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War, Politics & Justice in West Africa

War, Politics & Justice in West Africa

 

About the Book

 

This book collects articles and reviews the author wrote for various publications, academic and journalistic, over the past 10 to 14 years. They are not arranged in chronological order, but there is a consistent underlying theme: the authors reaction to war, politics and traditional justice in Africa, with a particular focus on Sierra Leone and Liberia. He has studied these two countries more intimately than all others; but this book includes articles on Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

Available from August 7, 2015 from: 

African Books Collective: www.africanbookscollective.com

£25

 

 

About the Author

 

Lansana Gberie is a United Nations expert on West Africa. A journalis and an academic he has written extensively on Africa. Lansana Gberie was awarded the Outstanding Research Awards by the Canadian Government in 2002 for his work with Partnership Africa Canada on the Human Security and International Diamond Trade project.

 

Contents

 

PART I: CONTESTED SPACES

 

1

Africa: The Troubled Continent

 

2

West Africa: The Curse of Borders

 

3

Guinea: on the Brink?

 

4

The Yenga Affair: Guinea?Sierra Leone border dispute

 

5

Is Democracy under threat in West Africa?

 

 

Part II: THIS IS WAR!

 

1

The ?Rebel? Wars of Africa: From Political Contest to Criminal Violence?

 

2

Why ?A Dirty War in West Africa?: An Interview by Znet

 

3

Reflections on Liberia

 

4

Liberia: the more things change

 

5

On Politics and the Diamond Economy of Sierra Leone

 

6

A Liberia Journal: the UN at Work in 2005

 

7

Sierra Leone Civil War: a Fresh Perspective

 

 

Part III: PAWNS AND PLAYERS IN SIERRA LEONE?S WAR

 

1

Who were the Kamajors of Sierra Leone?

 

2

ECOMOG: The Story of an Heroic Failure

 

3

Desmond Luke: A Profile in Courage

 

4

Uncommon diplomat: Peter Penfold and Sierra Leone

 

5

At Home with Tejan Kabbah

 

6

Tejan Kabbah?s ?Coming from the Brink?

 

7

Michael Schulenburg and Sierra Leone

 

 

Part IV: WAR AND MEMORY

 

1

Truth and Justice on Trial in Liberia

 

2

On Child Soldiers

 

3

Sierra Leone: Remembering a Difficult Disarmament Process

 

4

Memory and politics: Liberia's TRC report

 

5

Sierra Leone?s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

 

 

Part V: WAR ON TRIAL

 

1

Special Court begins Trials

 

2

Charles Taylor: the bitterness of war, the sourness of justice

 

3

The Special Court for Sierra Leone ? A Final Word

 

 

Part VI: A WAR ON SCREEN

 

1

Man Den Nor Glady?O: A film

 

2

Blood Diamond: A Film

 

 

Part VII: ELECTIONS AND THE POLITICAL FUTURE IN SIERRA LEONE, LIBERIA, IVORY COAST AND NIGERIA

 

1

Sierra Leone?s 2007 Elections

 

2

Liberia?s 2005 Elections

 

3

The Crisis in Ivory Coast: Firs Impressions

 

4

Some thoughts on Ivory Coast

 

5

Politics in Nigeria: ?A Paradise for Maggots?

 

6

Nigeria?s 2011 Elections: One Man?s Burden

 

7

Nigeria?s Elections: Good Luck Triumphs, Again

 

8

Postscript: Revisiting Sierra Leone?s ?Rebel? War: Evidence from the TRC and Special Court

 

 

Part VIII: OTHER WARS

 

1

Africa and the War on Drugs

 

2

Ebola: Brueghel?s Hell

 

3

Ebola: Fighting Back in Sierra Leone

 
     

 

PART IX: OTHER WRITINGS: PEOPLE AND BOOKS

 

1

Alfred Akibo-Betts: An Appreciation

 

2

Sorious Samura: Commitment and Voyeurism

 

3

On Eldred Jones? Freetown Bond

 

4

Mallam O: The Publisher as Writer

 

5

Nelson Mandela?s Struggle for Peace

 

6

Liberia in New York City

 

7

In the Footsteps of Graham Greene

 

8

On J. Sorie Conteh?s In Search of Sons

 

9

Between Prayers and Satan

 

10

V. S. Naipaul and Africa

 

11

Amos Sawyer?s Beyond Plunder

 

 

Foreword

 

Before trying to resolve a conflict, one must first try to understand it. One must investigate its origins, study the context and background in which the conflict is taking place, and get into the mind-set of the individuals involved. If one adopts this approach, one soon realises that no two conflicts are the same and therefore there is no one blue-print for resolving every conflict. This may all sound blindingly obvious but sadly and all-too-often, attempts are made to resolve conflicts without following these simple rules, especially by outsiders who are not directly involved.

To assist us in this cause it is vital to have a catalogue of well-written and well-researched material of past and present conflicts. I therefore applaud the Sierra Leone Writers Series for publishing this collection of articles and book reviews written by Lans Gberie over the period 2002 to 2014. ?War, Politics and Justice in West Africa? is, an informed snapshot of events in West Africa and in particular of the conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia, unsurpassed.

As he says in his introduction, the defining issue in Dr. Gberie?s adult life was the rebel war in Sierra Leone and Liberia. He is well placed to write about these events. Others have done so; but by combining his journalistic and academic backgrounds he is able to both report vividly and analyse meaningfully. Few others have ventured into the field of conflict to meet the protagonists and also spend endless hours studying the reams of documentation deriving from it. Few others have interviewed Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone and Joshua Blahyi (aka General Butt Naked) in Liberia and studied in detail the voluminous reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and the Sierra Leone Special Court.

Several of the articles are merely Dr. Gberie?s reviews of what others have written, or filmed, but by bringing them all together in one publication the book provides a useful routemap to guide those wanting to learn more about events in West Africa.

But one is also able to discern what Dr. Gberie himself feels. Thomas Sankara, the late lamented leader of Burkino Faso, had noted that the ultimate challenge facing Africa was ?a just peace, dignity and genuine independence? and one can discern these threads running through Dr. Gberie?s writings.

Sierra Leone is of particular interest to me having served as British High Commissioner during the latter stages of the conflict. Lans Gberie?s book, ?A Dirty War in West Africa? remains, in my view, the best account of the RUF?s war. I would like to think that if it had been available earlier, it might have prevented some of the mistakes made in trying to resolve that conflict and its aftermath, especially with reference to the antics of the Sierra Leone Special Court ? the war crimes court set up to try those most responsible for the terrible atrocities in the Sierra Leone rebel war. Dr. Gberie?s own views probably come across more clearly in the articles he has written about this expensive piece of international judicial machinery than in much of his other writings.

Like me, he condemns the indictment of Chief Sam Hinga Norman and his two fellow CDF members, Moinina Fofana and Alieu Kondewa. Indeed he dedicates this book to them, a dedication I warmly applaud.

Supporters of the Sierra Leone Special Court cite the indictment and conviction of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, as evidence of the success of the Court but the indictment and subsequent death in detention of Sam Hinga Norman remains a stain on the legacy of the Court and by its actions, the Court has made it more difficult to resolve conflicts peacefully elsewhere in Africa. Who else will come forward to fight for peace and democracy if they find themselves indicted as war criminals? Tellingly Gberie quotes Justice Thompson, the dissenting Sierra Leonean judge of the Court, who expressed ?serious doubts whether a tribunal should hold liable persons who volunteered to take up arms and risk their lives and those of their families to prevent anarchy and tyranny from taking a firm hold in their society.? It is interesting to note how in recent times Western countries who have engaged in conflicts have actively supported ?civil militias?!

In his writings Dr. Gberie often focuses upon the individuals involved which adds flesh and colour to the stories told. In my experience nondescript officials sitting in their bureaucratic offices in Western capitals often find it difficult to accept the power and influence that individuals can have on situations and events in Africa. The role of Sam Hinga Norman has already been commented upon. I much enjoyed Gberie?s profile of Desmond Luke, another unsung hero of Sierra Leone whom I much admire.

This collection of articles is brought right up to date with a couple of articles about the latest scourge to affect Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea ? Ebola. There are some interesting parallels between the present Ebola crisis and the earlier conflicts, not least how meaningless national borders can be sometimes. On the topic of borders, I much enjoyed the account of Dr. Gberie?s road trip from Accra to Lagos via Togo and Benin, which will bring a smile to all those who attempt to drive across from one African country to another!

Dr. Gberie?s writings are immensely readable. He draws heavily upon other writers. Robert Kaplan?s defining article, ?The Coming Anarchy?, clearly had a big impact on him and there is no doubt that two of his favourite authors are Joseph Conrad and Charles Dickens. But as a modern observer and analyst he sets his own standard to which others should aspire.

Readers of this book will be better informed and thus better placed to offer their own opinions on war, politics and justice in Africa.

Peter Penfold

Former UK High Commissioner to Sierra Leone

Chief Komrabai Peter Penfold is the author of Atrocities, Diamonds and Diplomacy ? the inside story of the conflict in Sierra Leone

 

 

Introduction and Acknowledgements

 

 

This book collects articles and book reviews I wrote for various publications, academic and journalistic, over the past 14 years. They are not arranged in chronological order, but there is a consistent underlying theme: my reaction to war, politics and transitional justice in Africa, with a particular focus on Sierra Leone and Liberia. Although I have studied these two countries more intimately than all others, this book includes articles on Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all of which I visited for the purpose of writing the articles, among others.

The defining issue of my adult life to date was the ?rebel? wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1990s. I had just entered university when the war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1991, and it profoundly shaped my stay there ? the convulsions the war caused interrupted study; some colleagues on holiday were abducted and forcefully recruited by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels; and by the time I finished university in 1994, the war had engulfed the country with a destructive force. Deadly ambushes on highways prevented normal travel from Freetown to other parts of the country. My intense interest in the war influenced my becoming a journalist ? I studied history in university ? and I became fully engaged in reporting the war partly as a way of understanding it; comprehension as social inquiry, as much as journalistic vocation and earning a living, was a key motivation for me.

I was one of the first journalists to meet and interview the RUF leader, Foday Saybanah Sankoh, in early 1996; before then he was more or less a disembodied voice on the BBC. I also covered the war in neighbouring Liberia for Inter Press Service. In late 1996 I decided to undertake postgraduate studies with the aim of writing a thesis on the war, which I completed in Canada in 1997. After that I wrote a book length study, A Dirty War in West Africa: the RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone (London, 2005). I have travelled extensively in Africa, trying to understand political conflict. Some of the articles I wrote as a result are collected in this book.

The book is offered as a personal testimony. It is by no means a definitive or exhaustive study of those situations, each one of which deserves book-length accounts. It is offered to the general reader mostly without the academic apparatuses of footnotes and endnotes ? the more curious reader may go to the original articles for those. Many of the shorter articles, which were originally published outside of West Africa, were republished in Sierra Leonean newspapers, the Concord Times (for which I was Features Editor in 1994) and the Global Times. I am grateful to the editors and publishers of these papers ? Kingsley Lington and Sorie Fofana ? for their enduring friendship and interest in my views and reporting.

The idea of putting this book together was persistently encouraged by Dr. Osman Sankoh, the amiable publisher of the Sierra Leonean Writers Series (SLWS), an old friend and compatriot. My wife, Karima, assisted with making the selection of articles for the book. Her enthusiasm for the project kept it on track. My friends Ian Smillie and Kingsley Lington read through the collection, liked them, and made some very helpful comments. I am grateful to them all, and to all those who ? in various ways ? stimulated my interest or added depth to my understanding of the countries represented in this collection. In this regard, I am especially thankful to my friend and former colleague Aaron Weah in Liberia, Jeddi Mowbray Armah (also in Liberia); my brother Vandi, my mother Haja Hawa Kallon, and Smart Kokofele in Sierra Leone; and Sam Turay formerly based in Ivory Coast. In Canada, Dr. Sarjoh Bah, Abu Samu, Monty Domingo, Lekan Akinsolo, Elikplim Dornor and Matilda Cole were immensely supportive. I am very grateful to Professor Miriam Conteh-Morgan of the Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, for her editorial guidance and assistance.

 

Praises for another book by Lansana Gberie

 

A Dirty War in West Africa: the RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone

 

??should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in Sierra Leone?s 1991-2001 war? combines the skills of his career as a journalist and then a scholar and analyst. This book sets the standard for analysing Sierra Leone?s war. This book should attract readers beyond Sierra Leone or West Africa specialists, since Gberie offers such a useful framework for explaining the behaviour of armed groups in wars in other corrupt states.?

William Reno, Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University, in Journal of Modern African Studies / Volume 46 / Issue 02 / June 2008, pp 329-330

??an even handed and perceptive account of the country?s tragic civil war during the 1990s?Gberie?s analysis is consistently readable, and he does a fine job of disentangling the complexities of the civil war, the international peacekeeping efforts, and the reemergence of reasonably stable constitutional rule?.?

Foreign Affairs, January/February 2007 issue

?Gberie's writing offers an authoritative narrative, much of the strength of which derives from the detail that he provides. For those unfamiliar with Sierra Leone, this book is an invaluable introduction to and examination of the war.?

Zoe Marriage in Africa Today Volume 54, Number 2, Winter 2007

?A Dirty War's great advantage is that Gberie is a journalist who was on the ground at the time?The result is lively history? Gberie is able to add a much more complete map of the nihilistic progress of the RUF and the abortive efforts to combat it.?

Suanne Kelman, in Literary Review of Canada, June 2006

??by far the most detailed and insightful yet about the conflict, and in one sense at least path-breaking: It covers the entire war years, and it can claim to be have been written by someone who was, in many ways, truly an insider?a very lucid and engaging account of Sierra Leone?s implosion into violence and state collapse.?

Foday Bockarie Fofana, in Awareness Times (Sierra Leone), 1 January 2006.

?The book is a valuable addition to the literature on the Sierra Leone war, written by a well-informed Sierra Leonean intellectual.?

Mark Doyle, BBC, 12 January 2006.

 

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