Remembering The Infamous 1996 April 6: The Liberian Pretense
The Morning of April 6, `1996
19 years ago, during the early hours of April 6, 1996, Monrovians woke up to the sound of automatic machine guns and artillery vibrating from the Sinkor section of Monrovia. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Helter-skelter, Monrovians picked up their belongings and ran for their lives.
Alije Kromah and Charles Taylor’s self-styled ”government forces” and Roosevelt Johnson and George Boley’s forces ” Butt Naked” transformed Monrovia into hell on earth for its war fatigued residents.
As the day progressed, Monrovia soon became a divided territory. The so called government forces controlled much of Sinkor, around Capitol Hill and across the bridge on Bushrod Island, while “Butt Naked” controlled central Monrovia and the former Barkley Training Center (BTC).
Navigating between the two walls was a death panel. The warring parties established irregular check points guided by unruly and inhuman individuals with one intent and purpose. This intent and purpose was to extract, humiliate , torture, and terminate anyone suspected of being hostile to their cause or anyone belonging to an enemy tribe.
The Unholy Alliance
Unlike the successive post 1990 war which saw a brutal tribal war between the Krahn and Mandingo on the one hand ( ULIMO-J, and LPC) and the Gio and Mino on the other ( NPFL), the April 6, 1996 war witnessed a brutal war between the Krahn, Sarpo and other south eastern tribes alliance on the one hand ( ULIMO-J and LPC) and Gio, Mano ( NPFL) and the unholy alliance between the Mandingo tribe ( ULIMO-K) on the other hand. Abraham Kromah, the current Chief of Operation, Liberian National Police was the chief of Staff of the Taylor -Kromah unholy alliance forces. Under the administrative direction of Taylor and Kromah, on the battle field, Abraham Kromah directed his thugs to rape, loot, torture, and decapitate their victims. Innocent Liberians and foreigners alike were subjected to unspeakable forms of violence.
While the pawns murdered and decapitated each other on the streets of Monrovia, their masters were dinning and drinking fine wine with their partners in crime and discussing the configuration of the next government. As the famous saying goes “when two elephant fight, the grass suffers,” the Liberian masses endured the unforgiving pain of the conflict.
I, along with my comrade Deacon Azariah Sirleaf were just two of the unfortunate Monrovians entrapped in the web of the violence. We both had been admitted at Horatious Brown Medical and Surgical Clinic located on Tubman Boulevard immediately opposite the Toyota Garage in the proximity of Monrovia city hall. The clinic had been our home for nearly two years. We both were shot at separate intervals and at different locations in October of 1994 by some of the same thugs who were rampaging the streets of Monrovia. My right leg was shattered by bullets two inches below my knees while comrade Azariah Sirleaf ankle was also shattered. The severity of our both injuries subjected us to multiple orthopedic surgeries and confined us to the clinic for nearly two years from October 1994-April 6, 1996.
Above the Toyota garage was the base of a platoon size Nigerian contingent of the West African Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). ECOMOG had a well-fortified and visible check point on the street before the clinic. By 11am that fateful Saturday morning, the alliance forces of LPC and ULIMO-K had gained full control of the clinic vicinity. The peace keepers melted away with their check point. The essential clinic staff also vanished. As we looked through the window, we saw naked men singing and dancing to war songs, setting the house next to the clinic ablaze with gasoline.
We both were on crutches, sitting ducks waiting to be slaughtered but, the Almighty God gave us an ingenious idea. The clinic had six rooms directly facing each other and the seventh at the center directly facing the entry door, was the operation room. We locked six rooms and left the seventh partially opened then, we took refuge in it. As predated, the armed men broke into the clinic with rain of bullets and went from room-to-room breaking down doors, but the partially opened door they did not open. We were saved by God. Following the break in, we journeyed through check points which I described as “valley of death.” Innocent people were extracted from the line and instantly executed for no obvious justifiable reasons, except for being in the wrong place. Extortion, rape, torture, execution, and harassment were the normal regime that ruled the check points on all sides of the conflict. Despite the indisputable and disturbing evidence of gross human rights violations and economic crimes perpetrated against innocent Liberians during the conflict, no one has been held accountable for such barbaric and inglorious acts of violence and stealing.
The Sirleaf Policy
And despite the momentous selection of Madam Sirleaf in 2005 as the one with the appropriate academic and international credentials to bring Liberia out of the state of darkness, corruption and abuse of power have flourished over the past ten years under the watchful eyes of madam Sirleaf. The Sirleaf regime ushered in an extreme neo liberal economic policy that put profit above human rights, environment, and social development. Dressed in the garment of unrepentant arrogance, nepotism, political patronage, and narcissistic tendencies, the Sirleaf clan is systematically attempting to pride themselves as the messiah of Liberia. But, while they amassed wealth to themselves, the Liberian masses whom they subjected to 14 years of untold suffering continue to suffer unabatedly to this date.
As it is written “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6 (KJV). Fellow Liberians, by supporting the selection of Sirleaf and cohorts who shared greater responsibility for the destruction of Liberia, we explicitly granted them the power to abuse us the more. The collapse of the Liberian health care delivery system during the 2014 Ebola epidemic is the symptom of the grotesque neglect of the healthcare and other social support systems in Liberia. The Ebola crisis unearthed the pretense and deception of the Sirleaf regime, which have for the most part managed to stay in power on the backs of positive review internationally, while hated at home.
People of good will and fellow Liberians, let us not forget, some of those people who grossly took advantage of the Liberian public and accumulated personal wealth on their carcasses are reemerging as the new messiahs. As we remember the infamous 1996 April 6, let us ask ourselves a critical question. Where were the Sirleaf children who have now become humanitarian by night all these years prior to the ascendancy of their mother to power in Liberia? Where did those who played a major role in the brutal war and have now became so-called business men and women get their money? Did they get loans? Where did members of the Sirleaf government officials who are now erecting or have erected mansions overnight get money from? Did they get mortgage loans? What about those in government with hidden businesses?
Fellow Liberians and people of goodwill, be not deceived by the challenges of the moment or by the display of wealth and power. But, let us judge these purporting to be the new messiahs of Liberia by what they have done, and not by what they have now or what they propose to do but, by their positions on key public policy issues, their pass and present associations, and their demonstrated ability to break away from the shackles of pretense and impunity. Some of the fundamental question to ask would be what is his or her position on the question of social inclusion and social development? What has been he or her position on political and social corruption? Does he or she support the creation of a hybrid Liberian war crime court?
The Deception of Working from the Inside
Fellow Liberians, the opportunistic notion of working from within is a fraud and deception. Except the person be of moral decadence, soon he or she will self-terminate the position. Amos Sawyer, Henry Boimah Fahnbulleh, Dkarn Carlor, Gabriel Baccus Matthews, Nyquoi Zaza, and other progressives who tried to promote progressive agenda through the PRC junta failed. Kofi Woods, Tiawan Gongloe, Christiana Tah, also tried to promote progressive changes within the current Sirleaf government failed and self-terminated. Marshall Dennis –the current senator of Grand Gedeh county during one of his fundraising visits to the United States, when ask about the case of his kinsmen who have been wrongfully convicted by the Sirleaf criminal enterprise, he responded” you cannot fight from the outside.” He has been in office for more than three months as a Senior Senator of Grand Gedeh, what has he done in order to seek justice for his kinsmen ? The same case of Prince Johnson of Nimba county, I am a son of Nimba from Zoe Gedeh, the home district of Prince Johnson. Up to present, the road to Butuo, the district headquarters in which the murderous NPFL gangs based is in accessible to vehicles during the raining season. The clinic and social infrastructures which existed prior to the war, have not been rebuild to half capacity, but our people overwhelmingly voted for him. What a shame!
Muster the courage for the creation an internationally backed hybrid War Crimes Court on Liberia
As we patiently wait for justice with the agonizing pain of injustice, let us arm ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and prudence, believing that God shall one day deliver Sirleaf and her cohorts before the face of justice. Let us muster the courage to intellectually and morally challenge lackeys of Madam Sirleaf who continue to believe that there will be no justice for Liberian war victims. Let us prove them wrong by working for justice. Let us no longer elect alleged war criminals and their associates to power. Let us not allow lackeys of Madam Sirleaf to dissuade us from supporting the establishment of war crimes court on Liberia to bring those who hold greater responsibility for the war accountable. The court will not disturb the peace but rather strengthen it.
Opponents of the proposed war crime court have long argued that the court will prosecute only fighters and not politicians who bought the guys and planned the war. Contrarily, as a son of Nimba, I can assure my kinsmen and all former fighters, that the court will make us more safe, bring justice and closure to the war finally. It will more importantly, prosecute those who transformed us into their war machines. It is people like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Prince Johnson and others who profited from the war and continue to pose threat to the peace and security of Liberia who will face the wrath of the proposed war crime court and not the fighters who were implementing their policies.
Prince Johnson is celebrated by many of my kinsmen as a hero for capturing and killing President Doe. While President Doe may have committed despicable crimes against the people of Nimba and Liberia, there are rules of military engagement under the Geneva accord. “Two wrongs cannot make right.” President Doe also deserve a day in the court of law, Prince Johnson denied him the chance to defend himself in the court of law. As a conscientious Nimba citizen, the name Prince Johnson brings me nothing more than shame and disgrace. He is not a man to be proud of, he must be rejected. Prince is an unrepentant sinner. Instead of preparing to answer before a competent war crime court, he is masquerading as a normal states man running to become the next President like his boss Madam Sirleaf.
May the souls of all those who lives were cut short by the wicket hands of the warring parties rest in perpetual peace. Let us remember this day with prayer and thanksgiving to God for preserving our souls to see this day. Freedom and justice must be our goal as we remember April 6, 1996.
Osagyefo Nana Jacob Dunzuah-Teh-Dunzuah Gongbye Gonyah Vonyon Massaquoi, II
AKA Dr. Roots