…Witness Tells TRC Hearing
A witness appearing before the thematic and institutional hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) has accused a commissioner of recruiting fighters and supplying arms to fighters during the Liberian civil war.
Ofori Diah, a onetime feared general of the defunct United Liberian Movement (ULIMO) K and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) told the TRC Monday that Commissioner Sheik Kafumba Conneh was involved in the recruitment of fighters for the ULIMO- K one of the splinter rebel groups during the Liberian crisis.
Diah who fought for the ULIMO K faction during its formation accused commissioner Conneh of been a major supplier of arms for the rebel group then headed by Conneh’s kinsman, University of Liberia Professor Alhagi G.V. Kromah.
“The people that used to supply us arms and recruit people some of them are all sitting here. When I was recruited, I stayed at Kafumba Conneh’s house until the truck came and we got on board to go to the battlefront”, former General Diah alleged.
Diah said Commissioner Conneh was the Chairman for recruitment of ULIMO K and was with them (fighters) at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) where recruitment was carried out for rebel movement.
He narrated that Sheik Conneh negotiated and purchased arms from a Nigerian ECOMOG whom he only named as Col. Gbawo for onward supply to ULIMO K fighters.
On the formation of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), a belligerent force which pressurized Liberia’s President Charles Taylor to seek asylum in Calabar, Nigeria, Mr. Diah said now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Cllr. Cabineh Ja’neh, Soko Sackor and two other individuals he named as Small Sheriff and Big Sheriff were the main founders of the group.
Guinea, the LURD general said was where the group was organized and served as their main base during their onslaught against the government of Mr. Charles Taylor now on trial in The Hague.
Diah like other initial TRC witnesses denied ever committing atrocities during Liberian civil war in which he actively participated from the early 90s through 2003 until the brokering of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) which finally restored peace to Liberia after almost 15 unbroken years of fighting.
The LURD general who was feared by his own followers and civilians said the shelling of Monrovia during the rebel group’s battle for control of Monrovia which led to the death of internally displaced people seeking refuge at the United States embassy and other centers was carried out by forces of Charles Taylor and not LURD.
LURD was accused for using heavy weapons including 81mm mortar guns which damaged a good portion of Monrovia and killed many as President Taylor at the time announced that his fighters had gone out of arms and ammunitions.
Reacting to Ofori Diah’s allegation Tuesday, Commissioner Kafumba Conneh described the former ULIMO and LURD Fighter statement as an illusion.
Commissioner Conneh explained that he was hunted by the ULIMO rebel group during their operations because he refused to lend them support or become a member.
“I was hunted by ULIMO fighters because they said why I was not supporting the group, then how can somebody say I was recruiting and supplying arms, this is an illusion”, Commissioner Conneh told reporters.
Sheik Conneh Tuesday declared that he is willing to face prosecution if allegations made by former General Ofori Diah are proven to be true.
The TRC Commissioner also vowed to resign his post to make way for prosecution.
He said the allegation by Ofori Diah is mischievous stating that he had no link with the rebel group and does not even know Ofori Diah who is making the allegation.
“To my righteous God I do not know the man Ofori Diah, he said I was at BTC in 1990, I have never been at the BTC in 1990, Infact I was in Sierra Leone when former President Doe was killed, some of the people who formed ULIMO have come here and explained without calling my name. Maybe he is mistaken me for someone else”, said Commissioner Conneh.
The Commissioner said there are people who have been programmed to lie on others stating that he served as head of the Inter Religious Council of Liberia that negotiated peace for Liberia and could not have supported a fighting group.
The allegation by General Diah has raised new debate as Commissioner Conneh has in the past been accused of supporting the ULIMO K rebel group.
During his appointment as a Commissioner on the TRC some local media outlets published a communication purportedly written by Sheik Conneh soliciting support from wealthy Islamic Cleric for ULIMO but he denied those allegations until now when an insider of the rebel group is once again coming up with the assertion.