Friday, March 30, 2012

Liberia: George Boley’s Brother Seizes FrontPageAfrica Editor’s Camera

At Ex-Warlord's Arrival, George Boley's Brother Seizes FrontPageAfrica Editor's Camera

Monrovia-Dweh Boley, the brother of former Liberian warlord George Boley seized a camera belonging to FrontPageAfrica's newsroom editor Wade Williams late Friday afternoon upon the orders of University of Liberia journalism professor Weade Kobbah Wureh.

Williams had arrived on the scene to cover the arrival of Mr. Boley from the United States of America from where he was deported a day earlier.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Buffalo say Boley, 62, accused of leading a faction responsible for human rights abuses during the civil war and live in the Rochester suburb of Hilton, was sent to Monrovia, Liberia, on Friday.

An immigration judge last month ordered Boley removed under the Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008, which added the recruitment and use of child soldiers as grounds for deportation.

The judge also found Boley couldn't stay in the U.S. based on the government's allegations that he committed extrajudicial killings in Liberia in the 1990s and had abandoned his lawful permanent resident status.

His family has adamantly denied the allegations. Boley was arrested in 2010.

Eyewitnesses on the scene saw Boley's younger brother seize Editor Williams' camera in the presence of Wureh, who remarked that she was a journalism professor and former journalist well abreast with journalism ethics and that Williams was wrong to take a photo of Boley.

Kobbah-Wureh later had a change of heart and told the FPA editor that she would intervene to have the camera returned. The camera was however returned with all of the photos taken earlier deleted by Boley's brother Dweh.

Boley who arrived at the Roberts International Airport Friday was not handcuffed and was released shortly to the custody of family members after a brief appearance at the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.

CDC vs Snowe - Party Backs Statement

Friday, 30 March 2012 01:20 Othello B. Garblah
Source: The New Dawn

When the sad news of the death of Montserrado District #11 Representative Moses Saah Tandapolie broke on the morning of March 17 at about 2 AM, not many thought this would have resurrected the bad blood between some officials of the Congress for Democratic Change and Montserrado District#6 Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe.
Snowe had taken to the airwaves as usual, following the incident, giving a graphic description of how he helped nurses at the Phebe Hospital to undress the late Rep. Tandapolie before doctors could pronounced him dead, during an interview on Truth FM on the morning of the latter's death news.

Not only did he stop at the Truth FM where he serves as member of that institutions board, but was also interviewed on Power TV during an interaction with the deceased lawmaker's family members also giving excerpts of his last interaction with the late CDC lawmaker.

His narratives following the death of the outspoken CDC lawmaker at the time an autopsy was ordered performed by Government may have angered the main opposition party to demand that he should answer some questions.

In a statement, which Snowe now confirms that it was the official position of the CDC, the party in demanding a criminal investigation into the death of their representative requests that Snowe and other officials, who last interacted with the deceased be questioned as to how they last interacted with him.

Profile on Snowe

In 2005 Snowe alleged that former first lady now Senator Jewel Howard Taylor wanted to assassinate him; he later apologized after his scheme failed. In the Same 2005, Snowe physically attacked Mr. Othello B. Garblah then News Editor of the New Democrat in front of the Justice Ministry. Justice Ministry officials had invited Snowe for questioning after Garblah wrote about his alleged corruption practices at the LPRC where he was then Managing Director.

In 2008, Snowe being removed as Speaker of the 52nd Legislature alleged that President Sirleaf dished out US$5,000 to each of his colleagues to remove him; he later apologized, citing his limited education for losing the speakership.

Snowe on Tuesday March 27 lied to colleagues that Reporter Nathaniel Daygbor extended him an apology and was demanding action from colleagues on grounds that this paper had linked him to the murder of the late representative Tandapolie just to revert to saying on national radio that the only problem he has with the paper is that the paper quoted his colleague without interviewing him.

Mr. Mulbah Morlu, an official of the CDC said individuals, including Representatives Thomas Fallah, Edwin Melvin Snowe and former Montserrado County Representative Alomiza Bah, should answer questions of how they last interacted with their colleague lawmaker before his death. Snowe, did not take this lightly, and in a twinkling of an eye launched an attack on CDC Acarous Gray and then later this paper.

But there was something more than just the report under Snowe's sleeves, especially with the New Dawn. What might have angered Snowe to the extent that he misunderstood the grammar in the story to have interpreted it as being accused of murder?

Only one thing came to mind: Snowe's dollars make girl walk naked story. This paper was the first to break the story after many were begged not to release it. So the reporters from this paper who wrote the story became Snowe's  number 1 enemies. There were series of text messages, with contents of death threat at editors and reporters of this paper. When this writer confronted Snowe, he denied any personal involvement.

And so with such a burning desire to get even with the New Dawn, Snowe misfired at the House's sitting on Tuesday. The House wasted 30 minutes, debating his drama, just to return a day later to change his allegation against the New Dawn and points at the CDC.

"There are two separate issues," Snowe said. "The issue with New Dawn is ethical and that has been forwarded to the PUL (Press Union of Liberia) but I am going to take legal actions against Mulbah Morlu," Snowe now turn media ethics annalist concluded.

Rep. Snowe also lied during his 30 minutes drama at the House that the reporter from this paper offers him an apology. He shamelessly shouted with this above his voice. Now that he finds no weight in his planned action against the New Dawn, Snowe best reliance now is with the CDC as he threatened to take legal actions against the party and its official.

Snowe told Truth FM afternoon show hosts on Wednesday that  he had learned during the show that the article published by the New Dawn was CDC's official position on the death of their partisan and therefore, the CDC was invited to defend its official in court.

But more than that, CDC George Weah also had a field day on the Snowe US$1,000 naked woman story. Weah soon went to town condemning and shaming Snowe, an exchange which was replica of the 2011 campaign sentiments.

Interestingly, the late Moses Tandapolie of the CDC was named by the House of Representative to head the committee probing the Snowe naked woman saga after several demonstrations led by women groups, demanding his investigation and subsequent suspension as well as disrobing him as Father of the Year at the renowned Providence  Baptist Church.

Nathaniel Daygbor, who reported the Snowe naked woman story in this paper, had been queued to testify before the Tandapolie committee, investigating Snowe's naked woman story.

UL Students Lash at Pres. Sirleaf

Friday, 30 March 2012 01:07 Edwin G. Genoway, Jr
Students of the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU) have criticized President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for what they termed as nepotism in her government accusing her of appointing immediate family members and children to high positions in government.
The students at a news conference named some of the president relatives and children in government as Robert Sirleaf of NOCAL, Fumba Sirleaf , National Security Agency (NSA), Charles Sirleaf of the Central Bank of Liberia and Varney Sirleaf of the Ministry of Internal Affair.
They further stated that there are other relatives of the president's late husband occupying key positions in government.

Addressing the news conference Thursday, ULSU president Johnny White said president Sirleaf by this act is no different today from other leaders she criticized in the past for similar actions, adding that nepotism has nothing to do with qualification.
The students' statement is in direct response to president Sirleaf's rebuke during this year's maiden conversation with the president at which time she maintained that her son Robert Sirleaf's appointment as chairman of the Board of directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL was based on his qualification. But the students said the president's explanation was intended to baffle the real and hard issues.

Mr. White defined nepotism as, preferential treatment; discrimination; partiality; favoritism; and biasness which were vivid in her appointments or more specifically giving out opportunities based on kinship and family line. The students further reemphasized their concerns raised in a communication to the National Legislature saying there are grave and troubling issues surrounding NOCAL.

The students quoted  the 2006 to 2008 audit conducted on NOCAL by GAC and the Global Witness Report published in 2011 on NOCAL, saying the procedure of the ratification and awarding of contracts to various Oil Companies were marked by fraud and collaborative thievery; amongst the Officials of NOCAL, Legislators and staffers of the 52nd National Legislature.

The report also stated that the passage of contracts to individual oil companies was in noncompliance with the New Petroleum Law of Liberia and the PPCC Law. The ULSU president said they were worried over the lack of understanding by the Liberian people about the state of operations of NOCAL since 2008.

It can be recalled that since 2008 up to date, NOCAL, as a major asset of Liberia, the regulator of oil activities as well as the representation of Liberia's interest in every oil contracts in Liberia, has not been audited.

Against these backdrops, the Student Union calls on the National Legislature to immediately mandate the GAC to commission a full scale audit from 2008 to present on NOCAL. He said this audit will inform the vast majority of Liberians the workings of NOCAL since 2008.

"It will also gives us an insight as to how NOCAL has operated in relations to the Act establishing the entity, the New Petroleum Law, the PPCC Law among others, the financial status and operation of the company and the salaries, benefits, and other financial interactions of all those at the Oil institution," he noted.

ULSU also applauds the decision of the National Legislature  to halt operations on some Oil blocks but wishes to further call on the Legislature to put an immediate halt to the both onshore and offshore drilling and launch a full scale investigation into the 2006 to 2008 GAC'  audit conducted on NOCAL.

This investigation the students said will bring to book corrupt individuals and ensure the compliance of all oil contracts with the equity and production sharing contract as per the New Petroleum Law of Liberia.

Liberia Suspends Female Genital Multilation(FGM Practice; Gov't Stop Giving Permits to Open New Sande Bush

PRI World Report by Bonnie Allen 

Traditional female leaders who operate a powerful secret society in Liberia have agreed to shut down their bush schools and stop female genital cutting, also known as female circumcision, for several years, while still rejecting any criticism of the cultural practice.

Mama Tormah, head zoe for the Sande Society and one of the most powerful traditional leaders in Liberia, has confirmed that she transferred traditional land over to the Poro Society for men this past November so that it can use the bush for its ceremonies and training. The women have been monopolizing the land since 2005 for their bush schools and the initiation ceremony of female genital cutting.
"We have given [the traditional land] to the men – it is their time now," Tormah told PRI, while sitting on her porch, dressed in a blue and
yellow 'lappa' gown. The gray-haired grandmother never had the chance to learn to read or write, and said this suspension of activitiewill allow young girls to stay in school rather than being forced into the bush.
"When the time comes for the women [to resume operations], by that time, our children will be big big and willing to go."
Tormah refused to discuss female genital cutting (FGC), but the land transfer effectively shuts down Sande bush schools and FGC – often called mutilation – for four years. The Government of Liberia, which has never taken a public position on the issue, is now seizing the opportunity to work with traditional leaders to phase out the cultural practice altogether.
"Government is saying this needs to stop," declared Liberia's newly-appointed Gender Minister, Julia Duncan Cassell, during a sit-down interview in her office. "The process is on in making sure that it's stopped."

In Liberia, two out of three teenage girls – sometimes younger – are pulled out of school and taken into the bush for several weeks or months for traditional training called "Sande bush". The girls learn proper hygiene, hair braiding, basket weaving, and how to take care of their future husbands. As part of their initiation, part or all of a girl's clitoris is cut off.It happened to Kulah Borbor when she was 16.
"They will lay you down and sit here," Borbor said, pointing to your chest. "[They] will tie your hands like this (over your head) and tie your face so that you will not see the instrument they will use."
Borbor said her clitoris was cut off using a razor or knife, she's not sure, while a group of women held her down. "It was a lot of pain. I can't measure that pain with any other pain."

Last year, a 17-year-old girl, Lotopoe Yeamah, allegedly died from severe hemorrhage after undergoing the practice in a small village in north central Liberia.
The 2007 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey, the most recent statistics, showed the prevalence of circumcision among Liberian women ages 15 to 49 is about 58 percent. The procedure is usually practiced by 10 of Liberia's 16 tribes, and is reportedly intended to reduce sexual pleasure and, consequently, the likelihood that a woman will be promiscuous.
The Sande and Poro societies in Liberia forbid anyone from revealing their secrets. When a Liberian reporter, Mae Azango, recently published an expose on female cutting, she received threats and had to go into hiding. The societies are so powerful that membership is necessary for social, economic, or political influence in villages across two thirds of the country.

Likewise, despite international pressure, and a female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian government hasn't taken a public position against female genital circumcision. But with the moratorium on Sande bush, the Liberian government is now, for the first time ever, taking action at the national level.
"There has been a statement put out by the Ministry [of Internal Affairs] asking all of our mothers, our aunts, our sisters, to start to desist from such practices," said Gender Minister Cassell, indicating that the Government of Liberia wants to abide by its obligations under international human rights laws.

She revealed that the government has been talking privately to traditional leaders for some time, and it has concluded that an outright ban would cause a backlash.
"You can't just stop something that years and years ago your ancestors started. You have to be able to work along with [traditional leaders]."

Liberia is one of nine African nations with no laws banning the procedure. The recently passed Children's Act states that Liberian children should not be subjected to "any unnecessary or uncultured practice" that inflicts physical pain, but the phrase "uncultured" is vague and undefined.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the government department that normally sanctions traditional practices, has been refusing permits to any Sande Society as of January 2012 according to Joseph Janga, assistant minister of culture. He wrote a letter to the traditional chiefs and zoes in December that diplomatically "requests" they stop Sande bush activities, but when interviewed by PRI, said he will dispatch inspectors in April to report any zoes who violate the "order".
In August 2009, the United Nations committee overseeing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) criticized Liberia's Ministry of Internal Affairs for issuing permits to practitioners of "female genital mutilation" and said it was "an explicit form of support for the practice and thereby undermine[s] any efforts to eliminate it."

Liberia's Gender Minister said the next step will be to empower traditional zoes economically. Already, eighty "cutters" from two counties were trained in small business management in September 2011.
"If we don't do something then these people will go back to where they came from. So we are going to go from county to county now and ask them, 'Look, if we want them to do this, what are we going to give them in place of that?' Because for some of them it's their livelihood."

As Mama Tormah sits on her porch, watching school girls in yellow uniforms cram into a nearby school alongside boys, she is both diplomatic and defiant.
"We know the country has changed. We are in modern days. So, we are changing the system small small until we reach to the end," said Tormah. "But it can't be the way they want it to happen, as quickly as they want it to happen. We're not ready for people to say, 'No more Sande'. We can't do that. You will damage the country."
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Distraction of the Generational Change Proponents and their Useful Idiots

Written by Lamii Kpargoi
26 March 2012

Since the lead up to the 2005 presidential and legislative elections, one buzz phrase which has continued to make the rounds in the country is youth ascendancy to executive power in Liberia. It was the proponents of this argument, among other ill-timed advisers that led Mr. George Weah to want no other job in the country but the presidency. Unfortunately the fellow is still bent on getting this job, though it might only eventually spell disaster for the country.

In 2005, the argument was that, older people and educated people had consistent failed the country, so it was best to rally behind someone with very little education who would, through some magic, provide the kind of leadership that would move Liberia from its sorry state to prosperity. Despite the relative level of progress that was recorded over the last six years, it is disheartening to note that some people are still toting this crazy argument of old people versus young people.

Over six years later the same argument is being reenacted by other characters, using different words. The new buzz phrase is now generational change. Advocates of the generational change argument all mean different things when they use the same words.

For those who think that they are in poll position to succeed Mrs. Sirleaf as president, the phrase means passing leadership to people of their age group or themselves. The people in this first group are guys who are mid-forties and early fifties, who are closest to the president. They hardly qualify as young people, though. For the other group which is using the same words to make the same argument, the point is that political leadership must pass on to people who are genuinely young people. People in this category are early forties and below.

Both of these groups are delusional and generally clueless as to what they actually want to do with this country other than creating clouts of personality and perpetuating the patronage system that has bedeviled Liberian politics since the inception of the country. The question then arises as to whether a country's future leadership should be determined simply on the basis of someone's age or should it be based upon the person's competence?

Because they lack any clear plans as to how to proceed with the country, they've embarked upon this crazy scheme that would keep people debating a concept that has zero bearing on improving the lives of the Liberian people.

None of these people has advanced ideas for de-personalizing politics in the country and creating real political systems that favor progress. Most of them are henchmen of the current political system, while at the same time they all purchase the loyalties of belly driven young men and women who are willing to serve as their useful idiots and praise singers.

Why not Discuss Equity?

None of these highly paid current officials of government ever speak to the inhumanity of the huge pay packages they receive while others wallow at the base of the social scale. Real leaders and people who have love for country would be advocating for fairness in the distribution of the national wealth, if not at all levels of the country, at least among those who work in the public sector.

As things stand, the annual salary and allowances that each legislator and senior government official receive can go to paying the salary of between 60 and 120 lower level civil servants that earn a base salary of US$100 a month. This calculation doesn't include senior level people working at a place like the Bureau of Maritime or National Port Authority.

Why should anyone working for the Liberian government, in this kind of economy, make US$144,000 or more a year? No amount of education or experience justifies that kind of salary in this economy.

The government has set the minimum livable wage to be around $100 for the lowest civil servant. That suggests that anyone in this country can survive on $100. If this is so, the question that arises is how can some government people living in this same country receive about two hundred times this livable wage from the government?

If these people clamoring for generational change were really interested in change, they would be proposing equity in the distribution of state resources within the governmental circle. That should be their first port of call on their way to national leadership. The Liberian people will know that they are serious possible leaders, when they start proposing pay cuts at their level so that people at the base can receive better incentives.

Need for Genuine Alternative Political Voice

As Liberia moves into the next stage of its political and social development, well-meaning persons in and outside the country have to make it their business to start considering the need to start a fresh discourse aimed at providing a genuine political direction for this country.

There is a need to avoid all the distractions of kids who would form cheering squads for government ministers and then give them a guard of honor to their job sites simply because they spread around some of the ill loots they get out of being ministers.

The debate on how this country progresses has to start now. It would be late for Liberians to await the end of Mrs. Sirleaf's current lame duck administration before embarking upon that discourse.

The plain letter interpretation of the law is presently clear that Mrs. Sirleaf cannot succeed herself at the elections of 2016. Hence the lame duck nature of her current administration. During this current term of hers, she's under no obligation to perform. She's also under no obligation to please the electorates, though if she's actually interested in perpetuating her party in power, she would have one eye on doing that.

Waiting for this lame duck term to play itself out would only provide an opportunity for charlatans to use the backdoor to get center stage and misdirect the serious political discourse that is to happen in the country.

Anyone who wants to be taken as a serious player on the political stage must start discussing substantive issues, instead of this inane generational change issue. How old a leader is should really not matter. What the person is capable of delivering should!

Just like the discourse that surrounded the elections of Charles Taylor in 1997, and the near travesty of electing George Weah in 2005, this generational change debate will serve as a major distraction if well-meaning Liberians do not work quickly to nip it in the bud and steer the debate to more substantive policy issues. Liberian people have to wake up and demand a proper political debate in the country.

Anyone who decides to discuss generational change as opposed to actual policies that would better the lives of the Liberian people must be consigned to the dustbins of political history and their discourse should not be entertained.

The future of Liberia is, now, more than ever before at a very crucial stage. The country stands the chance of well and truly solidifying its democratic credential or slipping back into the cycle of bad governance already creeping in.

Youth Empowerment and Generational Change

During her inauguration address and her subsequent state of the nation address in January this year, President Sirleaf, laid emphasis on the government's intension of providing solid educational opportunities for the country's youth. The president's policy on this issue is extremely laudable, but what it fails to consider is the inverted nature of the Liberian educational sector. Over the past 30 years or there about, this nation has paid only lip service to education. Instead of having the best and brightest getting the best of opportunities, people have to rely on contacts to make it in many circles.

Most people don't go to school and then become successful. They become high profile people in the society and then go to school to legitimize their positions. Our governments, starting with President Samuel Doe's highest honors achievements from the University of Liberia in the 1980s has been replete with such over the last 30 years.

In more recent years, Sen. Isaac Nyenebo made the same high honors from the University of Liberia. Others are Rep. Edwin Snowe from the same university, while more recently Sen. Jewel Taylor was graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law with magna cum laude. How did these busy people ever find the time to go to school, let alone study to make such grades?

Why the University of Liberia has failed to take steps to expunge the Samuel Doe travesty from its records is anyone's guess, but for the school to continue graduating people of high status in the society with high honors speaks volumes!

The writing is on the wall and President Sirleaf has less than six years to either establish herself as the leader who brought sanity and progress or lapse into being remembered as just another president of Liberia whose memory fades into obscurity.

Lamii Kpargoi is a 2011 US State Department sponsored Community Solutions Program (CSP) fellow. CSP is run by IREX USA. Mr. Kpargoi is the author of numerous political commentaries. He's never shy of making his views known on serious issues. He's also a licensed attorney-at-law in Liberia. He can be reached at  .

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pres. Sirleaf Defends Appointment of Her son, Robert Sirleaf, to Board of National Oil Company

MONROVIA, LIBERIA          ___________________________________________________________________________________

 Office of the Press Secretary to the President                                                       President Sirleaf Re-Launches Conversation with the President


(MONROVIA, LIBERIA – March 23, 2012):  The Liberian President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says at the completion of her second and final term, she envisages a Liberia stabilized and transformed.
 "I want to see a Liberia where government is responsive to the needs of the people; where resources are being used in an equitable and balanced fashion to benefit the people; transparency, where accountability and the rule of law prevail, and that every citizen feels that truly the country belongs to them," she said adding that Liberians are not just contributing to the country's development, but they are benefitting from it.
President Sirleaf made these comments when she appeared on the maiden edition live interactive public phone-in program, "Conversation with the President," on Monday, March 26, at the Liberia Broadcasting System. This is the maiden edition of the program since President Johnson Sirleaf commenced her second term two months ago. She wants to continue this public interaction on a monthly basis.
The Liberian President noted that she undertook the fundamentals during her first term and expects to graduate from stabilization to transformation by the end of the second term. She did admit that transforming the Liberian society is an herculean task; but she will vigorously pursue her objectives so as to leave Liberia better off than how she met it as she passes the mantle of authority at the end of her tenure.
She reiterated that she contested the 2005 presidential elections with a purpose of transforming Liberia. The President expressed satisfaction that Liberia is gradually being transformed from a failed state to a recognized state within the comity of nations.
Touching on the Poverty Reduction Strategy, known as Lift Liberia, President Sirleaf said her government achieved about 75-80 percent of its overall objectives. "From whence we've come, I think the last six years under the PRS went a long way," she said.
On the150-day Action Plan government has initiated as a start to her second term, the Liberian president said this plan is a detail of specific actions government will undertake during the next few months.  She did indicate that beginning July, government will proceed with the long term agenda, Vision 2030.
On the formation of the government, President Johnson differed with those suggesting that this government is not one of inclusion.  "People say the senior cabinet is the government. No, the senior cabinet is not the government. The government includes a whole lot of other parastatals. If you look across, you'll find that we're putting some young people in places, you'll find that we have some key opposition; but we're not over yet," she stressed, adding that the government is still being constituted.
President Sirleaf reiterated some of the basic criteria for working in the current government as qualification, integrity, record of having performed in the past, as well as not being a human rights violator.
On the question of generational change verses youth empowerment, the Liberian President believes that young people have to begin to assume leadership in the country, which they are doing at all levels. She suggested that they need to begin to prepare themselves for the future so when the leadership passes, they will have the competence and integrity to lead the country. "I am very comfortable with the fact that the young people are preparing themselves and the young people will be taking over. The nation is very young and the leadership will reflect that," she said.
On the discovery of oil in Liberia, President Johnson Sirleaf reminded Liberians that the discovery simply means that there is a possibility of oil; but they'll have to drill to see whether the oil is in sufficient quantity which will probably take the next five to six years. "In the oil sector, my responsibility will be to make sure that we have proper laws and policies to be able to rationalize our institutions, to model them after those countries that have done well in the oil sector like Norway so that oil revenue will benefit not only current but future generation," she emphasized.
Commenting on the nomination of her son, Robert Sirleaf, to the Board of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) on a pro bono basis, President Johnson Sirleaf indicated that her son is qualified.  "My son is well qualified: over 20 years of working on Wall Street… He knows the business; he knows the private sector. Most of the people with whom they work now are people that have been friends of his. They respect him. Should I deny him the opportunity when he's well qualified?" she wondered.

Mr. Jerolinmek Matthew Piah
Presidential Press Secretary/Office of the President
Department of Public Affairs
Republic of Liberia

How Ghanaian Ecomog Commander Betrayed Master SGT. Samuel K. Doe


Benjamin Njoku
Published on 26 September 2009
Lagos — The story of the Liberian civil war cannot be complete without references to Nigeria's Major Gen. C.C. Iweze(rtd). Currently, a director with Multimesh Group, (a digital cable satellite pay-TV service provider, based in Port-Harcourt), Major-Gen. Iweze served as Chief of Staff of the West African Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in 1990.

He also led a two-man delegation of the then Military Government of Nigeria to retrieve corpses of the eight Nigerian soldiers killed in a clash with supporters of the late Somali warlord, Mohammed Farah Aidid during the United Nations Peace Keeping mission in Somalia. For his gallantry at the ECOMOG in Liberia, Iweze earned the respect of many officers in the Nigerian Army.

Despite his military accomplishments, Major-Gen. Iweze bears a grudge against the military high command . He said he was retired from service because of "greed, back-bitting and inordinate ambition of younger officers."

Thirteen years after his retirement, Major-Gen. Iweze finally breaks his silence in his Hilton Hotel room in Nairobi, Kenya. Enjoy it.

Since your retirement from service, you have remained silent. Does that suggest you are not happy with your retirement?

As a Major-General in the Nigerian Army, I was expected to have gotten at least six months retirement notice.

But in my own case, it was a sudden retirement. I was out of the country where I was representing my nation in a conference abroad, only for me to be retired unnoticed. My retirement was something I did not plan for when it happened.

I cannot understand a system that would prefer to flush out its generals overnight. When I signed to become an army officer, I did not sign to take things unexpectedly. But it happened to me and nobody was ready to give me any excuse for my retirement. To be precise, I didn't like the way I was retired from service. But after 13 years of retirement, I have moved on with my life.

The most important thing is that where I am at present, I appear to be much more comfortable than when I was in the army. While I was in service, I devoted all my life doing what I knew how to do best. And then, my retirement came as a blow. But like I said, it's behind me now and I have moved on.

Can you briefly let us into your various exploits while in service?

No matter how one would want to hide himself or herself, you cannot deny your identity. First and foremost, I am an Igbo man from Delta State. I passed out from the Defence Academy, only for me to face the civil war. Here was I, an Igboman fighting against my brothers.

But at that time, I didn't see the war as Igbos versus other ethnic groups or a kind of tribal affair. Rather, I saw the civil war as a national issue to keep Nigeria as one nation.

In that process, I fought on two fronts: one, I fought against the Biafrans and secondly, I fought to keep my sanity considering my rank in the Nigerian army at that time.


I was viewed with suspicion that I might sell out the Nigerian troops under my command to the Biafrans. However, I thank God that He saw me through to the end of the civil war. That was one of my military exploits I consider very remarkable .

The next exploit I must remember was during the Liberian war. Before then, I was a Brigade-Commander in Calabar. One day, I was listening to BBC news and the correspondent was praising the Nigerian Army, saying that they remained the most equipped institution within the sub-region to bring the situation in Liberia under control.

After listening to that news, I expressed my reservation to one of my brothers who paid me a visit. And true to my prediction, when I got back to my house, I was confronted with a signal that I should proceed to Lagos; informing that I ha been appointed the Chief of Staff of the Peace- Keeping Operation in Liberia(ECOMOG). Immediately the news was relayed to me, I burst into laughter.

The next day, I hurriedly handed over to my successor and left for Lagos. But when I got to Lagos where the Defence Head Quarters was situated then, the brief I got there was quite different from what I met on ground when I arrived Free Port of Monrovia. Monrovia served as the headquartres of ECOMOG at that time. And General Arnold Quainoo, a Ghanaian was the Commander of the Peace Keeping Operation.

Given the directive from my home country and because of my personal relationship with most senior army officers then, I made arrangements on my own to proceed to Sierra-Leone to take up the command of the sub-regional force. When I got to Sierra-Leone, the troops were already on ground and at that point, we started strategising on how to tackle the situation in Liberia. There and then, I appointed staff officers to run the affairs as the Chief of Staff. Then, we prepared to storm Liberia.

I remember that the Ghanaian government released some of their war-ships. Nigerian Navy also was on ground. At the headquartres of ECOMOG, there was this perception that the rebels would abandon their guns the moment the peace enforcement operation arrived in Liberia. But from my experience, I advised against taking the rebels for granted which the Force Commander, General Quainoo ignored.

Not withstanding the consistent threats and reports we were daily receiving concerning how Charles Taylor had boasted of destroying any ECOMOG troop that ventured into the Liberian soil, the Force Commander did not believe we were going to wage a war against the rebels. Under that kind of condition, I didn't see how we were going to keep peace in Liberia.

In the first place, there was no peace to negotiate for . Therefore, I wondered how we were going to keep peace in a hostile environment.

Rather, I stated categorically that we were going to Liberia for peace enforcement operation. All the troops that made up the ECOMOG operation drawn from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, Gambia and Guinea, believed that we were going to Liberia on a peace keeping operation . As a result, none of the soldiers was prepared to fight in Liberia.

Some even came there with a truck load of their civil party dresses. But I never believed we were in Liberia to make peace, following the fact that the enemy had vowed to destroy any ECOMOG troop that touched the soil of Liberia. And true to my prediction, the moment our foot touched Liberia, the rebels opened fire on us.

We managed to secure our flanks, moved forward and the rest is now history.

The operation

But one thing I noticed during this debacle was that it's a dangerous decision to send officers who are in the infant stage of their career to a peace enforcement operation. When we arrived Monrovia, the Force Commander had no clue whatsoever about what we were to do in Liberia.

I remember that on a number of occasions, when I asked General Quainoo his plans in the event of the possible influx of refugees into the ECOMOG quarters, having been convinced that we would surely play host to some army of refugees, he was indifferent and ignored the need to put into consideration the possible influx of refugees into our base.

At that point, I couldn't understand why a commander of a peace enforcement operation couldn't envisage that in the theatre of war, the refugees usually seek protection in the camp of the troops. As the Chief of Staff, I gave instruction to the troops at designated areas to make adequate provision for the influx of refugees.

And again, true to my prediction, the refugees or better still, the displaced Liberians were the first set of people we encountered on arriving Free-port in Monrovia.

While we strove to advance forward, we had the refugees to cater for and protect. On arrival, the information available to us was that there was a standing cease-fire between Prince Johnson who was commanding the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPF) and Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia( NPFL), as well as Sgt. Samuel Doe, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Strategically, we drafted the Nigerian troop to the East of Liberia, while the Sierra-Leonian troop was positioned at the centre and the Gambian troop was stationed to protect the headuarters of ECOMOG.

Also, the Guinean troop was drafted to the outskirts of Liberia, protecting the Supreme Head Quarters. After establishing a cease-fire, I initiated a peace move between Prince Johnson and President Doe, requiring each one of them to send a representative in form of liaison officers to open up a communication channel between the two forces.

So how was Doe killed?

The mediator then was Guinean Deputy Force Commander, Lamin Mangasouba. But while the peace move was still on course, Johnson formed the habit of visiting the head quarters regularly, pretending to be friendly.

I didn't like the way he was frequenting the headquarters and I summoned him one day and warned against his coming to the head quarters with his men fully armed to the teeth. I insisted that he must leave his arms at the HQ's main gate before attempting to gain entrance into the premises.

However, he pretended to have heard me and then climbed upstairs to see the Force Commander in his office. As soon as he left, I climbed upstairs too to brief the Commander of what transpired between myself and Prince Johnson.

But rather than seeing reasons with me, the Commander disappointedly told me how Johnson did not like the way I was blunt to him. I replied by saying 'of course, I didn't expect him to like it but for our safety, he must comply with my order.'

To my surprise again, the Commander told me that he had countered the order. I felt very bitter and disappointed as I made him understand that he was making us vulnerable . Hardly had we finished discussing when we heard a siren advancing towards the headquartres.

And when I looked through the window, I saw series of assorted cars led by a Limousine, decorated with the Liberian flag and that of the Armed Forces of Liberia. I told the Commander that the August visitor must be President Samuel Doe and suggested that he remained in his office while I went downstairs to receive him.

There and then, I rushed downstairs to receive President Doe but the Commander would not listen and he surprisingly followed me downstairs to receive the President. Protocol demanded that I should be the one that would have ushered the visitor into the Commander's office.

But this was not so in this case. The Commander decided to come down and receive the visitor by himself. At that point, there was nothing I could do, other than to join him in ushering the President and members of his cabinet into the Commander's office.

The Cabinet members were later moved into the Deputy Commander's office, while President Doe was kept in the Commander's office. At the Commander's office, the President berated the Commander, fuming that he desired to be paid a homage by the troops as the President of Liberia, no matter the situation. But as the Commander was trying to apologise to him, he heard another siren advancing towards the headquarters again.

And before he knew what was happening, it was Prince Johnson and his men who had returned to the headquarters. Sensing danger, I advised that the Commandant should remain with the President in his office while I went downstairs to confront Prince Johnson to leave the headquartres or remain outside the quarters with his armed boys.

But by the time I got downstairs, Prince Johnson had already gained access into the headquarters and was giving me option that I must tell Sgt. Doe to join the Ghanaian ship and leave Liberia immediately for peace to return to the country.

I cautioned him and insisted that it was not for him to tell us what to do with the President. I commanded him to leave the headquarters immediately with his troop. As he was attempting to go out, we started hearing continuous gunshots. That was Prince Johnson's men killing the security operatives that came with Sgt. Doe.

What happened? One of the security guys asked to the hearing of Prince Johnson's troops, "What are these rebels doing here?"


In response, one of Prince Johnson's men challenged him and before we knew what was happening, he opened fire on them, killing all the security operatives. That was the fire that led to the capturing and killing of Samuel Doe. So, while the firing was going on, I commanded Johnson to leave the headquarters immediately.

But the firing was worsened. In the midst of the confusion, I went upstairs to see the Commandant. But lo, he was nowhere to be found. He had escaped to the ship.

Doe was left alone in his office. At that point , I told Doe, "Look, discretion is a better part of valour . Let me take you to the ship so that you remain there until this raging fire is quenched." But he turned down my appeal and rather demanded that I should give him some troops to escort him back to the executive mansion.

But already, I was aware that an ambush had been laid for him. So if I had yielded to his request, they would have killed both Doe and the troops. While the commotion was going on, the Commandant had disappeared into thin air.

I looked for him to persuade Sgt Doe to listen to the voice of reason but he was nowhere to be found, and Doe wouldn't listen.

As I returned to the office to lock up the door, one of Prince Johnson's boys called Rambo traced me to the Commandant's office where he spotted Sgt. Doe and shouted "He's inside the office. He's inside the office."

The shout attracted Prince Johnson who returned to the Commandant's office. But I couldn't let him gain access to the office as I quickly shut the door and stood behind it and ordered Prince Johnson's boy Rambo to leave the place.

There and then, he opened fire around me to scare me away but I stood my ground as I continued to command both Johnson and his boys to leave the place. At a point, something occurred to me. I started asking myself who I was protecting, whether it was Sgt. Doe who had shed a lot of blood and who in the early hours of that fateful day, slaughtered many Liberians? Whether he was worth dying for?

That was how I left him at the mercy of Prince Johnson and his men. Johnson went into the office and fired at his two legs. He advanced to the Deputy Commandant's office and also killed all the members of Doe's cabinet who came with him to the headquarters. Later, he dragged wounded Doe outside the place and began to jubilate that he had captured the President. But somehow, somebody accidentally touched the President's limousine car and the siren went off.

Johnson Escaped

With Doe Afraid that the ECOMOG troops were coming to attack him, he immediately dragged Doe into his car and disappeared to his base.

After the incident, there were dead bodies on the ground and the Chief of Logistics then who was a Nigerian, Major-Gen.(rtd) Rufai, insisted that we must go and rescue the President from the stronghold of the rebels.

But in an operation of this nature, where troops were contributed by different countries, the Force Commander remained the only officer who could issue instructions to deploy troops. But I couldn't find him.

And I was left with no option than to find out the whereabouts of the Commander in order to brief him and consequently obtain order from him to deploy troops to go and rescue Sgt. Doe from the hands of his captors.

Disappointedly, when I finally found him, he was coming out from the Ghanaian ship where he went to take cover. I saluted him and followed him to his office where I briefed him on what happened and asked for his permission to deploy troops to go and rescue Sgt. Doe. I told him it would be scandalous on our part to have allowed such massive killings to happen within the ECOMOG territory. But he was not interested in my opinion or listening to what I had to say.

Rather, he was concerned about taking photographs of the corpses that littered the place. He asked me to wait for him in his office. When he had finished taking the photographs, he returned to his office and out of fear, he nearly screamed when he sighted me in the office muttering, "You nearly scared me, you know".

And I said to him "So sorry, sir. I didn't mean to scare you but at this moment, we need a decision to go ahead and rescue Sgt. Doe from Johnson and his men'. He was not interested in what I had to say. Instead, he was busy gathering his personal effects and handing them over to his boys who were taking them to the Ghanaian war ship in waiting.

The next instruction he gave to me was to summon a conference of Commanders. I thought he was going to give the instruction by himself but it was not to be. While the Commanders converged, he told them he was on his way to Sierra-Leone from where he would proceed to Gambia to see the Chairman of ECOWAS, who then was the President of Gambia, Dauda Jawara.

He told us that we had no business remaining in Liberia anymore and he handed down an instruction to me to tell anybody that asked of him anything I deemed like telling the person.

I couldn't believe my ears. Before we knew it, he had entered the ship and left for Sierra-Leone. I had to summon the troops. I told them that I was not prepared to take this nonsense from Prince Johnson and his men.

I ordered that we should go and invade Johnson's base but it was too late as we later learnt that Johnson had finally killed Sgt. Doe and deposited his corpse in one of the hospitals operated by a Nigerian doctor who was based in Liberia at that time.

That was how Sgt Doe was killed. At that point, as the man in charge, I gave out orders to clear Charles Taylor completely and banned Johnson from entering the headquarters from that day. As far as I was concerned then, Prince Johnson was a hostile enemy that must be checked. The deaths and occurrences are hazy in my mind right now but I think that was exactly how Sgt. Doe was killed by Johnson and his men.

Deal That Killed Doe

On reflection, one wondered how Prince Johnson got to know that Sgt. Doe was coming to the ECOMOG headquartres that fateful day. Immediately after he had seen and discussed with the Commander, General Quanioo, a deal must have been struck between them.

The two liaison officers we established as a channel of communication between President Doe and Prince Johnson, the one representing Johnson's interest must have gone to inform him that Sgt. Doe was coming to the ECOMOG headquarters that fateful day.

And again, with Johnson's visit to General Quanioo on that same day, I strongly believe that a deal must have been struck between the Force Commander and the rebel because later on, we discovered that two container loads of items were in the Ghanaian ship to be moved to Ghana. And that created another problem for us in Liberia.

Johnson's Atrocities

The second incident was that when we arrived Liberia, he quickly established a refugees' camp but not in the presence of the Commander. Prince Johnson would invade the camp and capture some beautiful women among whom he took away to his base.

The most annoying thing was that he, Prince Johnson, approached the unit commander, requesting us to release some arms for him to attack President Doe then. But I rejected his request. At that moment, the unit commander betrayed us by going to tell Prince Johnson that he had wanted to release some arms to him but Nigerians wouldn't allow him to do so.

Ordinarily, the Ghanaian troop had enough arms. If the Commander had wanted to release some arms to the rebels, he could have instructed the Ghanaian troop to release them to Johnson . But he wanted to indict Nigerians .

That was why he came to us. The implication is that if you give a rebel your arms, he would later turn the arms against you.

The fact that the Commander told Johnson that it was the Nigerian troop that had refused to release their arms to him made Johnson ambush and capture the Nigerian soldiers and took them to his base. When I heard about his action, I was infuriated and had to drive down to his base where I pulled out my hand grenade and ordered Johnson to release my men or the two of us would die instantly.

Out of fear, Johnson ran to his house but I followed him closely, threatening to blow up the grenade before he started shouting out, "Release them, release them." I did not only have him release Nigerian troops, I also recovered our four lorries he confiscated. That was how I got our troops captured by Prince Johnson released.

All this time, Gen. Quanioo had disappeared into thin air. I was the only officer who was spearheading and taking decisions on behalf of the operation until General Dogonyaro was appointed to succeed Gen. Quanioo.

After the appointment of Gen. Dogonyaro cum his assumption of office, we started reorganising ourselves to advance, having had more battalions dispatched to join in Monrovia from Nigeria. That was another un-forgetful incident during my career in the military. Peace operation is not an easy adventure.

You must have the confidence of all the troops that made up the enforcement operation before you can record any success, particularly in West-Africa where our neigbouring countries are often suspicious of their dealings with Nigerian citizens.

Distrust Against Nigerian Commanders

To make a Nigerian the Force Commander in a Peace Enforcement Operation, a lot of diplomacy had to be played out.

Indeed, I remember a situation where we were to move from Sierra-Leone to Liberia. I was the most senior officer in the headquartres then, and by the virtue of my rank, I was supposed to have become the Deputy Commander.

But this was not to be as a low ranking Guinean officer, who was later promoted to a Brigade-General by his home country, was appointed as the Deputy Commander of the enforcement operation.

Also, the inability of the contributing troops to take orders from any senior officer from another troop is another factor that militates against any peace keeping operation in Africa.

For instance, while we were to move to Liberia, from Sierra-Leone, I requested the battalion commanders to report the situation to me so that I could properly hand it to the operation commander.

But the Ghanaian battalion commander turned down my instruction, muttering , 'Me, a Ghanaian, to hand-over my troops to you, a Nigerian ." I replied him by saying that he was not handing over the troops to me as a Nigerian but as Chief of Staff of the enforcement operation. Reluctantly, he handed over his men to me.

That's one aspect of peace keeping operation that bedeviles a situation where different countries contribute troops. The officers find it difficult to take instructions from any other senior that's not from their home country.

Also, distrust is another factor that trailed the operation. Each time, I gave an instruction to deploy troops. Such instruction was never obeyed until an approval was sought for and gotten from the troops' various home countries.

More appalling was when the Nigerian Air Force was sent on a bombing run, under the Joint Command. The Ghanaian Air Force failed to comply until clearance was given from the home government. Those were parts of the problems we faced while we were in Liberia.

Mission To Somalia

Also, I recall as part of my military exploits when I went to receive the corpses of eight Nigerian contingent to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission who were killed in a clash with supporters of Somali warlord, Mohammed Farah Aidid. I was also to give the nation's position on the killings of these soldiers to the Commander of the United Nations Forces in Somalia.

As a matter of fact, I found the killing of these soldiers totally unacceptable to the Nigerian Army.

At that time, no Nigerian military officer was ready to go to Somalia to receive the corpses of these fallen soldiers.

But I opted to undertake the venture as the Chief of Operations then. When I got to Mogadishu, I had discussions with the United Nations Enforcement Commander and later, retrieved the dead bodies of our fallen soldiers.

One thing happened while I was leaving for Nigeria. Nigerian journalists who were at the airport didn't bother to find out from me the position of the country in respect of the killing of its eight soldiers. However, when I got to Liberia, one of the BBC Correspondents cornered me and wanted me to confirm that it was the fault of the UN Enforcement Commander who abandoned the Nigerian troops to be slaughtered like cows. But I refused to confirm the report because I wanted to speak while on the Nigerian soil.

But as I landed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, I had expected our journalists to have cornered me to give them the situation report but they did not. I would have told them exactly what happened but since they didn't ask me, I went straight to brief the then President.

I told the President that Nigerian troops were slaughtered as a result of the dereliction of duties by the contributing troops who would have otherwise protected them while they were embarking on that dangerous patrol.

But they didn't protect the troops and that led to the killing of eight of the soldiers. That's part of the distrust that I was talking about concerning the Liberian experience. It's also available in any peace keeping operation anywhere in the world. Distrust cost Nigeria its eight soldiers.

At the time Sgt. Doe was captured and whisked away by Johnson and his men from the ECOMOG base, were there no troops on ground that could have countered the crossfire?

The ECOMOG headquartres then was occupied by merestaff officers. And around the HQ, we had the Gambian troops who were stationed to protect the HQ from external attack, though they were not all that experienced and the country's army at that time was made up of greenhorns. We wanted to take our time before introducing them to the theatre of war.

And remember, I told you that I warned Prince Johnson never to enter the HQ again with his men armed to the teeth which the unit commander upturned.

If the troop stationed at the HQ had tried to counter the crossfire, it would have been total massacre. My plans then was if the Commander had obliged me to deploy troops to rescue Sgt. Doe, I would have asked the nearest troop to the HQ , which was the Nigerian troop, to move in and rescue Sgt. Doe from the stronghold of Johnson.

But if I had taken the initiative to deploy troops and in the cause of that action, any troop recorded casualties, the Commander would blame me for illegally deploying troops. That was my fear and why we could not counter the crossfire immediately.

Taylor Killed Ngerians

At this stage of the Peace Keeping Operation, Nigeria recorded many casualties. Was that true?

I must state here that a lot of casualties were not recorded by Nigeria at the early stage of the operation. But it was after we started advancing towards Charles Taylor's territory that we started suffering casualties.

And before our arrival in Monrovia, Charles Taylor and his men had invaded the Nigerian House and killed a lot of our nationals resident in Liberia. It was not about killing Nigerian soldiers but basically, it was about killing Nigerian citizens who were based in Liberia at the time the war broke out.

And again, during that period, we asked so many Nigerians in that country to return home. But they would not listen to us because according to our findings, most of them were married to Liberian women and had children and established businesses.

They did not believe that Charles Taylor would have anything to do with them. But being a rebel, he invaded the Nigerian House and killed innocent Nigerians who had run there for safety.

That brings us to the asylum that was granted to Charles Taylor by the Obasanjo's administration. Was it a right step to have taken by the government?

I do not know what transpired within the government axis regarding the asylum that was granted Charles Taylor in Nigeria. I cannot say whether it was deliberately done to lure him to be captured. But information available to me was that Charles Taylor should not have been granted asylum in Nigeria at all.

Eventually, it facilitated his capture.

Peace Keeping Is Important

Do you think it's still relevant for Nigeria to continue to contribute troops for peace keeping operations?

Yes! I think it's still relevant. Nigeria has been contributing troops to peace keeping operations overseas.

There's no realistic training than what the boys learn while on the battle field. Look at any battalion that embark on a peace keeping operation.

When they return to the country, they appear more seasoned and more trained than they were before they left the shores of the country. We do conduct exercises in Nigeria but those are dry exercises. In peace keeping operations, it's a very real situation and there is no training that money can buy than what our soldiers gain when they embark on peace enforcement operations.

That's the greatest asset that we have gained as a nation from contributing troops to peace enforcement operations.

My Anger

Would you say the country has been fair to you in terms of your unannounced retirement from service?

I think there's a problem of leadership here. I have been saying time without number that the military incursion into the nation's politics is a very big mistake. And most of the time, when it happened, it's the military boys that suffered the consequences.

This is so because those who took part in any coup got rewarded with juicy appointments. The effect is that when they have gotten to the top, they begin to amass wealth and find themselves no longer amenable to military discipline. So, because of that, indiscipline craved into the military, coupled with greed and extortion.

These happened to be the same set of people that rose to the position of decision making in the army, thereby distorting the normal flow of communication.

They formed what we now call kitchen cabinet, gossiping and back-bitting, all in attempts to get to the top. They are the ones who now advise that if you do not retire these officers, there wouldn't be positions for us to occupy.

Look at countries like Ghana, they hardly retire their experienced officers like Nigeria does. They only re-cycle them from time to time.

Even though they do not promote their officers as frequently as we do here, they usually prefer to keep them to tap from their wealth of experience and allow them to acquire more training in all the branches in the military.

So, my retirement was as a result of greed, gossip and inordinate ambition to become a Major-General by the low ranking officers.

But one thing they fail to realize is that if you become a Major-General, you are also not far from your retirement. So, it's a no win situation. It's definitely going to come back to you. I'm glad that the situation is getting more suitable than it was when we were there.

Now, let's start thinking of how we are going to move the nation forward. Right now, there is a lot of tribal politics playing out in the military.

Do you have regrets fighting against your kinsmen during the Nigerian civil war?

Not all. The situation at that time detected the action I took. I was at the Nigerian Defence Academy struggling to ensure that Nigeria remained one indivisible entity. If that situation repeats itself and I find myself in the same position, I will definitely behave the same way.


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