Noellie Marionette-Chambertin: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 September 2021:
I am pleased to have been able to play a part in researching the role of Ambassador Omrie Golley in bringing peace to Sierra Leone after a ten-year-old conflict. I met Omrie Golley over ten years ago, through my work as a translator and a trader in commodities.
I found in this gentleman someone deeply committed to the development of his country, with a sincere and abiding commitment, which I found heartwarming. This feeling about him, however, was at variance with other reports on social media, about his role in the 1992-2002 war in his motherland, which I found baffling.
I accepted an invitation from Ambassador Golley in 2018 to visit Sierra Leone and to observe the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. I used this visit to get to know more about this beautiful country, and her people, her challenges and aspirations.
During this period, I spent a considerable time in the company of Ambassador Golley (Photo), and met many people, including two former ex combatants, living then with him. These persons spent time highlighting their personal experiences during this sad chapter in the country’s history, and in particular, the role played by Omrie Golley in bringing peace to his motherland.
When I returned to France, I decided to undertake some research on the role of Omrie Golley in the concluded war and peace process in Sierra Leone. It was during this period of research that I found a local ‘fixer’, Mr Abdul Malik Bangura, who had written several reports and news articles on Golley. Together, over a two year period, we worked on this project, to try to ascertain, as far as possible, the truth regarding an individual, often portrayed negatively, as to his role.
Having been brought up in France, a country where human rights are a major part of our culture, also as well as being of an African descent, I considered it most important to seek as far as possible, the truth.
“Reflections on the Sierra Leone peace process – the Omrie Golley story”, represents the results of the research done, on the tireless efforts of a true nationalist, to bring peace to his motherland, after a period of a devastating civil conflict, a man I will henceforth refer to as the ‘Mandela of Sierra Leone’.
This is the first article in a series of articles to be published in the Sierra Leone Telegraph about our “reflections on the Sierra Leone peace process – the Omrie Golley story”:
The Call from UNAMSIL – January 2001
It was a cold and blustery afternoon in London, in early January 2001. The Christmas and New Year festivities of the previous year had concluded, and offices and businesses in London, were opening their doors to the dawn of 2001.
The Receptionist at the Law Chambers of Ambassador Omrie Golley at Kensington Church Street, Central London, had just received a call from the Office the Special Representative of UN Secretary General to Sierra Leone, Oluyemi Adeniji, (now deceased). Photo.
The UN office in Freetown had urgently requested the mobile number of Ambassador Golley, because they wanted to connect him with the UN Representative who was in transit in London, after an official assignment, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Ambassador Adeniji had been appointed just over a year earlier as the Head of the United Nations peace keeping operations in Sierra Leone UNAMSIL.
Ambassador Golley wasted no time in connecting with SRSG Adeniji. An appointment was fixed by both gentlemen to meet.
According to Golley: “We had spoken over the phone on a few occasions but this was the first time that I was to meet up with him in England. After exchanging the usual courtesies, he suggested that we met before he returned to Freetown, and went on to ask me whether I liked Moroccan food. I said that I did, and we agreed to meet a day later in a Moroccan restaurant in the west end of London”
During dinner, Adeniji gave a brief account of the peace efforts in Sierra Leone and described the peace process as very slow. He mentioned in particular that the RUF movement was rudderless, and did not have the requisite skills to progress with the peace process in the aftermath of the Lome Peace Accord, and the subsequent arrest and detention of the RUF leader, Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh.
The priority for the peacekeepers, according to the SRSG was disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all combatants and a political process to take the country to the next level.
Ambassador Adeniji requested that Golley who was previously involved with the RUF before the signing of the Lome Peace Accord, return home to help the RUF disarm as well as ensure that the group was developed into an organized entity that could sit and negotiate with the Government under the supervision of UN, ECOWAS and the wider international community.
Golley’s response was brief; “I said that I didn’t feel that I wanted to be involved in the process any longer, reminding him that I had not long before, announced my departure from the RUF after the signing of the Lome Peace Accord, and subsequent policy differences with the leadership of the Movement over the implementation of certain aspects of the Accord”
He (Adeniji) recounted the encounters he had with the RUF rebel leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh from the time of his involvement around 1998 to the period leading to the crafting of the Lome Peace Accord. Adeniji was adamant that Ambassador Golley, who was happy to have returned to his legal profession in London still had a role to play in restoring lasting peace to Sierra Leone.
Ambassador Adeniji reiterated in a very persuasive manner, the difficulties that they were now facing with the RUF in bringing the conflict to an end.
In several discussions between the government, the UN peacekeepers and the interim RUF leadership, about the need to have a body to negotiate a new and lasting peace process, the name of Ambassador Golley had come up as somebody that could lead such a body within the RUF.
Concerns about his personal safety and the fact he could not trust the government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah proved a stalemate in the informal meeting between Golley and the SRSG.
“I went on to inform Ambassador Adeniji that even if I wanted to return to Freetown, that I would have grave misgivings and worries about my security and wellbeing because I did not trust the Kabbah Government, and didn’t believe I would be safe in the country.”
Ambassador Adeniji appeared determined to ensure the return of a man believed to have carried the charisma and persuasive attributes for a rudderless and intransigent rebel group, and quickly assured Golley of his personal safety in Sierra Leone. Adeniji also said: “Omrie, as it happens I spoke to President Kabbah (Photo) about you, and he does not trust you either!”
Golley thought that was the end of the conversation but Ambassador Adeniji went on; “For me this is a good point of starting this journey! You don’t trust each other, and that’s a good starting point!”
After much persuasion from Ambassador Adeniji, Omrie Golley agreed to return to Sierra Leone on two conditions; first, a written assurance that he would be safe and secure. Second, a satellite phone for him to be able to contact his family in London at any time. The SRSG immediately obliged to both requests.
It was a successful meeting and Ambassador Golley subsequently returned to Freetown in February 2001.
He (Golley’s ) arrival followed the signing of the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement – the only agreement in the whole of the conflict that the parties to the Agreement, in this case the CDF and the RUF conscientiously adhered to. It is important to note that Omrie Golley was involved with the RUF in three stages of the conflict:
The first period was between November 1995 until April 1996 when he established physical contact with its leadership in Danane, Ivory Coast. This was under the auspices of the National Convention for Reconstruction and Development, a political think tank he formed to explore avenues to bring about lasting peace in Sierra Leone.
The second period was between 1998 – 1999 when he served as the RUF’s Spokesman and Legal Adviser.
The third and final period was when he served as the Chairman of the RUF’s Peace and Political Council – a body that ultimately embraced the idea of ushering lasting peace to Sierra Leone between February 2001 and July 2002.
It is also important to understand that Ambassador Golley’s decision to lead the RUF was after the movement had evolved into a political wing. He also announced his resignation from the movement after it became necessary for him to widen his engagement in the country’s peace and reconciliation efforts.
In Peter Andersen’s Sierra Leone Web News Archives dated 19th November 2001), Ambassador Golley said in press release he issued after returning to London;
“I feel that the time has now come for me to reassess and refocus my personal role and involvement in consolidating the peace process to which I remain completely committed…..In this regard, I am today announcing my resignation as chairman of the Political and Peace Council of the RUF, which will enable me to widen my involvement in the peace process by actively supporting policies of reconciliation and also assisting with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our country.
In our next article we will take a look at Omrie Golley’s first encounter with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Stay tuned.