahns and the Mandingoes.
It was working very well! We went to all the conferences. All that [time] Ammah Youlu, Banbagida and Cobra were in jail in Freetown, in connection with that thing. Finally, the (Sierra Leone) Government released them, and when Ammah Youlu came to Bomi Hills, that's when the whole thing started again. Because he met his old rival Johnson there. Johnson was the Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, and he was Major General. Ammah Youlu said this guy was just a Captain or Major who caused all of the problems - [he] cannot be in that kind of position. Therefore, he Ammah Youlu, should be made Lt. General. I then said forget these big, big positions and titles, and let's try to move on - we are here signing peace agreements trying to move on to civilian stuff. But in the end, that conflict deteriorated into some kind of reverse rivalry that made Ammah Youlu and Johnson to start all over again - to rehash this Karpeh thing.
As far as I know this is the general description of what really happened. And of course, people who were not there or who had their own prejudice against us drew the story in different, different ways. As far as I am concerned, that was it! That's how Karpeh died. As a matter of fact, I wrote a letter to his family after his death. They (family) had gone back to Freetown. The lady (wife) is from my county; she's a Lorma woman from Lofa County, so that touched me a lot. But it was difficult to control the propaganda coming out of it that was encouraged by Amos Sawyer, encouraged by some people here in the United States who had things against Mandingo people; you know, who believed in this Eastern and non-Eastern dichotomy. That bothered me, but then we were faced with trying to get Taylor off the people's back. As far as I know, this is what happened.
TP: Mr. Kromah, with all due respect, we want you to know that we know what we are doing. To imply that you can tell that we are so ill-informed, and that one of our questions is like ten questions, and that you're sorry, you're not trying to be negative but you can tell that from the premise of our questions, we are fully uninformed is out of line. You being a "professional journalist" should know that in the field of Journalism no question is a stupid question. Questions that we ask are intended to seek certain answers. Therefore, to say that we are "fully uninformed" is inappropriate. Some of the reasons we are asking you these questions is for you to tell your side of the story. These are questions Liberians have been asking.
Mr. Kromah: Now, I understand you are playing the devil's advocate. Quite frankly my brothers, the story I told you is exactly what happened. If Taylor could run from that place [The Executive Mansion] to seek refuge at my house, that should tell you that I am not a wicked person. He would have never tried to come to my house if he didn't believe that I was not wicked, than what about somebody like Karpeh.
TP: We are going to ask a sensible question this time Mr. Kromah?
Mr. Kromah: No! No! No! All of your questions are sensible. I did not characterized you!
TP: I know this one will burn you a little bit, too!
Mr. Kromah: Ok, go ahead!
TP: Did the regime of General Sani Abacha gave you weapons because you presented yourself as a crusader for the spread of Islam in Liberia?
Mr. Kromah: First of all, I did not present myself as any crusader for any religion. Those who continued to categorize it as such, themselves are prejudiced. It's just like those who were describing the two groups fighting in Bosnia, Serbs and Moslems. How can you compare an ethnic group with a religious group? The religious group does not have an ethnic background? So it always baffles me when they say Moslem and Serb. What is the religious affiliation of the Serbs or what is their tribe or ethnic affiliation of the Moslems? But this is what has emerged over the years internationally as the Western bias. I wasn't running any crusade. When Sani Abacha came on the scene, because the whole thing started with Banbagida, it was ULIMO that he [Abacha] met. He didn't meet any religious group or the MRN so to speak! MRN never fought; it was ULIMO. He didn't know me, and I didn't know him until the meeting in Accra - and two other meetings in Accra before his people invited us to Abuja and we went there. He didn't give me arms.
Quite frankly, I thought ECOMOG was more generous to other people in the whole fighting thing than us. I can't go into details about that. But I was more supportive of ECOMOG's role because the various field commanders that I met and had a very good relationship for the fact that we had the same mission to try to stop the war in the country.
Abacha didn't do anything for me and I didn't see him as representative of Moslem in Nigeria or anywhere. Because he was jailing people in the North. An Islamic leader in the North was jailed by him. He was basically a politician and a military man, period. He didn't have any religious consideration for anything, and that didn't make any difference to him. Obviously, as you can see, through the fact that it was arranged for Taylor to emerge as President of Liberia.
TP: Isn't it true Mr. Kromah that you and your entire executive leadership were invited by Abacha in Nigeria, and that there he promised you the presidency, just as he promised Taylor?
Mr. Kromah: No!
TP: People believed that you agree to the elections because of this promise.
Mr. Kromah: I agree with the elections? No! No! Look! Let me tell you something! As I said in my answer to your previous questions, we had the confidence and hope in God that we would have won the elections. And if we were to have elections today in Liberia, I believe my group is strong enough to win the elections. It may be competitive, but we will have whatever edge it is because we are well grounded. What people don't know about some of us is that we are a center choice. For example, as I indicated, my father is Mandingo - to look at the ethnic characterization of it, and his mother is Lorma. My maternal grandmother is also of the Lorma tribe, and some of my aunts are from the Vai and the Gbandi as well as the Gola. So I have about five (5) major ethnic groups, and I speak about five to six Liberian languages. I have connection with the Bassa people; having become a successful president of the Barrolle Sports Association that won national championship twice, and that means a lot to the Bassa people who founded the team.
I am like their child. I am like their artificial creation... So that's why I had a very, very arousing support. I also got victimize by that because Doe was a Barrolle man when he dismissed me. In short, the only thing that I asked Abacha to do was to make sure that the elections were free and fair. And that we could make it on our own merits. But one year to the elections, Abacha never agree to see us because there was something going wrong. There were all kinds of signs and reports. We knew because that arrangement was made to have me arrested in Monrovia; that's when I knew that things have really gone sour. There was no promise made by Abacha to me! In fact, I arranged for Charles Taylor, upon the request of President Jerry Rawlings who said that it would be good for Taylor to go to Nigeria so that the big distrust between them (Taylor and Abacha) could be reduced in order for some confidence building to be achieved - to have the peace process move forward.
I was instrumental in having Momolu Sirleaf, Taylor's Foreign Minister then to go to Abacha in Abuja. Eventually, Taylor went there. There were lots of things that happened later on that made Taylor and Abacha to get into something. That's all I can tell you! There was no promise made to me! And I am sure then and now if elections were to be held in Liberia, the All Liberian Coalition Party (ALCOP) - the worse as I said that could happen to us is for us to go for a second round, tying with some group for not being able to achieve an absolute majority. But I am very confident that we are the most grounded, militarily and [with] a tough people oriented background as a party.
By the way, for the future of Liberia - looking at the kind of threat that exists today in the country and with the experience we have gone through, you need a leadership that will have two major characteristics, (1) that has a background that can contain security - I mean, the military groupings, the individuals that will be respected, that will be able to have commanding voice, that can keep soldiers and security people in check, and at the same time, that individuals must be freedom oriented, must be democratic oriented, believe in justice and freedom and to have the two combinations in one person would be a major requirement for a stable Liberia tomorrow. And we believe that ALCOP can provide that requirement.
TP: In one of your previous answers, you said, "Liberians are in a horrible condition because of their laziness, hypocrisy, and deceit". What exactly do you mean - God's punishment or what?
Mr. Kromah: Yes! I think, some Western journalists think that they are so sophisticated that anytime you talk about God or spirituality they think that you are in some world of illusion - you are not real. At the same time you have medical doctors or surgeons who pray before they go into their operation rooms. I believe in God; and I believe that there are natural laws. When you do this, this will happen. I believe in the religious laws and reasoning in all of the religions Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, the moral laws that says when you do this wrong, this will happen to you. You may succeed temporarily in doing wrong things but in the end - eventually, you may suffer for it. The Liberian culture has been one of laziness as you know from our history back then, we were so involved in politics and law and this and that, we never really developed our country. As a result, you have different group of people, foreigners who are completely in charge of the economy. That is an example of our laziness.
We have a very fertile land, and we have not been able to fully exploit that, and as a result, we continue to import our staple food, rice. And then, we also have a culture of deceit and hypocrisy coming out of that laziness because in order to continue to live and secure your living, if you are not productive, the temptation is to lie, is to be deceitful, especially when the source of employment - of giving money is the government, it's a kind of government that is not open. That is, it is dictatorial; it has spies all around; people are encouraged to lie, and therefore, endear themselves to the power that be. So that became a culture in Liberia Liberians are impressionists! You know, we're full of big bluff! We can't start any business; we want to buy Mercedes and try to get things that we cannot afford. In one or two months' time, we finished eating up the capital and the profit. We want to leave Monrovia, Robertsfield to New York, Boston and Atlanta, and while we have not even reached Kakata, 45 miles from Monrovia. So that kind of big impressionistic culture that we have, has contributed immensely towards trying to get things without merit, and the overall effect is that we destroyed our own country. And we are hypocritical as a result of that, and then in the end, we become wicked in other to be able to survive. So I believe that - even during the war and after the war - 1995, 97, that same culture was still going on - people lying against each other, people undermining each other to get flimsy jobs and all kinds of things were happening. I felt that, it was like God was saying that these people have not learned their lessons. Well, let me give them something final; let me give them a final plague in the name of Charles Taylor. Ok, look at Charles Taylor, I mean, look at what he does. The golden opportunity he has squandered [by not trying] to redeem himself [by doing] something for our country. But everything that comes out of him, either in doing or saying is nothing but disgrace to himself and to our country. So, he's nothing but a curse.
As I said before in my answer to the other question, when someone asked me during the elections, I said if this kind of man ends up becoming President of Liberia, it means God has decided for us to suffer. Now from 1999 to the present, you tell me whether Liberians have been enjoying or been suffering?
TP: Well, we understand the sentiments expressed in your answer regarding laziness, but don't you think that the laziness you speak of so passionately is the doing of the government?
Mr. Kromah: But that's what I said. I said that the government has encouraged laziness by not putting people in positions based on merit. Ok, a small minority, you know, have access to a lot of things, and they did not merit it, they did not deserve it. As a result, people did not think that it was necessary to work hard. Because there were free things going on, you know, and it hunts you; it catches up with you. At some point when it is required that you work hard, you will be lacking the discipline to work hard.
TP: Do you think the 1997 Elections were free and fair, and what is your personal assessment of the role the Nigerians played during the elections?
Mr. Kromah: I told you already, there were no elections; everything was orchestrated and arranged. It was a deep [scheme] across continental political affairs. But I can tell you point blank that nobody must have the illusion that there were elections in Liberia. I mean if the people told you that Taylor won 85 percent of the Krahn people's votes in BTC, what conclusion can you make of that? That's just foolishness! President Jimmy Carter and all these people who went to Monrovia, knew that the elections were not fair. President Jimmy Carter's son - I think his nickname is "Chip", he was with me in Voinjama. I knew what he said when he looked around, I knew he could see my face - he knew what was happening. But they couldn't carry on that foolish cheating in Voinjama when I was there. Out of the five to six thousand that voted, we had more than four thousand, eight hundred in Voinjama District alone. There are about eight to nine districts in Lofa County, which is the largest (in Liberia). Now, just in one district, I had four thousand, eight hundred people, and for them to say that in the entire county of Lofa we had six thousand when the results came out. How logical is that? That was bunch of foolishness - they had already decided - people were tired with the elections. Jimmy Carter and others tried to appeal to us when we rejected the result of the elections because it was nothing but a mockery of democracy! They said, look, the world is tired with this Liberian thing. The people in Liberia are fatigue. What's going to happen if you guys throw out the election stuff and start another round of violence? Who do you think will come to help? [These questions] played an important role in the reconsideration of our previous decision to reject the whole charade; and that's why we said ok.
This guy [Taylor] is obsessed to be called President of the Republic of Liberia; I mean, this man was acting as President, mimicking the presidency from Gbarnga, calling himself president of Greater Liberia, all kinds of nonsense. That's all he wanted to be in life That's how come he has nothing substantial to offer the country. So, that's why these things happen. Something was going to happen to him, but than Abacha died.
What we are saying here is, nobody should believe that there was any free and fair election. When international journalists went to Monrovia - Taylor is very good at orchestrating things - there were a bunch of grona [street] boys in Monrovia, few of them and some of his NPFL soldiers were put together, going around the journalists - "You kill my pa, you kill my pa". What kind of reasonable person will go around saying " You kill my pa, you kill my pa, I will vote for you" when there were other options? And that's the big impression that Taylor was giving them that if he didn't become president, he was going to start another war. That guy became militarily impotent since 1994, when we whipped them substantially, and seriously by capturing Gbarnga. And I penetrated his forces; so up to this point he doesn't have anybody to fight [for him]. If he had anybody to fight [for him], why do you think he can't prevent the few people, the handful of people that are carrying on this thing in Lofa? Why is it that he cannot defeat them? Because he does not have anybody to fight. He has killed these young fellows; he exploits the country, he takes money out of Sierra Leone and Liberia, banks them into strange places in different names, while his commanders are suffering, those that have worked and sacrificed their lives for him. He has abandoned them, and had Dogolea killed, and then in the end he wants to use the same people to go defend him. Nobody will defend him.
It is a matter of time and Monrovia will collapse. And he will fall too, if he doesn't change. If he doesn't do that differently this is the beginning of the end. This man can do nothing except gangster type of things; sending people to Conakry to have me killed - to have me shot, that sort of thing. If I was doing that to Taylor, I don't think he will be living. Neither would any of his relatives be living anywhere. But we are not wicked people, we just want a peaceful country where everybody can go home and live by choice, and there is enough in Liberia for everybody to become something. You understand! So, there were no free and fair elections in Liberia. I don't care who says what; we know it. Taylor knows as I said - he knows that I know!
TP: Mr. Kromah, I know you have covered part of the question in many of your answers, but maybe this will be an opportunity for you to restate your position again. There is an ongoing debate amongst Liberians in the US and in the Diaspora on the fate of Mr. Taylor. What are your views or where do you stand on the following - that he must complete his term of office; that he must resigned; that every means should be mustered to undermine his rule and remove him. Would you care to comment again?
Mr. Kromah: Yes! All of that is Mr. Taylor's choice. There are two things that can happen either he dramatically, and I used the word dramatically to mean it literally because that's what it would take for him to change - looking at his records. Either he dramatically change his policies and his behaviors and open up his minds so that Liberia can be free, so that the opportunity for development can be there, so that there can be justice; so that Liberians will feel that indeed the war is over. Until all of these things are done, there is no alternative but for Taylor to leave. Either he leaves voluntarily or by force. It is not a question of seeing him complete (his term). What kind of reasonable person will see this kind of record going on and say let the man go on until 2003? Except, you don't have feelings for your people and for yourself - as a Liberian. But I am not into this violent business. I only went into fighting - I call it legal fighting because it is not all forms of violence that is illegal. Sometime, you have to apply violence legally in order to maintain or preserve the sanctity of a society, and that's how we saw our role.
We are not rebels; we were never rebels, and I challenge anybody to come forward and say [otherwise]. One thing that Taylor was successful in doing was to make all of us look like [him], and people like Amos Sawyer were there to make sure that they reinforce that so by default they could become leaders of Liberia. But that didn't work. My schoolmates, my classmates know that with all of my vices, I have never been a corrupt person, never been a wicked person. I have a very clean record in government, in school politics, everywhere. So you can't convince anybody that I committed atrocities and I knowingly serve as a leader of an organization and instructed them to commit atrocities. Nobody will believe that! Even my worse enemy at St. Patrick's High School or at the University of Liberia will not believe that. What we are saying here is that we don't want Mr. Taylor to be grabbed, laid down and beheaded as a matter of some kind of a policy. No! If he can do himself good and the Liberian people good by saying I am not able to change, so I am leaving this thing [the presidency]. Let my vice president go on, maybe for one year and a real election could be held. I think it could be acceptable. He can then leave, and whatever money he has somewhere, let him go live on it.
Taylor will go. He will have to go, and I don't have to be in the middle of it. I am not the only Liberian that is hurt!
TP: Mr. Kromah, much of what fueled the civil war after the death of Samuel Doe was the struggle for power and wealth, the control of diamond, timber and gold by various warring factions. The illicit trade in diamond and timber along the Sierra Leone and Guinean borders was a major driving force in the war efforts. How did this reconcile with your regional objective of defending Mandingoes or being a resistant movement?
Mr. Kromah: Well, as usual, the assumption in your question is totally off. Number one, I challenged Mr. Taylor and other Liberians, during the elections, including members of our own organization to come forward and say that Alhaji Kromah, directly or indirectly, or ULIMO, under our command engaged in any type of business - whether it was coffee, diamond or gold, any kind of business.
I challenged people for two months on the run that if they could prove it, I will be the first to present myself for execution. Even Taylor, as antagonistic as he was, he wasn't able to say a thing in that place, and I still stand behind that. If there is any company that ever did business with us, let them come forward and say yes, we did business with them. First of all, we were landlocked. All these things that were transported - iron ore, log, coffee, this and that, through the Port of Greenville in Sinoe County and Harper and Buchanan and cross into the Ivory Coast were by the NPFL. We did not have the so-called luxury to do any of those things - the physical opportunity to do any of those things.
Most of those people that were fighting on the side of ULIMO, you know, the Krahn and Mandingo people like diamond business - they like to dig diamond. They do alluvia mining. Now, how could you be fighting - it is like the parable that our people often use - you can't be running and at the same time want to scratch your foot; you will definitely fall. You either stand still to scratch your foot or leave the scratching and run. If we had opened one piece of diamond mining operation in ULIMO territory, we would have lost the war instantly. Because all the boys would have left the front to come and dig diamond.
However, it is true that some companies came, offering us opportunities to do business with us. But we said to them that as a matter of policy, we could not do what Taylor was doing. Unfortunately, whenever you talk about Taylor and watch CNN on this side - in the United States, the only thing you see is bunch of people fighting aimlessly. And the prejudice against Mandingoes and Muslims kind of rubbed off on the rest of ULIMO and you people [the press] didn't do us justice, because you wanted to interpret everything in the form of some religious connotation and therefore the wickedness that was inflicted, the destruction that was inflicted upon the Mandingoes and those associated with them were never highlighted. They were only told in passing - as though they were not human beings. Ok, focus was being made on other things other than that!
We were not fighting a Mandingo war. You know that there is no ethnic group in Liberia that is big enough to constitute a majority; all the groups are almost equal. So, how could you fight a serious war like that with only Mandingoes or even Mandingoes and Krahns? They have to consist of a large spectrum than what you people referred to. We were the legitimate leaders of that movement, and we fought successfully to bring Taylor to his knees, and that was the only way Taylor could go to the peace table, when he found out that he could not succeed militarily. Otherwise, that was his goal. So, our original goal remains the same - a resistant movement. We were never involved in any business, and that's why I am happy to be poor, today. Nobody believes that someone like me do not have money. But I enjoy remaining impoverish in dignity rather than to become affluent in corruption and atrocities, and I am proud of this record. I don't care what is out there, you picked Alhaji Kromah on the Internet, you see all these various things being written - but that's the nature of what goes with the territory we are in - America. And it is through these kinds of interviews and books and other things, we are trying to tell our side for people to get to know the true story. But one will always have enemy out there who will always insist that what you say is not the truth. But who cares for that - the truth is the truth!
TP: Many Liberians are calling for war crimes tribunal for all Liberian warlords and those who committed atrocities during the civil war. What is your position?
Mr. Kromah: My position has always been consistent on this whole thing. I was one of those who said that if we finally come to it, we would be very happy for it to take place, and we will have to include all of those who were involved with it one way or the other; by just saying somebody fought a war does not automatically mean that he committed atrocities or war crimes. Also, it doesn't mean only those who you saw with uniforms, whose names were out there are the only ones involved. Amos Sawyer will have to lead that list. You understand? That's the local group now; there is an external group to it.
Amos Sawyer will have to be included among those to be tried; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will have to be included along with those ACDL people the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia, with the exception of Patrick Seyon and those who did not know about the secret donated money to them, all of them, their associations and individuals here in the United States who were supporting them. They too have to be included. Because in law, as a lawyer and as a non-lawyer you would know yourself - there is something called accessory before and after the fact. Those who abet, those who assist in the commission of crimes are in varying degrees, responsible to answer for those actions. Therefore, no one can say because it was Taylor showing his face out there so he alone is responsible. No! No! No! You have to include Amos Sawyer, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in that group and all of those individuals here today who are talking this must happen and that must happen, and now trying to disassociate themselves from Taylor; they too, must be tried.
Externally, the President of Burkina Faso and Gaddafi will have to be tried, you understand? There are several others that I can't readily think of. There were lots of people who were involved in helping to organize this thing (civil war), including some individuals who worked for the United Nations on the ground. All the questions about the United Nations, NGOs, this and that, there were individuals in these organizations that were working side-by-side with the NPFL, giving them information, radio communication, providing arms and ammunitions in humanitarian food boxes and wrappings; all these things were discovered during the war.
There is lot of stuff that goes on when war breaks out in a particular place. We are not making a blanket acquisition against good-hearted people who are sincerely concern in these international organizations and governments, etc. - those who tried to help the people. We are not talking about those people! But within the corridors of these organizations, you have people who have their own select agenda that are collaborating with other people. So, we are saying that if you want to try anybody, you should try this whole range of people, and some of them in these United States.
How did Taylor get out of that jail and he was never arrested? You see what I mean? There are lots of questions hanging over his escape. This is a serious country! This government is very, very serious when it comes to people breaking out of jail. There are two situations one, Taylor being held for extradition is a separate case because - even if you have one minute left to be freed from jail and you break out of jail, that is considered a felonious act, and it cannot just be dismissed by some flimsy process like that. How did that man get out of jail in this place? It has to be investigated. Because you get to look at the source of the destruction. It is a very big thing. We feel that something could have been done to redeem all of that if Mr. Taylor was acting properly We hoped that it would have happened. But it did not happen! That's why people are angry. Otherwise, Liberian people and human beings in general are forgiving; they would have forgiven all of these if Liberia was on a prosperous path. So, this is my position!
TP: Finally, Mr. Kromah, do you have any message for Liberians here in the Diaspora and at home?
Mr. Kromah: First of all, I would like to thank you guys very much for this opportunity and beseech you to be very fair. As you noticed, this is my first interview to any news establishment in the United States since I've been here nearly three years now, and I am doing it on purpose, and I will not explain to you why I am doing it on purpose. But I can only beseech you to be fair not to portray yourself as to be one-sided in whatever you say or do 'cause you have a professional obligation, if you want to be considered a professional establishment. And whatever you say, you must remember it has an impact on people's lives and generations to come.
My second reason, which is the most important one, is for our people - calling on them not to give up. I see in the faces of Liberians as I go to programs, I feel so sorrow that I see in their faces the nostalgia for their country. The hope that once again, the nation that they belong to will be respected around the world; will be given its rightful consideration among nations, and they as citizens will be considered coming from somewhere worthy of recognition. I feel that Liberians are hungry for this. And I want to tell them not to give up, because history by itself, naked history can never allow what is happening in Liberia to continue. One way or the other, it will come to an end. And it will come to an end very soon. By that, I do not mean to say or talk about Mr. Taylor's death or something like that. I believe all of these things that are happening will force Mr. Taylor to dramatically change his mind, resign or in the end be killed, if he cannot do either of the two. We will be going home, I believe in less than one year. Liberians will have the opportunity to go home. All that I must say is for us to be prepared to go back home to develop our country.
We have sufficient background; we have sufficient pain, tragically in our hearts and in our minds. Let us convert those things into positive instruments, positive assets, so that we will be able to jump-start and triple the pace, which would be utilized to carry our country forward. And I want to say, the day for country and Congo has passed. If you are still saddled down in the mentality of country or Congo, you must be part of a relic and you must be very unrealistic, because Liberia has gotten mixed up so much. I give you an example, I am Mandingo, and I married a so-called Americo-Liberian, so my children have extreme grandparents. They have Mandingo grandparents and Congo grandparents; now, how can I fight the Congoes? How can I impose anything on the Congoes? If there were such things as Congo or Americo-Liberian, which I don't really believe exist. When you look at the other ethnic groupings, my aunts and uncles and cousins are Gola, Vai and Lorma people, how can I do something against them? How can they do something against me successfully?
The country is so small! The maximum population is about 3 million, so that there is enough to go around in that country. And we have sufficient tragedy in our lives to tell us that there is no need for undue greed. Human being will be greedy sometimes. But when it becomes undue that's when it gets in the way of progress. We must be complementary to each other, in order to survive. The message is for Liberians to keep up their hope and know that within one-year's time or less than two years, we will have the opportunity to go home, and Mr. Taylor has no choice. He has no control over that! We will all go home and be able to live freely, let us all be friends in the United States, and when we're condemning each other, let it be out of true patriotism, not but of some kind of vengeance that has no ending. We cannot continue to be in a visual circle of hate and envy. All of these things undermine not only the individual but also our national existence. This is my message to all Liberian. And as I said again, if I had done something personally or organizationally to any individual that I know about, and I don't know about, I will ask them for their forgiveness as I have forgiven those including Taylor the devil for whatever he has done against me, my family and my relatives.
Thank you very much and may God bless all of you!