That perceived collective Western “national interest” would be pursued to the extent of destroying the “peace and security” ethos of the United Nations (UN) is mind boggling and especially to the mass of the world population who have been fed to believe in the neutrality of the UN. What is happening now in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire tells us that you believe in the neutrality of the UN at your own peril.
The unbridled pursuit of Western or NATO self-interest in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire has the consequence of destroying the moral authority of the UN and its security council. In effect the security council has become a quisling facilitating what is becoming an apparent “re-colonisation” of some parts of the world strategic to the respective national interests of the NATO grouping. For global peace and security to prevail either the security council is immediately reconstituted or abolished. The security council should be reconstituted to remove the veto rights and expand its membership to reflect the realities of our global village. The general assembly as the constituent body should transfer executive powers into its own hands. A new ethically minded executive council of the general assembly can then run the UN. This is to free the UN from western stranglehold and irresponsibility and make it really a collective voice and a responsibility of all. National self-interest must not be allowed to endanger global peace and security.
I never thought I would live to witness again the UN brazenly being used to directly support “rebels” in an intra-nation dispute. I thought that the experience of the Congo leading to the avoidable loss of the celebrated Dag Hammarskjöld and nationalist icon Patrice Lumumba would have been a lesson enough in the living memory of the security council. The UN in the early '60s allowed itself to be used as an instrument of western policy to keep western stranglehold on the wealth of the Congo then under the suzerainty of the king of Belgium. This was cruelly achieved at the expense of the then prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba and the UN secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjöld, who were brutally dismembered by agents of the Belgium king and a suspicious air crash respectively. To date the Congo remains dishevelled while the exploitation of the national wealth continues to the impoverishment and humiliation of the people. But what is instructive here is that the western powers could “collaterally” sacrifice one of their own, Dag Hammarskjöld, to remove a “nuisance” to their collective “national interest”.
It is this wicked and violent pursuit of western “national interest” in Africa and the consequence of the cost in the destruction of human life and the built environment that continues to inform the quisling knee-jerk responses of most of Africa's leaders to western demands on them. Western pursuit of the national interest in Africa lacks compunction and has rooted such visceral fear in Africa's leaders. These shackled leaders can point to the lot of Touissant L'Ouverture, Shaka Zulu, Yaa Asantewaa, Dedan Kimathi, Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Nasser, Ben Bela, Modibo Keita, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Steve Biko, Samora Machel and many more, when these African patriots would not bend to the wishes of the “colonial masters” and betray the Pan-African interest.
Kwame Nkrumah knew what he meant when he stated that: “The secret of life is to have no fear.” Robert Mugabe has no fear. Nelson Mandela has no fear. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has no fear. Muammar Gaddafi has no fear. And all of them, of the west too. The west could not tell Mandela not to be a friend of Fidel Castro. Ho Chin Minh demonstrated it all with the strong spinal chord of Vietnam to force the Americans out with their tails between their legs. American arrogance in the pursuit of the national interest in Vietnam led to humiliation because Vietnam had a fearless leadership that exposed the quislings for what they were to the courageous people of Vietnam. Spiritual leader Khomeini, like Boukman of Haiti, was fearless and marched Iran out of the armpit of America. The people of Somalia showed the all-powerful America the power inherent in not being afraid of a bully when they dragged the corpse of US soldiers in the streets of Mogadishu. Yet still, striking fear and the imposing threat and use of violence as an instrument of coercion and domination remain real. And the west, yes, they know how to exact such fear and acquiescence.
But there is nothing more disheartening than fearless leaders having to deal with quislings, like Lumumba had to deal with Moise Tsombe and Joseph Mobutu in the Congo. The west backed these “rebels” in the Congo as they are now backing “rebels” in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire to effect a regime change at whatever cost to local life and property as Africans and Arabs are teleguided to kill each other.
Some of my own experiences with the UN during the search for peace and security in Liberia and Sierra Leone must be told as cases in point. Dr. James Jonah, who during the heat of the Liberia and Sierra Leone civil wars was the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs and later finance minister of Sierra Leone, posited bluntly that: “…You do not negotiate with rebels. You destroy them instead…” I remonstrated with James Jonah that those “rebels”, especially the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF-SL), did not fall from another planet onto Sierra Leone but were part of the Sierra Leone peace problematic. I cautioned then that the end game of his policy agenda was genocide against his own people. And to be a living witness now to the UN enabling “rebels” in Cote d'Ivoire, Libya and elsewhere to effect a regime change becomes mind boggling.
James Jonah together with Her Majesty's government in the full glare of the UN saw to the introduction and arming of mercenaries or private security companies with the single aim of destroying the RUF rebels. It is this shameless about turn that is confusing most people of high moral persuasion. What would James Jonah and his likes say to this UN double standards in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire? To those who help the west to re-colonise Africa, Kwame Nkrumah explained their actions thus: “…they believe, however, or at least pretend to believe, that if they copy, or claim to copy, the outward image of the western world, then – in some miraculous way – they will secure the advantages which the western world enjoys. The contrary is the case. The individuals who have made the counter-revolution from Saigon to Sierra Leone are dependent for their political existence upon western support. The countries over which they temporarily obtained control are therefore exploited all the more viciously. By supporting the reactionary rebellions in Africa the western countries have dug graves for imperialism and neo-colonialism and have put before the African people the clear choice which was unclear before, either to go forward with a thorough revolution or else continue in a situation which, year by year, impoverishes and humiliates them further…”
Before I took on the pioneering position of Special Envoy of International Alert (IA), charged with the responsibility of facilitating dialogue between the Federal Military Government of Nigeria (FMG) and Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and also to help bring the RUF to the negotiating table, I demanded the following of the then secretary-general of IA, Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe: that,
1. None of IA's funding should come from the governments of the UK, US and France.
2. I would not be asked to confer with any of the embassies of the western countries while in the field.
3. IA would not lend itself as a tool of western hegemony interests in West Africa.
My reason for demanding this solemn pact was in recognition of the fact that we were dealing with weak “sovereign” states, with extremely fragile infrastructure and a leadership in turmoil because of the raging civil wars in an era of military regimes in West Africa.
From London, I went to Nigeria and camped in Lagos for three months (from October to December of 1993) to win the endorsement of the FMG after introductions facilitated by Lt. General Joshua Hamidu of Ghana and General Abdulsalami Abubakar, then chief of defence staff who later became the military head of state of Nigeria. Later on in 1995 it became necessary to seek the support of Cote d'Ivoire and so I went to the UN to confer with the then President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Amara Essy, and to ask for the support of his government with my mission. The assurances were given that IA as an NGO was independent of the external forces at play in West Africa and was in the region to facilitate an African solution. I argued successfully for a frontline role for the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in any mediation efforts in Sierra Leone because both ECOWAS and the UN had lost credibility in the eyes of the RUF and especially the leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh. Furthermore the credentials of the OAU secretary-general then, Salim Ahmed Salim, would lend themselves well to the comfort zone of the RUF leader who held in high esteem the leadership provided by Tanzania and its President, Julius Nyerere, in the liberation struggles to dismantle the settler and apartheid regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa.
The IA and Salim Salim met twice in London in 1996 and agreed on a way forward to bring the RUF and the government of Sierra Leone to the negotiating table. Ms. Adwoa Coleman, a highly principled and hardworking senior official, was appointed as the OAU representative on the ground concurrently in Abidjan and Freetown.
I was dispatched to go and get the RUF out of the forest for talks in Addis Ababa. After weeks of travelling in and out of Sierra Leone via Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea I managed to assemble an RUF peace negotiating team in Abidjan. My troubles with the UN, Commonwealth and the western governments started as soon as the presence of the “rebels” in Abidjan became common knowledge in diplomatic circles. The reality of the RUF as an organised unit with a leadership structure that can respond to international demands had hit home. These demonised “rebels without a just cause” with a mythical leader called Foday Sankoh became an instant “novelty” and those who mattered wanted an access in order to be counted. Without the astute management of the situation by the IA diplomatic liaison officer, lawyer Millius Palayiwa, all hell would have broken loose. But all hell broke loose when the UN and the Commonwealth representatives demanded access ahead of the OAU and treated Adwoa Coleman with disdain. IA did put its foot down and held the ground until Salim Salim dispatched Ambassador Daniel Antonio (assistant secretary-general for political affairs) to Abidjan to reinforce the OAU's position and presence.
With the permission of the Ivorian authorities, I had set up a radio communication post where Ambassador Antonio and Adwoa Coleman briefed Foday Sankoh on the OAU's preparations for eventual peace talks in Addis Ababa. The UN secretary-general special envoy, Berhanu Dinka and the Commonwealth representative, Moses Anafu and their western diplomatic allies did not take kindly to this strategic access that the OAU had to the RUF peace delegation and also to Foday Sankoh and began to undermine the delicate efforts of lawyer Palayiwa to appropriately organise that access without raising suspicion within the RUF camp as their mandate was to meet with the OAU in Abidjan and proceed to the OAU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A diplomatic tussle ensued to a boiling point where the IA secretary-general, Kumar Rupesinghe and I were accused of being a stumbling block to peace in Sierra Leone and a lot of mud was slung at us to discredit and undermine IA's independence and facilitation role. Instead of ensconcing itself in the comfort of hotels and enjoying the Abidjan night life, IA sent me as its special peace envoy to travel in and out of war zones in order to engage with the rebels and gain their confidence. Both the UN and Commonwealth instead chose to sit in Abidjan and Freetown and issue calls for dialogue and ceasefire to the RUF while they debated the existence of Foday Sankoh and the cohesiveness of the rebel organisation. IA dared to take the risk to seek out the RUF and its leadership and this risk paid off. IA had achieved what the UN and the Commonwealth had not been able to achieve in years but they desperately sought to deny IA the credit it deserved. It was a matter of jealousy as they were piqued by an NGO too independent-minded to be bullied.
By mid-1996, the tension between the UN and IA had grown to such an explosive point that the UN secretary-general, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, had to step in and a meeting was held in his New York office at the instance of Marrack Goulding, under-secretary-general for political affairs. With the exception of Kofi Annan, all the UN top diplomats were present and IA was represented by its board chair, Lord Frank Judd of Portsea, Kumar Rupesinghe and myself. The IA's strategy via the agency of the OAU was explained and that the UN had no existence outside of the nation states and so the role of the OAU representing its member states must be respected. Moreover, ECOWAS as the regional body should have been the arbiter but could not because of ECOMOG, the military intervention force, and so the OAU was acceptable as a more neutral body than the UN here again because President Kabbah was seen as an imposition of the UN by the RUF. What was revealing at the meeting was that Marrack Goulding started a sentence with “…we the British…” looking pointedly at Lord Judd, the Labour peer, and a member of the Council of Europe and former Chair of Oxfam. Lord Judd cut short Marrack Goulding and reminded him that he was “an international civil servant”.
It was at this same meeting when Lord Judd stood up and pointed to me and turning to Boutros-Ghali told him that he found the gathering the most appropriate forum to open his heart out on a matter that has consumed his mind for quite some time. Pointing at me, Lord Judd told them that: “…had this unassuming and hardworking man been white he would have been an acclaimed international hero…” Lord Judd went on to recount how I had taken the risk to walk for three weeks, under constant ambushes and attacks by government forces, to the jungle headquarters of the RUF and successfully negotiated for the release of 19 hostages including ten Europeans then held by the RUF and persuaded the RUF to come out of the jungle for peace talks while agreeing also to a unilateral ceasefire. Lord Judd reinforced the fact that I duly handed over the hostages to the ICRC (Red Cross) as pre-arranged with the ICRC headquarters in Geneva before I left London to seek out the RUF leadership within Sierra Leone.
In the field in West Africa and in the UK the mud-slinging increased orchestrated by James Jonah and President Kabbah using the platforms of the ECOWAS, OAU and the UN to malign me and Rupesinghe. It was clear that they had been put up to it. In the UK some officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) were strident in their attacks against me. But a much needed psychological relief came to me when at a chanced meeting with a senior FCO official at Heathrow airport he pulled me aside and comforted me thus: “… do not take to heart all that is being thrown at you as they are borne out of professional jealousy. Your output was more than what six top UN officials could do and you practically made our envoy almost useless.” What I realised to be more serious was that I was being accused also of interfering in the strategic concerns of Her Majesty's Government in the sub-region.
During the Sierra Leone crisis the FCO set up a task force to monitor events in Sierra Leone. This task force included a representative from DeBeers signifying the depth of British interests in the diamonds of Sierra Leone. The DeBeers representative visited the IA offices and when asked about the Kimberly process he remarked that: “…Why should DeBeers go through the legal channels of recording and marking diamonds and their origins, when the Lebanese and others in Sierra Leone and Liberia just smuggle them?” The interesting coincidence here is that as soon as the Blair government helped President Kabbah back to power in Sierra Leone in 1998 after being booted out on 25 May 1997 by his own soldiers, Kabbah revoked the citizenship of 9 Lebanese and along with 13 others, kicked them out of the country. Kabbah justified his action thus: "Some of the foreigners decided to stay in neighbouring countries to act as agents for the bandits, selling gold and diamonds for them to buy arms."
In consolidating the British national interest in Sierra Leone, Tony Blair's New Labour government threw caution to the winds by shipping arms to Sierra Leone via Nigeria at a time when British diplomats at the UN knew that Sierra Leone was under a UN arms embargo. Again the Blair government used British taxpayers' money to install what turned out to be a hate radio station (98.1 FM) at Lungi near Freetown at a time when the then foreign minister, Robin Cook, had unveiled an ethical foreign policy. The ensuing Arms to Africa parliamentary enquiry attest to this fact. The fact that Her Majesty's government dipped into the public purse to finance a radio station which at times was used to fan hatred and violent retribution has been kept under carpet by the FCO. British taxpayers must be made aware of the common criminal enterprise carried out in Sierra Leone by the Blair government.
All this time the UN department of political affairs, which is normally under British control, did not cause the sanction of the British government for violating a UN arms embargo and also for using the services of a mercenary group, Executive Outcomes, which later changed its spots to Sandline and then to AEGIS Defense Services when it came under the spotlight as the warrior-for-hire outfit. Executive Outcomes, had been brought into Sierra Leone by the beleaguered government and paid in diamonds in addition to a diamond concession granted under the nose of the UN. Marrack Goulding after retiring from the UN was later rewarded a job as a director of AEGIS whose chief executive is Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, the originator of Executive Outcomes and Sandline.
Marrack Goulding kept good company. Tim Spicer, is a former British commando who in 1992, as the commanding officer of the Scots Guards unit in Northern Ireland, two British soldiers, under his command, were convicted of murdering an unarmed Catholic teenager. In 1997 the beleaguered Papua New Guinea government handed Spicer a $35 million contract to suppress a rebellion.
The Blair government installed, Keith Biddle, a retired British police officer, as the inspector general of Sierra Leone's police force, ostensibly to deal with corruption, improve competence and service delivery. Writing about Tony Blair's legacy in Sierra Leone a Tony Blair wordpress.com website, profusely pointed out that: “… the level of British commitment in Sierra Leone was manifested during his visit to Freetown; the two men flanking President Kabbah when he matched towards Blair at the Lungi airport were Brigadier Patrick Davidson-Housten, President Kabbah's British security adviser, and Keith Biddle, the then British Inspector General of the Sierra Leonean Police. The attendance of both British citizens – remunerated for by Britain – in such elevated positions in the Sierra Leone Government, exemplified the dedication of the UK to our country.”
The coincidence of the introduction of the Kimberly process and the hullabaloo over conflict diamonds in the Mano River Union states of West Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, have been stage managed for the express purpose of concentrating the diamond business in the hands of the west through the agency of the likes of DeBeers. My peace-building travels through the Mano River Union states confirmed to me that the Kimberly process was an economic instrument to strangle the local African and the Lebanese diamond winners out of the diamond trade. In the Mano River Union it is the informal sector that controls the diamond winning business before the rough diamonds enter the international market. This means that local people and mainly, the itinerant Fulani, Mandingo, Mauritanians, Lebanese and of late Nigerians control a major part of the supply chain to the chagrin of the big players of the west. What I found revealing was the racial and Islam phobia undertones of the conflict diamonds hullaballoo. This rudimentary diamond winning supply chain is seen to be alarmingly controlled by those who are not of the Judo-Christian faith but by those of the Islamic faith. The Islamic faith has been surreptitiously linked to “terrorism” by the powerful Judo-Christian media and their international NGO acolytes who instinctively rally to protect and advance western hegemony.
The linkage in interests becomes clearer when one notices that in May 2004, Tim Spicer's company, AEGIS Defense Services, was awarded a hopping $293m “defense services” deal by the Pentagon to coordinate security in Iraq despite Spicer's well documented links with conflict diamonds which should have been of concern to the sanctions committee of the UN security council. Here, the UN security council knows perfectly well that Spicer contemptuously busted UN arms embargo against Sierra Leone when he shipped 30 tons of arms to the war-torn country in 1998. The UN was maintaining one of its largest peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone then and we must remember that Marrack Goulding who is credited as “the pioneer of UN peacekeeping operations” should have been aware of the activities of this merchant of death machinery called AEGIS Defense Services before offering his services to Spicer.
Western self-interest and as promoted by its acolytes is conspiring to destroy the moral authority of the UN security council at the expense of global peace and security. It is left with the UN general assembly to boldly reform itself by first transferring executive powers in its own hands without fear of Franco-Anglo-American threats. The general assembly should call the bluff of the western powers as bullies crumble when you stand up to them.
Meanwhile African leaders must show courage as did Nkrumah and Nasser even at the expense of their own life as Africa's self-determination is worth the sacrifice. Nkrumah could achieve so much for Africa because he harboured no fear. This is what the mass of the African people demand of their leaders in their dealings with the west and now China for the “secret of life is to have no fear”.
My field experience has taught me that you believe in the neutrality of the UN at your own peril.
Akyaaba Addai-Sebo is an independent consultant on the national interest and preventive diplomacy.
25 Azania Mews, London, NW5 3BW, UK
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