The Omrie Golley story – Reflections on the Sierra Leone peace process

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.

11 Comments

  1. Thanks Ms Isatu Konneh. The problems of our country is deeply structural, and corrupt to the bone marrow. Sometimes amplified by politicians that have no interest for the welfare of the ordinary Sierra Leonean, never mind the rest of the population. One irrefutable fact we share in common, like millions of others, we have a system that have failed us. We have a massive brain drain, because the insututions in our country is set up to fail. Even Mr Golley is a victim. If we had a government from the time of independence that cares for its people, and use the human and natural resources we have, our country would never have decended to a civil war. The 1977 students riot.

    Dead end mentally of draining our countrys foreign reserves in the in the fallacy of hosting the 1980 the OAU, and the students riots followed because of the shortages of rice, that resulted in the expulsion of some students at Furah Bay college, who subsequently found their way to Ghana and washed up in Gaddafi’s Libya, where they met an other like minded disgruntled Sierra Leoneanin the form of Foday Sankoh, that have a bone to pick with the Momoh governments, that tells you everything you needed to know about the founding of the RUF.So when Foday Sankoh came with his band of rebles in Pujehun, there were families that were ready to join his cause because of the 1982 suppression of a socalled rebellion against the then Steven government. I personally don’t think the history of our country is thought enough in our schools and colleges. A vast majority of our young don’t know our history.

    Unless you understand the past, you will never know what the present is about. It goes to show how bankrupt is our education system, when we have to rely on a French national to research about the war that killed and maimed so many of our country men and women. There are still some children in our schools and colleges that were born after the war, that are completely oblivious of the horrors visited upon us in the 1990s right up to the end of the war. Whilst every year the world stop to remember the first and second world war

  2. Mr Sesay, let the French woman and indeed any other foreign researcher write what they will about my Sierra Leone and my Africa for that matter. It is their God-given right to do just that if they so choose. However, it is my God-given right too to challenge their assumptions and findings about my country and continent – a geo-cultural formation, which as history has taught us, has not always been viewed or portrayed in such places as Britain. France, North America – to name only these – in the best of terms. And that is putting it euphemistically (I am open to the possibility though that this particular French woman may have no cultural supremacist bone in her body!).

    What I am saying is that much as I am prepared to defend to the death the French woman’s right to think and say what she will about what to me remains Mr Golley’s infamous dalliance with RUF insurgents, I will be mad, completely mad to take her word as a gospel truth, raise a statue to it, mutter a prayer and say to the world: ‘Here cometh Revelation! Illumination is at hand! Woe betide the unbelievers. Amen’.

    On a more serious note, truth and knowledge in human affairs are always relative, always provisional, malleable, subject to the whims, caprices, assumptions and motivations of those whose interests such truth and knowledge are made to serve. In other words, truth and knowledge constitute power, capable in this case of magically transfiguring an infamous dalliance with a group of sanguinary insurgents into a saintly peace-brokering mission. This is made possible because data can be selected, programmed or reprogrammed to support a specific viewpoint. Lastly, as to what I mean by the term ‘alternative narrative’, well here we go: Mr Golley who is known to have been an associate of RUF insurgents is being dressed up in saintly robes of pacifism, and this, thanks to the inventive, or rather reinventive powers of a French Lady’s narrative – an alternative narrative that reads (re-reads?) his ties with the rebels differently and – dare I say – tendentiously.

  3. I respect your opinions too Mr Jalloh. I may not agree with them but whether I like it or not I have to respect your opinions. We have very different views but we only have the one Sierra Leone. Somehow we have to love one another. God bless

  4. Whether we like it or not Mr Jalloh, I strongly believe that the events that are now being narrated, about the wonderful role played by Ambassador Golley, actually happened. I also strongly believe you will hear more! And there are people alive whose names have been mentioned. Why don’t you go and ask them? What is it that you don’t want to hear? Are you saying that it is impossible for a Sierra Leonean to do these things? Or have you heard different about Golley so much that these publications are difficult to comprehend?

    Earlier you spoke about Ambassador Golley’s involvement with the peace process when the chapters into his role started in 2001. Now we are going back to 1995/6. For me I am not at all suprised! Thank God for the truth about this man and his work.

    • Thanks Mr Isatu Konneh, I totally respect your opnion and the opinions of each and everyone that expressed their opinions. We owe our gratitude to Mr Thomas and the management of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, that provide us with this platform to debate our long held beilefs without demonising each other. As we all want good things to happen in our country, I will even suggest to Sierra-leonean Parliamentians to take a leaf from this platform on how to conduct themselves. Maybe we should learn to listen to each other more. Where we disagree, we agree to disagree. On the subject of Mr Golley, I still maintain my position. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. All of us might have experienced tbe war in different forms or the other. Some people made money out of it, like the charges brought against Charles Taylor, in the special court for Sierra Leone, in which he was alleged, charged and convicted for receiving blood daimonds from Tongo fields from Sam Bockarie, in exchange for weapons and training of RUF rebles.

      I listened to Charles Taylor and all the evidence presented against him. How the Momoh government got involved with his detention in Freetown, as he find a safe passage to invade Liberia. And how that war he started in December 1989 ended in Sierra Leone in March 1990. If you really want to know why we had war in Sierra Leone, you have to go back, on the 12th of April 1980, when Master Sergeant Samuel K Doe, overthrew the then Americo Liberian President William Tolbert. A very good friend of Saika P Stevens.

      So anyone who wants to find out what happened next, and the causes of both wars, without going to that period, is a complete whitewash. Spare us the details. Mr Golley is just a small fish swimming in an ocean full of sharks. Thats why I want him to run as a independent candidate for 2023. Beat Bio, he will be made a saint by the pope.

  5. If you want to know why our country is reduced to a status of a BANANA REPUBLIC look no further. The whole subtext about this article is about one individual trying to rehabilitate himself to the eyes of the Sierra Leonean public, never mind how the victims of the war felt . Iam the only person that matters mentality, is one of biggest problems we faced as a nation. If you ever wonder why we have corruption, and how foreigners have such influence in the psych of Sierra Leoneans look no further. Here is a French national starting a fire storm . By trying to rewrite our history. More like an alternative version of what happened to us. Sierra-leone have moved on. Why open old wounds that we rather not indulge in,or talk about. Maybe Mr Golley should used his spare time and tour our schools and universities to share his knowledge about war and peace.

    You can silence the dead, but you can’t silent, the silence of the victims relatives. We all know what happened, so why wait for twenty years to break your silence.? You are perceived as a peace maker. So to try and exonerate yourself from the good work you did for your country doesn’t make sense. Especially to the victims families and those that endured the evils man is capable of doing to his fellow man. The ME TOO MOVEMENT might have been founded in Sierra Leone, with out us being aware of it. But it is there and is around us all the time. Foday Sankoh formed the RUF, and used foreign Liberians NPLF and Bokina Fasso, Ukraine, fighters to terrorised his own people because he was unhappy for his jailing in the 1970s, after being asscued of involvement in a coup plot against the Stevens.

    So killing fifty thousands of his fellow countrymen and women to make a point was a price worth paying for. I wounder why the the international Noble peace prize committee, failed to nominate Mr Golley, since he tick all the right boxes to be a Noble peace laureate. So my question then, given we went through eleven years of war, and he helped brought peace in our country, why did the noble committee failed to recognised him? Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Noble peace prize, so are the likes of Mandela, Obama, Desmond Tutu, Malala Yusuf, Dr Martin Luther king jr, and many others. The only Sierra Leonean that deserves such an award, is President Kabbah, and countless unsung heroes of that brutal war.May be the British Ambassador Peter Penfold. Not Foday Sankoh and his associates.

  6. I have read the latest text from Mr Yillah, and I also welcome the advise of Mr Thomas to engage in civilized conversation without personal animosity. We are all entitled to our views. I believe I’ve made mine clear enough. In reading your latest text however, I would take issue with a few points in this civilized atmosphere. Mr Yillah talks of an ‘alternative narrative’ in respect of the publication by the French lady.

    But what in this story is an alternative narrative’ ? What makes it ‘alternative’? Also, what is wrong with research on a particular issue being undertaken by a foreign individual? Mr Yillah talks about this as if it’s the strangest occurrence in the history of research or academia! Does he take issue with the thousands of foreign writers who have researched into the unfortunate events of our history from 1992-2002? Or is he taking issue with an ‘alternative narrative’ just because it’s about Ambassador Golley? And what is wrong with Ambassador Golley being interviewed by this particular researcher in support of her work? Does that invalidate it?

    I welcome this research and articles because it brings with it an approach to this gentleman’s role that has hitherto not existed! After all, we are searching for the truth! And it is the truth that shall set us free! God bless you Mr Thomas. Please carry on with your serialisations Sir. Let God and our conscience be the judge!

  7. Mr Thomas, I truly cannot thank you enough for your very calming intervention in a debate that has begun to degenerate into a bad-tempered, acrimonious exchange. A debate in which such words as ‘haters’ and ‘poisoned mind’ are being thrown around to cast aspersions on and attribute unfounded motives to forumites who simply happen to hold views contrary to those of their embittered accusers. Your restatement of the Sierra Leone Telegraph’s policy of cultured and civilised debate confirms yet again the standards of decorum and civility expected of all those who choose to avail themselves of the opportunity the paper provides for discussing the myriad of burning issues pertaining to our beloved home country and continent. What I have retained from that policy and have used as a guiding principle in my practice of posting comments to the forum is the idea that no fruitful intellectual exchange can occur in a context where name-calling, vituperative outbursts, gross and uncouth language take centre stage, drowning as it were any chance of a vigorous, robust, indeed disputatious but no less reasoned, intelligent and cultured conversation.

    It is my conviction that hurling insults at opponents is symptomatic of cerebral debility and atrophy, of a denseness of mind and a stuntedness of spirit that betray an inability to understand that truth and truth telling constitute a slippery slope: they require a readiness to understand and accommodate dissenting voices and to acknowledge that no single individual has the key to unravelling the complexities and ramifications of human motives and behaviour especially when it comes to making sense of how and why certain individuals in the context of a brutal and destructive civil strife such as the one our country experienced just a couple of decades ago, gained fame or its negative underside – notoriety. This brings me directly to the issue of Mr Golley. First, let me be clear. I have never met the man in my life and so have no vested interest – personal or political – whatsoever to want to either attack or defend him. What I do know however, is that he gained notoriety as a spokesperson for the side that to my mind bore the greatest responsibility for a war that traumatised an entire nation; a war without precedent in its sixty years of existence, leaving it with a gaping wound that may take generations to heal.

    Now for a European researcher to pop up all of a sudden and propose to shed ultimate light on the truth behind Mr Golley’s much decried role (perhaps a not entirely undeserved one) in the war should naturally raise eyebrows. For no self-respecting observer of our nation’s political scene should fail to ask these basic questions: why this researcher, why now and why this choice of topic and for what purpose? Simple, legitimate, intellectual curiosity, you might say, adding an outsider’s perspective is what it will take to reveal the truth relating to Mr Golley’s involvement with the RUF. Yet considering that the subject of the academic research is himself directly involved in the alternative narrative being proposed most probably in his defence, you begin to wonder how analytically detached the researcher is going to be from the object of her study. Is there not possibly a conflict of interest here and if so, has it been fully disclosed in the spirit of scholarly credibility and disinterestedness? After all, researchers in any field, in the humanities and social sciences in particular, are only too human: they make choices, have preferences, beliefs, inclinations and biases, all of which may impinge on the kind of data they select and gather, the analysis and interpretations they make of these and the conclusions they reach. So, to stridently claim that the alternative story about Mr Golley soon to be published will be the ultimate truth – destined to stand the test of time – about his association with the RUF as some people are already claiming, is to be either naïve through and through or guilty of pushing an agenda aimed at rewriting the history of his problematic alliance to put it mildly, with Foday Sankoh, Sam Bockarie and Co and their diabolic mission of maiming, raping and slaughtering their way to power.

  8. My honest take on the issue of the involvement of Ambassador Omrie Golley in the peace process and his culpability or otherwise of the war, is that history is going to vindicate him. You can quote me on this. I read one of the texts today and it confirmed some of my thoughts that have always been with me. He asked amongst other questions, whether the treatment by some about Golley was really symptomatic of some of the causes of the war as highlighted by the TRC. I haven’t stopped thinking about this all day. After reading this text, I went to read again my copy of of the TRC Report, which having been converted into law by our parliament, has to be the definitive document on the war and the causes, the players etc.

    I found that many of the causes of the war still apply today. I saw very little about Golley. It made me realize that the events of 1992-2002 is much bigger than Golley. It touches and concerns all of us. As for Ambassador Golley, I can only thank him for his contribution to the peace process, and wish him well. I hope I get to see him again before long as I will definitely thank him in person.

  9. Since the RUF war ended, both victims and their families had been suffering in silence and have tried to move on. But this article have opened up, a pandora box of grief and anger,the way both victims and their families felt about Foday Sankoh the psychopathic RUF leader, and his bands of rebles without a cause. What I am trying to work my head around , why on earth did the author felt the need to do a research on Mr Golley not the victims, and even have the brass neck to compare him to Nelson Mandela? Yes you can compare the men on one , or two things. Mandela was indeed a practicing lawyer before he gave it up to confront the Nationalist Apartheid government of South Africa, that were denying the black majority their human rights. On the other hand, Mr Golley is a lawyer, and was playing an advisory role to Foday Sankoh’s, reble movement that was waging war against the government of Sierra-leone. As time have proved, Mr Nelson Mandela was in the right side of history. And Mr Golley was in the wrong side of history.

    Nevertheless, no one is suggesting during his time with the RUF, he committed any war crimes. Otherwise the Special Court for Sierra Leone would have come on him like tons of bricks. Or better still the United Kingdom and the United States have laws in place to arrest and try war criminals. The questions Mr Golley should answer, why does he wants to clarify or clear his name, after twenty years? Is he planning to run for office? I think that will be the best way to test his popularity with the Sierra Leonean public. And if he can beat Bio, he will have a statue of him erected near cotton tree. He will be remembered as the man who save Sierra Leone. Failing that, please lets sleeping dogs, sleep. Lonta!

  10. Fellow forumites yes, while it’s a good virtue to always listen and hear an entire story being narrated before asking questions or drawing conclusions, it must be stated that, there are also instances where it is necessary to interject and correct the story narrator, particularly if you the listener have a thorough familiarity with the story in question, and the narrator is going off track. Now without taking sides on the ongoing exchanges between my respectable forumities, i am however persuaded to address a seemingly erroneous assertion by a few individuals who have partake in the current debate.

    The notion that the Lome peace accord signed by the RUF and government in 1999, purported to have been negotiated by Amorie Golley ended the war is the biggest fallacy of all. The peace accord never ended the war. On the contrary, it exacerbated the war, after the RUF leadership were given access to more government resources, making Foday Sankoh vice president of the republic and in control of the mineral resources. The war ended only after RUF leader Foday Sankoh ran out of luck, with the intervention of the military special forces in 2002.

    https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/sierra-leone-civil-war-1991-2002/

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