Analysis

The Truth That the TRC Failed to Uncover in Sierra Leone.

8 November 2006 at 00:40 | 746 views

"On the contrary, Taylor was part of a loosely aligned cabal of international pariahs, each with purely selfish motives, but who were largely united in their vision that SL - blessed with abundant diamonds and gold and cursed with a weak political leadership that was alienated from the majority of its subjects, not to mention a politicized and demoralized army - was an easy mark for their criminal activities. That immoral cabal included Burkina Faso’s dictator, Blaise Campaore, Ivory Coast’s long-standing dictator, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, and Libyan strongman, Moamar Ghaddafi, among others."

By Mohamed A. Jalloh,Maryland, USA.

It is a sad irony that while the final report of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission is of tremendous historical importance because it contains perhaps the most comprehensive eyewitness record of the bestial interlude in Sierra Leone’s history that has been misnamed, in multiple error, a civil war, unfortunately, it woefully failed to identify the most important truth about that decade-long blight on our country’s history.

To be sure, the authors and other governmental and non-governmental entities that contributed to the publication of the SLTRC’s final report deserve commendation for their literally massive efforts. However, the nation’s second greatest debt of gratitude is owed to those victims who braved the risks attendant upon revisiting their trauma by providing testimony to the commission. Fittingly, the greatest debt of all is owed to our innocent countrymen, countrywomen, and others who paid the ultimate price during the largest, longest, and least civil, criminal enterprise in the history of SL.

As one would expect, the commission’s report will be greeted with exceptions as to its analysis, particularly its interpretation of the historical events it comprehensively documents. This is to be wholly expected. Nonetheless, it does not diminish the importance of the work that went into the production of the report; nor, in my humble opinion, does it necessarily suggest an ulterior motive among the commission’s members. Undoubtedly, it is in the nature of the human being - and a testament to the wonderful powers of our creator - that people may see the same thing and come to different conclusions about the nature of what they have observed.

Hopefully, in the process of reconciling the disparate views of the object observed, its true nature would become apparent to all. It is in that spirit that I wish to take exception to the commission’s conclusion that the 10-year assault on innocent Sierra Leoneans precipitated by the Revolutionary United Front invasion of SL in 1991 resulted from an increasing conviction by Sierra Leoneans that violence was the only way to change the oppressive and corrupt APC government of SL. Whereas some Sierra Leoneans may have felt that way - in the case of RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, for demonstrably selfish reasons - I believe that the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans were content to continue a long-standing Sierra Leonean tradition that had kept our country free of local war for almost a hundred years. As even the most casual observer knows, that tradition consists of Sierra Leoneans’ blissful belief in muddling along and continuing to place their faith in God as the means for changing their admittedly deteriorating situation in life. This is evident in that familiar and ubiquitous Sierra Leonean response to virtually every calamity, be it personal or national - "How for do? God dae!"

There is far more persuasive evidence that the massive pillage and rampage inflicted upon SL during the 10-year RUF invasion of SL was the brainchild of a largely criminal foreign enterprise that relied for its execution on a minuscule minority of Sierra Leoneans, aided by a significant number of foreign foot soldiers and commanders.

As the United Nations’ Special Court in SL`s indictment makes plain, it is now well established that the Liberian criminal, Charles Taylor, was the immediate sponsor of the prolonged bestial assault on hundreds of thousands of innocent Sierra Leoneans during the RUF invasion of SL. Significantly, Taylor is neither Sierra Leonean, nor did he represent the majority of Sierra Leoneans who were stoically suffering under the dictatorial yoke of SL president Joseph Momoh.

On the contrary, Taylor was part of a loosely aligned cabal of international pariahs, each with purely selfish motives, but who were largely united in their vision that SL - blessed with abundant diamonds and gold and cursed with a weak political leadership that was alienated from the majority of its subjects, not to mention a politicized and demoralized army - was an easy mark for their criminal activities. That immoral cabal included Burkina Faso’s dictator, Blaise Campaore, Ivory Coast’s long-standing dictator, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, and Libyan strongman, Moamar Ghaddafi, among others. It was this group of foreigners who aided and abetted the fugitive Liberian, Charles Taylor, in his purely selfish quest to revenge himself on SL president Momoh for the latter’s role in hosting ECOMOG, the West African peacekeeping force that initially thwarted Taylor’s naked power grab in Liberia in 1989-90. In addition, Taylor wanted to help his Libyan military training camp alumnus, Sierra Leonean RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, replicate the bonanza of stolen diamonds, gold and other ill-begotten gains that Taylor had reportedly acquired in neighboring Liberia through his 1989 invasion of Liberia from a conspiring Ivory Coast. It is now known that these international pariahs recruited a relatively small number of Sierra Leoneans and a significant number of foreigners to inflict mayhem on hundreds of thousands of innocent Sierra Leonean children, women and men. However, this does not make their murderous ten-year long assault a product of Sierra Leoneans’ increasing conviction that "the structures of governance could only be changed through violence," as the SLTRC claims in palpable error.

Such a conclusion, while admittedly romantic and widely held among mostly uninformed western commentators and self-described students of the RUF, clashes with historical reality. It is disheartening, therefore, that our own SLTRC, given its mission of truth, would succumb to such wishful thinking. That the SLTRC would then incorporate such a myth in its historically significant report is as unfortunate as it is avoidable. The sad truth is that there is an alternative conclusion that would have accorded with historical facts. It also would have significantly served the commission’s mission of truth. Clearly, therefore, the surprising failure of the commission to reach it fatally marred its mission. That crucial conclusion is that the RUF pillage and rampage in SL from 1991 to 2001 was neither civil, nor was it a war in the traditional sense. It was, in the main, a cynical and brutal assault on innocent and helpless Sierra Leoneans by a well-financed international gang of criminals who, for purely selfish reasons, committed themselves to plundering Sierra Leone’s poorly protected resources by widely terrorizing its populace.

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