Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 October 2021:
In the last few weeks, we have been publishing a series of articles from research conducted into the role played by Ambassador Omrie Golley in helping to bring sustainable peace to Sierra Leone during and after a long bitter war.
In this the final chapter, we take a look at the aftermath of Lomé – the role of Ambassador Omrie Golley in the delicate and complex peace and disarmament process, as written by the researcher – Noellie Marionette-Chambertin:
The Lomé Peace Process, in the Republic of Togo, culminated in the signing of the Lomé Peace Accord on the 7th July 1999. It was short-lived, and came to an abrupt end, less than a year later on the 8th May 2000, with a violent demonstration at the erstwhile residence of the RUF Leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh.
That demonstration which had been organized by a number of civil groups in Freetown, led to a number of deaths and injuries, and a short-lived escape by the RUF Leader to the hills around Freetown. He was subsequently captured a few weeks later, after what had become popularly known as the ‘May 8th Incident’, jailed, and he died in detention months later.
Looking back in hindsight however, for Ambassador Omrie Golley, who had worked feverishly to assist in convening the peace talks in Lomé, it was not difficult to see dark clouds gradually emerging over the whole process. All these happened not long after the signing of the Accord, after a number of occurrences, which he believed threatened the whole peace process.
Ambassador Golley had departed from Lome some two weeks before the actual signing ceremony on the 7th July 1999. He had returned to his family and professional work, but still managed to keep in touch with the main players of the Lome Peace process. These players included the Government of Sierra Leone, the RUF, the United Nations, ECOWAS, and additionally, a number of Governments in the sub region.
Ambassador Golley had not formally relinquished his links with the RUF after he left Lome, in June 1999, which is what he had wanted to do. This was mainly because he had been prevailed upon by a number of the international institutions that had been involved in the peace process, and the host Togolese Government, not to abruptly sever ties formally with the Movement at this stage of the process. It was not until 28th December 1999 however, that Ambassador Golley formally resigned, some five months after the signing of the Accord.
Ambassador Golley’s resignation from the Movement was however not without drama, and rancour emanating from the RUF Leader Foday Sankoh.
Difficulties with the peace process emerged almost immediately after the signing of the Lome Peace Accord. Under the terms of the Accord, the Leader of the RUF was granted the position of Chairman of a newly created Commission, called the Commission of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development. This courtesy appointment carried with it the rank of Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
However, President Kabbah, upon returning to Freetown after the signing ceremony, promptly created an additional office of Executive Director for that newly created Commission. The RUF Leader Sankoh believed that the creation of this additional office within the Commission, had significantly devalued his own office. He (Sankoh) contacted Ambassador Golley in London, and requested him to publicly voice the concerns of the RUF on international media, which Golley duly did.
There were also problems over the allocation of Ministries to members of the RUF by the Kabbah Government, in contravention of the letter and spirit of the Lome Peace Accord.
Foday Sankoh further complained that Kabbah had requested the RUF Leadership to urgently furnish the Government with a list of eligible officials for the four Cabinet positions, together with those of Deputy Ministers, Diplomatic officials, and Chairmen of parastatals, but that he (Sankoh), had not been consulted over the subsequent appointments.
The RUF Leader complained additionally, that Kabbah had not completed the entire allocation of positions to RUF members, in contravention of the Accord, after the subsequent allocation of Cabinet Ministers and Deputies.
In addition, old rivalries between the RUF and former soldiers of the Sierra Leone Army, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) started to re-emerge and fester. The AFRC, under their former leader Johnny Paul Koroma, had previously joined forces with the RUF, after the May 1997 military coup, referred to in earlier episodes. After the reversal of the coup in January 1998, remnants of the coalition of the RUF and AFRC had retreated to the provinces of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, despite problems between the two groups after their retreat from Freetown in 1998, they had reappeared in 1999, as one entity, as part of the Lome Peace Process.
However, the aftermath of the signing of the Lome Peace Accord in July 1999, appeared to reopen and re-ignite rivalries between the leadership of the two Groups. This in turn led to a series of abductions of United Nations Peacekeepers and renewed hostilities, with the AFRC accusing the RUF principally of being behind the unfortunate upsurge in these attacks, in contravention of the recently signed Accord.
For Ambassador Omrie Golley, who had by this time returned to London, these events greatly troubled him. He saw the emergence of these events as ominous. He was also greatly troubled by the seeming reluctance of the RUF Leader, Foday Sankoh, to return to Freetown from Lome, capital of the Republic of Togo, after the signing of the Peace Accord to assist in its implementation.
Ambassador Golley also received a telephone call in early September 1999, from the erstwhile Togolese Foreign Minister, Kokou Koffigoh, whose Government had hosted the recently concluded Lome Peace Talks. During their conversation, the Minister voiced his Government’s concern at the reluctance of Sankoh to return home, and sought Ambassador Golley’s assistance in persuading Sankoh to return.
Consequently, Ambassador Golley also received calls from United Nations and ECOWAS officials, all of whom appeared concerned at the seeming reluctance of the RUF Leader to return to Freetown. These developments, made it increasingly difficult for Golley to relinquish his position within the RUF, which he had wanted to do, after he had departed Lome, in June 1999.
Meanwhile despite frequent assurances from Foday Sankoh that he would return to the Sierra Leone Capital, Freetown, days after the signing of the Accord, he remained holed up in his Lome Hotel, accusing Kabbah of incidences of bad faith in implementing the provisions of the Peace Accord.
Ambassador Omrie Golley returned reluctantly to Lome, Togo on the 23rd September 1999, after requests referred to above, to assist in persuading Sankoh to return to Freetown, to join the Kabbah Government. On the 28th September 1999, Ambassador Golley accompanied Foday Sankoh to Monrovia, capital city of the Republic of Liberia, on the first leg of his return to Sierra Leone.
It was not until the 3rd October 1999, some three months after the signing of the Lome Peace Accord, that RUF Leader Foday Sankoh accompanied by AFRC Leader Johnny Paul Koroma, and other RUF officials, together with Ambassador Golley, arrived in Freetown to join the Kabbah Government in implementing the provisions of the Lome Peace Accord.
Ambassador Golley remained in Freetown for a short period, after accompanying the RUF Leader to Freetown in early October 1999, and left for London a number of days later. Whilst Golley remained concerned about the increase in hostilities generally, with constant accusations being leveled by both the Government and the RUF leadership against each other, he hoped that with the arrival of Sankoh in Freetown, hostilities would lessen and ultimately cease. Sadly that was not to be the case.
On the 28th December 1999, Ambassador Omrie Golley issued a press release formally relinquishing his position as legal representative and spokesman of the RUF. Golley had returned to London in October of that year after accompanying the RUF Leader to Sierra Leone, some three months after the signing of the Lome Peace Accord.
By that time, Golley felt that he had nothing further to contribute to the peace process in his motherland. Furthermore, he (Golley) had become disillusioned with the pace and progress of the peace process, and more particularly with the continuing duplicitous behaviour of the RUF Leader, Foday Sankoh. Ambassador Golley had also started to consider a wider role in the political dispensation of Sierra Leone.
In an interview given to the Sierra Leone Web on the 28th December 1999, Ambassador Golley stated inter alia: “Since the signing of the Accord, I have been most concerned with the pace and the direction of the peace process, particularly regarding disarmament and demobilization, about the showing of remorse, and pursuing positive acts of reconciliation and rehabilitation, in favour of the people of Sierra Leone – particularly those who have suffered from the prosecution of the devastating nine year old war, and most particularly in respect of recent human rights abuses being perpetrated against innocent civilians.” Culled from the News Archives of the Sierra Leone Web – 28th December 1999
Ambassador Golley also issued a written Press Release announcing his resignation from the Movement.
This move by Golley did not apparently sit very well with the leadership of the RUF, because that very day, a few hours after the dissemination of the statement of Ambassador Golley regarding his resignation, a terse statement was issued by the newly nomenclatured RUF Spokesman and Publicity Secretary, Eldred Collins, which simply stated: “Former RUF Spokesman, Omrie Michael Golley, is no more Spokesman, Legal Representative of the RUF, and is no more empowered to collect funds for and on behalf of the RUFP”.
When further questioned on National Radio, on the evening of the 28th December 1999, as to the reasons why the Press Release issued earlier, referred to collecting funds on behalf of the RUF, the leader of the RUF Foday Sankoh stated that Ambassador Golley had been traversing the world, obtaining millions (without specifying the currency or denomination), and converting these monies to his own personal use.
In a subsequent radio interview the following morning, 29th December 1999, and conducted by the same station that had earlier interviewed the RUF Leader, Ambassador Golley, denied the accusations leveled against him by the RUF Leader, further stating that he had never been
remunerated or paid, in any shape or form, either directly or indirectly, for his work as legal representative and Spokesman for the RUF.
Despite the seriousness of the accusations raised against Ambassador Golley by the RUF Leader, he (Golley), in response to these accusations went on to inform the interviewer, in a rather jocular fashion, further retorting, that if he had compiled professional billable hours as a lawyer, for the length of time he had legally advised the Movement, that the RUF would be unable to pay his fees and would have become bankrupt.
Barely six months after the departure of Ambassador Golley from the RUF, the Freetown residence of their Leader, Foday Sankoh was stormed by the civilian population in the previously referred to May 8 incident, which lead to deaths and injuries in the Sierra Leone Capital. Sankoh fled to the hills and was subsequently captured and detained.
Tensions between the parties to the conflict continued into the dawn of the new millennium, and the peace process in Sierra Leone in January 2000, remained fragile.
Accusations and counter accusations continued amongst the main parties to the earlier conflict. The new dispensation in the governance of the country, which the Lome Peace Accord had occasioned, had not resulted in the much yearned for peace and recovery.
By May 2000, the peace process had broken down with the storming of the residence of the RUF Leader.
Little did Ambassador Golley know that he would be prevailed upon again, to return to his motherland in early 2001 to help restart the peace process which had irretrievably broken-down.
It is worthy to note that this episode brings us almost full circle to the amazing story of the role of Ambassador Omrie Golley in the peace process of his country, a story which we commenced, in Episode 1 of our narrative – fast forwarding to the year 2001, with the fateful meeting between the erstwhile Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, and Ambassador Omrie Golley.
Disarmament & Peace – The Role of Ambassador Omrie Golley during the Peace Process in Sierra Leone
We have now come almost full circle in highlighting the role of Ambassador Omrie Golley in the peace and disarmament process. The Process culminated in the declaration of the ending of the War by former President Kabbah, in January 2002, in his now famous utterance:
‘Di war don don’.
Much had to be done however, during the twelve months preceding Kabbah’s statement referred to above, in getting the two main protagonists, to the conflict, to finally lay down their weapons and pursue peace.
In this difficult task, the role of Ambassador Golley was crucial, and this role was subsequently recognized by the United Nations, ECOWAS, international humanitarian institutions, and the Government of President Tejan Kabbah.
Writing on the ending of the war in Sierra Leone, in the acclaimed British daily newspaper ‘The Independent’ on the 9th February 2002, their investigative journalists Declan Walsh and Robert Verkaik stated, inter alia:
“Diplomats, human rights workers, and government figures agree Mr Golley has played a crucial role in the recent peace process, which has seen the RUF disarm and transform itself into a political party.”
The journalists went on to quote Solomon Berewa, erstwhile Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who had led the Tejan Kabbah Government’s role in the peace process: “He (Ambassador Omrie Golley ) has been very positive in the achievement of peace.” Culled from the Independent Newspaper – Saturday 9th February 2002 –
The period following the attack on the residence of the RUF leader Foday Sankoh in May 2000, had brought another breakdown in the peace process, and hostilities between Pro-Government forces and the RUF restarted.
By the end of May 2000, the northern provincial town of Lunsar, in Port Loko District, had been overrun by RUF forces. In addition there were renewed hostilities in different parts of the country. The United Nations (UNAMSIL) had commenced deploying peacekeeping troops around the country, which had assisted in lessening hostilities.
In addition, British military forces invited in by the Kabbah Government, to assist in military operations to gain control of the country, had made significant gains in military offensives against the RUF, allowing for the further deployment of UN peacekeeping operations.
Notwithstanding these military gains, it was clear to the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies involved in tending to the local war affected population, that there was an urgent need for renewed diplomatic efforts to end renewed hostilities in the country.
As David Wilmshurst, Spokesman for UNAMSIL, the United Nations Peace Keeping Organisation, stated, in a news briefing on the 1st June 2000: “What is important now, is that the fighting does stop so that we could find a way to talk to each other again. There is no military solution to this conflict.” Culled from Peter Andersen – News Archives of the Sierra Leone Web – 1st June 2000
Ambassador Golley meanwhile had returned from Freetown to London, in October 1999, with the return of the RUF Leader to Sierra Leone from Togo and the Lome Peace talks, and consequent of the fact that Golley had formally resigned from the RUF on the 28th December 1999.
Thereafter, Ambassador Golley maintained watching brief regarding continuing events in his country, but did not take any active role. He (Golley) was, however, unhappy with the overall situation in the country, particularly with the increase in military hostilities, in the aftermath of the signing of the Lome Peace Accord. He believed however by this time, that he had done all that he could to advance peace in his motherland.
Within the RUF movement, splits had emerged amongst the main military commanders, after the capture of their Leader, on the 17th May 2000, in the aftermath of the ‘May 8th incident’. In addition, the imprisonment of Foday Sankoh, had occasioned the need for the Movement, to choose a new Leader to attempt to unify the RUF into a cohesive structure. With the active support of ECOWAS and sub-regional leaders, Issa Hassan Sesay, was chosen as the new RUF interim leader, to unify the movement and to assume the leadership in any subsequent peace talks.
The Lome Peace Accord, entered into in July 1999, between the Sierra Leone Government and the RUF, had agreed on the Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation (DDR) of all combatants that had been involved in the conflict, as a central plinth of the Agreement. At that point, it was clear and paramount to all observers, that if DDR was to be successful, the RUF, had to be properly structured, under a unified leadership for its (DDR) success.
However splits in the RUF in the aftermath of the detention of their Leader, made it very difficult to achieve the successful disarmament of their ex-combatants. In addition, prior to the disarmament of Government controlled militias and the RUF, a new ceasefire agreement in Abuja, in November 2000, between the warring factions, had to be reactivated. Humanitarian access to the war weary population, and skirmishes between the opposing forces, made the desired goal of disarmament, difficult to achieve.
It soon became clear, that unless the difficulties identified above were adequately addressed, it would in turn be very difficult to proceed with a process, leading to the disarming of all ex-combatants involved in the war, and their ultimate reintegration into the towns and villages from which they came.
It was this realisation, that informed the United Nations, through their Special Representative of the erstwhile Secretary General- Nigerian born Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji to contact Ambassador Golley in London in January 2001, to return to Freetown, yet again, to assist in the revitalization of the peace process, that, at this period, was in danger of disintegrating.
Whilst Ambassador Omrie Golley was most reluctant to return to the maelstrom of peace process issues, he was persuaded to return to Freetown in February 2001, after assurances from the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, that his personal safety and security, would be adequately safeguarded.
Ambassador Golley also sought and received written assurances about his security from the Government of President Kabbah through their erstwhile Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa.
Prior to returning to Freetown in February 2001, Golley travelled to Monrovia Liberia to meet with the newly appointed Interim Leader of the RUF, General Issa Hassan Sesay, who prevailed upon Ambassador Golley, to head a soon as possible to be formed RUF Political and Peace Council, to oversee the peace process and proceed to the disarmament of all ex-combatants involved in the conflict.
With the acceptance of this latest position within the RUF, to support the commencement of a fresh peace initiative, Ambassador Omrie Golley entered the most difficult part of the renewed peace process, which was to agree a new ceasefire with the government controlled militia otherwise known as the Civil Defence Forces (CDF), headed by erstwhile Deputy Defence Minister, the late Sam Hinga Norman, and the RUF, and to commence disarmament of all fighting groups involved in the conflict.
On the 1st May 2001, Ambassador Omrie Golley led a six man delegation, comprising senior military officials of the RUF, to Abuja to meet with officials of the Sierra Leone Government, headed by then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa, and the leadership of the Government controlled CDF Militia.
This meeting, to review the previously agreed Abuja Peace Accord of November 2000, referred to above, and to map out the next stages of the peace process, involving disarmament, was also attended by officials of the United Nations, ECOWAS, and the Sierra Leone Government, with the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity (OAU) acting as Observers.
The meeting between the RUF, the Sierra Leone Government, together with those of the CDF went well, and agreement to restart the peace process, by ceasing all hostilities, was swift. The meeting afforded Ambassador Golley the opportunity, in particular, of meeting and conferring with the late Leader of the CDF, and erstwhile Deputy Minister, Sam Hinga Norman.
Ambassador Golley remembers their encounters: “During this period in Abuja, I got to meet with the Minister on several occasions, both formally and informally. I became convinced at an early stage in our deliberations, that he was sincere in his desire to restart the peace process, and end the conflict.”
Agreement between both sides was reached within 24 hours of the commencement of the Meeting, on the 2nd May 2001.
Unlike many other Agreements entered into for the duration of the conflict, this Agreement on the cessation of hostilities, signed by the CDF leader, and Ambassador Omrie Golley, as Chairman of the newly created RUF Political and Peace Council, and ratified in Freetown on the 15th May 2001, withstood the test of time, and in effect, signaled the end of the 10 year old conflict.
The recently signed and ratified Abuja Declaration of May 2001, was in effect, a re-affirmation of the recently failed Abuja Peace Accord of 2000, and called for the cessation of hostilities, the disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration, of all former combatants of both the RUF, and CDF, and the transformation of the RUF into a political party.
Both the Government and RUF Delegations, returned to Freetown from Abuja after concluding their meeting, together, as one Delegation, to underscore its success.
That symbolic move, was actively encouraged by the personal intervention of the erstwhile President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasango, who graciously provided the Delegations, with the Nigerian Presidential Aircraft, to transport both delegations back to Freetown.
Upon the return of both the Government and RUF Delegations to Freetown, the complex and difficult part of the Agreement, commenced with the disarmament of the former fighting groups, under an implementation plan.
This implementation plan, took the form of a number of tri-partite meetings, held in different parts of Sierra Leone, between the Government and the RUF, with the United Nations, acting as the Chair to both delegations during these talks.
In fact there were 7 meetings that took place from May 2001 to November 2001, between the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF, chaired by the United Nations, through their Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji. The erstwhile Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Solomon Berewa, headed the Government of Sierra Leone Delegation for the duration of these meetings, and Ambassador Omrie Golley, headed the RUF Delegation.
As Golley remembers: “In fact this stage of the peace process, (ie the disarmament programme ), was, arguably, the most arduous and difficult. I had to visit various parts of the country where RUF ex-combatants were stationed, accompanied by UN peacekeepers, actively encouraging them to give up their weapons. That was an extremely difficult task. The ex-combatants were, on the whole, very skeptical of the whole peace process, and giving up their weapons, which some of them had held, for nearly ten years previously, was very hard for them to bear.”
Ambassador Omrie Golley traversed the length and breadth of his motherland, visiting RUF bases, together with those of the former Government controlled Civil Militia, the CDF, always accompanied by UN Peacekeeping troops, actively encouraging the disarmament, demobilisation and re integration, of the former fighting groups.
Ambassador Omrie Golley spent lengthy periods of time, living with the former combatants of the RUF, at their various locations, to gain their trust, often having to listen to their experiences of fighting a 10 year war. Some of these experiences, often recounted with glee and mirth, by some of these former fighters, were, for Ambassador Golley, often gruesome and unpleasant, to have to listen to.
Ambassador Golley also found himself during this period, frequently adjudicating and settling quarrels, and long-standing disputes and rivalries amongst the former commanders of the Movement. Sometimes these occurrences were very serious, with the potential for disrupting the whole disarmament process, looming large.
The process of disarmament was carried out successfully in the 8 months from May 2001 to January 2002. On the 17th January 2002, representatives of the Government of Sierra Leone and the RUF, met in Freetown for the last time, with both sides formally declaring the end of the disarmament process, with the disarming of 46,453 former fighters.
The 10 year old conflict was truly at an end
On the 18th of January 2002, President Kabbah, at a symbolic burning of firearms previously held by the former fighting groups, formally declared the war to be at an end, with his now famous quote :
‘Di war don don’
Ambassador Omrie Golley, in a statement issued on the 19th January 2002, to commemorate the ending of the war, had this to say: “I consider the end of disarmament and the end of the war, to be the first stage of the consolidation of the peace process, but there is a lot more work to be done, particularly in terms of tackling the problems in our society,- that of poverty, corruption, nepotism, and economic and social mismanagement.” Culled from Peter Andersen – Sierra Leone News – January 2002 – The Sierra Leone: Very strong, meaningful, insightful words coming from Ambassador Omrie Golley, in January 2002, 19 years ago.