A passion of tears suddenly overwhelmed
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has rejected the
Accusations against the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) of
Farewell To Iconic Journalist Tom Kamara
By Jonathan C. Benson
The loss of our beloved boss, Tom Kamara, whom the New Democrat family bemoans clearly indicates that mankind has always lost the battle against the chilly hands of death, from time immemorial.
When comes, it snatches loved ones from their families, coworkers and friends.
This mysterious transformation is incomprehensible by human beings living on planet earth, making the social setting in some cultures to see death as an enemy to humans.
I keenly followed the writings of Tom Kamara since 1995 without yet setting my eyes on the man behind the pen, though always curious to see this heroic journalist.
I had all along perceived him as a man who chose to ignore personal interests by enduring mental and physical agonies just to ensure that social justice, peace and the reign of the rule of law without discrimination remained the order of the day.
It was on 3 April 2011 that Mr. Kamara invited me to join the New Democrat family as a graphic designer and seldom cartoonist, in response to recommendations from acquaintances in the employ of the entity.
But before joining the New Democrat family, some friends of mine who had interacted with Mr. Kamara warned me that he was a bad man. With this caution on my mind, I met Mr. Kamara who chatted with me like a man interacting with his son. He interviewed me so well with regards to my academic and professional know-how in consultation with other senior editorial staff members at the New Democrat, and based on his consideration for my employment, I was told to assume active duties as a graphic designer the following day.
For me, employment at New Democrat was an opportunity to explore deeper into the graphics industry of the print media, where the possibility was alive to meet and interact with journalists of stature to enhance my career experience.
‘Uncle Tom’ as we always referred to him within the New Democrat environment, has been a tremendous guidance and role model for not just us his employees, but also those determined individuals keen on becoming patriotic assets to society. He set enviable standards that demanded emulation, and despised the vile and unprincipled.
Flattery was devoid in praises from Tom Kamara, whose words of commendation were filled with challenges to measure up.
To you Uncle Tom, I say you lived as a refined journalist whose primary concentration was focused on gathering genuine ideal facts befitting to analyze for dissemination. You were a God sent messenger whose duty was to say the truth through the nip of the pen.
Uncle Tom is not dead, but only retired from active service to rest in a secret place prepared by God our Maker and Creator of the Universe.
Journalist Tom Kamara Stood Courageously For The TRUTH
By Victor Pratt
Time has elapsed and people gone-bye. The reality is that life has to go on in the context of its true meaning of fulfillment, achievement and a persistent pursuit of what is true. Life becomes more momentous and exceptionally vital when one is able to stand-up for the “TRUTH”.
Few months ago, I met Mr. Tom Kamara in the corridors of my job seeking,
It was when for the first time I realized that there are people with extremely and unimaginably dogmatic principles. Interestingly, after few weeks working at the New Democrat, I also recognized his unbending and uncompromising passion for the TRUTH. Then after few weeks of my close interaction with Mr. Kamara, I soberly noticed he was an intellectual. He engaged me on two separate occasions on critical national issues and when I declared my stance, he sometimes laughed and in a short while, he would zoom in on those issues setting me on a path to think about such things in their actual perspectives.
Sometimes, as his way of tapping people’s intelligence, he tried to solicit views on a particular headline; he put it to his staff regardless of age and position. He always created a stage for the exchange of views. He never let wrong grammar pass without being called to check. One important thing I noticed about him, he did not entertain any form of discussion whenever he was between his seat and his computer.
Oh! Just in six weeks I lost him. Can’t believe he’s gone, still looking around… I can’t see him but I see the flings of what he stood for dashed in the open and I hear a voice clinging, the fight for social justice is eminent. Hold on and be steadfast, this is the institution I built. Even when he was alive, those were things he often told people around him.
Therefore the death of Mr. Kamara does not come as a surprise, because death as we all know is inevitable. But what is bothering and paining is the replacement of this character in a post-war and poverty stricken Liberia, where there are gross violations of people’s rights and a constant encroachment on the freedom of information.
Specifically the attainment of Social Justice has become a gigantic fight. As I write these words, my eyes are filled with tears not only for this fallen hero but this society that does not appreciate people with clearer specs and those who don’t bend on issues that affect society. He was an out-spoken figure, a realist and more interestingly, a fearless journalist.
Good-bye Mr. Kamara, I will go on missing you for the rest of my life. You are dead but your Dreams will live on, regardless of the hits and pits that come after us that admired you and decided to thread your path, I promise you.
Good-bye Uncle Tom Kamara
By Miss Rita Nurse & Fiance Amadou M. Keita
I pronounced this unpleasant word: Good-bye with tears and sorrow.
The man I admired greatly.
The man that stood for Justice at all times.
The man that advocated for his people and the nation at large.
Most importantly, he brought me out from childhood and I remember he cherished me, regarded me a lot.
Supported me in all of my possible and positive adventures.
I’ll be considered an ingrate, if I should allow this even (today’s date) passed and I don’t acknowledge such things that I remembered.
Memory Of Father’s Love
By Nindi Tarley-Dixon
It’s almost a week since one of my colleagues rang my phone at 4:00 AM Friday morning to tell me you’re gone.
The hurt is the same, like an open wound each time I walked into the building of the New Democrat, staring at your empty office.
You were one of the pioneers amongst media professionals. What the society doesn’t know is that you were a father, so affectionate but instilled discipline at all levels.
Uncle Tom, as he was affectionately called, treated every employee with respect, without discrimination. I remembered when he designed a performance chart to encourage hard work among reporters; a bonus was awarded any reporter that wrote the highest numbers of stories.
Uncle Tom was like a rock, strong, faithful, truthful and reliable that you could count on whenever in need; I am so grateful to have worked with him. I recalled the maximum protection he gave me after I wrote an article titled “On-line Prostitution” that prompted some girls who worked for Called In-bound to storm the offices of the New Democrat to attack me.
His fatherly virtues showed when Uncle Tom and 6-year- old Hannah and Mrs. Kamara played hide and seek, one of their favorite games, in the office. Each time they played, I could see the depth of father’s love shown in their daughter’s eyes.
The remains of versatile Liberian journalist and
The U.S. Embassy near here has expressed condolence and sympathy to the New Democrat family for the loss of their managing editor/publisher, Mr. Tom Kamara, who died while undergoing medical treatment at St. Luc University Hospital in Brussels a week ago.
The Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy near here, Dehab Ghebreab expressed the condolence Thursday when she paid a courtesy at the New Democrat on Clay Street.
“I speak on behalf of the embassy. We extend our deepest sympathy to the New Democrat family and the staff to continue investigative and independent journalism which this paper pursued over the years,” said Ms. who was accompanied by Information assistant Robert Clarke.
She said the embassy wished to see continued publication of the New Democrat despite its bereavement. “The New Democrat has been unwavering through its analyses of local and international issues, and we want this to continue.”
Ms. Ghebreab said the embassy is saddened by the death of Mr. Kamara, who she said, had an “impeccable and exemplary record”, and added that the Embassy wished to be part of his funeral activities.
Senior Editor Tepitapia Sannah and News Editor Abbas Dulleh thanked the U.S Embassy delegation for the cordial sentiments expressed over the loss of their boss, and prayed for courage, wisdom and fortitude to continue from where Mr. Kamara left off.
Meanwhile, scores of Liberian journalists, relatives of the deceased and sympathizers are expected to turn out at the airport to receive the coffin bearing the remains of Tom Kamara, accompanied by his widow, Mrs. Rachel Kamara who took him for treatment in Brussels where he died.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Thursday
A Nigerian national, Emmanuel Chenedu, has been
Good-bye Uncle Tom My Inspirer
By LeRoy S. Nyan
I started knowing Tom Kamara in 1993 as a 21-year-old when I was employed as office attendant in his office of Director of Communications during the Interim Government of National Unity.
Uncle Tom was a very diligent and dutiful boss who led by example, inspiring his employees by always arriving at office as early as 6: 30 am and he never shared his work with pleasure.
There was a particular secret about Uncle Tom that many could not understand. Even his friends, both old and new ones, became ambivalent about this tendency. It is this, which I hold as a secret for which many detractors antagonized him.
Tom Kamara was a principled driven personality. He was very strict with people on issues—even many of his employees found it difficult to comprehend most of the things he expected of us. He set very high standards in a society like ours, where people masquerade with eroded characters as statesmen, leaders and ordinary people. Hence, many of such people disliked Tom whose news organ defended the rights of the ordinary and little people.
Though he is no more, Tom’s legacy shall endure forever. Tom lived by example; he lived by what he advocated and championed during his lifetime—probity.
His death is not only a loss to the Kamara family, and the New Democrat family, but has created a vacuum in journalistic practice in Liberia.
Good-bye Uncle Tom, my inspiration. Though your death pains us and saddens our hearts, we are happy that you lived a fulfilled life and you left us with a cherished legacy—a legacy that defines the accomplished life you lived.
We are proud of you, even in death, for you made us fearless and patriotic; we shall miss you for making us to always be objective and performers with high standards.
You made us to cherish being selfless and independent. Sleep on, Uncle Tom, for your life was a rewarding one.
A Eulogy To Tom Kamara
By Varney Kamara
I knew him at the mercy of time soon after
We came in contact face-to-face
While some have bullied themselves in
Subservient kingdoms, and bowed their heads also in shame,
His bluntness in analyzing life’s situations
And his thinking beyond the ordinary was firsthand introductions
To a man that I knew called Tom Kamara
His bold feelings about life’s expectancies often accompanied his
Philosophy that “the best way to empower a man
Is to teach him how to fish for himself, and no wonder why a place
Of Heavenly triumphs have already embraced him as a potent
Henry Van Dyke once said: some people are so afraid to die
That they never begin to live and therefore Uncle Tom did
Not die, but has found a secured place of respite
I am almost certain, that the wisdom of the ‘Good gods’
Currently protect him will have no regrets for keeping his company,
For he will always be considered for his mighty pen power
Which have sponged the frontiers of society
Uncle T, as he was affectionately called by loved ones,
Will forever be kept in mind for standing upright in the world and
Will be recorded in the pages of history for his critical and prolific
Writings that created a space for the voiceless and set the stage
For changing democrat patterns
As he takes permanent leave of this evil planet, his thorough,
Yet critical inscriptions will always stand as societal mirror,
With the caveat that good will always prevail over evil
My heart mourns not his death but fencing that great heritage
Like George Carlin said: death is caused by swallowing
Small amounts of saliva over a long period of time
I swallow not the bitterness of his demise today, but
Holding on to his bravery in speaking out against ills of
A cruel and jealous world, whose yesterdays frequently judged
Us by the advent of the future
Not only was he an independent free thinker, but his meticulous
Eyes and determination in gathering facts left no boundaries
Truly, he was a man of great moral rectitude;
His ideas were never short of accurate and palatable actions,
To the extend that all but everyone knew him for being
Very tough, astute, hard working, creative, independent in thinking,
And most significantly, a devoted Christian
Indeed “Uncle T” was a loving father; a son, a brother and a nephew
To all persons that he came across on the phase of the human race,
And if the historical account of Aristotle that the ideal man bears
The accidents of life with dignity and grace,
Making the best of circumstances are made manifest, then,
‘Papa Tom’ has truly left a legacy for generations to cherish and
Henceforth, he did not die
Oh yes he did not!
His inheritance lives on.
My Fallen Comrade Tom Saah Kamara
By: Joseph H. Farkollie (Farko)
Comrade Tom Saah Kamara was my uncle and elder brother. We grew up and resided on the Camp Johnson Road in the Tommy Bernard Community in 1960s. The late Tom was then a student of the Government Junior High School situated on Broad Street, where the National Museum is currently located.
Upon completion of his junior high education, he enrolled at the William VS Tubman High School on 12th Street in 1969 and became editor of the institution’s newspaper, known as “The Monitor”. Due to his fearless reporting on issues confronting students, Comrade Tom Kamara was suspended from the Tubman High School by the late A. Nanu Manly, principal at the time. He was suspended for a newspaper story that landed him into trouble with the school administration that had to do with the refusal of students to adhere to the directive to cut their Afro hairdo low. The school newspaper publication of a contrary opinion on this issue under his editorship led to his immediate suspension.
Tom was later employed by the late James Marshall, owner of Daily Star newspaper as a reporter. At the time Tom was a student at the People’s College School—a night school situated on Broad Street. When President William R. Tolbert, Jr. halted the payment of registration fees at all public schools in the country .The Principal of the William VS Tubman High School had earlier collected the amount of US$6.50 in 1972 as registration fee from each student in contravention of president Tolbert’s free education policy in public schools. Tom received this news and published it as a lead story in the Daily Star. The story sold like hot cake while Principal Manly was ordered by the Education authorities to immediately restitute the student’s money. A day following that, Tom visited Tubman High and was carried shoulder high as a hero. He left Liberia in 1973 to pursue higher education in the United States of America.
Tom later returned in 1980 to Liberia following the overthrown of 133 years of True Whig Party (TWP) rule by non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia in a coup. He returned to contribute his quota to the building of a democratic society. He was assisted with a plane ticket by Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, then serving as Education Minister to return home. His demonstrated prowess to push the pen so effectively won him this support from Dr. Fahnbulleh. I met Tom a week after his arrival and introduced him to some senior comrades, including Dusty Wolokollie, John H. T. Stewart, among others.
He got appointed to head the government newspaper. During his tenure as editor-in-chief of New Liberia, the official news organ of the Government unter military junta leader Samuel Doe erected a multi-million dollar mansion in his native village Tuzon in Grand Gedeh County in a relatively short time. Tom published the picture of the mansion against the hut where Doe’s parents resided prior to the coup, and wrote a commentary criticizing such swift metamorphosis, stiring Doe to be offended. He ordered Information Minister Gray D. Allison to fire Tom and the publication was labeled seditious. While Tom and I resided at Taylor Major compound in Caldwell, one morning we saw a group of heavily armed AFL soldiers headed towards us. They took Tom away. It was believed that the arrest was done on the orders of one senior PRC member.
Tom was taken to the Monrovia Central Prison on the grounds that he was allegedly heard saying head of state Doe was not educated. Tom was detained for months without trial and later released through the intervention of Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh and some other brothers.
Few weeks after his release we got evicted from the Taylor Major compound in Caldwell even though we owed no rent. We later heard that our eviction orders came from the government on the ground that Tom and the rest of us there were anti-government elements. The house we rented was among those seized and placed under the Bureau of Re-acquisition by the PRC Government. Since Tom failed to push the line of the government of the day, our belongings were thrown out by task force of the national police.
Later Tom got employed at the Constitutional Drafting Commission headed by Dr. Amos C. Sawyer as Director of Public Affairs. While there, Tom again got dismissed on the order of the government and subsequently re-arrested along with Dr. Sawyer and others on allegation of plotting a coup. They were later granted Executive Clemency.
Tom served as one of the incorporators of the articles of incorporation of the Liberian People’s Party (LPP). Tom was again arrested while in the office of a Commissioner at the National Elections Commission where we had gone to ascertain information on the party’s registration after series of arguments that ensued between a commissioner and us. On the team that fateful day were the late Dr. Bangali Fofana, John Karnwea and this writer. Tom was again bundled into a vehicle, taken to the National Security Agency (NSA) for several months without trial. Preparation to transfer him to the maximum prison Camp Belle Yella was concluded. But a downpour delayed his transfer for the first day. On the second day, assigned soldiers refused to take him on the flight to Belle Yella because of lack of commitment. The next morning Tom escaped around 2:00 AM from the NSA and sought refuge at the house where we stayed in Congo Town. We took off that same night to meet another comrade (Mulbah Bannie) in Margibi County and then on to a secret location where he remained for four months. With the help of Dr. Sawyer, Anthony Kesselly, Musa Kolacco Kamara, William Sandy and James Yarsiah, Tom was taken out of the country to safety.
While under detention, he wrote many articles on the ills in the society. These articles were smuggled out of the prison cell and published in major newspapers across Africa. Being a very close friend, my wife and I visited Tom in Holland in 1988 where he lived in exile.
Meanwhile, we used to stay together from morning to night, traveling from Monrovia to Lofa County as well as Monrovia to Margibi (Firestone) to visit our comrade Mulbah Bannie. We spent long time together during those days chatting about ourselves and other friends and brothers. The moments we spent together were rewarding and highly memorable. We moved around The Hague in Holland, Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia and Soduo in Foya District, Lofa County.
Tom will forever be remembered as a fearless and critical journalist. He was a loving and a caring man who did what he believed was right. He fought for social justice, peace and press freedom. Go and rest in peace, my dear Comrade, Tom Saah Kamara. You have done your part by doing what you loved doing without regret. You have set a standard for the Liberian press. Your mission on earth is complete Comrade Tom, my traditional uncle. May your soul rest in perpetual peace, good-bye.
More demands that could delay passage
Amidst reports that the national team, the
Being under constant threats
Liberians awoke Friday morning June 8 to
The Management of Firestone Liberia has
There are more than 20,000 untrained teachers in public schools throughout the country, Deputy Education Minister for Instruction, Dr. Mator Kpangbai, has alarmed, saying the situation aggravated other serious challenges facing the public school system.
Despite a marginal improvement in the results of the 2012 WAEC Exams, Dr. Kpangbai, who did not explain how this huge number of untrained teachers was uncovered, said the Education Ministry is still faced with major challenges including the problems of unqualified teachers and shortage of adequate instructional books, equipment and other germane resources.
“Unlike the 2011 WAEC exams that recorded 68% passing level of students, overall results in 2012 show 5% improvement. This is a very good sign that the restructuring of our School curriculum is working well,” he told a regular press conference at the Information ministry last Friday.
“But in spite of this news, and unless we can have qualified people to take up teaching assignments in the rural areas, things will continue to be difficult because this sector alone has over 20,000 untrained teachers,” Dr. Kpangbai warned.
Meanwhile, he disclosed that the education ministry has increased the salary of B.Sc. degree holders to US$300 and US$500 for those with master’s degrees as is providing housing for teachers assigned in rural areas as strategies aimed at improving instruction in the school system.
There is need for both the Executive and Legislative
A Big Pen Has Fallen: Tribute To A Man I Saw Only Once But Will Know Forever
By Mahamed Boakai
“The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones”…. This statement continues to be true ever since William Shakespeare wrote them in one of his five greatest tragedies. So let it be with Uncle Tom, a visionary, a freethinker, a mentor, a master of the pen, who lived his life to fight for social justice at the expense of personal pleasure. It has caused me a personal pleasure this Friday evening (June 8) to force these few words on paper; if the poem above will make any sense.
The name Tom Kamara springs to mind at least one of many touching memories things no matter which side of the spectrum you find we find ourselves on issues relating to Liberia and the world at large. His disdain for what he considered, rightly so, draconian regimes will always survive him. In my young memory, the regimes of Presidents Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor – and remnants of those regimes – will never forgive his critical analysis of their governing styles. War lords and their cohorts will never reconcile with him for his derogatory but just descriptions of the carnage perpetuated in the last three decades in Liberia.
Tom’s deportment against moral injustices and bad governance in society will forever make him the proverbial “Elephant” described by six blind men to both perpetrators and victims of injustice in the Liberian society for years to come. To perpetrators he was and will continue to be a pariah and a confused writer. To the victims, and those secret admirers who dined with the devils for survival and maintenance of their status, he will continue to be a Lux in Tenebris and a symbol of hope who never wavered.
For many, particularly those who saw him from a distance, the name Tom Kamara will always be synonymous to controversy. He wrote against vices in his environment irrespective of who was the cause. He epitomized the true values of the conservative nature of what the journalism profession should be. He never frequented beer parlors or entertainment centers in his communities and was seldom seen at merry-making ceremonies. Except to scoop in on issues he was writing on, he never hanged out with government officials for pleasure.
Tom set the bar so high for the journalism profession in Liberia that it takes a critical decision for anyone in his generation or ours to rise to the challenge. Firstly, I considered him the Rupert Murdoch of Liberia. He had a dream to set up a media empire in Liberia as a way of encouraging those of us in the ‘knowledge industry’ to live off government employment. He praised good and vilified evil. Even for those who considered him a friend, he was always critical and never let anyone reckless behaviors and or statements go without comments. His satirical writings were entertaining for his admirers and foreigners alike, but a mental torture for the guilty and those who fell short of moral values.
My heart is with the family as it bleeds for the staff of the New Democrat Newspaper; and so is my imagination with Tom Kamara in his coffin. We should all take solace in the reality that death is an inevitable end, it shall but one at a time come upon all livings. But most importantly, we should take comfort in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “tell me not in mournful numbers life is but an empty dream; for the soul is dead that slumbers”. Tom never slumbered while with us and so his soul lives on while his physical body takes rest.
There are countless positive results of Tom Kamara’s sleepless nights that will continue to live on. We will miss his writing skills and styles and will always remember him when we are face with issues he was so unequivocal on. Works like C.O. Zaynmgbey, (the cartoon series that detailed character contents of frontline commanders during our civil war); The Trail of Charles Ghankay Taylor (a prophetic imaginary tell-tale that prophesized former president Taylor’s trial long before he became president); 2nd Thought; and This Too is Liberia are but few of his products that will always be talked about.
It will be an endless epitaph to share fond memories of you, Uncle Tom. I am glad to have given you flowers while you were with us; now we will continue to praise you as you take your rest. The Liberian society, the subject for which you sacrificed your personal satisfactions, will continue to miss you as much we miss the likes of Albert Porte, Charles Gbayon, G. Henry Andrews and many other fallen pens and silenced voices who contributed to actualization of freedom of speech in our society. Truly an epoch has vanished and we must restore one fast, and arsenal has been bombed by the dreaded death of Tom Kamara, a patriot, intellectual power house, a battle front commander who proved that the pen is indeed mightier than any sword is no more. Rest in peace, Uncle Tom.
For those of us alive, a situation has created a vacancy, a void to be filled. It is a challenge we should all take on as intellectuals or continue to citizens of KUTORTAHUN (if I can make reference to a poem by Liberia’s current Foreign Minister); and perish as a nation. As I sat pondering over the sad news and staring through the mist overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, I could not control my emotion but shouted a big pen has fallen as a tribute to a man I saw only once in my life but will continue to know him as I live on.
The writer is a Liberian; D&G Expert and anti-corruption advisor based in Asia. Views expressed above are solely his and does not in any way represent any of his clients. He can be reached through email@example.com.
Remembering ‘Uncle Tom’
By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Elsewhere, I wrote a tribute/condolence to a grieving, Liberian family, that “death is the greatest loss than any other tragedy that a family, professional society, nation, indeed a people can endure, because the void created by death cannot be filled, for ever”; so it is and shall be with the passing of Tom Kamara.
For, Thomas (Tom, as he was affectionately called by relatives, friends and admirers) Kamara was a towering figure, a personality not only in Liberian, but also world journalism. He was independent, fair, fiercely patriotic, brave and roaring with the desire and rage for socio-economic and political justice; a journalist, a reporter’s reporter of the news, a classic essayist with humor and precision in story-telling, particularly, as developing events relate to the human condition, the prevailing social order.
Tom saw political power and the intellectual as an inevitable marriage of human reason, morality, experience and wisdom, in much the same way that the ancient Greeks did – the philosopher as the critic of political power (Socrates), the philosopher as tutor of princes (Aristotle), and the philosopher as king (Plato). Tom wrote the Liberian classic, The Trial of Charles Ghankay Taylor in the Great Beyond or something of this title, during the heyday of the civil war, Mr. Charles Taylor’s “jungle justice” declaration and at the peril of his (Tom Kamara’s) very life. In fact, the Democrat Newspaper, its equipment and offices were burned and totally destroyed; Tom was lucky to escape with is life and family.
Determined to write a final chapter to the devastating saga of the civil war, Tom returned from exile, regrouped and restarted the Democrat. It was one of the leading, informative and intellectual daily papers in Monrovia. Tom’s Democrat had the “guts” and reported daily of the reactions – Liberian, African and the world – of the conviction and sentence of the former, Liberian President, Charles Taylor.
Indeed, the void created by the death of Tom Kamara will be felt not only by Mrs. Kamara and the children, the Kissi People (as one writer indicated), the Press Union of Liberia, but also by the peace-loving, justice and democracy-seeking people of Liberia, the world and the world journalism. For Tom was a man of courage, principles and commitment to the cause of justice and journalism.
As a friend, admirer and pen-comrade, still around, I write to sympathize with and console the bereaved family and the journalist profession, with request that you all take heart, be strong and proud, because Tom Kamara was good and human, a man who lived and led a useful life, contributed immensely to make, and made, our country a better place to live.
Democrat Editor & Publisher, Tom Kamara, has gone home to rest from this sinful, ethnically-hateful and jealous world. Let us, therefore, rejoice and celebrate his home-going, because we will meet Tom at the feet of our departed fathers and mothers in the great beyond. His soul will, definitely, rest in perfect peace.
May the God of our Fathers help, guide and be with you all now and the years to come.
‘Doing Wonderfully Well’
By Kewellen Dolley
Tom Kamara, noted for his brilliant editorials often dramatizing issues in Liberia’s body politic will forever remains ,though, he dies this morning. Mr. Kamara from the time i had not seen him in person, his critical analytical writing styles always kept me thinking.
I finally had the chance to meet him during my recent visit to Liberia, at which time, i paid him a courtesy visit to show him my appreciation for feeding me with his resourceful writing styles. Afterward, he hired me to tutor some of his employees on computer generated newspaper design and we were able to talk a lot about journalism in Liberia and the struggle to catchup with cyber journalism especially in regard to the shortfalls at most of the local Universities with the lack of computers and technical knowhow about computer generated media production. Every Universities i visited in Liberia, the lack of basic educational tools, was visible.
Comparatively, he was doing wonderfully well with some of the newest computers, softwares and printers in the newspaper business in Liberia though he express some frustration about the unwillingness of most young people to pursue professional career in journalism. Many of the graduates, he told me, were ill prepared to take on the job. He encourage me to come back home and work with the New Democrat newspaper, something, i said was worth thinking about.
Tom Kamara, Like Joe Mulbah at the University of Liberia who passed some months ago, was somehow tired but equally full of spirits about the day to day running of his newspaper in Liberia, where, electricity supply is on-and-off and the tedious running of a paper with a aging staff can’t be any difficult. i could tell from their looks.
Both Tom Kamara and Joe Mulbah left their mark well on Liberian journalism but it is now a fleeting career far behind their handling but their frustration before their untimely death was placing it into the hands of a generation who is less unwilling and worst of all ill prepare to take on the mantle.
Rest in Peace Good Guys!
‘Very Passionate’ About Journalism
By Sam Togba Slewion / Former Secretary General
Press Union of Liberia (PUL)
I heard about this sad event early this morning from another colleague, Gregory Stemn, who called me and delivered this news in a very sad and unbelievable tone. Like most poeple I was sent into a state of shock with many questions pondering through my mind relative to the actual cause of dealth, but consoled Stemn that we will later find out as more details begin to emerge about this development. We both ended our conversation with the understanding that indeed the media and journalism profession in Liberia have lost one of the best and brightest in the profession. Tom was one of the “ few good men” who was still standing and maintaining what is left of the integrity and credibility of the Liberian media not only because of his hard-core journalism practice, but his commitment and dedication to the profession despite the many odds and challenges TK faced throughout while practising a profession he was very passionate about.
May his soul and those of other faitful legends and departed, including Rufus Darpoh, Stanton Peabody, T-Max Teah, Klon Hinneh, Bill Enonyai, G.
Henry Andrews, John Vambo, J. N. Elliott, Charles Gbenyon, etc. rest in perfect peace as their legacy live on to inspire a new generation to
continue to give voice to the voiceless in our society even at the peril of their lives, as expected in this noble profession of ours.
Sleep on TK, you have fought a good fight and won the race!
Inspiration To Many
By Cletus Nah
I met Tom Kamara for the first time, in 1998, when I was studying at Radio Netherlands Training Centre. It was during a program hosted by Amnesty International Netherlands. I was invited to listen to people who were fighting for press freedom and human rights around the world. Tom Kamara was invited to speak about people who were fighting for press freedom and human rights around the world. Yes, his name was on that list; he was one of the keynote speakers. I was not surprised at all.
Less than 30 seconds after I was introduced to him, he had no problem with me joking him about how he gave the Liberian government hard time during the 80s, and how his name was always ‘ringing’ during that period. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had something to do with Amnesty International recommending me to the Dutch media company, Hungry Eye Documentary, in 1999, to serve as a consultant and Bassa dialect translator for the post-production of a documentary about the difficulties former Liberian child soldiers faced in their attempt to be re-intergrated into the society in Grand Bassa County. The documentary, ‘No Bad Bush ( For A Bad Child)’ would later win a prestigious award.
When I learned that Tom Kamara had returned to Liberia and had launched his own newspaper, I remembered our conversation in 1998. I thought, with no iota of doubt, that he was going to inform, educate, and entertain his readers. From where I sit, I have learned that he has impressively done so with the New Democrat. When I also read about how he publicly appealed to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to re-consider his appointment as a member of a board of directors, I said to myself: “That’s Tom Kamara at one of his best.”
The work of Tom Kamara was well-appreciated around the world, especially by oneMen, a Dutch NGO that helped him with funds to run the New Democrat. He is one of the organization’s pioneers around the world. I will leave you with Tom’s own statement (translated from Dutch) on the group’s website: “I fight for the preservation of freedom of expression. During the civil war, press censorship was imposed. Through our critical reporting in the newspaper, we feared for our lives. Many journalists fled the country.”
Tom Kamara inspired many of us. Liberia and the rest of the global village have lost a son who struggled on several fronts for what he believed in while using the pen, knowing fully well that the pen is mightier than the sword!
My deepest condolences to his wife and the rest of his family. May his soul rest in perfect peace!
Tributes To A Great Man
By B. Arthurson
What a great tribute to a great man! Tom was indeed a hero for the fight for freedom and justice for the downtrodden. Indeed, Tom Kamara made his contribution to his country and people, and to humanity. Indeed, he left a legacy worth emulating. May his soul rest in God’s perpetual peace.
By Dr. Elliott Wreh-Wilson
Tom loved his people and did his best to speak for them when they could not. I will remember him as a man of conscience and a true lover of his country. We will miss him.
He was one of Liberia’s best writers. I am so sadden by the loss, and feel empathy for his dear wife. What a shock. May the Almighty God comfort his family.
By Mrs. C. Johnny
I am sorry for the Lost. May God continue to keep his family in his care. rest in peace. No more problems, no more pain, just rest!
By K. Abdullai Kamara
Tom Kamara was a mighty pen for justice and freedom, and his death is a great loss to the fighters for free expression in Liberia. May God bless his soul, grant him the peace that he stood for, and may he see God as has been promised in the Book of Luke.
By M. Boakai Jaleiba, Jr.
It was a little too early and the sky seemed impregnated with millions of barrels of water. Just by guesswork, I concluded that it would have been a rainy day. No, I was wrong because it did n¥ot rain. The anger of the cloud was the preparation of the unveiling of the news nobody wanted to hear. Not even the sorcerers had the clairvoyance of foretelling what was about to occur. And so, Liberia was caught pants down by the news of the tragic passing of the media guide, intruding writer and critic, Tom Kamara. By all accounts, was one of the last remaining icons of the golden generation of the Liberian media.
Tom, a true and dedicated opinion leader, wrote ferociously about ills in our society. His voice echoed in the power of his pen was as penetrating as a cluster bomb. Through his pen, he made many enemies. Yet, he made a lot of friends too. Whatever the sway, he will be remembered as someone who stood by his convictions and beliefs. He dedicated his entire life to the service of his people using every means at his disposal. It is therefore with utmost humility and great deference that I pen down this homage to the late national intellectual conscious, Mr. Tom Kamara. He was a national hero from a humble beginning. The Liberian political history can never be written without mentioning his work. He might have won for himself many enemies but his heroism in making Liberia better will be always be missed.
Throughout my lifetime, I was fortunate to see Mr. Kamara once. Thanks to the TRC public hearing! He had gone to make a presentation to the TRC. And just to take a glimpse at him, I dedicated my whole day to the hearing. From hindsight, He appeared as quiet person but when he started unfolding the issues, I reassured myself that my time spent on Ashmun Street was not in vain. After the hearing, I walked home in joy seeing the living body of the man behind the pen.
For me, a member of this generation, his life is a library for knowledge and a fountain!
A cloud of sorrow descends upon me every time I write a line in memory of the man who never feared exposing the ills of our society. His unwavering support to exposing the charlatans of the civil war remains the single most sacrifice anyone could do during the tyranny of late 90s and early 2000s!
He was prepared to die for the love of his people and country. He was consistent and truly patriotically stubborn in his conviction for a democratic Liberia. He was a consistent and predicable leader of the masses, an ideology he cherished until death. He fought for free speech and political independence we enjoy today. His footsteps must truly be emulated. The present generation must now proclaim their steadfastness to ensure that the future generation of Liberia shall never again be subjected to servitude for which thousands have sacrificed their lives!
And as a young man, I must therefore resonate with the undeniable fact that at no time during the dark history of our country, has Liberia been more peaceful since the introduction of real democracy to which Tom Kamara shares the glory.
With his death, Liberia lost one of the most vigilant custodians of our freedom, who never feared to write up on matters of principle. He will remain an example of a courageous life, dedicated and inspired by the highest values a democrat and a man of principle can aspire to.
Tom added substance and vigor to whatever he did.
Tom Kamara, you were a revolutionary combatant. I am sure that you are happy and content wherever you are and as I write today it will end up as true story. But never mind I’ll go on praising you till my last breathe, of life. This is one thing which I should always do in loving memory of this national icon.
Thank you, Tom Kamara for serving Liberia.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed deep
Several former and current government officials
The House Committees on Telecommunications,
Editor's Note: Throughout his earthly sojourn, versatile Liberian journalist Tom Kamara, who died Friday while undergoing medical treatment in Brussels, remained an uncompromising campaigner for social justice at home and everywhere.
This unimpeachable trademark can be seen and acknowledged unquestionably by both his admirers and detractors in this last analysis of the situation in Liberia written by the man, whom his contemporaries often called “Tom” while his co-employees and workers referred to him as “Uncle Tom”:
One of Pakistan’s most respected charity heads, in an interview with the BBC, said most Pakistanis would prefer military rule over a network of corrupt civilian politicians that take turns in ruling the country with fat bank accounts abroad. For the poor, he said, democracy has meant nothing for them, only the incubation of poverty.
Prevailing developments in Liberia suggest the same trend. Because of the growing disconnect between politicians and the poor, as the Vision 2030 recently suggested, democracy—the freedom to periodically elect one’s own thieves and plunderers, amongst other democratic values—is fast becoming an endangered demon to the poor.
This mistrust in democracy serves as one of the growing reasons for the relevance of Mr. George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). The poor see their children hanging on crawling vehicles, running behind Mr. Weah, as their chance to material wellbeing once he gets the presidency. And one of the reasons for the fanatical loyalty Mr. Charles Taylor commands even as he prepares for a long jail term as the rest of the world demands is that under him, a few saw their material conditions enhanced.
This enhancement of their material conditions was at the expense of others in the forms of murders, looting, etc. But they would care less, since they saw what they considered a better life under Taylor. The wife of the feared Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) commander was filled with nostalgia in an interview with foreign journalists as the verdict against Mr. Taylor came down. She had a better life under Taylor, she said, since the prices of commodities were cheap or for the taking, since her husband was an ATU commander who had in his hands the power to administer death or allow someone to live.
Since the elections, with the advent of democracy, the poor see their marginalization in material terms because the rules have changed. This is now a democracy, a defined better system that should address their needs more transparently and ably. But is it really so? The verdict of the Pakistani charity head cannot be dismissed.
Detestable Symptoms of this democracy have risen in many forms, such as the Count Development Fund meant to help the rural poor that fell in the palms of Monrovia politicians. Schools, clinics and other facilities that should have been built are non-existent.
When the General Auditing Commission was viable, it spearheaded debates on the fiscal budget, unearthing gray areas and fostering health exchanges as to what was in the budget, who received what and how the money would be spent. The necessary conditions were enhanced for active media participation by making materials and facts available, so that the people could be informed, as is expected in functioning democracy. Now, it is the return of the dark and ill-informed past when the fiscal budget, the sum total of what the country has and would spend along with how, is placed behind a dark closet, impenetrable for public scrutiny.
If democracy is a free for some system under the ‘law’ that allows the government and its functionaries to fatten themselves at the expense of the population, then a demon is being created that could be slaughtered sooner or later.
Imagine, well-placed public servants in one office alone, spending US50, 000 to purchase 3 simple cameras from China. Imagine several government officials refusing to make their financial documents public. And imagine senators announcing their opposition to forestall any attempt in making the stealing of public money a criminal offense with direct imprisonment.
In one rather lucrative state agency, the agency’s head is the sole signatory checks. Would it therefore be wrong to conclude that the money is her personal account, available to her at any time without counter-checks?
All this is with reports that legislators are bent in hiking their salaries and benefits again, even if they are amongst the highest paid on the African continent. That legislators have vowed to oppose tough anticorruption laws is understandable.
And that the rush for membership in the legislature has intensified is obvious because once there, money. A lot of money is assured along with benefits.
But not everyone will get a seat in the legislature. So the poverty scale will go up in the coming years because all in government are not aiming at service, but personal benefits at the expense of the poor. They collect taxes on their behalf, handle national resources in their name, and decide how to spend the money without questions.
To get a graphic picture of the unbalance, the fiscal budget is a hand–to-mouth document for the government and its officials because 80% of it is recurrent, which means money spent on the government and its officials, while 20% is long-term, which suggests projects for redevelopments. Even in the latter, the kickbacks may as well go to recurrent.
What makes democracy within the African contest unattractive is its corruptibility. But the danger is that there are no exceptions, since all those who serve in government during various periods resort to the same schemes. They know no other, and attempts to impose anything fundamentally different will face resistance with risks to stability. This explains the re-hiring of well known past corrupt officials or those with horrible human rights records, for fears that they could cause trouble. And since those at the helm are operating on the same platform, such fears are logical.
This presents a question whether drastic reforms needed to enhance the performance of the state and cut down the unnecessary and growing fat can be done within the framework of ‘democracy’ as it is?
As the Pakistani charity leader suggested, the answer is an absolute no for various reasons.
Most players, if not all, in the ‘democracy’ have intrinsic and similar interests, and that is to preserve their personal benefits. Thus when a senator emphatically vowed that an anticorruption bill would not be passed as long as he and his colleagues are senators, he was presenting a position of honesty.
But even where laws are passed, implementing them presents the test. For example, the President has released a bulky Code of Conduct for public servants under the Executive. The test now is to implement it, and implementing it would encompass all the brothers, sisters, in-laws, nephews, cousins, uncles, etc. of high-ranking government officials stuffed in the government with high benefits beyond the public’s rights to know.
In this ‘democracy’ any suggestion of halting the rising salaries and benefits of legislators will encounter resistance, since the legislature must approve the budget.
Thus with the level of incompetence, corruption and greed, it is difficult to see how reforms can be carried out. In this, the poor will be the sacrificial lambs until there is a serious schism for the system to be recycled. But even the poor, placed in charge, will have no new model. It is an endangered society.
Versatile Liberian journalist, publisher and managing editor of
The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja
Friends and former associates of the late Tom Kamara in
Human Rights Watch Wednesday alerted in a fresh report of imminent plans by armed militants hostile to the Ivorian government to attack that country from Liberian territory.
According to the report, armed militants hostile to the Ivorian government have recruited Liberian children and carried out deadly cross-border raids on Ivorian villages in recent months.
Human Rights Watch accused Liberian authorities of failure to investigate and prosecute dozens of Liberian and Ivorian nationals who crossed into Liberia after committing war crimes during Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-2011 post-election crisis, and some of whom have been implicated in the recent attacks.
Since July 2011, at least 40 Côte d’Ivoire residents, including women and children, have been killed during four cross-border attacks that targeted civilians from ethnic groups who largely support President Alassane Ouattara. In the most recent attack, on April 25, eight people were killed in the Ivorian village of Sakré. The attackers, who told Human Rights Watch they are planning further cross-border raids, are primarily Liberians and Ivorians who fought with the forces of former President Laurent Gbagbo during the Ivorian post-election crisis and remain violently opposed to Ouattara’s government.
“For well over a year, the Liberian government has had its head in the sand in responding to the flood of war criminals who crossed into the country at the end of the Ivorian crisis,” said Matt Wells, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Rather than uphold its responsibility to prosecute or extradite those involved in international crimes, Liberian authorities have stood by as many of these same people recruit child soldiers and carry out deadly cross-border attacks,” Matt Wells charged.
But Information Minister Lewis Brown did not deny that cross border attacks have been taking place along the Liberian border with Ivory Coast, but said it is not with the “acquiescence” of the Liberian government.
“We know that threat on Ivory Coast is a threat on Liberia. So we cannot and will not allow an inch of our soil to be used by anyone to wage war on neighboring Ivory Coast,” Mr. Brown told reporters Wednesday.
He added: “To show the commitment of the Liberian government, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been playing a curtail role in the crises in Mali, Niger and Guinea-Bissau.
Mr. Brown said the Liberian government is doing everything to try Liberian fighters that were captured in the Ivorian crisis. “State prosecutors are preparing to try the detainees who have been languishing at the Monrovia Central Prison since they were arrested”.
Between April 25 and May 3, Human Rights Watch conducted fieldwork in the towns of Zwedru, Toe Town, and Tempo in Liberia’s Grand Gedeh County, which borders Côte d’Ivoire, as well as in villages and gold mining camps near the Ivorian border. Human Rights Watch interviewed 21 Liberians and Ivorians who fought for forces loyal to former President Gbagbo during the 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis. Human Rights Watch also interviewed police officers, prison officials, prosecutors, and residents of areas with a strong presence of militants involved in committing or planning cross-border attacks.
The report said Human Rights Watch documented the recruitment and use of Liberian children by the armed groups carrying out cross-border raids. A 17-year-old boy said he led a “unit” that included other children and had participated in cross-border attacks. Residents of several Liberian border towns described the presence of children ages 14 to 17 at a training camp, while another resident described seeing several armed boys among those returning from the April 25 attack.
One border town resident said that he had reported the recruitment of child soldiers to Liberian authorities, but that they told him there was insufficient evidence to make arrests.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called on the Liberian government to take immediate measures to protect children from recruitment into armed groups, and urged the Liberian government to ratify speedily the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, it signed in 2004. The protocol prohibits any armed group from recruiting children under 18 and obliges governments to take measures to prevent and criminalize such practices.
Several thousand Liberian mercenaries fought in Côte d’Ivoire during that country’s post-election crisis, the vast majority for the Gbagbo side. The mercenaries, recruited and financed by Gbagbo’s inner circle, fought side-by-side with local ethnically based militias in western Côte d’Ivoire, where they committed widespread killings targeting perceived Ouattara supporters.
After Gbagbo was arrested on April 11, 2011, many of these mercenaries and militiamen crossed into Liberia, in part due to the fear of reprisals by pro-Ouattara forces. Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire share a 700 kilometer border, but most pro-Gbagbo militants crossed into, and remain in, the Liberian counties of Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Maryland.
“Liberian fighters have been involved in atrocities across the sub-region for more than a decade and remain a threat to Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia as these countries try to move on from periods of massive human rights violations,” Wells said.
The involvement of Liberian mercenaries in the Ivorian conflict was noted in the December 2011 report of the United Nations Panel of Experts on Liberia, mandated by the UN Security Council to report on sanctions imposed on Liberia. The panel expressed concern about recruitment and mobilization in the border area and concluded: “[T]he Government of Liberia has demonstrated an inadequate response to the issue of Liberian mercenaries returning from Côte d’Ivoire, and the infiltration of Ivorian militia.”
Although a few Liberians were arrested after returning from active hostilities in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberian authorities have failed to follow through with prosecutions for atrocities there – despite provisions in Liberia’s Penal Code that would allow for the prosecution of crimes like murder or rape that are recognized both under Liberian law and as war crimes under international treaties to which Liberia is a state party. The Liberian Penal Code also criminalizes “mercenarism” under Section 11.13, which could apply to a number of its citizens who fought in Côte d’Ivoire.
Liberia has a duty under international law, including the Geneva Conventions it has ratified, to detain, investigate, and prosecute or extradite suspected war criminals on its territory. Human Rights Watch called on Liberia to fulfill its responsibility as a member state of the International Criminal Court and pass legislation to enable the domestic prosecution of atrocity crimes committed anywhere in the world.
At least two infamous Liberians credibly implicated in atrocities in Côte d’Ivoire have been released by Liberian authorities after originally facing charges of “mercenarism.” One is Isaac Chegbo, better known as “Bob Marley,” whom Human Rights Watch implicated in overseeing two massacres in Côte d’Ivoire in which more than 100 people were killed; and the other is A. Vleyee, better known as “Bush Dog,” who was a deputy under Chegbo and likewise oversaw forces who committed widespread violations. According to reports by the UN Panel of Experts, both of these men fought as mercenaries in the 2002-2003 Ivorian civil war and its aftermath. Liberian forces where they were based were credibly implicated in war crimes, including summary executions and the recruitment of child soldiers, during that period as well.
Several former combatants told Human Rights Watch that “Bush Dog” was actively engaged in recruiting and training fighters, including Liberians and Ivorians who participated in recent cross-border attacks. UNMIL officials expressed similar concern about “Bob Marley.”
Through interviews, Human Rights Watch identified between 100 and 150 people who have either participated in past cross-border attacks or are organizing for future attacks.
UN officials monitoring the border area said the armed militants have the ability to continue conducting cross-border raids that target and kill perceived Ouattara supporters, as well as carry out larger attacks – a real concern in a sub-region marked by insecurity, armed conflict, and grave crimes over the last two decades.
Many of those involved in the attacks are engaged in artisanal gold mining along the Liberian border, and they told Human Rights Watch that profits go up a chain of command. Several people involved in planning attacks also claimed receiving financial support from people in Ghana, where much of the Gbagbo political and military elite are in exile. Ivorian authorities have issued arrest warrants for people in Ghana alleged to have been involved in post-election crimes – and made extradition requests through Interpol for some of them – but Ghanaian authorities have not acted on them.
On May 2, following the April 25 attack, high-level government officials from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia met in Abidjan to discuss border security issues. Liberian officials promised to increase security forces along the border and to cooperate with Côte d’Ivoire regarding the Ivorian militiamen who have been in detention in Liberia since June 2011.
“This regional problem demands a regional response,” Wells said. “Ghanaian and Liberian authorities need to demonstrate greater willingness to prosecute or extradite to Côte d’Ivoire people who committed or oversaw atrocities during the Ivorian crisis.”
Failure to Prosecute Suspected War Criminals Living in Liberia
The Liberian government has failed to extradite Ivorians or ensure the prosecution of Liberians and Ivorians implicated in grave crimes during Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis. This has allowed people suspected of war crimes to find refuge near the border, where many have conducted cross-border raids and recruited and mobilized for larger-scale attacks.
Section1.4 of Liberia’s Penal Code gives “extraterritorial jurisdiction over an offense” when, among other things, “conferred upon Liberia by treaty.” This would include crimes under the Geneva Conventions and Rome Statute, to which Liberia is a state party. Section 1.5 of the Penal Code, however, limits jurisdiction to crimes specifically enumerated under the Penal Code “or another statute of Liberia.” This would encompass crimes like murder and rape, but not the international crimes of war crimes or crimes against humanity. In addition, Liberia’s Penal Code criminalizes “mercenarism,” defined in part as the “enlisting, enrolling or attempting to enroll in ... armed forces partially or wholly and [sic] consisting of persons not nationals of the country being invaded ... for money, personal gain, material or other reward.”
The Liberian government should ensure that the provisions of the Rome Statute and other international treaties are fully incorporated into domestic law. This would make clear that people suspected of serious international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world, can be prosecuted in Liberia. However, even without modifying the current Penal Code, there remain ample provisions to investigate and prosecute the serious crimes committed in Côte d’Ivoire by people in Liberia.
The March 2012 Special Report from the Secretary-General on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire noted that of “88 suspected armed elements, mainly from Côte d’Ivoire … detained in Liberia in April 2011 … two Ivorians remain in detention, as well as three suspected Liberian mercenaries. The other detainees were released on 13 March.”
An additional 39 Ivorians were arrested in June 2011 after the discovery of a large weapons cache in Fishtown, Liberia, near the Ivorian border. Human Rights Watch interviewed a prison official at the Zwedru correctional facility who said that the 39 Ivorians, as well as four Liberians, have been held there in pre-trial detention since their arrest. The Zwedru prison official said that the Ivorians had been charged with “mercenarism,” a crime that, as noted by the UN Panel of Experts, “seemingly would not apply to Ivorian combatants fleeing to Liberia.”
Human Rights Watch called on the Liberian authorities to clarify the status of these detainees, and to prosecute them for applicable crimes under the Liberian Penal Code, extradite them to Côte d’Ivoire if requested by Ivorian authorities, or release them.
The UN Panel of Experts said in its December 2011 report that there were “numerous instances in which mercenaries and Ivorian militia entered Liberia and evaded Liberian authorities.” Those who “evaded Liberian authorities” far outnumber those in detention, and include prominent mercenary and militia leaders whom Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) implicated in overseeing serious crimes in Côte d’Ivoire.
For example, the 39 Ivorians arrested in June 2011 were part of a convoy of more than 100 people who crossed into Liberia in May. The rest of the convoy members remain at large. The Panel of Experts reported that “almost all of the individuals … were combatants…. Several of the Ivorian leaders had served in FANCI [the armed forces] or the gendarmerie, while others were ranking members of the Jeunes Patriotes[militia group]. Many of the detainees are hardline, pro-Gbagbo combatants who had continued to fight in Yopougon, Abidjan, after the former President was captured.”
Several high-profile Liberian fighters who were arrested for “mercenarism” after crossing into Liberia have since been released, either on bail or due to insufficient evidence. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, prosecutors in Grand Gedeh and Montserrado counties described difficulties in building cases, even when they believed people had been mercenaries or had been involved in related criminal activity. Part of the problem appears to be that prosecutors have not collaborated with Ivorian authorities or civil society to gain what would be, in certain cases, access to considerable evidence on these individuals’ crimes in Côte d’Ivoire.
Two cases underscore the larger failure of the Liberian authorities. Vleyee, or “Bush Dog,” was arrested by Liberian authorities in April 2011. Research by Human Rights Watch and the Panel of Experts indicate that, during the crisis, Vleyee was in a command position with mercenary and militia forces implicated in atrocities in and around the Ivorian town of Bloléquin. Soon after his arrest in Liberia, Vleyee was released. The Panel of Experts said the investigation was “hampered by a lack of proper evidence-gathering and contradictory statements by Liberian Government officials.” The investigation focused on whether Vleyee brought military material into Liberia, rather than his possible command responsibility for killings in Côte d’Ivoire.
In May 2012, Human Rights Watch interviewed three Liberian fighters and two border town residents who said that the same “Bush Dog” was recruiting Liberians and Ivorians for attacks in Côte d’Ivoire. At a time when Vleyee should be on the radar of Liberian authorities – given his alleged role in atrocities and previous arrest – a resident near Zwedru decried authorities’ failure to respond to his ongoing recruitment:
I informed security [forces] about the recruiters, including General Bush Dog…. His training camp is in the bush near the border; it’s a few minutes’ walk to Côte d’Ivoire. I have not been to the training camp to see for myself, but a small boy by the name of [redacted for security reasons] came when he was seriously sick in the training camp. He explained everything to me because I was a friend to his late father, who died last year….
Chegbo, better known by his nom de guerre “Bob Marley” and “Child Could Die,” is of equal concern. Human Rights Watch and UNOCI found evidence indicating his participation and commanding role in a unit responsible for grave crimes, including two massacres in western Côte d’Ivoire in which a total of more than 100 people were killed. Liberian authorities arrested Chegbo after he returned to Liberia in April 2011, but quickly released him.
After pressure from Ivorian authorities, Chegbo was re-arrested in late May 2011 and transferred to Monrovia’s central prison, charged with “mercenarism.” In February 2012, however, Chegbo was quietly released on bail. The Associated Press reported that the prosecutor for Montserrado County (Monrovia) “had no knowledge” that Chegbo had been released, until the journalist raised the issue. The prosecutor was unsure about Chegbo’s whereabouts, but said he still wanted to prosecute Chegbo. The UN Panel of Experts reported that, after Chegbo’s 2011 transfer to Monrovia, “key evidence, such as Chegbo’s pistol, [went] missing from police custody.” Several Zwedru residents told Human Rights Watch that as of early May, Chegbo was back in Grand Gedeh County.
The UN Panel of Experts report showed that, although the precise command structure of Liberians who fought in Côte d’Ivoire was volatile, “Bob Marley” appeared to occupy a command position above “Bush Dog.” Both fighters were based out of Bloléquin.
Failure to Investigate Cross-Border Attacks
In the four cross-border attacks since June 2011, the motivation appears to have been both political vengeance and related to land conflict – issues that overlap in Côte d’Ivoire’s volatile west. Those killed or whose houses were burned predominantly belong to ethnic groups that largely voted for President Ouattara.
The 40 deaths in these attacks have all been along the border near the Ivorian town of Taï. During previous field work in Côte d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch documented the first two cross-border raids, in July and September 2011. The recent attacks, on February 20 and April 25, displaced thousands from villages in the area.
Liberian authorities have failed to investigate those involved in the attacks. Section1.4.2of the Liberian Penal Code provides jurisdiction over the attackers, stating: “A person is subject to prosecution in Liberia for an offense which he commits partly within Liberia. An offense is committed partly within Liberia if either the conduct which is an element of the offense or the result which is such an element, occurs within Liberia.” For the cross-border attacks, both the preparation for the attacks – which have each included murder – and the intent to carry out the attacks have occurred within Liberia.
A Liberian resident of Tempo described how the town and its surrounding area have been used as a base for some of the cross-border attacks:
All the attacks taking place in Ivory Coast are being done by both Ivorians and Liberians, but the heads are Bush Dog and Oulaï Tako. These guys are training and sending youth to fighting zones. This recent time [April 25] there was an attack in Ivory Coast, and civilians – adults and children – were killed.... They’ve attacked Gahabli, Sakré, Taï, and Nigré, and we hear them say they are planning to launch a heavy attack later this year…. [We saw] many of the fighters… come back to Tempo [after the Sakré attack] wounded, and they have gone to their training camp [outside town].
The Panel of Experts reported that Vleyee and Tako fought in close proximity in Côte d’Ivoire. Tako was the Bloléquin commander of the Front pour la libération du grand ouest (FLGO), a notorious pro-Gbagbo militia formerly based in western Côte d’Ivoire.
A 33-year-old Liberian former combatant in Toe Town, who told Human Rights Watch that he had on several occasions been approached to join those conducting and planning cross-border attacks, said the recruitment of fighters was an open secret in the region. He also said that those involved in planning attacks had told him that they had moved a considerable quantity of arms from Côte d’Ivoire to Liberia “without anyone blowing the alarm,” concluding: “Either the border patrol in Liberia is poor, or security officers are part of this deal.”
An official with UNMIL said he believed that at least some local and regional officials had to be acquiescing to the activities of former Liberian mercenaries – hypothesizing that it could be due to revenues from gold mining or to a perceived fear of “stirring the hornet’s nest.”
On at least one occasion, Liberian security forces tried to thwart a cross-border attack. But they did not follow through with successful investigations and prosecutions. In late January, Liberian security forces arrested 76 Ivorians and Liberians near the border, believing they were planning to attack Côte d’Ivoire. A police officer in Zwedru said:
Joint security forces in Grand Gedeh County discovered sometime in January what was described as a dissidents’ training base in Konobo district. Following the discovery, the Liberia national police assigned to the county stormed the area and arrested 75 of the suspect dissident forces. The men were arrested while en route to neighboring Ivory Coast, [we believe] with the aim of invading and toppling the government…. The dissidents included Ivorians and a few Liberians. They were intercepted and arrested at the double bridge crossing point near the border. They were carried to the Monrovia correctional palace, but all of them were later freed because of lack of evidence.
Human Rights Watch interviewed one of those arrested in January. The 27-year-old Liberian made clear the groups’ intentions:
Our group is organized…. We have attempted to enter Ivory Coast once in January at the double bridge to the border, but the mission was unsuccessful because the secret was exposed to the security [forces]. We were arrested, but later released…. We have different support from different persons, but we are aiming at one goal. The goal is to go back to Ivory Coast to fight when we are called upon from [his gold mining camp].
Neither the police officer involved in the raid nor a Grand Gedeh county prosecutor interviewed by Human Rights Watch could explain why they lacked evidence to bring charges since both believed firmly the men had been planning to carry out an attack.
A Tempo resident, who works in a border gold mining camp, blamed the police’s lack of experience in investigating such issues as well as residents’ fear in denouncing those involved:
This is where the fighters were [first] interrogated… The security personnel don’t know how to investigate issues like this, so they made the situation [look] false when it was true. These guys talk about their training camp in our territory, we know where it is, but we can’t say it, because we fear for our safety and our mining activities…. They have guns you have not even seen before and some of us are now planning to move from here to find a better location for our mining.
Child Soldier Recruitment
Human Rights Watch documented the recruitment of Liberian boys for recent and future attacks on Ivorian villages. The scale of child recruitment was unclear. However, several Liberian residents as well as a 17-year-old fighter described the recruitment effort, which they said was led in part by “Bush Dog.” Residents said they had seen children – recruited from villages and towns near the Ivorian border – in training camps and returning from recent cross-border attacks.
A 17-year-old Liberian near Tempo who was recruited to fight with armed militants hostile to the Ivorian government told Human Rights Watch that he took part in at least one cross-border raid. He said other boys around his age had also been recruited and fought:
They call us “small boys unit” and we are always safe when we go to the war zones in Ivory Coast. I am a Liberian and I never fought the Liberian wars, but I am going to Ivory Coast to help my friends, whatever they want us to do for them. I have [carried out] some attacks with my unit, and we were able to succeed by knowing the territory. I don’t know the total that we have killed…. In this mission, we have our bosses who train us and follow us to the field. The bosses are Bush Dog and Oulaï Tako….
A 25-year-old resident near Tempo said that he had seen boys ages 14 to 17 in a training camp in the area, as well as among those who returned from the April 25 attack. The Tempo resident said that he seen Bush Dog and Tako involved in the training camp from which boys have been sent to carry out cross-border attacks. Bush Dog has been previously linked with recruiting child soldiers. A 2005 report from the UN Panel of Experts noted: “UNMIL reported that on 22 March, MODEL General Amos Vleyee, also known as ‘Bush Dog,’ had recruited 10 children in Grand Gedeh County.”
A 32-year-old trader from a town just outside Zwedru decried the failure of the Liberian authorities to respond to the recruitment of child soldiers:
There are so many things and activities that are happening in our communities that concerned citizens like me don’t like. There are some guys in our community who have started recruiting small boys, who the police cannot allow to even ride motorbikes because of their age. Their age is between 14 and16 years. We have been complaining to the security [forces], but they are always saying they don’t have evidence to prove it.
In 2004, Liberia signed, but has not yet ratified, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The protocol prohibits any recruitment of children under 18 by armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a state and obliges governments to take measures to prevent and criminalize such practices. The recruitment and use of child soldiers under 15 is also considered a war crime.
Plans for Further Attacks
The Liberian government’s failure to investigate and prosecute those involved in cross-border attacks has appeared to embolden the pro-Gbagbo militants and the Liberians who support them to envision further attacks into Côte d’Ivoire. Several people involved with the armed groups, as well as residents in border villages, described arms caches and a clandestine training camp in the Konobo district of Grand Gedeh.
A 25-year-old Liberian, who lives near the border town of Tempo, told Human Rights Watch that the militants in that area speak openly about their intentions: “What we are observing now in this community is that most of the youth have real arms and ammunition in their possession and are talking of launching an attack on Côte d’Ivoire.” Residents near the gold mining sites, where pro-Gbagbo militants have a particularly strong concentration, made similar statements.
Those plotting additional attacks appear to have established at least one training camp and to have stockpiled arms and ammunition. The 17-year-old Liberian, who had taken part in previous cross-border attacks, described the level of organization and support they receive:
Our [training] camp is located in Konobo district … and we have arms and ammunition, food, medicines, and nurses that can take care of us when we have minor sickness. When the sickness is worse, and you need to be admitted and you are Liberian, then money will be available [from our supporters] and you will be transferred to the government hospital.
Several others involved in planning cross-border attacks described the Konobo training camp, in the same district where police officers had raided another camp in January. The area has dense vegetation and is near the Ivorian border. It also appears to be where a large quantity of weapons, brought from Côte d’Ivoire at the end of the crisis, is stored. A 33-year-old Liberian told Human Rights Watch: “The guns are kept in Konobo district, near the border areas.”
In describing their motivations, most of the Ivorian militants speak of “revenge” – revenge for Gbagbo no longer being president, or, more often, revenge for killings and other abuses committed by pro-Ouattara forces in western Côte d’Ivoire. Both sides committed atrocities, including war crimes and likely crimes against humanity, in western Côte d’Ivoire. A 36-year-old at Sloman (also referred to as Solomon) gold mining camp, who said he had not fought with pro-Gbagbo forces during the crisis but had joined the plans for future attacks, explained his reasons:
My family members were killed by Ouattara’s forces, and I am frustrated that [the crisis] forced me to leave Côte d’Ivoire and come to Liberia. Many of my [Ivorian] brothers have joined the Liberians in order to get revenge…. There are two possibilities: either we will kill them, or they will kill us.
The historical cross-border links between the Ivorian region of Moyen Cavally and the Liberian region of Grand Gedeh is crucial to understanding the continued role of Liberians. The Guérés in Côte d’Ivoire and the Krahns in Liberia, who are considered the “natives” in these regions, come from the same ethnic group. They speak a highly similar language, and extended families often cross national boundaries. MODEL, a rebel group from the later stages of the 1999-2003 Liberian civil war, was a predominantly Krahn fighting force that also included a significant number of Ivorian Guérés. Thus, while some Liberians expressed primarily financial reasons for mobilizing, citing the lack of jobs in Grand Gedeh, most spoke instead of vengeance and assisting those who fought with or housed them in the past.
A 45-year-old Liberian, who said he had been fighting in regional conflicts for more than a decade, explained his motivation and plans for larger-scale attacks:
We are helping [the pro-Gbagbo Ivorians], because they helped us during the time our war was ongoing and we need to help them in return…. Let no one fool you that the war is over in Côte d’Ivoire. Anytime from now, we are planning to launch an attack…. We have guns that we brought back from Côte d’Ivoire and other support that will help facilitate this process – businesses are established and the supply line is stronger than ever before…. Grand Gedeh alone had more than 12 unofficial entry points to Côte d’Ivoire, and we have access to them all.
Financial Support from People in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire
Two Ivorians and one Liberian who had fought with pro-Gbagbo forces told Human Rights Watch they were receiving outside financial support for attacks into Côte d’Ivoire. The scale of the support was unclear, as were the specific financers, but those interviewed said that the money came regularly – monthly according to one interviewee. This system of regular financial assistance from people in neighboring countries suggests at least some level of organization among those committed to carrying out additional attacks, which have almost exclusively targeted civilians, according to the evidence documented by Human Rights Watch.
A 30-year-old from western Côte d’Ivoire, who fought with Gbagbo militia groups during the crisis, said that, in their effort to recruit and mobilize, “we are receiving support from [people in] Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Ghana.” Two other former combatants, one Ivorian and one Liberian, likewise specifically mentioned receiving money from people in Ghana. Those interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Liberia would not provide the names of their financers. However, a 35-year-old former non-commissioned officer in the Ivorian military, now a refugee in Liberia, said, “Former fighters and former Ivorian politicians are all key players in these activities, making money and other resources available.”
A number of high-level military and political leaders from the Gbagbo camp remain in exile in Ghana. Several of them – including the longtime Young Patriots militia leader, Charles Blé Goudé, and the former head of the gendarmerie’s armored vehicle squadron, Jean-Noël Abéhi – are subject to arrest warrants by the Ivorian justice system. Ghanaian authorities have failed to arrest and extradite them. A May 8 article in Jeune Afrique, based on interviews with the pro-Gbagbo leaders in Ghanian exile, reported that many still speak of revenge and of toppling the Ouattara government. In its December 2011 report, the UN Panel of Experts discussed its concerns about external financial support for groups planning cross-border attacks from Liberia:
External financiers could seek to supply weapons and ammunition, which could be easily smuggled into Liberia using existing trafficking networks, such as those already used to trade in illegal Liberian gold and Guinean artisanal weapons…. Considering that the Ivorian crisis only recently ended and that the Ouattara Government has increasingly solidified military control, if such support for Liberian mercenaries and Ivorian militia from abroad does exist, it would likely be in its initial, “exploratory” and planning stage.
Gold Mining Indicative of Organization in Recruitment, Mobilization
At least scores of those involved in cross-border attacks are engaged in artisanal gold mining along the Liberian border. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, they spoke openly about using gold revenues to fund attacks into Côte d’Ivoire. The structure of the gold mine financing efforts demonstrates a level of organization among these armed militants.
Human Rights Watch visited five informal artisanal gold mining camps – CVI, Bentley, Golo, Dark Forest, and Sloman – along the Liberian-Ivorian border. Liberian and Ivorian former combatants worked side by side in these camps. Those interviewed said that the gold mining camps serve as bases for recruitment, mobilization, and the financing of violence in Côte d’Ivoire. A 30-year-old Ivorian in CVI mining camp said:
We came to CVI to mine gold to empower ourselves. The plan is to mine and sell gold to get money in order to get revenge against [pro-Ouattara forces] who killed our family members and burned our houses…. We are more than 45 Ivorians living in this mining camp, but only 37 have agreed to mine in the interest of this mission…. We have reorganized ourselves to go back with force this year.
The CVI miner’s statement shows that not all of the gold miners there see mining as an opportunity to fund attacks; a minority of Ivorians had no “interest” in the “mission.” In other mining camps, however, those who refuse to be recruited reported being threatened and forced off the land. A 27-year-old Liberian at Sloman gold mining camp told Human Rights Watch:
I have been at this mining camp since December 2011. Some of us came here to look for money to support our family … but others have different intentions with the money they are receiving. I was here when some people came to this mining zone to recruit some youth for a mission at the border. All of us who refused to join them were driven away from the camp. They even threatened to kill us.
The statements of several armed militants involved in gold mining along the border indicate a command structure for collection of money potentially used to finance recruitment and mobilization. A 26-year-old Liberian mining at Dark Forest mining camp said:
[Revenge] can only be done when we’re financially equipped. Liberian and Ivorian ex-combatants are working hand to hand in this mining zone. Gold is being found in abundance…. Our bosses always visit us here at night to carry away the gold.
People mining gold at a different camp mentioned the name of one the same “bosses,” saying he came by frequently to collect the gold.
In addition to gold mining, some people involved in efforts to attack Côte d’Ivoire have used motorcycle transport to raise money for recruitment and mobilization. A 37-year-old Sierra Leonean, who had fought in wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire, said:
Fifteen motorbikes have been offered to us [by our bosses] for easy transportation, [as well as] phones for easier communication. These motorbikes are also used for commercial purposes to generate money for our mission…. All our guns are along the border with Côte d’Ivoire, kept safe while we’re mining.
Commissioners and employees at the Liberia
Commissioners and employees at the Liberia
Senators are threatening to stall passage
A resident of West Point, Garrison Chea, 29,
Two illicit miners arrested with “significant diamonds” are undergoing investigation at the Ministry of Justice, an official source disclosed here Tuesday during a press briefing at the Ministry of Information.
Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo disclosed the arrest and investigation of the illicit miners, but declined to comment on details.
He said: “The Justice Ministry is currently looking into that case for now; and so we don’t want to say anything further. “When the time comes for us to speak on it we will let you know; and all I can say now is that these people were caught with a significant diamonds.”
The illicit mining and smuggling of uncut diamonds by rebel factions in Liberia for self benefits prompted the United Nations to ban the export of Liberian gems until that right was restored recently to Liberia but strictly in conformity with the Kimberly Process.
Recounting the circumstances of postwar Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Sunday explained at a commencement convocation in Massachusetts that she took over a country badly ravished and in need of delivery.
“The economy was in ruins, and our health sector, like all others, was not spared the destruction that engulfed the country during the civil upheaval,” she told graduates of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“The health infrastructure—of hospitals, health centers and clinics—was destroyed or badly damaged, and the delivery of basic health services was almost non-existent,” President Sirleaf lamented in her address.
She said, at the time only 41 percent of the Liberian people lived with one-hour walking distance of a health facility, most of them in urban areas.
“In a country of 3.5 million at the time, there were only 354 health facilities. The entire health workforce was 3,966, health professionals having fled the country.”
“Only six of our 15 administrative political subdivisions had at least one medical doctor; the rest had none. In more ways than one, we inherited a wounded country, with dysfunctional institutions. Far beyond the physical destruction and deprivation, we inherited a house that had been divided against itself. Liberia stood in dire need of healing,” President Sirleaf informed her American audience.
The Acting Mayor of Monrovia City, Ms. Mary Broh risks