Letter to editor

Patrick Bockarie responds to his critics

14 February 2009 at 22:45 | 1547 views

For the benefit of those ...that did not know... I will summarize but if you have any more questions, please ask me and I will respond. I have nothing to hide about the trip I made to Sierra Leone after the Lome Peace Agreement. I will do it all over again if I have the opportunity to do the same. My trip to accept the nomination to be executive director of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD), created under Section VII of the Lome Peace Agreement, ratified by a parliamentary act, is one of the greatest sacrifices I have made for the love of Sierra Leone. It was then Chairman Sankoh who asked President Kabbah to nominate me for that position. Initially, he (Sankoh) nominated me upon his return to Freetown. But the parliamentary act that established the CMRRD and ratified the Lome agreement said the president, not the chairman, will nominate the executive director. There was a back and forth on it until those around the president took to liking me while in Freetown.

Text of the Lome Peace Agreement can be found at:

http://www.sierra-leone.org/lomeaccord.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lom%C3%A9_Peace_Accord

WHY ME:
I was probably the most vocal Sierra Leonean in the United States or internationally calling for international intervention to end in the war by overwhelming military force. My mother had just returned from California to our village, Mendekeima, near Kailahun in December 1990 when the war broke out in February or March 1991. She and my siblings were captured and taken to Liberia by the rebels. I traveled to Sierra Leone in 1992, determined to go to Kailahun and bring out my mother if it meant my death. But relatives in Kenema and Segbwema did not allow me to go any further than Daru when refugees where camped. I returned to the US without finding any of my immediate relatives and then embarked on a mission to draw international attention to the war. I wrote to United Nations Security Council and accused Libya’s current AU Chairman Col. Gaddafi of supporting the rebels and provided written testimonies I gathered from escaping relatives in the war zone. I organized close friends (Cillaty Dabo’s brother, Kortor Kamara and his wife Mbalu, and brother Mustapha were part of the group that met at my house in San Bernardino every weekend for almost 3 yeras) to support refugees from the war, and for the next three years, every Monday, we sent $250 Wells Fargo Bank cashiers check to the Sierra Leone Red Cross (Mr. During) to help the war refugees. We sent a copy of the check to the NPRC government. My mother and siblings escaped the war and came to the Daru UN camp in January 1994. I won’t go into the horrible killings of my relatives, the distruction of our homes, and the rape and infections that have killed my most beautiful younger sister, Monjama). I later brought them to Freetown.

In April 1994, after the rebels came close to entering Waterloo, I raised the alarm that it will be a catastrophe if the rebels were allowed to enter Freetown and create an urban war. I quickly lead a group of Sierra Leoneans to a meeting with the British consul general in Los Angeles where we submitted a 21-page appeal to the British government of Prime Minister John Major and copied the Queen. We made a strong case that Britain owed Sierra Leone both moral and political obligations to enter the war on behalf of the government with overwhelming military force to compel the RUF to a negotiated settlement or surrender. We cataloged the history of Sierra Leone’s gallant fighting for Britain in its colonial wars around the world including Congo, Burma, and Korea. The meeting was serious and video taped by the consulate. Since I had circulated the appeal booklet and invited hundreds of sierra Leoneans to come to support the appeal, over 300 Sierra Leoneans came. But instead of supporting, most demonstrated outside the Los Angeles British consulate accusing me of calling for Britain to re-colonize Sierra Leone by military force. Cillaty, your brother, Kortor wrote a vehement opposition to my call for British military intervention yet we remain best of friends. The consul general asked me, “Mr. Bockari, if you think British intervention will end the war and help your country, why are so many Sierra Leoneans opposed to this appeal?” They held signs outside that read, "NO TO BRITISH INTERVENTION!!"

We sent copies of the appeal booklets to over 100 heads of governments and the UN Security Council. We received encouraging response of the usual from the Queen of England AND from Sir Douglas Hurd, British Foreign Secretary at that time. But the UN response was worse. UN wrote that it had a Sierra Leonean, Dr. James Jonah, as Assistant Secretary and UN envoy to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict who had never said there was a war of the magnitude and seriousness we described in our appeal. The then Los Angels Times UN Bureau Chief, Sam Misner came across our appeal and wrote a similar letter to me saying he went to lunch with Dr. Jonah and that Dr. Jonah had never mentioned that there was war in Sierra Leone.

THE RESPONSE THAT STARTED MY JOURNEY TO FODAY SANKOH:
The response that dragged me into my eventual contact with Foday Sankoh was from the Norwegian government. In June 1995, I was invited to an international peace conference on Sierra Leone in Oslo with a prelude that Norway supports peaceful resolution of all conflicts and will encourage the government of Sierra Leone and ECOMOG to do the same. I first rejected the invitation, but I then received a call from Norwegian Foreign ministry spokesman, Darlene Kjell AND a Sierra Leonean there associated with the conference by the name of Banda-Kulu Fransis Davies. They convinced me to go to Oslo. In July 1995, I went to Norway to attend the conference and the rest is history. I spent four days in Oslo where over 200 Sierra Leoneans from around the world gathered. At the conclusion of that conference, I was voted near unanimous to head a peaceful war resolution effort with support of the Norwagian government. Dr. John Karefa-Smart, Mayor Dr. Colomba Blango, London attorney Boeku-betts, and others were all in that conference. While we were in Oslo, the consultative conference to hold elections before peace was called in Freetown. Those in the Diaspora were told NOT to attend. I told the conference we will reject that position as citizens of Sierra Leone. We sent a letter asking Mr. Minah, the electoral officer who made that decision to reconsider and said we were sending three delegates to the consultative conference. He reversed himself and we contributed enough money to send three delegates to Freetown to participate in the conference that eventually led to the election of president Kabbah. But I opposed President Kabbah because I said he had never fought for our people even as a top Un officer. I predicted that Pres. kabbah will not be a good president. In early 1996, we created the “Worldwide Coalition for Peace and Development in Sierra Leone and drafted the “Sierra Leone End of War Declaration Agreement” that later appeared to be the source of most of the provisions of the Abidjan Peace Accord and later, the Lome Peace Agreement. It was over 75 pages, addressed to President Kabbah, .Cpl. Foday Sankoh (C/o President Henry Konan Beddie of Ivory Coast), Salone parliament, ECOWAS heads, Late Pres. Sani Abacha..

The first time I ever saw Cpl. Foday Sankoh was on television when he and Pres. Kabbah embraced during the Abidjan peace Accord signing. After calling the international peace conference in California and sent the list of delegates to the US State Department for visas, I was notified in a two-and-a-half-page letter by the State Department that visas will not be granted to the participants purely for the conference unless the applicants met the visitor visa requirements. They said that the US was supporting the peace process already underway in Abidjan and the ECOWAS efforts as well. President Kabbah refused to attend or send a delegate accusing me of supporting and advocating power sharing with the rebels. I say President Kabbah because his presidential affairs minister or someone in the state house said so to me in a phone conversation. I was so disappointed that I dropped the Sierra Leone peace process efforts and kept away from political issues.

FODAY SNAKOH GOT ARRESTED IN NIGERIA AFTER ABIJAN PEACE ACCORD:
As soon as news of the arrest of Cpl. Foday Sankoh broke out in Nigeria, I came out and condemned the arrest in aa detailed appeal to Sani Abacha to release him in the interest of peace. I argued that the arrest will disrupt the Abidjan Peace Accord and probably return our country to war. Based on information we were receiving, it was evident that the Nigerian government was benefiting from the war by excessively budgeting for ECOMOG support, selling arms to the rebels for diamonds, bombed the rebels everywhere except in Kono, and that this arrest was their chance to perpetuate the conflict. I argued that the arrest will not end the conflict as seen from other rebel conflicts in Angola, Congo, and Liberia. Everyone started condemning me as supporting the rebels and advocating for the release of Cpl. Sankoh. Some took advantage of the last name coincidence with Sam Mosquito Bockarie and insinuated that he was my brother. [FOR THE RECORD AGAIN; I am not related to Mosquito Bockarie in any way whatsoever and we don’t enen come from the same town. I never met him in my life. I spoke to him twice on the phone when I went to Sankoh in Freetown. Some people went as far as threaten to kill me. I dared then on. Even after Johnny Paul overthrew Pres. Kabbah, I continued to call for a peaceful resolution and said sitting and talking to all Sierra Leonens and have the key players in the conflict share in a transition government was the best way to end the war. I was cried down for that and said I was supporting Johnny Paul. In late 1997, I was the only Sierra Leonean the American Peace Corps Association invited to speak in their annual conference in San Diego. There I explained my power sharing theory and I was praised for the bravery to speak out for a peaceful resolution when everyone was on the “kill all the rebels, wipe out the Temnes because they started the war in Mendeland, etc.).” So on December 31, 1997, I decided again to wash my hands off Sierra Leone politics as long as the war was on.

THE TELEPHONE CALL FROM CPL. (CHAIRMAN) FODAY SANKOH:
After the horrible rebel invasion of Freetown on January 6, 1999, we all know what followed so I won’t duel on that. Sankoh and Pres. Kabbah went to Lome for another peace agreement. At that time, most people had agreed with my positions that a peaceful resolution was the best way to end the war; and that Britain should intervene militarily to overwhelm the rebels and compel them to negotiate. In Lome, Cpl. Sankoh insisted on position of vice president and president Kabbah refused on constitutional grounds. We were all glued to BBC for news from Lome, so we all knew the hotel Sankoh and the Sierra Leone delegation were staying. One afternoon, they announced that Sankoh has rejected the final offer for him to be the chairman of the CMRRD mentioned earlier and that he will be returned to his jail and the war will likely continue. That was when I decided to try once more, for the sake of our people, to convince him to agree to be the chairman. I prepared what looks like the SLID proposal but more detailed with beautiful superimposed photographic displays of transformed sections of Freetown. I sent the 40-page proposal via DHL together with some colognes, shirts, and pants which I later found were too small for him. According to Mr. Sankoh, Dr. Alimamy Pallo Bangura was the one who read the proposal to him. He said my document was so impressive that he agreed it was better to head the strategic resources commission than being the vice president. At one point in the document, I provided pages of pictorial comparisons of the position of a VP and that of the chairman of the most powerful commission ever created in our country’s history - A commission that will control all the minerals, control the budget of every ministry, and may even control how much money the president could spend on his office - I concluded. Mr. Sankoh confessed to me that my document was the most beautiful piece of art he has ever seen and he told Dr. Pallo Bangura to call Solomon Berewa (then attorney general) and the Sierra Leone delegation to announce that he will accept the chairmanship of the CMRRD.

THE INTRIGUE BEGINS:
On the fifth day after DHL picked the proposal to Lome, Mr. Sankoh and Pres. Kabbah announced the Lome agreement. Mr. Sankoh called me in my Barstow office as I was about to walk out at about 5:00 PM. I was the Bridge engineer in charge of a 450 million, 25 new bridge, etc highway project on I-15 to Las Vegas. It must have been July 2 or 3rd - I am not too sure about the exact date. He said Mr. Bockari, this is chairman Sankoh and I asked who? Then another person came on the phone and explained that it was Pa Sankoh that wants to talk to me. I had to sit down, and I did. We had a quick chat and he said he would like me to be his chief deputy commander on the commission. I held my urge to correct him about the use of “commanders” on non-military commissions. So I said Ok sir, but I need to think about it. The rest is too intriguing to explain all here. THE ISSUE HERE WAS NOT WHETHER I LIKED OR HATED SANKOH. I did not tell Sankoh to start the war or to kill anyone. BUT I LOVE SIERRA LEONE SO MUCH THAT I CAN WORK WITH ANYONE TO PLAY A ROLE IN ITS DEVELOPMENT. For those who will think i was looking for job opportunity, I was not. I am a senior engineer (civil servant of over 24 years) earning over $9,800 per month. Prior to accepting his offer, I made trips to Abidjan where I drove in Ivory Coast President Henry Kona Biddie’s top cars; went to Freetown and met with ECOMOG’s garrison commander Buhari Musa; met with UN envoy there, met with rebel commanders who had returned to Freetown for the power sharing, held meetings at State House, and in Abidjan, met with regional leaders who came to see meet Mr. Sankoh. In all, my message was the same: I will only work for Mr. Sankoh if they all assured me that they were serious about ending the war, disarm, and not just playing games. To the government and ECOWAS leaders, I gave them the whole truth about my relationship with Mr. Sankoh. To the UN, I gave them my personal information (SSN, ID, Passport, etc) for them to look into my background to assure themselves that I have never been involved with Mr. Sankoh except for what I have told them. I wrote to the US State department and asked for a determination of my US citizenship if I went to Sierra Leone and took an oath of office - will that invalidate my uS citizenship? I was told no.

I made one more trip to talk to Mr. Sankoh about my management style and how we will operate. I am an Aries, a type A manager. I tested his temperament and found that he genuinely liked me to the extent that his top commanders became jealous of me. When Mr. Sankoh would get angry with president Kabbah or Parliament, I was the one they will call to calm him down. I tentatively accepted his offer and came back to the US in September 1999 to inform my wife and seek opinions of friends and relatives. That was when I met Maurice Foday. There is a top officer of the UN Special court trying Charles Taylor that knew me yeras before I went to work with sankoh and I also consulted him for advice. Very few people told me not to go. My elder brother was one of them but i told him I would rather die trying to help Sierra Leone than live long and not leave a better and more prosperous Sierra Leone for my children and grand children. The majority of those who know me well told me to go - that the war was over, and I will be in position to do what I had always wanted to do in my life more than anything else - contribute significantly to Sierra Leone’s development. I traveled around the state and explained my decision to many who did not even know me. That was when I met Maurice Foday. Despite the APC "bella talk" maurice knew he was coming to a dinner sendoff party for me upon my invitation to go and work with Foday sankoh. I arrived in Freetown to a warm welcome by everyone I knew. To me, it was about my country, NOT Foday Sankoh.

THE PROCESS BROKE DOWN AND I RETURNED TO AMERICA;
I spent only 78 days in Freetown - not one year as Maurice put it. I decided to return to California after I clearly saw that the government was not sincere about the commission they created, and Mr. Sankoh was more interested in becoming president than working to run the CMRRD and boldly develop our country. He also continued the same corrupt practices the government was engaged in like making stupid and senseless deals with people around the world that wanted our minerals. They came and give him $20,000 or so and he will make promises to them that will only result in exploiting our country. He asked me to go to South Africa with him in violation of the agreements and the way I wanted us to manage our mineral resources. So I declined and he went with Gibril Massaguoi and other. He started leaving me out of some private meetings. He meet with top Nigerian army commanders in secrete which appeared strange. Kabbah’s government ministers came late at night and took off their hats, bowed in respect for Sankoh and I found their actions very shocking. I saw somethings happening late at night that scared the hell out of me.

I started getting nightmares and fearing everybody including Sankoh himself, his wives, and the government. I did not know who was on what side. His many beautiful "lady friends in every government office" tried to seduce me and others told me to be very careful. Sankoh himself started telling me that he had dreams of me trying to take over his position, or he saw me in his dream talking to his young beautiful wife just after the lady cooked and sent food for me without telling anyone. Then the last straw that caused me to leave was his decision to disarm the UN peace keepers and (maybe) overthrow the government. I say maybe because he told me that unless he was president, my plans will ne be implemented and he refused to disarm. When he ordered his men not to disarm to UN troops, I tried to stop the radio operator from sending the instructions. But they stopped me. So the next day, on April 26, 2000, I went to state house and told the government that I was leaving to return to the US. Present Kabbah sent Ambassador Patrick Foyah to ask me not to return to the US and to meet with him on Monday, May 1. That he wanted to offer me a position. I promised I will be at his Hill Station residence at 10:00 AM on Monday, just to allow me time to leave freetown.

I was terrrified of the prospects.... Then I told Sankoh that I was going to take my mom to see our relatives in Kailahun for the weekend and will return in time on Monday for our meetings. This was after an ugly incident in which Sankoh accused me of going to State House on Wednesday April 26 without my escort and his permission. He said I may have betrayed him. I said I went there to try to get the commission to start. I had proposed reforms in a 13-day mining exercise at the US embassy with Solo B, current Foreign Minister, Zainab, US ambassador Joseph Melrose, etc, that I estimated will quickly generate, thru identified leverage financing, the first annually budget of $6.5 billion under the CMRRD. I argued that he had to let me move freely and get the actions needed to move the country quickly or I will resign and leave. What followed will give anyone who knew Sankoh, a heart attack - I will skip it here. Surfice to say I was not going to leave long had I stayed there. Someone close to him than anyone else liked me a lot. He/she advised me to leave Freetown... "even if you have to walk on foot to America, please go." Between Saturday, April 29 and Monday, May 1, 2000, I managed to arrive in Abidjan under the most intriguing circumstances. I got to Paris and called my supervisor in California to ask for my job back. He was so excited he screamed.

I arrived in California on Tuesday, May 2, 2000. I left behind in Freetown all my personal properties but with my dream of a modern and prosperous Sierra Leone - alive and in me. On the following Monday, May 8, 2000, the tragedy that collapsed the peace process and caused Sankoh to be arrested happened at his residence on Spur Road when 19 demonstrators were shot and killed according to reports. On Wednesday May 10, I called State house and they told me that president Kabbah was looking for me to protect me and that I should tell them where I was so they can come and take me to the president’s house. I gave the guy my address near Los Angeles. He said “Mr. Bockari this nor to joke business.” He asked me for the phone number of where I was and I gave him my home phone number in Victorville, CA. He immediately called me and I answered. I told him that I have warned them but they did not listen to me. So there you go.

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