A former rebel commander in Liberia’s civil war is denying allegations that he is recruiting Liberian ex-combatants to fight as mercenaries in Ivory Coast. Ivorian newspapers have recently been reporting that Joe Wylie, who also served as deputy defense minister in Liberia’s last transitional government, has been running a mercenary operation. But Wylie tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty he has only been minding his own business.
“As a matter of fact in Liberia, it was stated that I’m in Ivory Coast trying to train people to come and invade Liberia. In Cote d’Ivoire, they say I’m recruiting people to come and invade Cote d’Ivoire. I am not a Napoleon Bonaparte to be trying to conquer so many different countries at the same time," Wylie said.
Wylie, who is currently living in Accra, Ghana, says he took a fellowship with King’s College in London and the African Security, Dialogue, and Research in Accra to write a book about his experiences and reflections. He said the groups were impressed with his work, particularly during the restructuring of the Armed Forces of Liberia in the last interim government.
Wylie said allegations that he is recruiting mercenaries were first made in the media by former Liberian warlord Prince Johnson who is now a senator in Liberia. But Wylie says he has not traveled to Ivory Coast in recent months.
“I’ve been in Ghana since the 20th of August, and the only time I stay in Ivory Coast is the 30 minutes I stay in Bel View Airlines in transit. How can I leave all these opportunities to go in the bush and get bitten by mosquitoes trying to train people? That is a false allegation. That’s what I’m trying to say. And I really regret that such allegations will be spread over the world about me. That’s not me,” Wylie said.
Wylie denies he’s disgruntled because he did not get a job with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government.
“As a matter of fact, I’m in support of the particular government that is in power right now. I worked at the ministry of defense to stabilize the situation when things were tough, and we handed over to an elected government. I have no reason whatsoever to be trying to do training of Liberians. I don’t think [President] Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has given anybody any reason to organize armed insurrection against her government. Now, as you will know, MODEL (Movement for Democracy in Liberia, one of the rebel groups that fought to overthrow Charles Taylor) came from Cote d’Ivoire. Why does Laurent Gbagbo or anybody in Cote d’Ivoire need me to recruit people that they already knew? I mean it just doesn’t make sense. The problem in Cote d’Ivoire is a serious problem, and I think we should all keep our eyes open so that it doesn’t have a spillover effect and affect our own peace process in the country,” Wylie said.
Wylie said he accepted a fellowship to write his memoir because he has turned a page in his life and wants to repossess “the intellectual side of Joe Wylie.”
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