Source: Liberian Observer
By: Flomo Y. Kokolo
Ethnic tension in Liberia had been nonexistent or at least dormant until Samuel K. Doe assumed the presidency. Doe’s Government was dominated by his kinsmen, the Krahns, and manifestly supported by the Mandingo tribe. Perhaps as a consequence of the rivalry between president Doe and Thomas Quinworkpa, the two remaining strong men of the then People’s Redemption Council (PRC) which toppled the status quo of the True Whig Party, the Civil War, waged by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) under the leadership of Charles Ghankay Taylor, was conducted initially on tribal lines.
As the then Krahn-dominated Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) suppressed Thomas Quinworkpa’s people – the Gio and Mano tribes of Nimba County during the reign of president Doe, elements of the Gio and Mano tribes who were the majority combatants of the NPFL seized the opportunity to avenge themselves against the Krahn and the Mandingo ethnic groups. Thus, as the war progressed to engulf the entire country, rebels of the NPFL and the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), a splinter group of the NPFL, continued to target Krahns and Mandingoes while the AFL focused its atrocities on Gio and Mano tribes in Monrovia, though not exclusively; as the Americo-Liberians were also singled out for harsh treatment including death. This situation was further inflamed by opportunists belonging to rival groups who proclaimed themselves as spokespersons and defenders of their respective groups. Thus ethnicity was encouraged by the formation of tribal warring factions such as the Movement for the Redemption of Mandingoes, founded and led by Alhaji G.V. Kromah, a Mandingo. He eventually merged with the Krahns to form the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO). ULIMO in turn became ULIMO-K (K – for loyalists of Kromah, a Mandingo) and ULIMO-J (J – for loyalists of D. Roosevelt Johnson, a Krahn). All attempts to end the crisis underscored the need for reconciliation between/among the various tribes of the nation. It is unfortunate that significant success has not been achieved in this regard even up to now when there is no more war and that the Nation has succeeded in bringing into being a democratically elected government. It can be said that conflicts between the Mano/Gio ethnic groups on the one side and the Krahn on the other have eased while there existed no tension, rivalry, or any sort of tribal conflicts between Americo-Liberians (Congoes) and other indigenous tribes in general except between the Mandingo tribe on the one hand and often, one of the other tribes on the other hand; especially tribes in Nimba, Lofa, and Bong Counties.
Download file (no longer online): Kokolo_Mandingo Question in Liberia_ObserverApr2010