The World's Insensitivity and
West Africa's Impending Horrors
By Tom Kamara
The unfolding terror in Sierra Leone, where the ruthless rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) are now poised to perfect and escalate their strategies for seizing power after a much celebrated and hailed peace agreement, indicates the ineptness of Africa's political leaders and the insensitivity of the world community when it comes to African crisis. Did Africa really believe that by installing a vicious rebel gang next door in Liberia through whatever means as "democratically elected" leaders, the flames of anarchy and poverty in West Africa would be extinguished?
Despite several reports that have squarely unveiled the source of Sierra Leone's nightmare - an open Liberian corridor for the supply of mercenaries, arms and diamonds - the pretense is that by merely reaching a peace agreement and surrendering diamonds to Sankoh, that country's estimated 5 million helpless people would be spared another round of brutal amputations and slaughters. This was the United Nations' rationale for rewarding the RUF with diamonds and top political posts based on their ability to commit unimaginable atrocities.
On the other hand, when Western forces under NATO intervened in Kosovo, we saw the meaning of resoluteness in defeating the Serbs through a show of military strength. UN intervention in East Timor carried the same message. In Sierra Leone, UN troops have adopted a policy, which rationalizes the gunning down of protesters while the organization's Blue Helmets protecting rebel chief Sankoh stood-by watching.
"This is clearly some of the double-standards we
have resigned ourselves to in the name of peace", said a
Sierra Leone diplomat in Washington. The US, Britain, and the
UN imposed a peace deal on us which we could not resist since
we lack the means and resources to end the slaughters. Now they
are watching as we, and even some of UNAMSIL forces, die."
A few months before the current RUF offensive, news leaked that over 1500 RUF rebels were undergoing training in Gbatala, a few miles outside Monrovia, the capital, a notorious camp setup by Liberian President Charles Taylor, and run by his son - Chucky Taylor, for the production of rebels. When concerns mounted on the training, Taylor announced that he would open the camp for inspection. This, of course, was deceptive. There is the possibility, backed by credible information, that the rebels were dispersed and sent to Lofa County, along Liberia's border with Sierra Leone, prior to calls for inspection. The notorious RUF commander, Sam Bokarie, after executing about 8 fellow commanders for yielding to disarmament demands, fled into Taylor's arms. Bokarie, alias Masqita, fell out with rebel chieftain Foday Sankoh on disarmament following the Lome Peace Agreement, vowing to take his case to "Chairman Taylor" since Sankoh was betraying the revolution.
The Washington Post has revealed that impoverished Burkina Faso which has thrown itself at the heart of destabilization plots in Africa for purely financial reasons, as detailed by a recent UN report, is responsible for arming the rebels. During the rebels' 1999 bid to take Freetown, Burkina Faso, along with Liberia, were identified by both US officials and the West African force ECOMOG, as the rebels' main suppliers of arms and trainers. Although Burkina Faso has no common borders with Sierra Leone, Liberia serves as the RUF supply line. Thus the arms are shipped to Liberia and then transported to rebel-held areas. The Ivory Coast played the identical role in the Liberian crisis, serving as a corridor for arms and mercenaries for the NPFL. Burkina Faso's Blaise Campaori would admit that he sent 700 soldiers to fight in Liberia for Taylor's NPFL.
On the other hand, Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, has been bending backwards to please Taylor, convinced that the Liberian rebel chief who became president after butchering 250,000 people, held the key to his country's peace. In 1998, Kabbah personally reported to Taylor that Liberian rebels were converging in Sierra Leone for a return to war in Liberia. A few months after, Taylor supplied and rearmed thousands of RUF rebels, thanks to the endless diamond supplies (31 million carats which passed through Liberian hands, according to a Canadian research group). A refurbished and reinvigorated RUF launched one of its most ambitious offensives, coming close to taking Freetown in 1999 and leaving over 5000 dead. Sensing defeat, Taylor announced, and insisted, that no single group in the conflict was capable of a military victory. He demanded a peace agreement for his RUF and got better than he imagined. The diamonds, left squarely in the hands of his surrogates, would provide the needed resources to maintain trainers from South Africa, acquire more arms from Burkina Faso and the Ukraine, and import more drugs for the estimated 45,000 rebels whose trademark is amputation of limbs.
But, from the onset, the pattern of horrors in Sierra Leone was a complete replica of the Liberian holocaust. After endless peace agreements backed and sponsored by men like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Liberian rebels finally got their wish: a power sharing deal that paved the way for their eventual political triumph. Instead of the promised democratization, this period - between 1994-1996 - was used to infiltrate fighters into the city and rearm. This Trojan Horse approach, which led to the April 1996 fighting that left 3000 dead, finally led to so-called elections which propelled the rebels to power and the continuation of anarchy now intensified in Sierra Leone.
We can see similar tactics perfected since Foday Sankoh joined the government in a power sharing deal. With an open Liberian corridor and continued flow of diamonds for arms, RUF paid lip service to peace while preparing for war. Ironically, it was the American Jesse Jackson who played a leading role in the Sierra Leone, so-called peace efforts. Although this man made no public statement on, or condemnation of the wave of massacres and amputations that engulfed this wrecked West African state, Rev. Jesse Jackson moved to sell the rebels as peacemakers, repeating his role in Liberia where he publicly hailed butchering warlord turned president, Cahrles Taylor, a man of peace. Even as the Sierra Leone crisis unfolds, the Rev. Jesse Jackson who was at the forefront of the Lome Accord remained silent.
Convinced that the West will again blame him for the renewed atrocities, Taylor skillfully started portraying himself as a peacemaker - the gimmick is make Western policy makers believe that he has nothing to do with the fighting this time around. A credible Liberian government source insisting on anonymity quipped, "we were blamed last year because we were not quick in condemning the fighting in Sierra Leone. We will see how they will now turn around and point fingers to us".
One of the Western policy makers who did not buy this latest nonsense from Charles Taylor is Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire (Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, state and the judiciary). As the senator correctly wrote in the Washington Post, "There can be no peace in Sierra Leone until the strongman of neighboring Liberia, Charles Taylor, is brought to heel. Taylor never forgave Sierra Leone for serving as a staging area when the United Nations intervened in the civil war in his own country. It was he who basically created the rebel movement in Sierra Leone known as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and he who has provided financing, equipment and sanctuary for it. As long as Taylor rules Liberia, Sierra Leone's anguish will continue... To see justice done, the United States must lead a multinational effort to bring true peace to Sierra Leone. First, Liberian leader Taylor and his criminal gang must go; every feasible effort ought to be made to undermine his rule..."
If and when the United Nations folds up, what can we expect in Sierra Leone? We can expect the proliferation of armed factions and heightened insecurity in an already dangerous environment. The Kamajors have already begun rearming. Renegade soldiers, once allies of the RUF, are now their declared enemies. There should be no surprises when bloody clashes resume with the attendant refugee crisis for neighboring countries, mainly Guinea. With no responsible group in charge, border clashes will escalate, making the entire region ungovernable. Guinea will become increasingly vulnerable. There have been continued reports of Guinean dissidents converging in Liberia, and although Taylor has denied the claims, he denied similar reports about his ties with the RUF.
Liberia's Taylor will continue to portray himself as a peacemaker
while perfecting destabilization schemes. The situation in the
Ivory Coast, where Taylor's ally Konan Bedie was ousted, is fluid
with yet unconfirmed but credible reports that pro-Bedie dissidents
are regrouping in Liberia. Thus, West Africa should brace itself
for bloodier times ahead.
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