The ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was established during the Ibrahim Babangida dictatorship in early 90’s in the heat of the Liberian fatricidal civil war. The peace-keeping force comprising mainly of Nigerian soldiers and other West African troops were sent in to help establish some semblance of order as the late Samuel Doe-led government was tothering towards collapse. The Liberian civil war was one fought with ruthless abandon pitting the NPFL rebels led by Charles Taylor against
the rag-tag army of Samuel Doe.
Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, a native Liberian, had toppled in a bloody coup in 1980 William Tolbert Jr., an American-Liberian elected President in 1971 crudely and cruelly executing him and some of his staff. It was a revolution by the natives who had watched and seen how their ‘Americanized settlers’ had dominated the leadership for centuries treating them as slaves or second-class citizens the same way they (the freed black slaves) were shabilly treated in the States prior to their re-settlement in an African land from where their ancestors were shipped to the Americas during the slave trade.
Due to Doe’s oppresive and repressive measures against the Nimba County and its people Charles Ghankay Taylor, from the Mano tribe, formed the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) to depose the barely-educated but power-drunk soldier turned civilian president ‘eating fried rice and chicken and playing draught in the state Mansion’. Taylor came back home to Liberia from America after breaking out of a Massachusetts prison for embezzlement charges he committed in Liberia. It takes the guts of a wizard to break jail in America!
Charles Taylor was a rebel with a cause as daily during the protracted multi-dimensional crisis he would inform the world of his determination to march through Monrovia announcing in advance the next town or village he would be overrunning with little or no resistance. As his troops (including his teenaged son who was made a ‘General’) siezed one town after another more and more Liberians were marooned in the capital city afraid of when Taylor and his no-nonsense men would come knocking on doors. An intrepid rebel leader in the mould of the late Jonas Savimbi of the UNITA fame in Angola Taylor meant business
and the Doe camp were panicking as they dug in.
Soon after the NPFL rebellion was unravelling as splits were recorded with Prince Yormie Johnson and Roosevelt Johnson breaking away from the Taylor hold and forming their own armed rebel groups. Utter confusion was in place. And in the midst of the generalised confusion in Monrovia Prince Johnson plotted and captured the late Samuel Doe in the ECOMOG headquarters in the city where he had gone to register his disagreement with a peace plan. Doe’s bodyguards were massacred as Yormie and his boys made their way inside the building to get hold of their prime target. And as he was taken away Doe was delusively promising Johnson appointment as minister and telling him that his ‘concerns’ would be addressed in the next cabinet meeting in the presidential mansion!
Absolute power could corrupt absolutely! And there is no place its primitive version is more evidenced than in Africa. Doe was hallucinating as he was being tortured mercilessly confessing his many crimes and promising to make amends when ‘freed’. The video of the savagery and interrogation leading to his slow but painful death made the rounds across the globe. In the video Doe was made to ‘chew’ one of his yanked-off ears! It was reported also that his manhood was severed from his body as he bled to death! What horror only an African continent could produce. Remember we had produced a demented cannibal in the late Idi Amin Dada of Uganda and another demented kleptocrat in the late Mobutu Sese-Seko of Congo-Zaire.
As Charles Taylor assumed power his brutal presidency was marked by many assassinations, human rights abuses, physical assaults, harassments, disappearances, and torture. During the war Taylor drafted many boy soldiers drugged and given riffles to kill and maim. Various estimates put the number of Liberian soldiers under the age of 15 at 6,000 at one point. Some were as young as 9 years old; they were reportedly shown videos of Rambo and Kung Fu movies and given drugs before committing atrocities. Taylor supported RUF rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone led by the late bearded Foday Sankoh by trading weapons for diamonds. The RUF rebels in Sierra Leone were more blood-thirsty than their Liberian counterparts as they horribly went about butchering their compatriots with knives and cutting off limbs and prematurely ‘delivering’ pregnant women of their babies.
Taylor was ‘forced’ to abdicate power when other rebel groups that challenged his presidency made the country ungovernable. Under a clear US menace Taylor was granted exile status in Calabar Nigeria where he was residing until few years later when the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued an arrest warrant against him. His clandestine attempt to flee Nigeria backfired as he was detected and arrested in a northern border town with Cameroun. President Obasanjo, then in power but outside the country in his junketting best, upon hearing the escape bid, ordered immediately that Taylor be transferred to Liberia and handed over to the authorities in the Hague. Today he is still standing trial in the ICC in the Netherlands for multiple charges of human rights abuses, ‘blood’ diamond trade and other sundry crimes against humanity.
Today an amazon, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is holding sway as the Liberian President breaking the records of some great women in politics like Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines. From all indications the old widow is doing well as her rival, soccer idol George Weah goes to school in America for more political education. One day this native Liberian will lead Liberia continuing from where Johnson-Sirleaf must have stopped in the national reconstruction and development challenges. Apart from the infrastructural challenges the Liberian political imbroglio produced thousands of Liberian women, young and old, outside their homeland using pimping and prostitution as means of livelihood!
The echoes of the Liberian civil war and the ECOMOG ‘sexploits’ reverberated recently when it was reported that over 250,000 children were fathered by the Nigerian contigent during their sojourn in Liberia. According to the report the oldest of the children is about 16 years old! Suggesting that majority of the abandoned ECOMOG children did not know their fathers the report announced that mothers were making frantic efforts to locate the fathers in Nigeria. In Nigeria we all know for sure that nothing is humanly impossible; we have heard stories of children ‘kidnapping’ themselves and giving their rich parents ‘bill’ to pay! We have heard about pastors and Reverend fathers impregnating young girls; we have been treated to stories of incest and a serving Senator (who championed Sharia as a State Governor) marrying an Egyptian minor and now this one: the fathering of a quarter-of-a-million children in Liberia by our ECOMOG soldiers!
During an emotional farewell ceremony for the departing ECOMOG troops, it would be recalled, many of the Liberian mothers were seen shedding tears as their ’emergency’ husbands bade them farewell promising to return which they never did. The number of children involved in the business and pleasure affair could very well be higher. In a war-torn country of just more than three million poor people the additional burden of catering for another 250,000 children left behind by the randy soldiers who came to restore peace could be tasking indeed. In this case the procreative fecundity of the troops matched with their supposed martial prowess.
The social and economic repercursions of this ECOMOG cross-border philandering which had effortlessly produced some Nigerian-Liberians should be investigated by the authorities back home if only to establish the culprits and remove the
stigma of ‘bastards’ on the children. Thousands of Liberian men and women were driven away from their homes as the rebellion progressed and those left at home saw the ECOMOG soldiers as messiahs who had come to save them only to be exploited sexually. This is morally reprehensible; for soldiers sent to enforce peace in another country to be engaged in an amorous relationships that produced many children in this HIV/AIDS age says a whole lot about the inner workings of the men in green khaki uniform.
Law enforcement agents, soldiers and policemen especially, are known to be unserious lovers. Many drink a lot and make love to whatever is under the skirt. Indeed they are of a special breed! That is why you could hear a mad woman saying in Lagos that she was impregnated by a drunken soldier who visited her regularly at wee hours of the night. That is why you hear of ‘accidental discharges’ leading to untimely deaths in different cities. That is why you hear about men in uniform helping kidnappers with ‘logistics’ and aiding and abetting criminal activities of economic nature.
The abandoned ECOMOG ‘bastards’ in Liberia represents everything morally reprehensible and professionally irresponsible on the part of the soldiers. With years gone by some of these randy fathers must have forgotten their paternal exploits in far-away Liberia; they must be reminded of their ‘crimes’ and made to face the consequencies. Some of these shameless men must have married and re-married and others must have died — probably from HIV/AIDS! Above all, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the ECOMOG Champion, should be reminded of one of his legacies in Liberia.
In the final analysis the Obama phenomenon in America ought to be instructive enough to the Nigerian fleeing ‘Romeos’, it should inspire those with conscience into claiming their abandoned foreign ‘properties’. And to the Liberian ‘Julieths’, among them women of easy virtues, one can only ask them to intensify their search for the ‘Andrewed’ fathers of their children. Even if it involves assembling the children and protesting with placards in Lagos, Abuja and Minna something must be done in Nigeria that should ring a loud bell.