Editor’s note: Using groundbreaking interviews by the author and documents just released by the government, Kenneth R. Timmerman, in his new book, “Shakedown,” portrays Jesse Jackson as a master manipulator of the public. The first part of chapter 13, which was published in WND yesterday, tells the story of Jackson’s service as a “special envoy” of the Clinton administration in Africa. Today’s excerpt includes the remainder of the chapter, in which Timmerman reports on Jackson’s attempt to bring peace to Sierra Leone.
Ask Africans from Sierra Leone or Liberia what they think of Jesse Jackson and one word comes almost immediately to their lips: betrayal. In their case, betrayal has a time, a place, and it has a name: the Lom? Accord.
The road to Lom? was long and bloody. It began while Jackson was hosting Charles Taylor’s wife in Chicago, and it would claim thousands more innocent lives. Jackson gets defensive when questioned about the butchery and tries to pin the blame on others, starting with Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice and her assistant Howard Jeter.
But Lom? and the selling of U.S. policy was all Jesse Jackson’s deal. It was Jackson who bundled Sierre Leone’s President Kabbah into a U.S. government aircraft in Accra, Ghana, and then barred the door to his aides. It was Jackson who gave the orders to his pilot to fly to Lom?, where he forced Kabbah to face the butcher Foday Sankoh and negotiate the terms of his surrender. “Until the U.N. got close to the diamond mines, everything was all right,” Jackson argues in a lengthy justification of his actions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Everything he did, Jackson insists, was “on assignment for the U.S. government.” But many are the witnesses who dispute his benevolent portrait of Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh. As Sankoh’s RUF killers were chopping off children’s limbs in Freetown, African journalist Tom Kamara wrote, “Rev. Jackson is considered a civil rights leader in America, but in Africa he is a killers’ rights leader.”
On July 25, 1998, the Nigerian government returned RUF leader Foday Sankoh to Freetown, where President Kabbah declared he would stand trial for treason. Sankoh appeared in handcuffs on Sierra Leone state television three days later and appealed to his men to respect a new cease-fire with Kabbah’s government and the Nigerian ECOMOG troops supporting it. Behind the scenes, however, Jesse Jackson was working to get Sankoh released. One of the more cynical methods available for putting pressure on Kabbah came from Jackson’s friend, Charles Taylor.
In September, just five months after the “reconciliation” conference Jackson hosted in Chicago, Taylor’s Special Security Service (SSS) went on a killing rampage in an effort to track down and eliminate rival warlord Roosevelt Johnson, an ethnic Krahn, whom Taylor accused of plotting a coup. Here is how the U.S. State Department described the fighting:
On Sept. 18, security forces in the capital conducted a military assault, codenamed Operation Camp Johnson Road, against Johnson’s base. Hundreds of SSS officers and members of the police Special Task Force, joined by scores of irregular former combatants of Taylor’s former faction, employed automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Much of the shooting occurred at nighttime and was indiscriminate. Credible reports indicate that as many as 300 persons, most of them Krahns, many of them women and children, were killed in a 17-hour battle and in subsequent house-to-house searches and summary executions by government forces. … Krahn leader Roosevelt Johnson survived the initial attack and sought refuge in a Western embassy on Sept. 19; police opened fire on Johnson and seven supporters in the entryway of the embassy, killing two members of Johnson’s party and wounding other members of his party as well as two embassy employees.
The Western embassy was that of the United States. In an effort to sweep Taylor’s thuggery under the table, it was never named in the State Department’s human rights reports, nor was the fact that Taylor’s forces wounded two U.S. Marine guards during the assault. Among those killed was Madison Wion, whose body was left to rot in the sun while Taylor’s government and the U.S. embassy traded diplomatic notes about who was responsible for removing the dead body. Jesse Jackson called Taylor and begged him to call off his troops, the BBC reported, in an effort to play down the incident. In the end, the U.S. capitulated and buried Madison Wion inside the embassy compound and flew Roosevelt Johnson, who had sought refuge inside the embassy, to Sierra Leone on a U.S. military helicopter. Taylor’s men had violated nearly every article of the Geneva convention governing diplomatic relationships between countries, and the U.S. government kept mum. Emboldened by the State Department’s willingness (with Jackson’s acquiescence) to cover up such abuses, Taylor and his RUF allies accelerated their return to the Sierra Leone diamond mines.
On Friday, Oct. 23, 1998, the Sierra Leone High Court sentenced RUF leader Foday Sankoh to death for treason. Two days later, Sankoh’s troops went on a murderous rampage, beheading several men and women and chopping off the arms of others, including children, during an attack on the northern town of Alikalia. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Spencer Abraham noted that Sankoh’s deputy had “threatened to wipe out the remaining population if Foday Sankoh is tried … including chickens.”
Unperturbed by these events, Jackson embarked on another African tour as presidential “special envoy.” In Guinea, he met with Taylor and Kabbah and got them to sign the Mano River nonaggression pact, which included a pledge not to allow their territories to be used as a base for attacks on the others. This was yet another empty promise made by Taylor who was even then deeply engaged in rearming the RUF. “Kabbah had just executed some of Sankoh’s guys and was going to execute Sankoh,” Jackson recalls. “So we appealed to Kabbah not to kill Sankoh.” Jackson met again with Kabbah during a five-hour stopover in Freetown to press the case on Sankoh’s behalf. “The government must reach out to these RUF in the bush battlefield,” he said publicly. In Ghana, after meeting with President Jerry Rawlings, Jackson repeated his call for negotiations with Sankoh, then announced, “We live in the morning of a new day.” Given the bloodbath that was about to occur, Jackson’s fantasy vision of Africa was chilling.
In January 1999, Foday Sankoh’s rebels launched their offensive, marching on the capital Freetown behind a “human shield” of civilians that prevented the Nigerian ECOMOG peacekeepers from launching an effective counterattack. It was an assault of almost epic proportions, with the guerrilla fighters driving the human horde of bedraggled women and children ahead of them as they raped, plundered, pillaged and murdered everything in their path. “Divided into squads with names like ‘Burn House Unit,’ ‘Cut Hands Commandos,’ and ‘Kill Man No Blood Unit’ (the last group specialized in beating people to death without spilling blood), the RUF burned down houses with their occupants still inside, hacked off limbs, gouged out eyes with knives, raped children and gunned down scores of people in the streets,” writes Ryan Lizza.
“In three weeks, the RUF killed some 6,000 people, most civilians. When the rebels were finally forced from the city by an ECOMOG counterattack, they burned down whole blocks as they left and abducted thousands of children, boys and girls who would become either soldiers or sex slaves.”
These were the rebels Jesse Jackson thought could be rehabilitated and transformed into good partners of the United States. In February, as Sierra Leone was still reeling in shock from the murderous assault, the State Department invited RUF spokesman Omrie Golley for talks in Washington, where Howard Jeter, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, had him speak with Kabbah by telephone. Golley also met with New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne, who wrote to Kabbah urging him to release Sankoh and negotiate with the RUF “without precondition.” Reluctantly, Kabbah agreed, releasing Sankoh from jail on April 19. The State Department weighed in with the U.N. Security Council to lift the travel ban it had imposed on Sankoh. Later that same day, Sankoh flew to Lom?, the capital of Togo, for talks with West African diplomats.
The pressure on Kabbah to release Sankoh couldn’t have come at a worse time, says Sierra Leone ambassador John Ernest Leigh. Kabbah had convinced the Nigerian peacekeepers to launch a counterattack that he believes would have demolished the RUF. “Instead, Jesse Jackson and Donald Payne got them to hold their fire.” Jackson would accomplish the destruction of the Sierra Leone government by “kidnapping” President Kabbah in Ghana during the fifth African-American summit, and taking him to Lom?, to submit to rebel leader Foday Sankoh.
It was a gala affair, attended by more than 5,000 delegates, and Jackson was wearing his hat as the president’s special envoy as well as his hat as a deal broker for private business. Along with him was old friend and Rainbow/PUSH supporter Maceo Sloan, CEO of NCM Capital Management Group, a brokerage firm that began as a subsidiary of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co. The six-foot seven-inch Sloan had built a financial empire trading stocks and political influence, and headed his own financial group. Once Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, Sloan moved in by creating New Africa Advisors in Johannesburg and, more recently, the Calvert New Africa Fund. The North Carolina millionaire and Democratic Party contributor cashed in on his political connections by receiving $120 million in guaranteed loans from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for his New Africa Opportunities Fund. Jackson wisely named him chairman of the Wall Street Project. As a successful businessman Sloan was at home with CEOs and financial reporters. With other black businessmen he established a political action committee in 1995 called Mobilization for Economic Opportunity, intended to “counter some of the anti-affirmative action rhetoric from conservatives.” Sloan raised $241,454 during the 1996 election cycle through his PAC. All but $3,500 of it went to Democrats. He gave $25,000 to Jackson’s Citizenship Education Fund in 1997.
At the May 1999 Accra Summit, Jackson praised Flight Lieutenant (and President) Jerry Rawlings for his “able leadership” of Ghana’s economic recovery. Jackson promised to find U.S. investment partners for Ghana’s stock exchange and singled out for praise the state-owned Ashanti Goldfields Company, which Jackson said was “doing well” on the international market.” But in fact, Ashanti’s American banker, Goldman Sachs, nearly bankrupted the company later that year by approving huge hedge contracts pegged to falling gold prices. When gold prices rose by $75 an ounce to $325 an ounce, the company faced massive margin calls on its forward sales, making it vulnerable to a foreign purchaser. At one point, in November 1999, Saudi Prince Alwalid bin Talal offered to cover the margin call.
Other Jackson donors invited to the Ghana love fest included Don H. Barden, whose Barden Industries gave Jackson a tax-deductible contribution of $65,000 that year; Alphonso Corney, corporate counsel for Philip Morris, which had given Jackson $230,000 since 1991; John Hatcher, a finance specialist for DaimlerChrysler, which gave Jackson $50,000 in both 1998 and 1999; Joe Stewart, senior vice president of Kellogg Company, whose nonprofit arm, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, gave Jackson $15,000 that year; LeBaron Taylor, senior corporate affairs vice president for Sony Corp., which had donated $36,000; and Carl Ware, vice president of Coca-Cola, which gave CEF $69,572 that year. Carl Ware returned with Jackson to Nigeria on a separate trip later that month for the inauguration of the newly elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
On May 18, 1999, Jackson cornered Sierra Leone President Kabbah in Accra and told him that he had arranged for him to meet a very special person: Foday Sankoh. Jackson’s U.S. government helicopter was fueled and ready at the airport. “Jackson had State Department people, U.S. embassy people from Sierra Leone, his own staff and Donald Payne’s people with him. They were all Charles Taylor people,” says Ambassador Leigh. Kabbah’s information minister and his finance minister, Dr. James Jonah, were both opposed to signing any deal with Sankoh and had accompanied Kabbah to the airport. “When President Kabbah tried to board the aircraft with two aides, Jackson said there was no more space. This is why we say President Kabbah was kidnapped. Jackson flew him to Lom?, without a single aide.” It was a short helicopter ride to neighboring Lom?, just one hundred miles down the West African coast from Accra, but it was like traveling from a bustling metropolis to a secluded vacation village on the beach.
Michel Desaedeleer, a Belgian businessman who has worked in Africa for the past 15 years, remembers the scene well. “I happened to be in Lom?, at the time, visiting with the U.S. ambassador who was a relative of my wife,” he said in an interview. “We all went to the airport: President Eyedama, the entire Togo government and the ambassador. Jackson landed, the door to his helicopter opened, and we waited. Ten minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes and still nothing.”
Finally the U.S. ambassador went up to the door of the helicopter, Desaedeleer says, and peered inside. “There was Jackson, speaking on the telephone to Ted Turner in Atlanta. He said he wasn’t going to get out until a CNN film crew arrived.” President Eyedama’s office had phoned the press, but the only camera crew in Lom? that day was from the Togolese state television network, and that wasn’t good enough for Jesse Jackson. “So we waited another 40 minutes for another helicopter, which flew in from Accra with a CNN crew,” Desaedeleer recalls. “You had the president of Togo and virtually his entire government waiting outside in the heat for an hour. Finally Jackson deplaned, spreading his arms and greeting his African brothers on CNN.”
Desaedeleer had been introduced to Foday Sankoh just a few days earlier. “He was still under detention – but in name only. When I arrived at his villa, he was sitting in his boxers, drinking beer on the balcony.” The two became fast friends and later, business partners. Sankoh told Desaedeleer what happened at Lom?. “Foday was stupid, but he wasn’t cruel,” Desaedeleer insists. “He was simple-minded. When Jackson came to Lom?, he gathered all the heads of state around in a circle, got them to join hands, and prayed. He was a showman, and Foday was amazed. He had never prayed before in his life. But when he saw that Jackson could get all those powerful people to bow their heads and hold hands, that convinced him. Ever since that day, he claims to have become a big believer.”
The prayers and the pressure tactics paid off, and Kabbah eventually agreed, against his better judgment, to a ceasefire with the RUF. He also agreed to enter negotiations with Foday Sankoh over a power-sharing agreement, which paved the way to the eight-point Peace Accord signed in Lom? on July 7 under U.S. government supervision. Jackson revealed in an interview that he prevailed upon the State Department to supply Sankoh with communications gear, which undoubtedly helped him to coordinate the murderous battles his RUF forces soon would wage against Kabbah’s government and U.N. peacekeepers. “I asked Sankoh to allow the Red Cross to let food through. There were checkpoints our guys couldn’t get through,” Jackson says. “So our government supplied Sankoh with two-way radios, so he could communicate with his guys in the bushes. We thought this would reduce the killing, and our State Department agreed.”
It is unclear how much the communications gear cost that Jackson whisked through the arms supply pipeline to rebel leader Foday Sankoh, or whether Congress was notified of the transfer. But it was “clearly more than just two-way radios,” a former U.S. intelligence officer who had served in Africa tells me.
As part of the Lom? Accord, Foday Sankoh, the death row prisoner released from jail at Jesse Jackson’s urging, was made vice president of Sierra Leone. But best of all, he was named chairman of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Mineral Resources, the prize he and Charles Taylor had long been seeking. There was one mineral resource in Sierra Leone, and that was diamonds. A few days later he began commercial negotiations with the Belgian businessman, Michel Desaedeleer. “I even gave Foday a check. He just looked at it and asked me, ‘What’s this?’ It was the first bank check he had ever seen,” Desaedeleer recalls.
The two signed a sweeping marketing agreement on Oct. 23, 1999, through an offshore company Desaedeleer controlled with an American named John Caldwell. Their British Virgin Islands company, Beca Group Ltd., got a 50 percent share of all commissions on the sale of Sierra Leone diamonds in Belgium and all reconstruction contracts let through Europe and the United States. “It was real business, legitimate and aboveboard,” Desaedeleer says. But it never got off the ground.
Sierra Leone ambassador John Ernest Leigh just shakes his head at the thought of rebel leader Foday Sankoh in charge of the diamond mines. “How can you put a cat to guard a mouse?” he says. “People who should be put in jail were put in the Cabinet. That’s precisely what Taylor wanted.” Foday Sankoh used Sierra Leone diamonds to buy friends, influence and arms for the RUF, trade that has been well-documented by a United Nations panel headed by Canadian diamond expert, Ian Smillie. The U.N. panel found that Belgian air force transport planes brought in shipments of weapons for the RUF hidden in crates of Belgian-made fruit juice. Just months after the Lom? Accord was signed, a Ukrainian arms dealer named Leonid Minim flew in 68 tons of weapons for the RUF via Burkina Faso and Liberia, all in exchange for rebel diamonds. To keep everyone happy, Foday Sankoh paid off U.N. officials in Freetown and his political friends in the United States with raw uncut diamonds, according to U.S. congressional and former intelligence officials. Most of Foday Sankoh’s “gifts” were shipped to diamond merchants in Antwerp who funneled the proceeds to shell companies in Vaduz, Liechtenstein and other offshore havens.
Today, in hindsight, Jackson concedes that “putting Sankoh over the diamonds, that was a bit too generous.” But when questioned closely on the Lom? Accord, he back-pedals furiously, trying to distance himself from any responsibility. “It was the U.S. government position,” he insists. “I went with the State Department. When we went to Lom?, our government set up the meeting with Foday Sankoh. Our government felt that Sankoh was the one guy who could end the killing.”
It was classic Jackson. “When it worked, you’re a genius. When it blew up, you’re an idiot,” he tells me with feigned humility.
It blew up in a big way in less than a year.