By Emmanuel Abalo
Thursday November 3, 2005
The Mathaba Guerilla Training camp in Libya, North Africa remains active even today churning out classes of trained insurgents who have made a long term lucrative profession of fuelling Africa’s civil wars.
It is a sad commentary that conflict ridden Africa has these insurgents to thank for unleashing untold catastrophic humanitarian toll and wanton violations of international laws in the name of revolution. The Libyan government, by extension continues, to support and train these insurgents at Mathaba.
This charge is evidenced and confirmed as part of the indictment of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by the United Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.
“.In the late 1980’s CHARLES GHANKAY TAYLOR received military training in Libya from representatives of the Government of MU’AMMAR AL-QADHAFI. While in Libya the ACCUSED met and made common cause with FODAY SAYBANA SANKOH.”
The indictment further charges that”.While in Libya, the ACCUSED formed or joined the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). At all times relevant to this Indictment the ACCUSED was the leader of the NPFL and/or the President of the Republic of Liberia.”
Mr. Taylor remains in forced exile in Calabar, Nigeria under an arrangement brokered by President Olusegun Obasanjo to end the bloodletting between rebels and Taylor forces in the Liberian capital Monrovia in 2003.The Special Court for Sierra Leone and the international community including Britain and the United States are pressuring Nigeria to turn over Mr. Taylor to the Special Court for prosecution, something the Federal Nigerian Administration has so far resisted. Mr. Taylor is also wanted by INTERPOL.
In its indictment of the former Sierra Leonen wedding photographer and army corporal -turned rebel chief Foday Sankoh, the Special Court charged, “.The organized armed group that became known as the RUF, led by the ACCUSED, was founded about 1988 or 1989 in Libya. The RUF, under the leadership of the ACCUSED, began organized armed operations in Sierra Leone in March 1991. During the ensuing armed conflict, the RUF forces were also referred to as “RUF”, “rebels” and “People’s Army.”
Authorities announced in October 2002 that Mr. Sankoh had suffered what they at first called a mild stroke.
The war-crimes court later said in June, 2003 it was pursuing a waiver on a U.N. travel ban against Sankoh so it could send him outside Sierra Leone for treatment. Mr. Sankoh, however, died in U.N. custody at a hospital in the capital Freetown in July 2003 and the indictment was subsequently withdrawn.
Insurgent Recruitment Strategy
Recruitment of insurgent personnel is both voluntary and coercive and targets mostly young men and women who are able bodied, and mentally and psychologically pliable. Those joining voluntarily do so for a number oaf reasons: ideological conviction and the desire to do “something” about the perceived persecution and discrimination against their family members, ethnic group, nationality or religion and attacks on their home by the government in power.
There is also the forced conscription factor which especially targets the most vulnerable – children. There are hundreds of thousands of child soldiers who are products of armed conflicts in Uganda, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Clearly, this is a violation of International law. Local and international human rights field representatives have documented confirmation of these tactics among rebels and their victims. New recruits add to the tragic picture because they are shown a rifle and given a few hours of training and let loose!
Another example of the thriving professional insurgent livelihood in West Africa can be found in the longest running conflict in the south western Casamance province in Senegal. This “silent war” has raged on for over 20 years prosecuted by the rebel group Mouvement Des Forces Democratique de la Casamance in the name of independence for Casamance. Although this low grade insurgency is being carried out with limited weapons and perhaps a small band, the guerillas are dedicated to their cause and continue to harass, wound and sometimes kill some members of the well trained Senegalese military. Diplomatic observers maintain that some of the rebels have had training at Mathaba.
It goes without saying that rebels who graduate from Mathaba also leave that guerilla base with their weapons and supplies as the first installment on their journey to wherever and then the black market, shady arms dealers, terrorists and financiers are later co-opted to maintain the supplies of arms and ammunitions. Corruption, weak borders and poor state infrastructures in many African states facilitate the lucrative arms trade.
International Players and Their Complicity
The impoverished country West African nation of Burkina Faso, headed by another coup maker President Blaise Campaore is also complicit in providing “muscle” and mercenaries especially in the Liberian and Sierra Leonen rebel incursions. There is clear evidence of Burkinabe nationals who were detailed to Messers Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh rebel outfits. There were numerous secret meetings among Campaore, Taylor, Sankoh and Al-Quadhafi held frequently in Ouagadougou and Tripoli.
In an article entitled, War Against Terrorism: Indicting Libya and Burkina Faso, written by the Liberian political analyst Abdoulaye Dukule in June, 2002, he maintains that “.If the war crime tribunal in Sierra Leone indicts Taylor, Burkina Faso and Libya must be brought in as co-conspirators. After the criminal case, civil law cases could and should be brought forth against Libya and Burkina Faso for the killing of over 250,000 Liberians and the destruction of our national infrastructure. There is no “if” and “but” about this, it must be done. How long it would take to win the case is another issue but the case can and must be made. It would discourage other sponsors of terrorism against peaceful civilians.”
Certainly, this would be a welcome development given the culpability of Presidents Campaore and Al-Quadhafi in fuelling some of Africa’s deadliest insurgencies.
What else is there to refute the fact that at the end of the day, the reality is that some of the leaders in modern day Africa, unbeknownst to their citizens, are discreet graduates of Mathaba guerilla training camp in Libya and have their photos hanging on the wall at that base. And Africa continues to bleed!
Emmanuel Abalo is an exiled Liberian journalist, media and human rights activist. He is the former Acting President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). Mr. Abalo presently resides in Pennsylvania, USA and works as an analyst with CITIGROUP, North America.