A former Liberian warlord said he and his former rebels have not been contacted by embattled Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to support him in that country’s post-election dispute.
Earlier this week, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf warned former Liberian warlords to stay out of the Ivory Coast crisis following reports that some of them had been contacted “unofficially” to intervene.
But Thomas Yah-Yah Nimely, who led the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) rebel group during Liberia’s civil war, told VOA he and his former fighters have no reason to get involved in Cote d’Ivoire’s post-election impasse.
“Since I came from the village and I returned to Monrovia, it has been three weeks now, I have not contacted anybody, with the exception of people who I know in Tai (an Ivorian border town). And, they are very afraid, and they called me to get my opinion if they should continue to reside in Cote d’Ivoire or cross the border to come to Liberia,” he said.
Nimely said he has a friend who he said happens to have worked for the Gbagbo election campaign in the Ivorian town of Guiglo.
“Taye happens to be working with the president (Gbagbo) because he said he was his campaign manager in the Guiglo area and, at the time I called him, I asked him to find out what the result of the election was, and he said that the election commission had not sent out the results. And that was the last communication (I had) with him,” Nimely said.
Nimely said he sees no benefit to get involved in the Ivory Coast dispute.
‘When I participated in the Liberia (civil war) there was a benefit, and it is the benefit that all of us are enjoying today. But, what will be my benefit when I get involved in Cote d’Ivoire?” he said.
He said he was surprised by President Sirleaf’s warning to former Liberian warlords to stay out of the Ivory Coast crisis.
“This is why this puzzles me because we have been disarmed since 2003-2004 and, at that time, we carried on a process that created the democratic Republic of Liberia today. Since 2003, up to now, it’s been eight years, and I am not sure whether Thomas Yah-Yah Nimiely is supposed to be responsible now for any of the individuals that participated in the organization called MODEL,” Nimely said.
Nimely said he believes President Sirleaf made the statement asking former Liberian warlords to stay out of the Ivory Coast crisis as her way of seeking solutions to the plight of former fighters in Liberia’s civil war.
“In my own view, the president might be asking for consultation. How do we go about discouraging these young people from crossing to go and fight in Cote d’Ivoire? And, if that is the question, then all of us will participate in finding out what to do next,” Nimely said.
He said the situation in Ivory Coast is critical for Liberia and the West African sub-region, particularly with five of Liberia’s regions bordering Ivory Coast.
“If the president is looking for solutions, I think there should be consultative meetings from Nimba all the way to Maryland. Let’s sit with the traditional people who are the mothers and fathers of these young people that have (a) common border with Cote d’Ivoire and see how we can come up with a solution. But don’t call on Thomas Yah-Yah Nimely because I don’t have control over these people anymore,” he said.
Nimely accused President Sirleaf of failing to reorganize the Liberian army to include the former young fighters as stipulated in the agreement that ended the country’s civil war.
“When ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), AU (African Union) and other international community members, including ourselves, signed the peace process to say these young men and women should be placed in the army, if you placed them in the army you have control over them.”
“But, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led government did not touch any of these people. As a matter of fact, it went to the extent where it demobilized all the AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia) soldiers and never recruited one person from there. So, all of these young men and women are hanging out in the street. They are unemployed, they are despondent. So, what do you expect to happen?” Nimely said.
Nimely said the Sirleaf government has accused him of training fighters on his farm in Liberia’s southeast Grand Gedeh County.
“There’s evidence all over the place. U.N. soldiers have come on that farm. NSA (National Security Agency) workers have gone there. Immigration has gone there. They have said that I had 200 Burkinabe on that farm and they sent immigration people there to go and bring the first 50 Burkinabes from that farm. When they went there, they did not even meet one person there,” he said.
Nimely said he personally met with President Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai and brought up the allegations that he was training foreign fighters on his farm,
He said President Sirleaf told him that she was not concerned about him training foreign fighters. Instead, he said the president told him she was concerned about the hiring of foreigners on his farm at a time when Liberia’s unemployment rate is high.