By Rodney D. Sieh
Source: FrontPage Africa
|THOMAS YAH-YAH NIMLEY|
“I think the President needs to be talking with ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States); talking with AU (African Union) to have a voice about this situation that is happening in La Cote d’Ivoire because at the final day, it is going to affect her as a president. Now, warning me or warning former warlords, how would that help her? It’s been five years after the fight today, it is not even five years, we’re talking about since 2003 that the war has ended.”
Ivory Coast police extinguish tyres burning during a demonstration in the streets of Abidjan on December 6. International pressure mounted for Laurent Gbagbo to quit power in Ivory Coast amid fears that a tense standoff with his rival for the presidency could erupt into major unrest.
For the past five years, Thomas Yah-Yah Nimely says he has been busy engaged in farming in his hometown in Grand Gedeh County. The conspicuous closeness to the border with Liberia and the Ivory Coast now facing an intense post-election conflict has made Nimley, the former Foreign Minister in the erstwhile National Transitional Government of Liberia a consistent target whenever reports or speculations of crisis one of Liberia’s next door neighbors.
Nimley is the erstwhile leader of The Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), a rebel group that became active in March 2003, launching attacks from Cote d’Ivoire. It achieved rapid successes in its war against President Charles Taylor and is believed to have been created by the Côte d’Ivoire government as a way of staking a claim in Liberian politics during the turmoil of that country’s civil war, or as retaliation for the Liberian government’s alleged support for rebels in Cote d’Ivoire. Nimley, was named as Liberia’s foreign minister in the transitional government that was appointed on October 14, 2003, following the resignation and exile of Taylor. MODEL has been accused of violating UN sanctions by exporting timber from the regions of southern Liberia that it controls. The group has promised to disarm as part of the country’s 2003 peace agreement.
In recent days, amid tension between the Ivorian incumbent Lauren Gbagbo and the declared winner of the run-off elections in Cote d’Ivoire, new reports have suggested that Gbagbo was regrouping former warlords from Liberia, to make a last stand against the West pressing for him to accept the results and step aside. Then late Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement attributed to Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf warning former warlords to stay out of the Ivorian crisis in the wake of reports that certain individuals and former warlords have been contacted “unofficially” to intervene. Looking for answers, FrontPageAfrica was able to track down Mr. Nimley, one of a few former warlords who may or may not have been the object of Sirleaf’s statement. In this exclusive interview, Mr. Nimley takes the president to task and explains that his war days are over and he has neither met Mr. Gbagbo nor has he any intentions of planning or plotting any role in the ongoing Gbagbo-Outtara debacle next door.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Let’s begin with the statements attributed to the Liberian President and issued by the Foreign Ministry late Monday night in which she warned ex-warlords to stay out of the crisis in the Ivory Coast next door. What do you make of the President’s statement?
ON LIFE AFTER WAR
“When you have energy in your body go ahead and start preparing for you own retirement. So I am preparing for my own retirement. I am not preparing for war, I don’t have time for politics but of course I am running for Senator in 2011.”
THOMAS YAHYAH NIMLEY: Rodney, I find that statement to be a politically-naïve statement. I think what we should be concerned about right now is a sister country is in conflict. If the crisis materializes where it becomes a reality and there’s war in Cote d’Ivoire. Cote d’Ivoire has fifteen to seventeen million people. We have five counties in Liberia that share a common border with Cote d’Ivoire. If we have a million refugees coming into Liberia, we have crisis on our hands as well. So I think what we should be thinking now is to sit down and find a solution to the Cote d’Ivoire situation. I think the President needs to be talking with ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States); talking with AU (African Union) to have a voice about this situation that is happening in La Cote d’Ivoire because at the final day, it is going to affect her as a president. Now, warning me or warning former warlords, how would that help her? It’s been five years after the fight today, it is not even five years, we’re talking about since 2003, that the war has ended.
Is she saying that she is not happy with the work we did that brought her to into power? If she is not happy with the work that we did then she does not have to be president. Madam President, you don’t have to warn me. Talk to the youths; find them programs to keep them busy. This is something that you should have done since 2005. Keep the young people busy and let’s see how they can get occupy possibly and contribute to nation building. But if they are doing nothing, if they are selling waiter market and the police are taking their waiter market and throwing it away and there is no school. There was supposed to be free education and education is not free and there is no job then what do you expect these kids to do. There is nothing that they would be able to do. So, don’t blame Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley. From 2003, we have disarmed. If anybody crosses and leaves to go into Cote d’Ivoire Madam President, Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley is not responsible for that person and I hope you don’t keep that in the back of your mind and in the mind of any of your government officials, that Thomas Yah-Yah will be responsible for crossing or former MODEL ex-combatants going into Cote d’Ivoire to go and fight. That warning you give to me I think is a threat to my life and I will inform the people of Grand Gedeh County about this statement that you have made because we have experience this before during the Charles Julu situation, during the Col. Dorbor situation. Charles Julu is dead today and Col. Dorbor has a permanent disease, he is impotent for life because of the treatment he received at NSA. Now, this will not happen to Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley.
If you have a serious problem with the youths in Liberia, crossing into Cote d’Ivoire, let’s sit and talk about it and I think you government is capable of talking about it, let’s go to the five counties that share common borders with Cote d’Ivoire and let’s talk with the elders there and let’s see how we can discourage the young people and let the government start brainstorming now to find programs that will keep these young men and women busy so that they can’t cross into Cote d’Ivoire.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Have you been in touch with Mr. Gbagbo at all? Or Mr. Outtarra since this conflict started?
YAH-YAH NIMELY: No, No, No! I haven’t talked to anybody. I have no reason to talk to anybody. Listen, Cote d’Ivoire has fifteen million people, we have three million, and now why should we be responsible to fight Cote d’Ivoire’s war? Now if anybody wants to fight we leave it up to them. But we have no business going to fight Cote d’Ivoire’s war, a country of fifteen, sixteen million people and we have never fought war for Cote d’Ivoire.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: But there have been some perceptions and speculations that you and your rebel group fought along with Gbagbo during the first conflict in the Cote d’Ivoire. Any truth to those reports?
“People have been coming in saying, o the man training rebels. Five years to today, Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley is training, NSA goes there; Thomas Yah-Yah is training, UN goes there, helicopter goes there, military people go there, people dressed as workers they come on the farm and as a result of that people I got to work on the farm are afraid to work. So, it slowed down the work, so the farm that is supposed to be a large farm is now a small farm but I am still there doing what I have to do.”
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: Help him to do what? Help fight in a country that has fifteen million people and probably have two to three million military personnel, army and gendamarie? So even if I did, don’t I have a life? Why did I disarm, why did I sign the peace agreement, we signed the peace agreement to ensure that there is lasting peace in Liberia and in the region, so we disarmed and we disarmed honorably. So does that mean now that anything that happen now you will be calling on Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley – even if he’s working on his farm?
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: So what have you been doing since you left the National Transitional Government of Liberia(NTGL)?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: I’m on the farm, I’m planting rubber, I’m planting cocoa, this is where I am and I just left from there. I have been in town for two months now and I am planning to go back on the farm.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: So, where is this farm located?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: It is located in Grand Gedeh, in Konoko district.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: What is your position on the friction or feud if you call it between Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Outtara?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: My brother, you know what, I have left politics. I left politics. I want to deal with realities and deal with my own retirement. Whatever happens within that country is within that country. I have no details of what is happening there. In order for me to do an assessment I need to know what is happening in the country for me to know, I can’t just guess and say what is happening there. I really do not know what is going on over there. But what I do know is that there is a trouble brewing that will affect Liberia, it will affect Nimba County, it will affect Grand Gedeh County, River Gee County, Maryland County. It will affect those counties. One million refugees crossing over we got crisis on our hands, that‘s something we should be thinking about instead of someone getting up in the morning and warning Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley, if anyone crosses into Liberia or Cote d’Ivoire. I am not responsible for anyone crossing into Liberia, I mean into Cote d’Ivoire and I want the President to know that.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Do you have any control of your boys? Where are they now?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: The people were disarmed since 2003. The were disarmed since 2003, they are independent. Since it is a free country, they are free to roam around.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: But are you in touch with any of them?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: Why would I be in touch with any of them. I see them all the time in the street. I see them all the time in the street, they’re on the motorcycle, some of them are on the farm, everywhere you go they’re into motorcycle business, people are into small businesses. I see them, sometime they see me and say, “Oh Chief, how are you”. When I get something, I give it to them but that does not mean I have control over them.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: How do you see this thing ending?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: You know what, that’s what I say it requires an international intervention. I mean from a political standpoint, I think it requires an international intervention. From two points because at no time in my life, I would have seen a country having two presidents and being installed simultaneously. This is something that ECOWAS should be involved in 24-7, to ensure that there is not problem.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Any final words for the President in the wake of her statements cautioning former warlords?
ON LIBERIA THREATS
“What I do know is that there is a trouble brewing that will affect Liberia, it will affect Nimba County, it will affect Grand Gedeh County, River Gee County, Maryland County. It will affect those counties. One million refugees crossing over we got crisis on our hands, that‘s something we should be thinking about instead of someone getting up in the morning and warning Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley, if anyone crosses into Liberia or Cote d’Ivoire.”
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: The final word, my advice is that the President should think again. Before warning Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley, she should think again. The problem with the youths, Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley has no control over the youths in Liberia. As of 2003 from the time MODEL was disarmed by Jacques Klein and others, Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley has no control, if the youth crawls into Cote d’Ivoire, if they crawls into Guinea, I am not responsible for them and I see no reason why she should threaten me or give me any warning. That warning does not belong to me. I think she should sit down with her security forces; she should sit down with the diplomatic community and see how we can find a solution, go to the counties involved and let all of us sit down. If she goes to Grand Gedeh County and says Mr. Nimley, we are talking with some leaders in the country about our youths crossing and going into Cote d’Ivoire, I will take part in that discussion. We are looking for solutions; we are no looking for warning. Nobody bullies me. Do not bully me because the issue is not about bullying, the issue is about solutions so that our country and the region can survive.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: So you have no intentions of going to war again?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: Why should I go to war? Before you go to war, there should be a reason. When I came here to Liberia, I don’t know if you want to call it war but I came here to create peace and I did create the peace and after I did, I washed my hands and I’m on the farm and I don’t know whether if this is something bad that I did. Because today, we all are seeing the benefits.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: So how is the farm going?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: Well, the farm is going on fine but again we have this same problem with NSA. People have been coming in saying, o the man training rebels. Five years to today, Thomas Yah-Yah Nimley is training, NSA goes there; Thomas Yah-Yah is training, UN goes there, helicopter goes there, military people go there, people dressed as workers they come on the farm and as a result of that people I got to work on the farm are afraid to work. So, it slowed down the work, so the farm that is supposed to be a large farm is now a small farm but I am still there doing what I have to do.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Do you have any regrets leaving politics?
YAH-YAH NIMLEY: You know politics in Liberia is an intellectual stuff; it has no reality to it. If you need reality, you should have a base because government has nothing to offer anybody in this country when you pass age 65. So when you look at what has been happening to all of these politicians who have expired or who are senior citizens and cannot make life anymore for example, my friend and brother, J. Jenkins Scott, it is a shame. When you have energy in your body go ahead and start preparing for you own retirement. So I am preparing for my own retirement. I am not preparing for war, I don’t have time for politics but of course I am running for Senator in 2011.