The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Author’s Preface 

I spent the eve of the Millennium in my garden, on the spacious lawns 

of Devonshire House in Accra, hosting a seven course meal for 120 

people, with dancing, fireworks and unlimited champagne.  Despite the 

hysterical rubbish with which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had 

been bombarding me for weeks, the World’s computers didn’t crash, and 

the future looked bright.  

Osama Bin Laden doesn’t use the Christian calendar so wasn’t celebrat- 

ing that night.  He had already accepted the idea – not originally his – of 

suicide attacks involving hijacked aircraft.  His al-Qaida network had 

about 180 members.  Al Gore looked pretty safe to win the democratic 

nomination and the Presidency.1 George Bush was a blip on the horizon 

whose record as a Vietnam draft-dodger would surely scupper his 


The World was on the brink of unhappier times.  But we didn’t know it, 

and I was happily immersed in what remains my first and abiding con- 

cern: the freedom and development of Africa 

Six years later, when I first published Murder in Samarkand, I faced a 

credibility problem.  Many people simply did not believe that the US and 

UK governments had been willing to resort to the most stark and brutal 

forms of torture of helpless prisoners as part of the War on Terror.  An ac- 

cumulation of indisputable evidence from hundreds of sources has since 

forced acceptance upon the media and thus awareness upon the public. 

Murder in Samarkand in essence is a simple tale.  The British government 

was actively complicit in torture; I opposed this internally, and so I got 


That book’s interest comes from its detailed documentation of the ter- 

rible oppression of the Uzbek people, of Western collusion with that op- 

pression, and of the heroic work of some Uzbek individuals against that 

oppression.  I also found that people reacted well to my frank account of 

1Which, of course, in truth he was to do 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

myself.  Autobiography is a form in which individuals recount highly ed- 

ited versions of their own lives, in which they observe sharply the failings 

of others, but are themselves near-perfect.  Murder in Samarkand showed a 

man warts and all.  In doing so, I hope it illustrated that it is not always 

the man society finds most respectable who is likely to try to do what is 


Emboldened by the strong response I received, I now write this further 

memoir, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I have Known, 

which I hope may shed some light on some well known foreign policy 

questions in which I was involved.  I hope it will also give some food for 

thought on the future of Africa, and perhaps show that freedom and pro- 

gress there are not impossible.  

This book should also explain further why I acted as I did in Uzbek- 

istan.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of senior British diplomats, civil ser- 

vants and members of the military knew of our policy of acceptance of 

torture. A great many were much more actively involved, particularly in 

extraordinary rendition, than I.  

Why they did nothing to stop it is, in fact, not the difficult question. 

Thousands of good, nice Germans were caught up at least tangentially in 

the administration of the concentration camps. They did nothing. Doing 

nothing is the norm, when it safeguards your life, your family and your 

livelihood.  The difficult question is why was Craig Murray, by no means 

a conventionally good man, one of the tiny handful of those involved not 

to go along with the torture policy of the Bush and Blair years?  This 

delve deeper into my past is an opportunity for us both to look for an- 


Doubtless some reviewers will again seize on the fact that I made mis- 

takes, particularly in my private life.  Well, I have news for you – I know 

that already.  I had no illusion that I am perfect.  The conflicts of the title 

are intended to embrace those internal ones with which we all struggle, 

and the conflicts in my personal life, as well as the obvious external ones. 

But, as one perceptive blog commenter said of US reviews of Murder in 

Samarkand (or Dirty Diplomacy, to give its US title), you don’t have to be a 

saint to call torture when you see it. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The thing that I did differently from other diplomats was that I cared. 

Diplomats rather pride themselves on not caring.  The culture of the For- 

eign and Commonwealth Office has been perceptively described by 

Carne Ross as “A cult of Machiavellianism”.  Carne and I quit in the Bush/ 

Blair years because we both cared passionately about those values which 

are meant to be fundamental to British policy, whichever party happens 

to be in power.  I care for human rights, democracy and international de- 

velopment.  I care for freedom.  I care passionately for Africa. 

The strange thing is that this is exactly the same list of things that Tony 

Blair declared, at every possible opportunity, that he was passionate about 

too.  I was one of the very few in the FCO who was delighted by the an- 

nouncement of an “Ethical foreign policy” by Robin Cook when New La- 

bour took office.  I had spent the first thirteen years of my career working 

for Conservative governments which I viewed with varying degrees of 


How extraordinary to find that those Conservative governments were 

much more honourable in their pragmatism than the reckless neo-conser- 

vative contempt for international law that Blair was about to introduce as 

this story begins.  Blair believed he alone was the judge of right, and did- 

n’t care how many had to die to prove it.  I hope that this book illustrates 

that, in his very first year of office, Blair’s role in the “Arms to Africa af- 

fair” displayed the cavalier disregard for the United Nations and for in- 

ternational law that was to do such huge damage to the United King- 

dom’s international reputation when applied to Iraq and the “War on Ter- 


Blair’s policy of “Projection of Hard Power” was simply the return of 

formal Imperialism.  His motives had not changed from Kipling’s “White 

man’s burden.”  We should establish protectorates over dusky peoples 

who don’t know much at all.  It’s for their own good.  However many we 

kill now, in time they will come to thank us. 

I apologise to my many friends in Ghana, including very good people 

with whom I worked in the High Commission, who are not mentioned in 

the book.  That does not in any way mean that I did not value your com- 

pany, or your contribution.  A few names have been changed where 

people requested it or to protect the guilty.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Grateful thanks are due to Ailsa Bathgate of Mainstream Publishing for 

her help with editing and to Margaret Binns for the index. 

The book has been subject to approval and minor censorship by the 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

Shepherds Bush,  November 2008 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 


Ethical Foreign Policy 

It was possibly the worst thing I had ever done, and my conscience was 

bothering me.  As my wife Fiona was nudging our overloaded Saab 9.3 

around a Polish lake, through fog so dense it looked like solid mass, I felt 

uneasy.  Mariola had been perhaps the nicest, kindest, gentlest mistress I 

ever had.  Her red curls framed a face of pre-Raphaelite perfection, her 

lithe but well curved body was the incarnation of allure, and more pre- 

cious still, her soul was deep, gentle and romantic.  She was also discreet, 

reliable, faithful and inexpensive.  Yet I was running away, leaving the 

country without even saying goodbye.  Worse, without even telling her I 

was going.  I hadn’t been able to face it.  I just left.  What a bastard I was. 

I reached up to the steering wheel and squeezed my wife’s hand for com- 


What I was doing to Mariola was really, really bad.  Even worse than 

sleeping with both her sisters.  I wondered if they would tell her. 

I had hugely enjoyed my time in Poland as First Secretary at the British 

Embassy.  I had been in charge of the Embassy’s Political, Economic and 

Information sections at an exciting time, as Poland transformed from 

communism to capitalism at astonishing speed.  Most of my work concen- 

trated on preparing Poland for eventual EU membership.  It had been a 

happy and successful period and my career was going well. 

It was mid December 1997 and we were driving back to London 

through the fog on minor roads, because the main trunk road through 

Poznan was a nightmare of speeding, overloaded trucks and traffic jams 

caused by the frequent accidents.  The infrastructure hadn’t kept up with 

the burgeoning of East/West trade.  Smaller roads some fifty miles north 

of the main one were in fact faster.  Unless you were enveloped in fog, as 

we now were.  That night we slept in a beautiful old castle, still govern- 

ment owned.  Under communism it had been one of many rest facilities 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

for branches of the Party.  One of the great pleasures of our time in Poland 

had been the numerous castles and aristocratic lodges throughout the 

country where you could hire the entire building for £50 per night and 

live, among the original furnishings, in vast decaying splendour.  Oak 

panelling, oil paintings of armoured aristocrats, pianos everywhere and 

acres of mildewing gold and scarlet velvet curtain.  Four poster beds with 

two foot high pillows stuffed with sharp quills.  Hot water brought to you 

in the morning in great steaming porcelain jugs.  I loved it.  My enthusi- 

asm was not entirely shared – the family preferred plumbing. 

The next night we slept in the Berlin Hilton, returning to modern effi- 

ciency and comfort.  Another night later we were at home in Gravesend. 

I had bought the house in Gravesend, on a massive mortgage, in my 

second year with the FCO, just before going out to Lagos on our first 

posting.  I didn’t really know London or the South East.  I had settled on 

Gravesend by starting from my workplace in Whitehall and going out on 

the commuter lines until I came upon the first decent sized house I could 

afford.  That was in Gravesend. 

The town has fallen on hard times, and appears to have forgotten its 

former glories.  It was right at the heart of darkness, one of the greatest 

ports of Britain’s Empire.  Several of Nelson’s ships at Trafalgar were built 

in Gravesend.  But even more remarkable is how many of the journeys 

that made the Empire started from there.  Gordon left for Khartoum, Bur- 

ton left for Mecca, Clive for India and Livingstone set off for Africa, all 

from Gravesend.  It was the portal of Empire for four hundred years. 

Famously Captain John Smith returned there with Pocahontas, and her 

remains still lie under St George’s church in the town. 

One of Nelson’s ships of the line at the battle of Cape St Vincent, the 74 

gun Colossus, was built in Gravesend for the Admiralty at the yard of a 

private contractor called Cleveley.  Badly knocked about after its heroic 

role in that battle, it accompanied Nelson back to Naples. There it was the 

scene of one of the worst blots on the history of the Royal Navy, as liberal 

opponents of the despotic Neapolitan regime were “tried” and shot or 

hung (depending on social status) on the ship, it being feared the people 

might rise to free them if they were tried in Naples itself.  That the Napo- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

leonic Wars were fought largely to uphold highly reactionary regimes, is a 

part of our history that still escapes popular culture. 

In Naples Nelson was shacked up in his ménage a trois with Sir Willi- 

am Hamilton and his wife, Emma.  Sir William was tremendously 

wealthy and had married far beneath him. His wife was thirty years 

younger than he, and by the standards of the time she was a tremendous 

beauty.  She was also, even by the standards of the time, a right slapper. 

Sir William was a highly influential connoisseur of art and played a 

pivotal role in starting the fashion for collecting Grecian urns, about 

which Keats was to wax so lyrical.  (What’s a Grecian urn?  About 20,000 

euros a year plus another 30,000 in EU subsidy scams.)   Hamilton had 

amassed the greatest collection of ancient urns the world had seen, or will 

ever see again.  The collection was absolutely priceless and irreplaceable. 

He had a beautiful catalogue made by artists in Naples, who reproduced 

on paper every detail of the designs.  

This turned out to be fortunate. 

The Colossus was sent back to the UK for repair due to her battle dam- 

age.  Nelson agreed that the Hamilton urn collection, packed with enorm- 

ous care into two hundred and twenty crates, could be sent to London on 

the ship.  The captain of the Colossus, a brilliant and daring Scot named 

(what else?) Murray, was not best pleased at this.  The unusual sexual ar- 

rangement between the Hamiltons and Nelson had been the source of 

much ribaldry in the fleet. Conveying the Admiral’s tart’s pots was not 

what Murray felt he had joined the Royal Navy for. 

He had other worries.  The Colossus was cannibalised by Nelson for 

other ships which were remaining on active service in the Mediterranean. 

Among the items taken were the anchor cable and the main anchor, which 

went to the Vanguard.  On the return voyage the Colossus had to anchor in 

the Scillies to ride out a fierce storm.  The makeshift anchor cable parted, 

and the ship was driven onto the rocks.  The Hamilton urn collection was 

dashed into tiny fragments.  Its value can be judged by the fact that when 

some tiny shards were picked up by divers recently, the British Museum 

still considered them important enough to join its permanent display. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Murray’s outstanding leadership and cool seamanship saved all of the 

crew, except the carpenter, but Murray still faced an ignominious court 


Gravesend is now shabby and dispirited with almost no sign of its fant- 

astic maritime heritage.  One thing that does still remain is the Port of 

London Authority.  Ships have to stop at Gravesend and take on a quali- 

fied local pilot before proceeding up the Thames.  In the 1860s when this 

long-standing practice was formalised, the Port of London Authority built 

a long line of identical semi-detached houses for the pilots.  One of these 

was now ours.  Pilots were retired sea captains, and the house, though a 

modest five bedrooms in size, gave an idea of their status, with marble 

fireplaces and mahogany fittings.  We had put many hundreds of hours of 

our own toil into its restoration. 

My son Jamie was nine, my daughter Emily three.  Jamie was at Welles- 

ley House, a tremendously posh preparatory (boarding) school in Broad- 

stairs.  We had been obliged to send Jamie there when it became plain 

that he was not happy or learning at the British School in Warsaw.  I had 

been heartbroken when he left, which I tried to hide under a façade of hu- 

mour.  The US Ambassador in Warsaw, a lady, had asked me about my 

son going away to school, and asked how old he was.  

“He’s six,” I replied. 

“He went away to school at six!  Why that’s terrible!” said the Ambas- 


“Yes I know,” I rejoined, “But they won’t take them any younger.” 

I could not have been happier about my new job in the Foreign and 

Commonwealth Office.  I was to be Deputy Head of Africa Department 

(Equatorial).  The FCO had three African departments.  There was Near 

East and North African Department (NENAD), dealing with the Mediter- 

ranean countries.  Then there were African Department (Equatorial) and 

African Department (Southern).  My new berth, African Department 

(Equatorial), or AD(E), dealt with over forty states.  It had two deputy 

heads, one for West Africa and one for East Africa.  I was to be the one in 

charge of West Africa.  That may have made me a small cog in a very 

large machine – but I was a very happy cog. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

For one thing, I governed my own bit of the machine.  I used to define 

what I did by saying that there was nobody senior to me who did nothing 

but West Africa.  And as West Africa was not exactly fashionable, I had 

the subject much to myself. 

And I love West Africa.  When I first joined the FCO in 1984, I had no 

doubt that I wanted to work on Africa.  I believed that the empowerment 

of the people of Africa, and the removal of poverty, disease, despotism 

and economic subordination from the continent, was the greatest chal- 

lenge in World politics.  I still feel that today. 

I had joined the FCO through the fast stream entry competition, and 

my Civil Service Selection Board score had been stellar – in the top three 

for all 80,000 applicants from the whole country.  I was marked down as a 

high flyer, and high flyers want to get involved in real power.  That means 

they spend their careers in Washington, New York, Brussels, Moscow, 

Berlin, Beijing and Paris.  My desire to work on Africa confused the FCO, 

but they went along with it.  My first job was a political desk in London 

dealing with South Africa, at a time when Mrs Thatcher was proclaiming 

Nelson Mandela a terrorist.  I then wanted to go to Africa – and not even 

Pretoria, to black Africa – on my first posting.  Personnel department sug- 

gested that Lagos would “Get Africa out of my system”.  But it didn’t.  I 

had the great job of dealing with agriculture and water resources, so des- 

pite the chaos and violence of Lagos, my travels all around Nigeria 

rubbed the red soil of Africa right into my blood.  And once it is in there, 

you can’t get it out.  

My new boss was now to be Ann Grant, Head of AD(E).  I was de- 

lighted about that, too.  Ann was as passionate about Africa as I was, and 

we shared a similar political outlook.  In particular, with New Labour 

having been in power less than a year, we were both enthusiasts for Robin 

Cook’s ethical foreign policy.  The idea that human rights, democracy, fair 

trade and development should take precedence over narrow self interest, 

was exactly the prescription that both Ann and I had been advocating for 

our Africa policy ever since we started our diplomatic careers.  

We were perhaps unusual in this; the large majority of senior British 

diplomats viewed Cook’s ideas with amused cynicism.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Within a month of becoming Prime Minister, Blair had bounced Cook 

at a Cabinet meeting over the sale of British Aerospace Hawk jets to In- 

donesia.  The Indonesian regime had a record of ruthless use of air power 

on civilian populations to crush dissent.  Cook had wanted to prevent the 

sale of further jets. Blair, with Jack Straw2 and Gordon Brown, had en- 

sured that not only was Cook overruled at Cabinet, but he was crushed in 

a humiliating fashion.  This strengthened the hand of the FCO mandarins 

even further; they knew that if in conflict with Cook over ethical foreign 

policy, Blair would always overrule his Foreign Secretary, especially if the 

interest of the British arms industry could be invoked,.  So there was a 

sense in which Cook was a lame duck almost from the start of his tenure. 

It was the Arms to Africa affair which brought Robin Cook’s ethical for- 

eign policy to widespread public ridicule.  It is a matter of great irony that 

at the heart of the affair were Ann Grant and I, two of the very few senior 

figures in the FCO who actually supported Cook. 

I started my new job on 5 January 1998.  My area of responsibility 

covered the 21 states of West Africa.  These included the coastal states, 

from Gabon in the East to Equatorial Guinea in the West, and the huge 

French speaking Sahelian territories of Mali, Burkina Faso and Upper 


I had reached the level of seniority in the FCO where I finally got my 

own room.  The FCO is run on very traditional lines, where the majority 

of the work is done in a “Third room”.  How this name came about I do 

not know – possibly the Head and the Deputy Head of Department had 

their individual rooms, so everyone else was in the “Third Room.”  Here, 

typically a First Secretary will sit supervising a gaggle of Second and 

Third Secretaries plus some clerical staff.  It is actually a very good sys- 

tem, as important items like briefings or submissions to ministers or an- 

swers to parliamentary questions will be submitted up the chain through 

the First Secretary anyway, and it allows for hands-on mentoring.  In fact 

Departments nowadays will have a series of third rooms, housing the De- 

partment’s Sections.  A big country like Nigeria or Russia might be 

2Straw had strong constituency connections with British Aerospace and a BAE board 

member, Lord Taylor of Bradford, had contributed 50% of Straw’s 1997 election 

expenses according to the Commons Register of Members’ interests. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

covered by its own Section in its own room with several staff dedicated to 

it, while smaller countries will be grouped together to make up a Section. 

As far as room layout allows in the rambling palatial buildings, there is 

generally one Section per room, but there are variations. 

So you can be quite a senior First Secretary and still sit in a common 

room with the staff you supervise – I had done so as head of Maritime 

and of Cyprus Sections.  But now finally I was to have my own room, and 

a very nice one it was.  If you stand at the Cenotaph and look at Gilbert 

Scott’s splendid Italianate building, mine was the ground floor second 

window to the right of the great doors.  The window is some twelve feet 

high and the ceiling looms above that, with deep cornices and pilasters, 

and a great marble mantelpiece carved in clean lines with a contrasting 

puritan severity. Everything had been painted over white some years be- 

fore, and dirt was notably gathering in corners and crevices.  The panelled 

door, also painted white, was ten feet tall and commensurately wide.  The 

room appeared to have been designed for a larger race.  Great billows of 

dirty grey net curtain loomed over the windows.  These are bomb blast 

curtains, made of a special plastic.  Much longer than the window and 

with a heavy chain tied to the bottom, the chain and yards of spare mater- 

ial are packed into an open topped wooden box on the window sill.  In 

the event of a bomb blast the curtains billow out, absorbing the energy of 

the glass shards and catching them in their capacious folds.  I know that 

they work well in the event of at least a reasonably distant blast, as I had 

lost my office windows some years earlier to an IRA explosion.  You can 

of course get windows that are highly blast proof and do not fragment 

into sharp shards; that would be more effective.  It would however also be 

more expensive; it would cost about .02% of the cost of the first day of our 

bombardment of Iraq.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had de- 

cided that the yards of curtaining sufficiently mitigated the chances of its 

employees being shredded, at a reasonable cost. 

I was glad that I had an old mahogany desk, topped with green leather 

that had darkened with age so you could scarcely make out the ink blots. 

I hated the new, flimsy beech desks they were putting in everywhere.  On 

my grand old desk there was a huge leather framed blotter of similar vin- 

tage, a green shaded desk lamp and various bits of dark bronze metal- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

work of uncertain purpose.  I put in a requisition for a leather settee, and 

was surprised to be called by the Property Services Agency the next day. 

“Hello there, sir, this is Estates.  I see you’ve put in for a sofa.  May I ask 

why you want it?” 

“Certainly:  I like to take a small nap in the afternoons.” 

“Oh.  Right you are then, sir.  We’ll have it with you in a jiffy.” 

And they did. 

The Department was divided into a number of sections, each with its 

own head.  Frances Macleod was head of Nigeria section.  She was a 

fiercely bright, red-haired Scot in her mid thirties, who had bumped into 

the FCO’s notorious glass ceiling.  As with so many women in the FCO, 

she was condemned to working for a series of chinless  wonders who 

were not nearly as bright as she was.  Including me, except for the chin- 

less bit.  Frustration tended to turn such women into ferocious turf-battle- 

rs, and Frances was plainly not pleased to have a boss who had actually 

served in Nigeria and knew even more about the country than she did. 

But fortunately Frances was so good that I was happy to leave Nigerian 

affairs almost entirely to her.3 

Sierra Leone was the most pressing problem in West Africa.  A failed 

state, most of the country was under the control of the Revolutionary 

United Front (RUF), a ragtag guerilla group of disaffected peasants.  They 

were in an alliance of convenience with the Armed Forces Ruling Council, 

a military junta who in May 1997 had ousted the democratically elected 

President Tejan Kabbah in a coup.  Many of the RUF’s fighters were child 

soldiers, or former child soldiers who had been abducted as children, of- 

ten with their parents butchered in front of their eyes.  

I didn’t know it then, but I was to get to know some of them quite well. 

The RUF had become internationally notorious for their practice of lop- 

ping off the arms of civilians with machetes (or matchets, as they are 

called in English speaking West Africa).  They would do this if they sus- 

pected villagers of hoarding grain, of being informers or just being gov- 

ernment supporters.  They did it to adults, to babies and to small chil- 

dren.  It became a kind of cult.  The scale of it was horrendous.  At that 

3Frances has since very sensibly left the FCO and gone to put her considerable talents at 

the service of the Scottish Executive. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

time nobody could know exactly how many had been amputated, but 

around twelve thousand amputees ultimately survived the conflict.  Prob- 

ably a larger number died. 

The conflicts in Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia were inter- 

twined, and the RUF were sponsored by, and effectively part of the forces 

of, then Liberian President Charles Taylor.  They also received arms and 

money from Colonel Gadaffi’s Libya,  and had the tacit and sometimes 

material support of the governments of Ivory Coast, Togo and other Fran- 

cophone West African states.  The RUF controlled most of Sierra Leone’s 

diamond fields, the most productive in the world.  Control of these dia- 

monds was the first goal of every group in the conflict. 

Nobody knew how long the alliance would last between the RUF and 

the military junta.  Meanwhile the Economic Community of West African 

States (ECOWAS) was attempting to negotiate a peaceful return to power 

for President Kabbah.  This was complex because, as always in West 

Africa, there were political, family and diamond smuggling connections 

between all the key players.  The Francophone states and Libya broadly 

supported the RUF.  Nigeria and Ghana backed Kabbah.  Nigeria was by 

far the dominant force in ECOWAS, with well over half its people and 

over 75% of its economy. 

The conflict in Sierra Leone was inextricably linked with the equally 

terrible and bloody one in neighbouring Liberia, with fighting groups 

ranging freely over the borders.  Liberia, as a state created by the US for 

the return of freed slaves, had powerful support among Black American 

politicians of all parties.  US political pressure had resulted in ECOWAS 

sending a powerful military force, ECOMOG, to end the conflict there. 

(The MOG stands euphemistically for monitoring group.)  ECOMOG con- 

sisted largely of Nigerian and Ghanaian forces, plus other contributions, 

with the Ghanaians being the key fighting troops.  Money, equipment and 

logistics came principally from the US government.  ECOMOG had 

fought hard battles, taking serious casualties, to subdue the Liberian fac- 

tions.  The end result was to secure the most powerful Liberian warlord, 

Charles Taylor, in the Presidential palace.  Taylor had always been a Ni- 

gerian client.  ECOMOG now stood poised to enter Sierra Leone if negoti- 

ation failed 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The military junta (AFRC) in Sierra Leone was in a weak position as it 

had the backing of no regional government, and had no roots or popular 

support in the country.  It was purely military.  It needed the alliance with 

the RUF, and increasingly the AFRC looked the prisoner of the RUF. 

While the RUF continued to exercise terror in the areas they felt opposed 

them, at least there was no hot war at present, and the rate of deaths and 

maimings was at its lowest for some years. 

The cult of amputation was not the only weird thing about the RUF. 

They were given to wearing amulets and mirrors which they believed 

rendered them bullet proof.  Some RUF fighters ate pieces of flesh from 

their victims in a ritual to absorb their strength, though this practice was 

not widespread. 

So far, so horrible.  But our policy in Sierra Leone was bedevilled by the 

great fallacy of the Blair years – that foreign conflicts can be seen in black 

and white, as goodies versus baddies;  therefore all we have to do is side 

with the goodies and join in.  Even the most complex conflicts were sim- 

plified in this way.  Thus the RUF was treated as though it were an alien 

phenomenon, a thing of pure evil that had been visited on us for no cause 

whatsoever.  I was to find that to suggest otherwise was unacceptable 

within the FCO.  But in fact while the RUF was undeniably horrible, it 

had its roots in real grievance.  The RUF was caused. 

And in truth, on the other side of the equation, there are seldom any 

real “goodies” among those vying for power and resources.  The Kabbah 

government were certainly not all goodies, as was to become obvious 

after the British army eventually restored them.  Blair’s fevered adoption 

of “goodies” where there are none, particularly in ethnic conflicts in the 

Balkans and Africa, was to lead to recurring foreign policy blunders. 

As with most current African conflicts, much of the cause of the Sierra 

Leone war can be traced back to colonial occupation.  The colonial motiv- 

ation in Sierra Leone was initially muddled but noble. On 22 June 1772 

Lord Mansfield, the Chief Justice of England, had ruled that nobody 

could own another person in England4, and by 1797 there was something 

4Lord Mansfield was of course a good Scot, born in Perth, and another Murray – William 

Murray.   His ruling didn’t apply in Scotland, but slavery was already illegal there, the 

Scots being ahead of the English as always. Although generations of schoolchildren had 

to learn it, William Murray in fact never said “the air of England is too pure for a slave to 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

of an accumulation of free Africans in London, many of whom did not 

want to be there.  

The capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown, was established by the British in 

1797 as a colony to which they could return freed slaves, just as its better 

known twin, Liberia, was to be established by the Americans.  As Simon 

Schama has  pointed out5, popular history has written out the undoubted 

fact that British anti-slavery laws were a primary cause of the American 

rebellion.  George Washington was fighting for the right to keep black 

people in chains.  Unsurprisingly, quite a lot of black people fought 

against him.  These black “Empire loyalists” formed the majority of the 

first returnees to Freetown.  Such is the confusion of history that the next 

wave was made up primarily of rebellious slaves from British Jamaican 

plantations deported as troublemakers.6  

The native tribes, notably the Mende and the Temne, showing a laud- 

able lack of colour prejudice, viewed all the colonists, black or white, as 

invaders, and started attacking Freetown pretty well from the day of its 

foundation.  The colony was overrun several times in its first fifty years.  

The tension between the natives and the colonists, white and black, 

never stopped and there is no doubt that the RUF and the conflict of the 

1990s had direct links to this root, whatever the complicating factors.  A 

situation developed where a coastal elite, consisting of the colonist famil- 

ies increasingly in alliance with the Mende, came to dominate the rich 

coastal trade and to squeeze those in the hinterland who were dependent 

on the coast for access to markets for their produce.  In essence that situ- 

ation is little changed today.  The inland tribes considered the coastal elite 

to be wealthy parasites; the coasters considered the inlanders to be rude 

and idle peasants.  Those attitudes still persist. 

British rule was not imposed on the interior of Sierra Leone until 1896, 

and the subsequent taxation led in 1898 to one of Britain’s most vicious, 

breathe.”  Given the smell of late eighteenth century London, it would have risked 

derision if he had! 

5Schama, Rough Crossings, passim 

6A number of unfortunate white prostitutes were also deported to Sierra Leone.  Of the 

white settlers, both official and convict, over 100 out of 140 died of disease in the first 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

and most forgotten, colonial wars.  Again the local tribes attacked both 

whites and non-native blacks.  The official enquiry concluded that 

“the rioters, identifying all English-speaking people with the English 

government, and believing that in one way or other they had taken part 

with and aided the government in bringing the hut tax, with its con- 

comitant grievances, upon them, were wrought up to the desire of tak- 

ing vengeance upon them.”7 

Many brave people fought on all sides, and thousands died, in that war, 

but their history is almost entirely unwritten.  It took two British relief ex- 

peditions to subdue the country, and many hundreds of British soldiers 

were killed, but they were mostly black West Indians, so they didn’t 

trouble the history books too much.  The Sierra Leone War of 1898 to 1900 

rates not a mention even in Thomas Pakenham’s magisterial survey The 

Scramble for Africa.  Niall  Ferguson’s Empire mentions Sierra Leone just 

twice.  He notes its founding in 1797, and then next gives us the year 2000 

and the views of Tony Blair and his acolyte Robert Cooper on how Sierra 

Leone justifies “a new kind of imperialism”.8  In missing out the interven- 

ing years of actual Empire, Ferguson shows the same lack of historical 

perspective as undermined Blair and Cooper’s analysis.  Of course the lat- 

ter two aren’t pretending to be historians.9 

The1898  “rebellion” of the newly annexed tribes was finally put down 

with great ferocity, and when the fighting was over, a hundred and 

twenty indigenous “rebels” were formally tried and executed – hung 

slowly from trees by the country that had invaded them.  The large major- 

ity of the colonial black settlers supported the hangings and applauded 

them vigorously.  

Freetown and Sierra Leone remained formally separate, respectively as 

colony and protectorate, until they were merged on independence in 

7Quoted in Richard Gott Sierra Leone and New Labour Miiltarism, 


8Ferguson, Imperialism, pp373-6. 

9CLR James covers the Sierra Leone War more comprehensively in his History of Pan- 

African Revolts (1969).  Unfortunately, though a great man and a great writer, covering 

ground unjustifiably neglected, James is a poor historian, and many of his claims, 

particularly on the annihilation of white battalions, give too much credence to oral 

history.  Nonetheless it is a very valuable exercise in recovering the ordeal of the 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

1961.  The colony of Freetown fostered an educated elite of black settlers 

who monopolised the rich maritime trade of Freetown, exploiting the nat- 

ive inland people who actually worked to produce the trade goods – in- 

cluding diamonds.  There was little intermarriage between settler and in- 

digenous families, and the settler-dominated and usually military govern- 

ments of Freetown post 1961 were a byword for massive corruption, even 

by African standards. 

In its forty years of independence Sierra Leone had been a nation in 

continual turmoil, where physical control of the diamond mines, usually 

by employing foreign mercenary guards, was the key political factor. The 

latest of these foreign mercenary forces controlling the diamonds was 

from a company called Sandline International.  They had the same owner- 

ship and management as Executive Outcomes.  This was the euphemistic 

name for as enthusiastic a band of white killers as has been unleashed on 

Africa since King Leopold ran the Congo.  

The backbone of Executive Outcomes were South African apartheid era 

special forces members who were hired to get back to killing black 

people.  Their modus operandi was to seize by physical force key natural 

resources – oil fields, diamond and gold mines – in countries torn apart 

by conflict.  They worked for private corporations who would bribe their 

way to huge natural resource concessions from corrupt governments, giv- 

en on condition that Executive Outcomes took physical possession of the 

assets from rebel forces.  As EO were able to deploy modern weaponry 

and highly trained forces and only sought to seize specific natural re- 

source targets, they were able to operate with some success.  Their largest 

operation had been in Angola, where the prizes were oil and diamonds, 

and where Executive Outcome’s hired white killers had gained a reputa- 

tion for random attacks with heavy machine guns on “rebel” villages, of- 

ten from the air. 

The management of Executive Outcomes and subsequently of Sandline 

included Simon Mann, the old Etonian mercenary currently in jail in 

Equatorial Guinea for his attempt to organise a coup in that oil-rich state. 

There has been a great deal of public sympathy in the UK for the British 

Officer sweltering in an African jail.  I believe that is because the public do 

not realise the true facts of mercenary involvement in Africa. While I 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

would welcome an alleviation of his living conditions, I do not feel it 

would be unjust if he were to be kept in prison until he is too old to or- 

ganise the death of another African.10 

DFID had made a high-minded attempt to break the cycle of bad gov- 

ernance by organising and securing the more or less democratic election 

of President Tejan Kabbah in 1996.  Kabbah was however overthrown 

after one year by a military junta, the Armed Forces Ruling Council, who 

claimed to be acting against government corruption.    Naturally, the 

AFRC then proceeded itself to loot the country.  

British policy was to restore the democratically elected government of 

President Kabbah.  It could hardly have been otherwise.  But unfortu- 

nately it failed to take cognisance of the fact that the Kabbah government 

had indeed been hideously corrupt, and as pre-occupied as all previous 

Sierra Leonean governments with venal deals in the diamond fields.  Kab- 

bah himself was a former UN official, which I regret to tell you too often 

means corrupt and untrustworthy11.  After the Sandline affair became 

public, Kabbah was to be repeatedly disingenuous about his role in it. 

10Interestingly Simon Mann has claimed from jail in an interview with Channel 4 News 

that the British Government knew and approved of his coup plot.  That was exactly the 

same defence  his then partner, Tim Spicer, was to deploy in “The Sandline Affair”. 

11I am a huge supporter of the UN, but I am afraid to say that the money-changers are 

running the temple. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Arms to Africa 

I have a high regard for the British military.  I come from a family with 

centuries of tradition of military service.  Members of the diplomatic ser- 

vice often work very closely with the military, and I had done so in my ca- 

reer.  We share Embassies with military attaches and their staff, and I had 

almost always got on extremely well with them, forging friendships 

which still endure today – I had often found their company more con- 

genial than that of many of my FCO colleagues.  On home postings, as 

head of Cyprus section I had worked very closely with the UK sovereign 

military bases on the island and with the British contingent of the UN 

peacekeeping force there, and with my military counterparts in the MOD. 

The UK contingent of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus was at that 

time funded from the FCO budget.  In consequence the living conditions 

of our peacekeeping troops, particularly those in married quarters, had 

deteriorated until we were asking our soldiers and their families to live in 

quite appalling conditions.  Together with Brigadier Dick Lamb I had de- 

voted a lot of energy to freeing up resources to improve things.  This had 

made me popular with the Army, but not in some parts of the FCO (al- 

most none of my diplomatic colleagues could imagine why I was 

bothered about military living conditions). 

Then as Head of Maritime Section I had worked very closely indeed 

with the Navy on a whole variety of issues.  As Head of the FCO section 

in the Embargo Surveillance Centre following the Iraqi invasion of 

Kuwait, I had lived in a (literally) underground establishment for months 

working with largely military personnel.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

So I was very comfortable with the military.  When on my second day 

in my new office I received a friendly phone call from Lt.-Col Tim Spicer 

saying he wished to come and see me, it rang no alarm bells with me. 

The defence industry is full of newly retired military personnel, and we 

provide military training to governments all around the world.  I should 

confess that I didn’t yet on 6 January 1998 mentally attach the word “mer- 

cenary” to Sandline, and I did not connect Sandline with Executive Out- 

comes during that initial telephone conversation with Spicer.  

As Spicer briefly explained it, Sandline were involved in providing se- 

curity to expatriate companies in Sierra Leone and training to forces loyal 

to the legitimate government of Sierra Leone.  Spicer asked if he could 

come to see me and brief me on what his company was doing, and I read- 

ily agreed.  I felt I could do with all the briefing I could get. 

The next day I mentioned Spicer’s call to John Everard, my predecessor 

as Deputy Head, who was engaged in a week’s handover with me.  John 

asked if I was sure I wanted to meet Spicer.  He said that as our policy 

was to avoid further military conflict in Sierra Leone, he had thought it 

best to avoid direct contact with Spicer, and to have only telephone con- 

tact with him. 

It had not occurred to me that there could be a problem, and I was a bit 

taken aback by what John had said.  But it would be difficult now for me 

to cancel the appointment I had agreed.  

I thought it through, and decided that I really couldn’t see the moral 

difference between having a conversation on the telephone, as John Ever- 

ard did, and having it face to face.  Indeed you could sum someone up 

much better if you could see their body language rather than just hear 

their voice.  I spoke to Tim Andrews, head of the section which included 

Sierra Leone, who told me that it was indeed very sensitive, but that 

Spicer had been chasing a contract to train forces loyal to President Kab- 

bah.  Tim agreed with my suggestion that we should see Spicer, as we 

needed to know what was happening.  But Tim did mention he believed 

Sandline were connected to Executive Outcomes.  That put me on my 


Perhaps I should have researched further.  But I was in just my second 

day in a big new job.  I had 21 new countries to update myself on, in- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

volving thousands of pages of material to read through.  I worked over a 

hundred hours that first week.   I decided Spicer could wait until I met 

him. I didn’t particularly see him as a danger to me.  

I underestimated Spicer.  That was a bad error of judgement. 

19 January, the day that Tim Spicer arrived, was extremely busy.  We 

had ministerial briefings and parliamentary questions on Sierra Leone 

and a consular crisis in Nigeria.  So when I was informed that Colonel 

Spicer was here to see me, it took me a few seconds to recall who he was. 

As he was shown up, I asked Tim Andrews to come and sit in with me 

and take a note of the conversation.  You would normally only do this for 

important visitors – otherwise you would just make a brief note yourself 

after the meeting – but given John Everard’s words of caution, I thought it 

was probably wise to have Tim Andrews present.  Besides, he knew the 

subject much better than I yet did. 

Tim Spicer was short for a soldier, but well built and exceedingly well 

manicured and coiffured.  His conventional good looks were marred by a 

slight hooding of the eyes or squint.  He wore the thin, inch apart pin- 

stripes that seem to be universally favoured by the British military out of 

uniform.  He smelt of expensive after-shave. 

Spicer told us that Sandline now had a contract to provide training to 

the Kamajors, a militia force loyal to Sam Hinga Norman and currently 

prepared to fight for President Kabbah.  He said that the aim was to pre- 

pare the Kamajors for a quick campaign, in support of the Nigerian-led 

ECOMOG forces, to retake Sierra Leone from the RUF and military junta. 

The contract covered training and “non-lethal” equipment.  Spicer used 

the phrase “non-lethal” several times, and I took it as his intention to 

stress that he was not providing weapons and was therefore acting leg- 


I told him that we did not favour a military solution and that any 

armed intervention by ECOMOG would require prior agreement from the 

UN Security Council; it was essential that any such military action be as 

quick and limited as possible. The laws of armed conflict and the human 

rights of civilians must be respected. 

I asked Spicer, who was funding the Sandline contract, and why?  He 

replied that he was not free to tell me who was funding it, but that it re- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

lated to the securing of some mineral assets within the country.  I asked 

him who Sandline were?  I had heard that they were related to Executive 

Outcomes, whose reputation in Africa was not good.  Were Sandline re- 

lated to Executive Outcomes, and was Mr Tony Buckingham involved in 


Spicer replied that he did not have authority to discuss Sandline’s cor- 

porate structure or confidential business matters.  He was here to brief me 

on the wider situation with regard to their strategy on Sierra Leone. 

Spicer then said that he had intelligence that the junta may be attempt- 

ing to acquire Eastern European weapons, shipped via Nigeria.  I said 

that we could ask the Nigerian government to intercept any such 

weapons shipments under UN Security Council Resolution 1132.  I asked 

Tim Andrews to show him the relevant passage. 

Tim Andrews did not have a copy of the resolution on him, so he went 

back to his own office to get one.  He took it down from where it was 

pinned, on the cork board behind the desk officer Linda St Cook’s desk. 

He returned to my room and read aloud the appropriate clause: 

Decides that all States shall prevent the sale or supply to Sierra Leone, by 

their nationals or from their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of 

petroleum and petroleum products and arms and related matériel of all types, 

including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramil- 

itary equipment and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originat- 

ing in their territory; 

Spicer responded to this by saying that he had understood that the UN- 

SCR applied only to the RUF, and not to the government.  I said that this 

was wrong, and that it was a geographic prohibition covering the whole 


Spicer then asked whether the prohibition applied to ”dual-use” items, 

which  could have either a military or a civilian application.  He gave the 

example of night vision equipment, which he said could be used by the 

military or in mining.  I said that such “dual-use” items would be subject 

to export control licensing by the Department of Trade and Industry, who 

would consult other departments including the FCO and MOD. 

Spicer then asked if military items could be exported to a neighbouring 

country such as Guinea, and then on to Sierra Leone.  I said no, they 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

While it was now obvious to me that Spicer was really considering the 

potential for himself to export  arms to the government of Sierra Leone, I 

felt that Tim Andrews and I had made it plain that this was not allowed. 

The language of the Resolution which Tim Andrews read out to Spicer is 

admirably plain.  I was surprised that a former British Army Lieutenant 

Colonel, who must by training have been familiar with UN Security 

Council Resolutions in conflict situations and how to interpret them, ap- 

peared to be quite so ignorant of the basic rules governing his operations 

in a theatre in which he was already involved.  But I took it that this was 

because his existing contract covered only training and non-lethal equip- 

ment, as he had stated, and he was just making preliminary enquiries 

about the possibility of expanding this to include arms.  

I am quite certain that, when Tim Andrews read Spicer the Security 

Council Resolution, he did not say anything like “Well, that’s awkward, 

because the contract we expect to sign does include the sale of weapons”. 

It was not only to Tim Andrews and I that Spicer went out of his way to 

stress that his contract was for “non-lethal” equipment.  My first day in 

the Department had been 5 January, but as is FCO practice I had a few 

days “handover” from my predecessor who was still doing the job for the 

first few days.  On 5 January John Everard had sent a minute to Ann 

Grant to say that Spicer had told Everard that his contract would include 

medical and communications equipment “and nothing higher profile”.12 

It has been put to me, not least at the House of Commons Foreign Af- 

fairs Committee, that I must have realised that a £10 million contract in- 

cluded arms.  But in fact such contracts, not including arms, were an es- 

tablished feature of the region.  In particular, the Nigerian-led ECOMOG 

forces which were occupying Liberia, and which we believed might be 

going on to invade Sierra Leone, received their supplies, training, trans- 

portation and logistic support from the United States government via a 

company called Pacific and Atlantic Engineering.  Their role specifically 

excluded the provision of weapons.  Their funding, totalling some US$40 

million a year, included contributions from the German and Dutch gov- 





The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I presumed that Spicer was indicating a prospective contract with Kab- 

bah that would be similar in scope to the Pacific and Atlantic contract, 

and took that to be what he meant when he kept emphasising the term 


Nonetheless, I felt worried by my meeting with Spicer.  He had refused 

to clarify Sandline’s ownership, and his repeated questioning on the pos- 

sibility of sending arms to Sierra Leone led me to think that he was look- 

ing to add arms to training in the future.  All in all, I had found him not 

straight.  I therefore nipped three doors along the corridor to see Ann 

Grant, and told her that, having met Spicer, I was worried about his inten- 

tions and didn’t trust him, and that I proposed to tell the Department to 

break contact with him.  Ann agreed with my proposal, and I went imme- 

diately to let Tim Andrews and Linda St Cook know of my decision.  

Spicer later claimed that he informed the FCO at our meeting that he 

was exporting arms, and that the FCO (i.e. I) gave approval.  But both Tim 

Andrews and I were to make formal, independent statements to Customs 

and Excise in which we both stated that Spicer had emphasised that he 

was exporting non-lethal equipment.  We both also independently stated 

that, when Spicer raised questions over arms exports, Tim Andrews read 

him the Resolution to show that any arms exports would be illegal.  John 

Everard had minuted that Spicer had told him that he was supplying 

medical and communications equipment “and nothing higher profile”.  

Yet much of the media and most of the political establishment preferred 

to take the unsupported word of a mercenary – that he had told us about 

supplying arms – against all three of us.  

Why would that be? 

Well, the Conservative Party saw the “Arms to Africa affair” as their 

first real chance to hit the Blair government – still only seven months old 

– with a scandal.  They desperately wanted Spicer to be telling the truth 

and the FCO to have connived at breaking the law, preferably with minis- 

terial knowledge.  Conservatives were comforted in this view by the fact 

that Tim Spicer was a public schoolboy and a former Lt Colonel of a 

Guards regiment.  He was a gentleman, and socially very well connected, 

13Spicer gives a quite different account of this meeting.  See Tim Spicer, An Unorthodox 

Soldier, pp198-200 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

with friends in the royal family.  Such people never tell lies, while John 

Everard, Tim Andrews and I were all irredeemably middle class.  

This struck me forcibly when I was talking to a friend of mine, an of- 

ficer in the Ministry of Defence.  I told him that Spicer was not telling the 

truth when he said that I had approved of the shipment of arms.  My 

friend (I believe it was Colonel Andrew Jocelyn, but it may have been an- 

other) winced and said “But he’s godfather to one of my children.”  To 

many influential people in Britain, the idea that a senior Guards officer 

might lie was unthinkable – it struck at the root of their entire belief sys- 


Support for Spicer from Conservatives was predictable.  But I had not 

realised that influence would be exerted on behalf of Spicer from 10 

Downing Street.  Our policy on Sierra Leone was to seek a solution by 

peaceful means.  I am sure that was what Robin Cook favoured; I dis- 

cussed it with him several times.  But in No. 10 and in parts of the FCO, 

particularly the United Nations Department, they were starting to formu- 

late the Blair doctrine of radical military interventionism that was to lead 

Tony Blair to launch more wars  than any other British Prime Minister14.  

A fundamental part of this new Blair doctrine was to be the ultimate 

privatisation – the privatisation of killing.  Mercenary troops were seen as 

having many advantages for quick aggressive campaigns in third world 

countries.  Regular government forces had been configured to fight huge 

battles against other regular forces.  Mercenaries were more flexible and 

less constrained by regulation.  

If you consider what “less constrained” really means in terms of shoot- 

ing up civilians, it is remarkable that this was viewed as an advantage. 

Still more remarkably, this policy of military intervention in the develop- 

ing world had many adherents in DFID, where it was being promoted un- 

der the slogan that “Security is a precondition of development”. 

The “Sandline” or “Arms to Africa” affair has been presented by its pro- 

ponents as a noble attempt to restore democratic government to Sierra Le- 

one, hampered by pettifogging bureaucrats.  In fact, it was nothing of the 

kind, but a deeply squalid plot to corner the market in Sierra Leone’s 

blood diamonds.  

14See John Kampfner; Blair’s Wars 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

It was, in the baseness of its motivation, absolutely typical of white 

mercenary operations in Africa for the last fifty years. 

The architect of the Sandline plot was Rakesh Saxena.  Then 47, Saxena 

was a remarkable character.  A self-professed leading international Marx- 

ist analyst, he had a (ahem) controversial career in banking, takeovers and 

derivatives trading.  He was, at the time I joined the Africa Department, 

detained on bail in Vancouver while fighting extradition on fraud charges 

to Thailand.  Saxena already had a long history of dealing in African 

blood diamonds, including in Angola where Executive Outcomes were 

“securing” the mines..  

In Sierra Leone, Saxena planned to pull off a spectacular coup.  He 

would speculate £10 million on arms and mercenary support to President 

Kabbah.  In return, Kabbah would immediately give Saxena title to major 

diamond mining concessions with an estimated value of at least £70 mil- 

lion, plus promises of tax exemptions and preferred future access to dia- 

mond trading. 

So the financier of the Sandline project was not the government of Pres- 

ident Kabbah, but a millionaire businessman accused of fraud, who 

wanted diamonds.  Saxena had made a hard business calculation, that for 

the £10 million he was risking Sandline could effectively restore Kabbah. 

It was the old story – trained white men to go in, shoot up a lot of Afric- 

ans and grab control of key economic resources. That analysis character- 

ises most – not all, but most – of the history of white intervention in Africa 

for the last five hundred years. 

It was this contract, including the weapons, men and training which 

Sandline were to provide, and the diamond concessions and other deals 

which were to be given to Saxena, which the British High Commissioner 

to Sierra Leone, Peter Penfold, recommended to President Kabbah on 19 

December 1997.  By his own account to me, Penfold successfully per- 

suaded Kabbah to sign.  This is confirmed by Tim Spicer who writes 

“Kabbah had discussed our involvement in Sierra Leone with him [Pen- 

fold] before agreeing to the deal.”15 

Penfold then flew to London and had lunch as the guest of Tim Spicer 

and Tony Buckingham (of Executive Outcomes) on 23 December 1997. 

15Spicer;  An Unorthodox Soldier, p193 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

He then called into the FCO to pick up mail, and later flew to Canada on 

holiday.  On 29 January Penfold returned to London, and again went 

straight to see Tim Spicer.  Having seen Spicer shortly before leaving for 

Canada, why did Penfold need to see Spicer again immediately on his re- 


In mid January 1998, Saxena was re-arrested by the Royal Canadian 

Mounted Police after being discovered in possession of a false passport, 

which they suspected he might use to jump bail.  Saxena was therefore 

imprisoned by a Vancouver court, but continued to run the project from 

his jail cell. 

I have struggled to understand Peter Penfold’s motivation.  The House 

of Commons  Foreign Affairs Committee was to take the view that Pen- 

fold had exceeded his authority in giving full support to the proposed 

mercenary-led attack  in Sierra Leone. But they concluded that his motiva- 

tion was honourable.  He believed the restoration of the democratic gov- 

ernment, by armed force if necessary, was an overriding objective.  The 

media portrayed Penfold as a heroic figure, the man in the middle of the 

action, fighting for democracy in the depths of Africa and being obstruc- 

ted by the pettifogging bureaucrats back home.  In short, the media 

treated him like General Gordon. 

I am less sure.  For one thing, Penfold deserved the praise he received 

from the Foreign Affairs Committee for winning the complete trust and 

confidence of President Kabbah.  But Kabbah was not Sierra Leone.  Pen- 

fold was undoubtedly popular with the Freetown faction around Kabbah. 

Religion is terribly important in West Africa and Penfold was – another 

parallel with Gordon – a charismatic Christian, who would lead Freetown 

church services with his guitar.   

But in my conversations with him, Penfold never struck me as idealistic 

– and nor did idealism come over in his appearance before the Foreign 

Affairs Committee.  What then was his motivation in getting so deeply in- 

volved in the Sandline project as to introduce it to Kabbah, and to appear 

so intent on reporting to Sandline in London? 

I think in considering this question of Penfold’s motivation, it is essen- 

tial that we remember that the Sandline contract was the opposite of a 

noble venture.  It involved tens of million pounds worth of blood dia- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

monds in return for support by hired killers, with the financial backing of 

an alleged fraudster, in jail in Canada and on the run from the Thai au- 


After I had concluded my meeting with Spicer on 19 January 1998, I 

had walked him to the door of the building.  A gloomy premature dusk 

was already gathering over a cloud shrouded London, and little dust dev- 

ils were whirling in King Charles St, driven by a biting cold wind that 

looked as though it portended a storm.  As I shook Spicer’s hand, he 

looked up at me and met my eyes – something I suddenly realised he al- 

most never did.  

“You won’t deny this meeting happened, will you?” he asked. 

I was taken aback by such an extraordinary question.  What on earth 

did he mean? 

“No, of course not.  Why should I?” 

The remark added to my distrust of Spicer – in my experience, those 

who suspect without provocation that others may be dishonest, are sel- 

dom exactly straightforward themselves.  When you are naturally truth- 

ful, it hits you like a slap in the face if someone suggests that you may not 

tell the truth.  The remark reinforced my feeling that there was something 

rum about Spicer, and on return I told Ann of my decision to tell the De- 

partment not to have further contact with him. 

But I cannot pretend that Spicer was more than a minor cloud on my 

horizon.  His proposed training for the Kamajors seemed to me a 

sideshow, simply a chance for Sandline to make a bit of money.  The real 

question was if and when the vastly more capable Nigerian-led, US-sup- 

plied ECOMOG force on the Liberian border would move against the Si- 

erra Leonean junta.  

I comforted myself that, with any luck, I might never hear of Spicer 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Almost Gabon 

Meantime, I was delighted to be going out to West Africa again. 

As is customary in the FCO, I flew out on a “familiarisation visit” to get 

to know the territories for which I was responsible or, in my case, to up- 

date myself.  Given the number of countries for which I was responsible 

this was going to take several visits.  On this first trip, I was going to Ni- 

geria, Cameroon and Gabon.  Nigeria was a given, because it has the 

largest population and greatest total wealth in Africa, while Cameroon is 

next door and an important Francophone state. I was to visit Gabon be- 

cause it was taking a six month turn as a member of the UN Security 

Council and there were a number of issues on which I was briefed to ask 

for support.   We did not have an Embassy in Gabon, and nobody from 

the British government had visited Gabon for some time. 

Nigeria is a fascinating country.  I served in Lagos from 1986 to 1990, 

and in my time there two personal friends of mine had been murdered by 

armed robbers in separate incidents, and a third deliberately poisoned in 

his office and left crippled.  You were obliged to live behind so much of 

razor wire, iron bars and armed guards that it was like locking yourself in 

your own prison.  Nigeria is a country where society has gone horribly 

wrong, to the extent that a whole nation, speaking some three hundred 

different languages and dialects, has been tarnished by the brush of 

criminality.  But it has to be faced squarely that there is real cause – Ni- 

gerians are responsible worldwide for a high proportion of internet fraud, 

and of social security and identity fraud in the UK.  You cannot safely 

walk the streets of Lagos at night. 

This is all so different from Accra in Ghana, where anyone can and 

does stroll around the bars and restaurants at night, that it is different to 

imagine that the two cities are only ten hours drive apart.  Given that both 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

have very similar British colonial backgrounds, it is difficult to avoid the 

obvious conclusion that vast oil wealth has poisoned Nigerian society. 

But it is more complicated than that.  The colonial authorities in Ghana 

made less changes to local customary law and to the local institutions of 

chieftaincy, which in Ghana still play an important role, particularly in the 

allocation of land.  These institutions have contributed to Ghana’s con- 

tinuing social cohesion. 

On any rational analysis, the primary practical impact of the govern- 

ment of Nigeria is to shift economic resources from the naturally wealthy 

South to the naturally poor North.  The entire government machinery can 

be envisaged simply as a pump, with the flow of resources going only 


There are different mechanisms for transporting the economic re- 

sources North.  One of the most important has been import licences.  In 

an economy that historically has been ludicrously controlled and mis- 

managed, the ability to import everything from palm oil to motor cars has 

been awarded by government to a chosen few.  Import licensing has over- 

whelmingly favoured Northerners, with the sugar and salt monopolies of 

the Dangotes and the Dantatas being one of the more egregious examples. 

Northern control of the military has meant Northern control of govern- 

ment, as for most of its independent history Nigeria has been under milit- 

ary dictatorship.  Over a fifty year period Nigeria has probably been the 

most corrupt country in the World, and as those pulling the levers of 

power have been Northerners, the effect of this has been the funnelling 

Northwards of many hundreds of billions of dollars of Nigeria’s looted oil 

wealth.  These overtly corrupt mechanisms (as opposed to the legal but 

still disastrous mechanism of import licensing) include plain looting of 

the Treasury by military dictators, massive corruption in award of gov- 

ernment contracts, and a massive web of patronage. 

It is not in the least that southern Nigerians are averse to employing 

any of these tactics.  It is simply the case that the more martial North has 

been able successively to dominate military governments. 

There is currently a fashion in development circles, and particularly 

within DFID, for aid to African armies and other military institutions. 

The argument runs that security is a necessary precondition of develop- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

ment.  It is also argued that such training inculcates respect for democracy 

in African armed forces.  The best riposte to this British doctrine of neo- 

militarism is to note that the large majority of Nigeria’s rapacious stream 

of  military dictators, and the senior coup plotters who supported them, 

have been trained at Sandhurst at British government expense.  

Sandhurst has been responsible for educating those who generated un- 

told repression and economic ruination in Africa.  Of the immediate prob- 

lems facing me, General Johnny Paul Koroma, who had initially over- 

thrown President Kabbah in Sierra Leone in the military coup of 1997 and 

still led a powerful force there, was a Sandhurst man.  The appalling Gen- 

eral Sani Abacha, then dictator of Nigeria, had also been trained by the 

British government, at MONS in Aldershot and the infantry college at 


General Abacha had seized power in a military coup in Nigeria in 1993, 

after the military annulled the elections won by Chief Abiola.  He had 

closed down the media, banned political parties and murdered thousands 

of opponents.  He came to international opprobrium after executing the 

novelist (and my friend) Ken Saro Wiwa, as well as imprisoning for 

“treason” Abiola and former President Obasanjo.  

Nigeria had been expelled from the Commonwealth and subjected to a 

variety of international sanctions.  Abacha had retaliated against British 

interests, notably banning British Airways from the country.  This was a 

stronger move than it sounds, for Nigeria was British Airways’ most prof- 

itable route. 

France sought to benefit from the freeze in Nigerian/British relations by 

cultivating Sani Abacha strongly.  The French intelligence services were 

even paying personal bribes to Abacha to maintain the ban on British Air- 


For those who really know Africa, that is not shocking.  In twenty years 

inside experience, I never saw French policy show any interest whatso- 

ever in human rights or even economic development.  French policy in 

Africa has been motivated entirely by short term commercial or financial 

gain, usually for individual French politicians or interests connected to 

them, rather than for France as a whole. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

It is also worth noting that many British commercial interests suppor- 

ted Abacha.  The annulment of the election results and transition to 

Abacha was handled by Ernest Shonekan, head of Unilever Nigeria and a 

long term ally of military dictators, as well as one of the most personally 

unpleasant men I have had the misfortune to meet. Abacha’s killing of 

Ken Saro Wiwa, and of hundreds of others who protested at the appalling 

pollution and labour conditions in the Niger Delta oil industry, was in the 

interest of Shell and other oil giants.  

Shell had certainly been making corrupt payments to then President 

Ibrahim Babangida when I was in the Commercial Section of the British 

High Commission in Lagos in the late 1980s, and I see no reason to sup- 

pose they had fundamentally changed their practices.  These included 

personal payments to local police and military commanders who carried 

out on the ground the brutal suppression of dissent in the Niger Delta. 

I found Abacha’s Nigeria a sad and solemn place, with a new element 

of fear – people were scared to be seen with you, and were continually 

looking over their shoulders as we talked.  Before Abacha, dictatorship 

had been rather sporadically applied with little sense of an all-pervading 

state.  I used to call Babangida’s Nigeria a dictatorship tempered by ineffi- 

ciency.  The feel of Abacha’s Nigeria was much more oppressive. 

One person who was certainly not going to be intimidated was Bola 

Ige, the vigorous lawyer, human rights activist and politician.  Together 

with Frances Macleod, who accompanied me for the Nigeria leg of my 

trip, I visited Bola in his house in Ibadan.  He made us tea with his own 

hands and we sat on comfortable chairs in his living room, which was 

strewn with books.  Abacha had announced the introduction of “demo- 

cracy” with five political parties created by himself – Bola memorably de- 

scribed them as “The five fingers of the leper’s hand.”  He was blunt in 

his cataloguing of the persecution of political activists, and the astonish- 

ing rate of corruption.  He was a comforting presence, so rational and se- 


After Abacha’s death, Bola was to become a crusading anti-corruption 

Attorney-General of Nigeria.  That is why they gunned him down and 

killed him, at about the spot where he now stood bidding us a warm 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Otherwise my visit to Nigeria was uneventful.  In Abuja I stayed with 

our good and forthright High Commissioner, Graham Burton.  My chief 

memory of the visit is how very old my Nigerian friends looked, and my 

worrying I too must be ageing fast. 

From Nigeria I flew on to Yaounde in Cameroon.  At Lagos airport 

there was the remembered chaos as it turned out more people had board- 

ing cards than there were seats on the plane.  Everyone had been checking 

in with astonishing quantities of luggage, and still managed to arrive at 

the gate with more hand luggage each than my total worldly goods.  

Having made it onto the plane, we sat on the tarmac for over an hour 

while an astonishing number of textile-wrapped bundles were crammed 

into the cargo hold.  Once the plane lumbered along the runway, it 

seemed to pick up speed far too slowly, and it ran out of tarmac and 

bumped at speed over a couple of hundred metres of rough grasses be- 

fore slowly pulling itself into a very shallow climb.  I wondered how we 

would get enough height to get over the major mountains on the Nigeria/ 

Cameroon border.  I was being squeezed into the aisle by the massive 

lady sat beside me, who was several times wider than her seat and 

dressed in bright yellow cloth.  She was waving a handkerchief in the air 

and singing hymns loudly.  I decided to exercise my facility of being able 

to sleep in almost any position and circumstance, and re-awoke as we 

bumped along the Yaounde tarmac. 

In Yaounde I saw a session of President Biya’s pet parliament, and then 

travelled by car up to Bamenda to visit Cameroon’s English speaking 

community.  President Paul Biya is yet another of those African tyrants, 

having ruled with an increasingly ruthless hand since 1982.  There are 

two additional factors in Cameroon which make Biya’s reign particularly 

obnoxious.  One is internationally well-known, the other distinctly not. 

They are the desecration of Africa’s greatest remaining rain forest, and the 

repression of Cameroon’s English speaking communities. 

Beating around the country by Land Rover, I stood on the main road 

into Douala from the East, and counted timber lorries for a period of half 

an hour.  I only counted those great lorries bearing logs of more than 

eight feet in diameter, to give a rough indication of primary forest.  In just 

half an hour I counted 53 such lorries.  They did not stop coming day or 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

night.  Cameroon has regulations on the number of trees per hectare log- 

gers may take from the primary forest, but these are commonly ignored, 

as are forest reserves, amid massive collusion between loggers and minis- 

ters.  Among the disastrous effects is the tiny and ever declining popula- 

tion of the last surviving mountain gorillas. 

You probably knew all that.  But few people know of the repression of 

Cameroon’s English speaking communities – indeed few people seem to 

know Cameroon has English speakers.16  In fact they amount to about 

15% of the population. 

The British colony of South Cameroons was joined to Cameroon in 

1961.   The population have regretted it more or less ever since.  Though 

English and French are joint official languages of Cameroon, in fact there 

is massive discrimination.  This includes the closure and deprivation of 

resources of English schools and colleges, the paucity of government ex- 

penditure in the English areas and the denial of government jobs and pat- 

ronage to English speakers.  Then there is a long catalogue of torture, im- 

prisonment, beatings and killings, with the gendarmerie having free reign 

in the English speaking areas. 

Dictators are often popular in Africa through their personality cults, 

but President Biya is genuinely hated – so much so that in 1992 he man- 

aged to lose the Presidential election to an English speaking candidate, 

John Fru Ndi.  The military then moved in on the Electoral Commission 

in typical African fashion, and the result was changed so Biya could be 

declared winner.  There followed a wave of government violence and re- 

pression aimed particularly at the leadership of the English speaking 


For example, the senior magistrate in Bamenda, Justice Forbin, was 

beaten to death by gendarmes.  English language journalists were particu- 

larly targeted. 

16Except in Washington where, extraordinarily, English Cameroonians have a firm 

position in the yellow cab trade.  I was astonished when taking a taxi to give a talk at the 

Brookings Institute, to be asked  by the African cab driver if I was the Craig Murray.  I 

had given a Washington radio interview on the folly of the war in Iraq; a Cameroonian 

cabbie had recognised me as the man who came to Bamenda and tried to help, and had 

radioed his colleagues.  For the remainder of that trip they ferried me around without 

payment, which must be the highest of accolades. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Driving now through the beautiful hills to Bamenda and Ndu I met hu- 

man rights and journalism organisations and was horrified by the tales of 

systematic torture, many evidenced by physical injuries I was shown.  I 

then had dinner in the home of John Fru Ndi, who was charming and 

gentlemanly.  There was a small group of his key supporters present, 

every one of whom had been beaten and imprisoned, and every one of 

whom had a relative killed. 

The really sad thing about this trip was how desperately glad they were 

to see me, and how desperately proud they were to be associated with the 

UK.  They felt British as fervently as the citizens of Gibraltar, and they 

were genuinely puzzled that the UK had shown almost no interest in 

their plight and done nothing to defend them.  

It is indeed a disgrace that we have done nothing.  The major reason is 

that Paul Biya has the strong support of France and its Presidents, and we 

do not view the South Cameroonians as worth an argument with France. 

I was determined to try to do something about this; but sadly the Sand- 

line affair was about to crash on my head and effectively end my chances. 

The other point about the English speaking region of Cameroon, is that 

it is one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth.  Rolling green hills, 

fringed with fragrant stands of rubber and eucalyptus, their thin willowy 

trunks often reminding me of silver birch in the Scottish highlands. 

Streams run crystal clear, and low huts made of packed red laterite and 

thatch carry the smell of years of accumulated aromatic wood smoke. 

The people are proud and straight-backed.  The sunsets are tinted with 

rose, and in the mornings there is a nip in the crisp, clear air.17 

We headed down to Victoria on the coast, now known as Lembe.  It is a 

ravishing spot where the lower slopes of Mount Cameroon sweep 

majestically into the sea.  It also has the remains of a magnificent botanic 

garden, founded over a century ago by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, 

and still retaining links to it.  On this visit I met some young British vo- 

lunteers who were enthusiastically researching different native varieties 

of cane.  Apparently there was a world shortage of rattan, as Malaysia 

and Indonesia increasingly turned forest into palm oil and rubber planta- 

tion.  They saw great potential for Africa, which had many varieties of 

17Gerald Durrell has captured it all beautifully in The Bafut Beagles. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

cane little exploited commercially, to fill this void through cultivation in 

secondary forest.  Most of the suitable cane plants are protected either by 

barbs or sharp spines, and I remember that, as they enthused about their 

canes over lunch and a beer, their palms were swathed in rough band- 


I next moved back to Douala, where I had dinner with our delightful 

French female honorary consul and her husband, and was impressed by 

the sheer scale and relentless activity of the docks, as well as horrified by 

the enormous quantities of virgin lumber, including vast rafts floating 


Then I was due to meet the Gabonese foreign minister and visit that 

country.  The Gabonese foreign minister was doing me the singular hon- 

our of flying to Cameroon to meet me.  He was coming in on the Air Ga- 

bon flight, then returning on the same plane with me.  I waited in the VIP 

lounge, and once the plane landed, I dismissed the British Embassy driver 

to return to Yaounde.  The Gabonese foreign minister was only going to 

be in Cameroon for two hours, but nonetheless there was a guard of hon- 

our and military band to meet him.  

These ceremonies over, he came bounding into the VIP lounge, a short, 

bouncy man with a wide grin, wearing an expensive silk suit.     The 

lounge provided champagne for us and we fell to gossiping, mostly about 

African political leaders.  We got on very well and really became very 

comfortable, while the champagne kept flowing.  I noted the time for the 

plane to depart had come, and he commented it must be late.  More 

champagne followed, then a flustered African in an open-necked white 

shirt came crashing into the VIP lounge, went down on one knee before 

the Minister and blurted out. 

“I am sorry sir – the plane sir.  I am sorry sir – it’s gone.” 

Air Gabon had gone without us, while we sat drinking and chatting in 

the VIP lounge.  The poor minister was utterly crestfallen and kept pro- 

nouncing himself desolate.  I kept telling him not to worry, but I was 

pretty stunned myself, particularly as the plane had taken my suitcase off 

to Gabon, leaving me with the papers in my briefcase and the clothes I 

stood up in.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

After his aides made a few phone calls, the minister was decanted into 

a large Mercedes and driven away.  Fortunately I still had my wallet, and 

I went off in search of a taxi.  It was already evening, and I set off with the 

taxi on a tour of Douala’s hotels.  Unfortunately, Douala was hosting a 

major conference of Francophone states and absolutely all the hotels were 

completely full.  After searching for over two hours I still had nowhere to 


I instructed the taxi driver to return to a large modern hotel situated on 

a bluff overlooking the city.  We had tried it earlier with no luck, and I 

now asked whether there had been any cancellations.  The answer was 

no.  But I had returned there because I had noticed it had a casino, and 

had decided that as I couldn’t find a bed my best option was to stay 

awake all night there. 

The casino was much like any other, with banks of machines near the 

entrance and the roulette and card tables at the back.  Seated at them were 

a few locals, a few wiry, heavy-smoking French expatriates, and the usual 

expostulating Chinese and Malaysians.  As I wanted to play for some 

hours I went to the blackjack table.  It is the best game for losing slowly 

and steadily, which over any period of time is the best you can sensibly 

hope for from a casino. 

My ability to keep track of the cards in the shoe and reckon the odds 

was rather impeded by the champagne I had drunk, and as usual I turned 

down the free drinks. 

I was winning slightly, and after a few hours was looking around the 

room and enjoying myself.  A number of prostitutes were working the 

room, one of whom was a dark haired European lady, perhaps in her mid 

thirties, wearing a long pink silk dress with a white embroidered floral 

pattern and a split high up one side.  She had dark hair and strong but not 

unattractive features.  She would seat herself next to players at the tables 

and then attempt to open up conversation.  About 2.30 am she finally got 

round to trying me.  She glided on to the stool beside me, placed her hand 

on my shoulder and her lips by my ear, and she murmured the immortal 


“I am wearing purple knickers”. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I was perched at the blackjack table on a high stool, and I literally fell 

off it laughing. 

She was a bit offended by this, but still continued to try to chat me up. 

She was Portuguese.  I explained that I could find nowhere to stay be- 

cause of the conference, and suggested that I would happily pay to sleep 

with her, provided she had a bed and I didn’t have to have sex.  Unfortu- 

nately she didn’t have a bed, or at least only one that her husband was in, 

and nor did she seem a particularly nice or interesting person, so I soon 

indicated definite disinterest and she wandered off to a group of French- 

men.  But still, she had the greatest opening line I have ever heard. 

The next day Air Gabon came back with my suitcase, and I managed to 

get a flight back to London.  I never have made it to Gabon. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 


The Sandline Affair 

On my first day back in my London office, Tim Andrews mentioned 

that Peter Penfold would be in that afternoon.  I had by now heard a lot 

about Penfold, most of it good, and was keen to meet him.  I spent the 

morning with my head down, working my way through the paperwork 

which had accumulated while I was away.  Shortly after lunchtime I went 

to ask Tim something.  I found Penfold in Tim’s office, in gleeful mood, 

holding forth in a loud voice to Tim and Linda, who sat at their desks. 

Penfold wore the regulation pinstripe suit and had put down a fawn 

raincoat on a chair.  His shoes looked new, mirror bright and unmarked. 

He looked a bit flushed, and I thought he had enjoyed his lunch.  He had 

iron grey hair, roughly cut as though with a razor blade.  The newspapers 

were to describe him as “Beagle-faced”.  I am not sure what that means, 

exactly, but he had dark bags under his eyes and a deep vertical crease in 

each cheek.  It gave him a rather mournful look, that belied the high good 

spirits of his voice.  He was gesturing expansively as he spoke.  As I 

walked in, he glanced at me in some annoyance at the interruption.  Not 

knowing who I was, he carried on with his flow of words, his eyes occa- 

sionally flitting to me with a wary look.  

“So I persuaded him to sign it!” Penfold was saying gleefully:  “Kabbah 

would never have done it on his own – he’s much too cautious.  But Kab- 

bah trusts my judgement.  Kabbah said that if anyone else had brought 

him the contract, he wouldn’t have signed.  Kabbah said that directly to 

me.  But because he trusts me, he signed.  It’s great!  Now we are going to 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

get the Kamajors organised, get the junta out, and we’ll all be back in 

Freetown again!” 

Tim and Linda looked from Penfold to me, and I decided to introduce 


“Hello, Peter.  I’m John Everard’s replacement, Craig Murray.  I wonder 

if you would mind stepping into my office for a small chat?” 

We walked through the connecting door into my office.  Peter Penfold 

had been forced to quit his Freetown embassy when the military junta 

took over, as Freetown had become lawless (although in fact the Embassy 

was not looted and very loyal local staff continued to guard it).  In evacu- 

ating British residents from Freetown, Penfold had displayed great per- 

sonal courage. As Tim Andrews had told me, at one time a Sandline em- 

ployee was defending the hotel in which the British citizens were 

gathered with a heavy machine gun mounted on the hotel roof, while the 

Royal Navy organised the evacuation by ship’s helicopter.  

Normal UK doctrine is that “We recognise states, not governments”, 

and our major criteria for dealing with a government is that it has effect- 

ive control of its territory.  But, in what was intended as an example of our 

new ethical foreign policy, we had continued to recognise President Kab- 

bah and his dwindling band of supporters as the legitimate government 

of Sierra Leone.  Kabbah had gone into exile in Conakry, the capital of 

Guinea.  Peter Penfold had therefore set up his “Embassy” there, in a 

hotel room, with no communications facilities except the hotel’s dodgy 

telephones and fax.  I should mention Penfold’s long-suffering and hard- 

working deputy, Colin Glass.  Colin was a bearded old hand with a beer 

belly who looked like he would be more at home in the rugby club bar 

that a diplomatic conference.  Colin kept the show on the road. 

Leading Penfold into my office, I did not sit behind my desk but mo- 

tioned him to the settee, drawing up a chair beside him. 

“It’s good to meet you,” I opened.  “I’ve heard a lot about you.” 

“All good, I trust?” 

“Pretty well, yes.  Everyone says you played a very cool hand in the 


“I did my duty, no more.” 

“Well, not everybody does that.” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Thank you.” 

“I hope you had a good holiday?  It must be difficult for you in 


“Pretty good, yes.  Thank you.” 

I decided to come to the matter in hand. 

“I had Tim Spicer come and see me a couple of weeks ago.” 

“Really?”  Penfold’s eyes brightened and his nostrils slightly flared.  He 

leaned forward, perched now on the edge of the sofa.  He sensed that I 

might be an ally.  I was to disappoint him. 

“He told me he was hoping to conclude a contract with Kabbah to train 

the Kamajors prior to an offensive against the Junta.” 

“Yes, yes.” 

“Look, he has every right to do that.  It’s perfectly legal business.  But 

we didn’t ought to be involved.  Our policy is to seek a peaceful solution.” 

Penfold glared.  He had a very mobile face and his eyes suddenly 

looked red-rimmed.  

“Pah!  Do you think the junta will simply go away?  Now the AFRC are 

in cahoots with the RUF, they’re entrenched.  It’s alright for you to talk of 

a peaceful solution.  How does that help Kabbah?” 

“Well, ECOWAS is really in the lead here.  You know, our policy is to 

support moves in the UN for regional organisations to take responsibility 

for conflicts in their region.  If ECOWAS can’t get a solution, then they 

will have to go to the UN Security Council for a resolution enabling the 

use of force by ECOMOG in Sierra Leone.” 

“All that could take years.” 

“Not necessarily.  I think it might only need a few weeks.  But we are 

still looking to support moves to a peaceful solution.” 

“Well, if you think there’s any point in negotiating with a mob of mur- 


I decided it was time to come to the point. 

“Listen, I heard you tell Tim and Linda that you advised President Kab- 

bah to sign the Sandline contract.” 

Penfold jutted out his lower lip: “Yes, I did.” 

“I really don’t think that was wise.  Sandline are a mercenary 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“They have done good work in Sierra Leone.” 

“And Spicer talked of a possible Kamajor offensive.  We are supposed 

to be looking for a peaceful solution, not restart the civil war.” 

“But where is your peaceful solution?” 

“Look, I see what you mean.  But if it comes to force, it has to be the 

UN and blue hats.  And we have to address the causes of the rebellions” 

Penfold got angry now: 

“Causes!  They have no causes!  Is our policy, or is it not, to restore the 

democratically elected government of President Kabbah?” 

“Yes, it is.” 

“Then I am the High Commissioner and I must be allowed to pursue 

that policy.” 

“But you cannot think that the Kamajors, even with Sandline, can take 

the whole country from the AFRC and RUF?” 

“They don’t need the whole country.” 

“So we will just be back into civil war?” 

Penfold went silent for a while, then raised his head and looked me 

hard in the eyes. 

“Craig, have you ever been to Sierra Leone?” 

“No, I haven’t.” 

“I am sorry, but you really don’t know what you are talking about. 

And I believe I am senior to you.  I will bid you good day.” 

Peter then left my office with a controlled slowness. 

Once he had gone, I went next door to see Tim and Linda.  They were 

giggling somewhat, as voices had been raised and they had heard much 

of the conversation.  Linda looked up at me, blue eyes under long dark 


“So you’ve met Peter, then.” 

“Interesting man.  I am really worried that he advised President Kab- 

bah to sign the Sandline contract.” 

“He said he gave it to him” added Tim. 

Tim Andrews was interesting.  A comfortable looking dark haired man 

in his early forties, much attached to his wife and family, he was genu- 

inely horrified by the atrocities of the RUF and had taken them very much 

to heart.  His natural sympathies lay on the side of anyone who wanted to 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

use force against the RUF.  I am sure he felt my desire to understand what 

caused the RUF to be liberal poppycock.  But Tim was dead straight, and 

a good man to have around when the crisis broke. 

I was genuinely very worried.  Spicer had spoken of his Kamajor con- 

tract as a prospect.  Penfold was now telling us not only that it had 

already been signed, but that it was he who presented it to President Kab- 

bah and advised him to sign it.  The prospect of a potentially extremely 

bloody renewal of civil war by a Kamajor offensive was alarming.  But I 

was also very worried by the media and diplomatic implications. 

If the media knew that a British High Commissioner had encouraged 

the signing of a mercenary contract in Africa, there would be a media 

storm given the context of “Ethical foreign policy”.  Still worse, we had 

been encouraging the negotiating efforts of ECOWAS.  If ECOWAS knew 

that, at the same time, we were going behind their back to seek a military 

solution excluding ECOMOG, especially one involving white mercenar- 

ies, there could be repercussions that would affect British interests else- 

where in West Africa. 

So I went straight to Ann Grant’s office to tell her.  Her secretary, Julie, 

said that she was in a meeting with her boss, Richard Dales, the FCO’s 

Africa Director.  I decided that he would need to know eventually, too, 

and that I had better not delay as the story could hit the media any time. 

So after a brief word with Richard’s secretary, I entered his very grand 

and capacious office, full of mahogany tables and bookcases and all the 

trappings that had remained in place since this room ran part of the Brit- 

ish Empire. 

Richard was a plump, short man in his early fifties, with black hair 

swept to one side above brown spectacles.  He had a small mouth, usually 

pursed, and he was meticulous in both dress and speech.  He had 

plummy tones even by FCO standards.  He was holding a bone china tea- 

cup and saucer as I entered.  Richard was seated opposite Ann, who was 

talking animatedly, dark eyes flashing from under her wiry hair.  I 

entered the room from behind him and he looked round querulously as 

he heard me.  

Before he could expostulate, I said quickly. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Listen.  I’ve just learnt something that I think you need to know.  You 

remember Tim Spicer told me that he hoped to get a contract from Kab- 

bah to train and support the Kamajors?  Well it’s already signed.  And it is 

Peter Penfold who gave it to Kabbah and urged him to sign it.” 

There was silence for a moment as this was digested.  Ann gave me a 

look of support.  Then Richard asked: 

“How do you know this?” 

“Peter just told me.” 

“Is he still around?” 

“No, I believe he just left.” 

“Thank you, Craig.” 

“If the media get hold or ECOWAS find out…” 

“Precisely.  Thank you, Craig.  Ann and I will discuss this.” 

I was dismissed.  I turned on my heel and went back to my office. I star- 

ted to read reports on Togo, Ivory Coast and Gambia and look over draft 

responses.  An hour or so later Ann popped he head around my door and 


“Craig , I have asked Peter Penfold to come in and see me tomorrow. 

Would you mind sitting in with me?  I may need you to confirm what he 

told you.” 

Peter Penfold came in the next day in defiant mood.  Having slept on it, 

he was more than ever convinced that he was in the right, and he was de- 

termined to battle his corner.  He plainly resented control from the Lon- 

don department, and appeared to dislike Ann, who was his line man- 

ager.18  It was an extremely tense and sometimes heated meeting between 

them.  I dislike conflict and found it a bit embarrassing to be there.  Pen- 

fold growled a lot and Ann was magnificently furious and plain spoken. 

Ann told him he was not entitled to have advised Kabbah to sign the 

Sandline contract.  Penfold replied that he had advised Kabbah “in my 

personal capacity”. 

The account that Ann gave of this meeting to the Foreign Affairs Com- 

mittee inquiry was rather guarded, but I think something of the flavour 

still comes through from her evidence there: 

18Of course, there is irony in my position in this, given the events of Murder in 

Samarkand.  The issues and motivations in the two cases were however entirely different. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Ms Grant: I had asked Craig to be present and where I wanted to 

hear, firstly, Mr Penfold’s side of the story from his own mouth and to 

make clear as his reporting officer and the guardian of the policy, if you 

like, in London exactly what I thought and I did that in the course of 

the meeting. It was as Craig recalls. There was some heated and quite 

lengthy debate about whether or not it was open to Mr Penfold to give 

advice to a head of state to whom he was accredited in a personal capa- 

city. I said that I did not accept that he could do so. I thought that when 

he gave advice he should always bear in mind his official status and 

that President Kabbah would do the same. If he was giving advice to 

President Kabbah, President Kabbah would assume that advice had the 

backing of the British Government. 

Dr Norman Godman MP:  Can I ask a quick supplementary. In terms 

of the relationship between this professional diplomat and the Presid- 

ent, what do you understand by the term a “personal opinion”? 

 Ms Grant:  Well, as I tried to explain, in my view if you are giving ad- 

vice on policy of any kind to a head of state or government or a minister 

in another government and the relationship of that person to you is one 

of High Commissioner accredited to that country, my own view is that 

you cannot have a personal opinion. I remember Mr Penfold arguing 

back that actually President Kabbah had listened to him particularly 

because of his personal regard for him and his personal relationship 

which we understood was very close. I said he could not know that. He 

could not know how President Kabbah was responding and he had to 

assume and behave as if all his communications, however informal, in 

whatever difficult circumstances, were in his capacity as British High 


Dr Norman Godman MP:  So can I infer by that it would appear that 

Mr Penfold had developed, if you like, a relationship that took him 

beyond that of the professional representative with the President? Was 

he acting as a  personal advisor to the President in terms of Sandline 

and HMG? 

Ms Grant:  I was seeking to ensure by that conversation and by other 

conversations we had had of a gentler nature before that that relation- 

ship did not develop in an improper or a damaging way. I made it very 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

clear what I thought were the proper limits and conveyed those to Mr 

Penfold and expected him to observe those limits.”19 

In the course of his meeting with Ann Grant, Penfold made a number of 

comments which surprised me.  He said that he had told Tim Andrews 

and Linda St Cooke all about the contract when he called into the office 

just before Christmas.  I could not understand why Tim had told me noth- 

ing about this before my meeting with Spicer, or subsequently.  Penfold 

also said that he had written an account of his 19 December meeting with 

Kabbah, and posted it to Ann before he left for Canada.  Ann was adam- 

ant she had never received any such letter.  She requested Peter Penfold 

now to write a full account of his dealings with Kabbah over the Sandline 

contract, and give it to her. 

After the meeting was over, we quizzed Ann’s PA Julie as to whether 

any letter had been received from Penfold.  None had.  I then checked the 

registry log, in which the clerks entered all incoming letters except junk 

mail, and then entered the replies.  There was no incoming letter from 

Peter Penfold registered.  Tim Andrews and Linda St Cooke were both 

equally mystified.  And they looked completely blank when asked wheth- 

er Penfold had briefed them on the Sandline contract shortly before 

Christmas.  Linda said he had come in, on 23 December, but he had only 

picked up some mail and used the telephone.  He hadn’t said anything 

much to them at all. 

I tried to get on with other work, but remained very uneasy about Si- 

erra Leone.  A search did not bring up any letter from Peter Penfold, and I 

was having some difficulty in believing he had posted it – or even written 

it.  The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee enquiry was to 

make it very plain that Ann Grant had the same doubts: 

Sir John Stanley MP:  Are you prepared to say that that letter was nev- 

er received in the FCO? 

Ms Grant: As far as I am aware that letter was never received in the 


Sir John Stanley MP:  Do you accept Mr Penfold’s version of events 

that he actually wrote it and posted it? 




The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Ms Grant; All I can say is that I never received it. 

Sir John Stanley MP:  But you are happy to accept Mr Penfold’s ver- 

sion of events that it was written and posted? 

Ms Grant:  I see no way of proving or disproving that.20 

For a senior FCO official to refuse to accept the word of a British High 

Commissioner, when invited to do so by a parliamentary inquiry, is pretty 

extraordinary.  Long before this enquiry, it was already clear to me that 

the situation was unworkable and had huge potential for causing great 

embarrassment to Ministers.  I could only see one sensible course of ac- 

tion.  So I sat down on the morning of 3 February 1998 and wrote a 

minute to Ann Grant and Richard Dales, recommending that Peter Pen- 

fold be sacked as Ambassador, or recalled, as they say in the FCO. 

In writing my minute I was well aware that, the FCO being a very hier- 

archical organisation, this was much more likely to boomerang back and 

hit me than to be effective.  But I felt the Department was sleepwalking 

into big trouble with nobody getting a grip.  I minuted that there was a 

dichotomy in our policy, with Mr Penfold favouring a military solution 

while the Department was promoting a peaceful one.  Penfold’s advice to 

Kabbah to hire mercenaries was a real mistake, while his account of meet- 

ings nobody else recalled and of letters going missing in the post was pe- 

culiar.  The best thing was to take firm action and recall him; stuck in a 

Conakry hotel, he was not able to do much good anyway. 

I was right to expect that this would rebound on me.  The same after- 

noon Richard Dales walked into my office.  This was not his usual style at 

all, he rather summoned people.  He closed the door behind him and sat 

down across from my desk.  He was plainly rather angry. This showed in 

his tones being even quieter and more measured than usual. 

“Yes, Craig,” he began, “Ann passed your minute on to me.  Neither she 

nor I agree with your recommendation.” 

He passed me back my minute.  He had written a manuscript note on 

the top: 

“There is no dichotomy in our policy.  Our difficulty lies in getting Mr 

Penfold… to follow it.” 




The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

He continued talking softly: 

“You know, it is very unusual for a Deputy to recommend the recall of 

a Head of Mission.”  He stressed the word unusual, as though it were a 

terrible sin to do something unusual.  “You know Peter Penfold is a brave 

man.  He did a good job in the evacuation of Freetown.  Of course, I do 

know he has a tendency to freelance.  Before he went to Sierra Leone he 

was the Governor of the British Virgin Islands.  As Governor he was con- 

stitutionally independent of the FCO and quite rightly did not take in- 

struction from us.  I think the problem is that he has got used to that 

mode of operation.” 

“I see.”  It was my first and last contribution to this conversation.  

“Now, Craig, I want you to understand this.  You are not Peter Penfold’s 

manager.  I will look after Peter Penfold.  Understood?” 

Richard stood up and walked out.  I had received a very English bol- 

locking.21  But in retrospect, I am convinced I was right.   If Penfold had 

been quickly and quietly  removed, the whole Arms to Africa scandal 

could have been pre-empted.  There might have been minor media in- 

terest at his removal, but even if the press had found out why, nobody 

could have argued that the British government had approved of illegal 

arms shipments.  It is hard now to remember how massive the Arms to 

Africa scandal was – it was front page news for months.  

I saw it coming and tried to stop it. 

But just two days later, the whole Sandline question seemed to be over- 

taken.  On 5 February the ECOWAS force rolled in to Sierra Leone from 

Liberia.  The timing took us completely by surprise.  By 10 February they 

had retaken Freetown, and had restored President Kabbah to his palace. 

They were establishing control over the coast and pushing the RUF back 

into the hinterland.  They had largely dispersed the Armed Forces Ruling 

Council, with its leaders and a few units joining RUF forces.  Sandline 

had played no role in the successful invasion. The Sandline contract 

seemed now quite redundant, and I breathed a sigh of relief. 




The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

These were very busy times indeed in the Department.  The ECOMOG 

invasion of Sierra Leone was arguably illegal.  FCO Legal Advisers did 

not accept the argument that ECOMOG had been invited in by President 

Kabbah, as he was not in effective control of his state.  The general view 

of the international community was that a security council resolution was 

needed to legalise the position and put ECOMOG – which contained 

some highly undisciplined Nigerian units with a reputation for rape and 

looting – under some form of UN supervision.  This was made more com- 

plicated by the fact that Nigeria insisted an ECOWAS mandate was suffi- 

cient and no UN resolution was needed.  As always when dealing with 

the Security Council, I was having to work both in UK time and in New 

York time, and my working day started with an 8am commute in to Lon- 

don from Gravesend, while I was not getting home again until after mid- 


This was in fact not especially unusual in the FCO, where long hours 

were very common, and the fact that I did not usually arrive in the office 

until 9.30am brought occasional grumbling from Richard Dales.  Meetings 

in the FCO were often scheduled for 9am or even earlier.  But I feel it is 

important to work with your own biorhythm, and while I will work until 

the early hours with no problem, only in real emergencies have I ever got 

to work before 9.30am, and once there will read the paper and potter 

around, not actually really doing anything until 10am, by which time my 

cerebral cortex has started sparking again. 

The rest of West Africa had not gone away.   One visitor I received in 

my office was Stella Obasanjo, General Olesegun Obasanjo’s young wife. 

I was pleased to see Stella Obasanjo and deeply committed to getting Ole- 

segun Obasanjo out of jail.  Not only was he the most high profile of 

Abacha’s political prisoners, but he is, on a personal level, an extremely 

nice man.  After taking over as military President of Nigeria in 1976 he 

had announced that he had only done so in order to end military rule, 

and to return the country to democracy and civilian rule within three 

years.  Commendably – indeed astonishingly for an African military ruler 

– he had done just that, and had then left politics to become a farmer.  

He had put a great deal of money into developing a huge chicken farm 

at Otta, a couple of hours drive from Lagos.  I used to visit him there in 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the mid 1980s while I was in charge of agriculture at the British High 

Commission in Lagos.  There was no doubt about his genuine commit- 

ment to farming.  Unfortunately EU and US dumping of produce, and a 

ludicrously overvalued Naira had combined to kill off Nigerian maize 

production, and the vagaries and bureaucracy of importation into Nigeria 

meant that he was constantly losing tens of thousands of birds through 

running out of foods and vaccines.  In addition, he had employed family 

and village connections in all the key positions; they were robbing him 

blind.  So the farm was something of a money hole.  But he was passion- 

ate, cheerful and persistent. 

He was also unfailingly hospitable and gracious to the young Second 

Secretary who came out to talk farming and politics with him.  At our first 

meeting he handed me two live chickens to take home with me.  He just 

leant down and swooped them up, clutching them by the legs.  They lay 

limp as though stunned, just bundles of white feathers, surrounded by an 

aura of insects buzzing golden in the sun.  He handed them to me and I 

grabbed them from him by the legs, my soft hands touching his strong 

hardened ones as we exchanged grips.  Once I had the chickens, they im- 

mediately came to life. Flapping their wings, arching their bodies and 

stretching up their necks, they pecked viciously at my hands as I fled 

back to the Land Rover.  The driver saw my distress and quickly opened 

the back door so I could throw them in.  The General rocked with 

laughter, his ample frame shaking beneath his large white tunic and 

crumpled blue cloth hat.  I returned meekly. 

“You look like you need a whisky” he said. 

Yes, I felt passionately that we needed to get the old General out of jail. 

Once Abacha went, it seemed to me that Obasanjo would be essential to 

any possibility of holding Nigeria together, given the degree of Southern 

resentment that had been building up.22 

I feel deeply that one should never rejoice at the death of another hu- 

man being, however bad.  But sometimes in practice it is difficult, and I 

could not help but feel a lightness in my step at the death of General 

Abacha.  The most repressive of Nigeria’s appalling stream of military 

22Whether Nigeria ought to be held together is a quite different question, that I shall be 

discussing in a further book. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

dictators, he had murdered numerous political opponents, and pillaged 

Nigeria’s oil wealth at a rate probably unequalled by any dictator in his- 

tory.  We reckoned he stole over $7 billion.  

I have never understood why anyone wants to steal that much money. 

If you have one billion dollars, that is already more money than you can 

possibly spend.  Why go on and on stealing?  Is it some kind of addiction? 

One of the things Abacha liked to spend his money on was high class 

hookers, and he died in bed with three of them, from a heart attack 

brought on by a substantial overdose of Viagra tablets.23  Contrary to ru- 

mour, I am quite certain that MI6 had no part in his death – he did it him- 


That day I was having a drink with Andrew Mackinlay MP in the 

Strangers Bar of the House of Commons.  Tony Lloyd, then Minister    of 

State responsible for Africa, was across the room in earnest conversation 

with someone.  I was not sure if he had heard of the death of Abacha, so I 

caught his eye, gave him a quizzical glance and a tentative thumbs up. 

He broke into a huge grin, gave a thumbs up back, and raised his glass. 

He called across the room to me: 

“The only good dictator is a dead dictator!”  

The bar was quite full, and there was a general noise of assent followed 

by a lot of animated chatter.  The death of Abacha had evidently cheered 

up the House of Commons.  Towards evening I started getting phone calls 

from old friends at excited parties all over Nigeria, shouting against the 

noises of enjoyment.  

No amount of money can possibly compensate for that many people, 

across continents, being happy when you die. 

Sierra Leone seemed to have reached a stalemate. President Kabbah 

was back in Freetown, but much of the hinterland was still controlled by 

the RUF.  ECOWAS were now promoting again a negotiated solution, but 

in a desultory sort of way.  I had a little more time to deal with the other 

twenty countries on my patch.  I stayed away from Penfold, as Richard 

23I had an eyewitness account of his death within a day.  I won’t give the details for fear I 

would relish them, but his staff did not exactly rush to help or ease his passing.  I quipped 

that it would take days to nail down the coffin lid, which I still think was rather good. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Dales had instructed me, and matters affecting Penfold were kept away 

from me.  On 2 February Penfold had, as instructed by Ann Grant in her 

heated meeting with him, written to Ann an account of all his dealings 

with Sandline. I was not given this until 23 February. 

That minute by Peter Penfold of 2 February was interesting for several 

reasons.  It put in writing his claims that he had informed Tim and Linda 

about the Sandline contract before Christmas, and that he had posted a 

letter to Ann Grant about it before New Year.  But it also downplayed his 

role in assisting Sandline.  Penfold had obviously had time to think about 

it, and his minute did not say he had advised Kabbah on 19 December to 

sign the contract, only that he had discussed it with him.  That was dir- 

ectly contrary to what he had said on 29 and 30 January to Tim, Linda, 

Ann and me.  This rather fazed the Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry, 

whose chairman, Donald Anderson MP, was to hit the nail on the head by 


“Can we infer from that that the minute of the High Commissioner of 2 

February was a sanitised and rather self-serving version of what he had 

told you earlier in your meeting?” 

But  the key new point in the Penfold minute was that it plainly stated 

that the Sandline contract included the supply of arms.  That confirmed 

my suspicions.  Sandline were acting, plainly and simply, illegally, and 

Peter Penfold knew that they were, yet had encouraged President Kabbah 

to go along with it. There was therefore  the additional and major com- 

plication for the government that, whatever his attempts to cover up now, 

Penfold was by his own original account and his numerous contacts, 

deeply implicated with Sandline in an illegal business transaction. 

I thought it over and decided to do nothing.  Richard Dales had warned 

me off interfering with Penfold, whereas the Sandline contract was hypo- 

thetical now as it had been overtaken by events.  Once more, I allowed 

myself to hope that I would never hear of Sandline again. 

That hope lasted for less than a week.  Ann Grant was away in Africa, 

and I received a letter addressed to her from Lord Avebury, the highly 

distinguished veteran human rights campaigner.  He enclosed a six 

month old press cutting from the Toronto Globe and Mail, dated 1 August 

1997.  The article outlined the full detail of the Sandline plan, focusing on 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Saxena’s involvement.  It specified that the deal included the supply of 


I was rather relieved that, with Lord Avebury’s involvement, the Sand- 

line affair was now known outside the confines of the Foreign and Com- 

monwealth Office. I had been stymied by Richard Dales, but the truth 

looked like it would come out.  Now that Lord Avebury was involved, the 

affair could not be hushed up.  I handed the Avebury letter and the press 

cutting to Linda to fax on to Customs and Excise.  As the allegation in- 

volved a criminal breach of sanctions, I suggested that Customs and Ex- 

cise should investigate. 

There followed a lull of several weeks, and again I got on with my 

work.  Then, on 29 April 1998 Andrew Hood, Robin Cook’s Special Ad- 

viser, walked into my office and turned my life to turmoil.  Special Ad- 

visers are Party officials paid for by the taxpayer.  There are far too many 

of them under New Labour.  I have no idea why the taxpayers don’t baulk 

at maintaining a vast apparatus of young party hacks.  

On a personal basis, Cook’s Special Advisers, Andrew Hood and David 

Mathieson, were very pleasant and well motivated.  Hood was a tall and 

strong young man with short dark hair and an olive complexion.  He had 

in his hand a letter from S J Berwin & Co, Sandline’s solicitors.   Berwin 

complained that Customs and Excise had raided Sandline’s offices, which 

I was glad to hear.  But I was astonished to learn that Sandline were 

claiming that I had given them approval for arms exports.  That was, as I 

told Hood, the very opposite of the truth.  I had rather warned them off. 

You may think me naive, but I absolutely hadn’t seen it coming.  It did 

not occur to me for a moment that Spicer would claim I had given agree- 

ment.  That is partly because I had not anticipated encountering an out- 

right lie, and partly because I did not see how the lie could possibly work. 

It seemed to me that the evidence that I had not given approval was 

overwhelming.  First, I had a witness in Tim Andrews.  Second, I had 

been so much against Penfold giving approval to Sandline that I formally 

recommended that he be recalled for it.  Third, it was I who had called in 

Customs and Excise to investigate.  

I really did not see how anyone could disbelieve me when I said I had 

not given permission.  When, for political purposes, substantial political 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

and media interests chose to accept Spicer’s account and very publicly to 

brand me a liar, it was a terrible blow to me.  I don’t think anyone had 

ever seriously doubted my word before.24  Usually my problems in public 

life have come from excess of honesty. 

Andrew Hood asked me why I hadn’t briefed Ministers on calling in 

Customs and Excise, and I explained about Penfold’s involvement and 

Richard Dales’ warning me off.  Andrew’s concern was to protect his Min- 

ister.  He thought that Sandline would pretty quickly go public with the 

“Matrix Churchill defence.”25 

He was right in this.  On Sunday 3 May the Sunday Times ran the front 

page headline “Cook Snared in Arms for Coup Inquiry.”  Cook was New 

Labour’s most vulnerable target – his messy marriage break-up, with tales 

of his drinking, and new young wife had given him a full year of media 

abuse.  The hacks were cynical about ethics of any kind.  Given Cook’s 

claims of an “Ethical foreign policy”, if he could be personally linked to 

the illegal supply of arms, the press would have a huge ginger ministerial 

scalp.  Cook was perhaps the most popular in the Labour Party of Blair’s 

potential rivals, and was deeply opposed to Blair’s neo-con tendencies.  It 

was whispered in Whitehall that Alistair Campbell in No.10 had encour- 

aged the media’s targeting of Cook. 

So the Sunday Times leaped on the briefing Sandline gave them.  When 

I saw the story, I telephoned Ann Grant.  It was a bank holiday weekend, 

but realising the urgency we both travelled in to the FCO that Sunday to 

prepare briefing for ministers and lines for the press.  The media line was 

most difficult, as there was a formal legal  investigation in progress, and 

we could not deny Penfold had been involved if asked. 

24Except in my love life.  I cannot justify it at all, and I would never lie to gain an 

advantage in any other aspect of my public or private life, but I have always taken the 

view that all’s fair in love, while not taking that view in war.  I just don’t mentally 

characterise lies to cover infidelities as lies.  I realise that is indefensible – but I also 

believe it is a very common flaw among otherwise honourable people.  Human beings are 

complicated and it is not possible fully to disentangle the rational from the emotional. 

Some of the most admired people in history had convoluted love lives that must have 

involved lies.  There must be a book in that somewhere. 

25In the Matrix Churchill case a few years earlier, businessmen accused of exporting 

arms to Iraq in breach of sanctions had indeed been operating with the secret connivance 

of the FCO and MI6. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

We had believed the Sandline contract had become obsolete following 

the ECOMOG invasion, so we were surprised by the Sunday Times’ re- 

port that thirty tons of weapons had been landed and seized by the Ni- 

gerian army.  Our immediate worry was that Tony Lloyd, the junior min- 

ister responsible for Africa, was due to be appearing before the House of 

Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on the morning of Tuesday 5 May, 

the day after the Bank Holiday.  Ann and I prepared a very detailed brief- 

ing pack for Tony Lloyd.  Being a Sunday we had to do all the typing, 

printing, photocopying and binding ourselves.  It took until nine in the 

evening before we had finished. 

The briefing advised Tony Lloyd to stress that a Customs and Excise in- 

vestigation was in progress, and that this investigation had been initiated 

by the FCO.  He could also add that no Minister had any foreknowledge 

or given any approval to arms shipments.  If pressed further, he could 

state that officials in the FCO knew of a contract to train and provide non 

weapons logistics to the Kamajors, but did not know of any supplies 

which would breach the UN arms embargo. 

It was early evening before I telephoned at her home Tony Lloyd’s 

Private Secretary, who had recently come to the FCO from the Depart- 

ment of Trade and Industry. 

“Hi, it’s Craig here, Craig Murray.  The briefing material on Sierra Le- 

one is all now ready.  Where do you want it sent?” 

“Thanks awfully, but I don’t think we need it now.  You can just send it 

for the box on Tuesday” 

Every afternoon the minister’s box – those large bright red dispatch 

boxes you have seen on television – was closed with papers for him to 

study that evening or the next morning.  The Private Secretary filtered 

what, from the mound of material received into the minister’s office, did 

or did not make it into the box. 

“But that will be too late” I expostulated.  “He is appearing before the 

Foreign Affairs Committee first thing Tuesday morning.  If the brief is in 

the box he can’t see it before Tuesday evening.” 

“Don’t worry, Sierra Leone isn’t on the agenda for the FAC.” 

“I know that.  But with this allegation all over the front of the Sunday 

Times, do you think that they won’t bring it up?” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Then the Minister will refuse to discuss it.” 

“What?  Are you kidding?” 

“Look, he doesn’t need it until his box on Tuesday.” 

“For goodness sake, speak to him.  Has he seen the Sunday Times?” 

“I have already spoken to him.  He doesn’t want the briefing.” 

I went to find Ann, who was taking copies to the offices of Robin Cook 

and the Permanent Under Secretary (PUS).  I told her what had 

happened, and she was aghast.  She called Tony Lloyd’s Private Secretary 

again.  This time I heard only Ann’s side of the conversation: 

“Look, about this briefing….  Are you sure?  Can’t you speak to him 

again?  Look I know he doesn’t like to be disturbed, but this is an emer- 

gency.  Well, can’t I at least meet him at the Commons and put a copy in 

his hand just before the session, just in case?  Well if he’s adamant, but I 


Ann looked at me and shook her head in bewilderment. 

Tony Lloyd is one of the nicest men ever to become a minister.  But he 

was already renowned in the FCO for treating his weekends as sac- 

rosanct.  He would leave Friday lunchtime for his Manchester constitu- 

ency, and not be back until Monday lunchtime or even Tuesday.  His Fri- 

day box closed at 11am sharp, and if a piece of work missed it, there was 

no chance of a ministerial approval for at least four days.  It is fair to say 

that this caused a lot of angst in the FCO, with its pressure of work and 

tight deadlines.  Whether he was devoted to his family, or his constitu- 

ency work, or both, I don’t know.  But it was a major failing for a Minister. 

John Kampfner, in his excellent biography of Robin Cook, rightfully 

pinpoints Lloyd’s “woeful” performance before the Foreign Affairs Com- 

mittee as the moment that “the floodgates opened” and the Sandline af- 

fair moved from an easily managed press story to a huge scandal.  The 

MPs on the FAC had a large number of legitimate questions they wanted 

answered.  Had ministers approved of the illegal supply of arms?  Were 

the FCO employing Sandline?  Had officials helped Sandline?  

All Tony Lloyd could do was plead he knew nothing at all about it. 

That was so unbelievable from a Minister, two days after the story had 

appeared on the front page of the Sunday Times, that everybody decided 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

he must be desperately hiding a major scandal.  The Conservative Party 

and the media all smelled blood. 

Kampfner states that on that Tuesday after the bank holiday: “Lloyd 

took the early train to London from his Manchester constituency that 

morning.  He arrived at the committee room ludicrously under-prepared. 

Nobody – from his private office, from the news department or from 

Cook’s own office – had thought of briefing him about the latest details of 

the affair.  Consequently Lloyd got a mauling…”26 

The truth is that of course briefing Lloyd was top of the agenda for Ann 

Grant and I – there were no two more politically aware civil servants in 

Whitehall.  We had come in on a bank holiday Sunday to do it.  It was 

Tony Lloyd who refused to accept the briefing and thought he could get 

away with not discussing it at the FAC.  It is hard to believe anyone could 

have such poor political antennae. 

Tony Lloyd is now Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

So now Arms to Africa led every news bulletin, and every journalist I 

knew (and there were scores of them) was hassling me for the inside 

story.  It was made very clear to us very quickly that we were not to speak 

to any media, but to refer all inquiries to News Department.  But it is not 

that easy – a number of journalists were both good friends and important 

professional contacts, and I had to keep my relationship with them sweet. 

When I was at the centre of the biggest news story for months, to have 

simply refused to talk would undoubtedly have damaged relationships. 

So I told a few, quietly and off the record, that it was completely untrue 

that Ministers had approved the supply of arms, and that no minister had 

any involvement in Sandline’s contract.  Beyond that they could dig all 

they liked.  It was certainly completely untrue that I had approved the 

supply of arms, whatever Sandline might claim. 

As it became clear that Sandline’s principal defence was that I had giv- 

en approval of the supply of arms at the 19 January meeting, I found col- 

leagues started to treat me with suspicion.  My telephone stopped 

ringing, and I was no longer copied in on telegrams and minutes.  It was 

as though I had been sent to Coventry and it was very unpleasant.  This 

26John Kampfner: Robin Cook, pp237-8 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

was formalised shortly afterwards when a new unit headed by Rob Ma- 

caire was set up, in effect to do my job.  I was not suspended from duty 

but just left with nothing to do all day. 

Tim Andrews and I were called in on the Saturday following Tony 

Lloyd’s disastrous FAC appearance to see Robin Cook, officially to brief 

him on our meeting with Spicer.  In fact, I have no doubt that Cook 

wanted to look us in the eyes and judge for himself whether we were 

telling the truth.  It was a very hot day.  Arriving for a two o’clock meet- 

ing, we were told to come back in an hour, so we walked around the lake 

in St James’ Park.  People were sunbathing on the grass or sleeping in 

deckchairs.  Small children ran around chasing ducks. 

We returned to wait in the capacious suite of Cook’s private secretaries’ 

offices.  We waited, and we waited.  Meantime Cook was holding a series 

of other meetings, with Andrew Hood, with Sir John Kerr, the Permanent 

Under Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service, and with FCO law- 

yers.  Eventually we were called in after being kept waiting some three 

hours.  That was not unusual for Cook, who never valued anyone else’s 

time, and had once famously kept Princess Diana waiting in similar fash- 


Robin Cook was seated in an armchair as we entered, drinking tea.  He 

was short and wiry as he stood up to greet us, his neat ginger hair slightly 

receding from a tall forehead, and his tightly clipped beard flecked with 

grey around the jowls.  He walked over to a long mahogany table, pol- 

ished to a mirror like finish, and sat down, motioning us to sit across the 

table from him.  This was surprisingly formal – every other time I had 

briefed a minister in their office it had been on the sofas and armchairs – 

but it did mean that we actually sat much closer.  

Over the years I have read a vast amount about Robin Cook, but I have 

never seen anyone comment on his most striking feature – his eyes.  With- 

in that famously gnomic face and speckled complexion, he had the most 

beautiful eyes of the clearest china blue.  They were extraordinarily pier- 

cing; you felt they could search right through you.  It would be very diffi- 

cult for anyone to lie when those eyes held your gaze.  He did that too – 

hold your gaze.  He held eye contact for much longer than British people 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

normally do, inviting trust.  It was somehow very difficult to look away 

from those eyes before he broke your gaze. 

Tim and I outlined to him what had happened at the meeting of 19 

January with Spicer.  When we told him that we had informed Spicer that 

it was illegal to send arms to any party in Sierra Leone, he broke into a 

grin, and when Tim told him that we had actually read Spicer the relevant 

part of the Security Council Resolution, Cook was ecstatic.  He picked up 

the letter from Spicer’s solicitors: 

“So you are telling me that the contention that you gave approval for 

this arms shipment is completely untrue?” 

“Completely untrue, Secretary of State.  He didn’t even mention the 

arms shipment, just a hypothetical shipment by someone else.” 

“And you never, on any other occasion, gave approval for a shipment of 


We both replied that we never had.  Robin Cook turned to his saturnine 

Private Secretary, John Grant, who was lurking somewhere behind us. 

“Did you get all that, John.  You know, I feel confident that I can believe 

Mr Murray and Mr Andrews.  So now our only problem is Mr Penfold 

and what he’s been up to…” 

We were ushered out by John Grant, who was notably more friendly 

than when we came in, now that his boss had passed judgement. 

I had similarly been called several times to brief the Permanent Under 

Secretary, Sir John Kerr.  I liked him a lot.  He was from the West of Scot- 

land, and had retained a strong accent.  He had a guillotine mind and 

swore like a trooper.  He immediately treated me with great confidence – 

he was rude about Robin Cook, with whom he had just had an argument 

on an unrelated point, at our very first meeting.  Personally I liked Cook, 

but then Sir John saw vastly more of him than I did.  I felt the rough edge 

of Sir John’s tongue once or twice as the media story grew and grew; 

when I admitted to him that I had given some off the record comments to 

journalist friends that Ministers definitely did not approve any arms ship- 

ments, he called me a stupid cunt, but in a friendly sort of way. (Nigel 

Sheinwald, then Head of News Department, managed to call me a num- 

ber of things which were ruder still.)  I also go to know quite well Nigel’s 

deputy, John Williams, an experienced tabloid hack Robin Cook had 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

brought in from the Daily Mirror.  John was shrewd and supportive.  I 

was to need the support, as almost all the media believed Spicer’s version 

of the 19 January meeting rather than mine.  After all, if I was telling the 

truth and the FCO had not approved the arms shipment, then the story 

would die.  That couldn’t happen – it was selling newspapers. 

The Customs and Excise investigation was very quick, from our point 

of view.  A team of officers led by a very friendly man called Cedric An- 

drews descended on us one morning.  The registry and filing cabinets 

were sealed off, with yellow tape festooned across everywhere, like in the 

films.  I was interviewed twice.  I was not cautioned, but interviewed as a 

witness.  I was interviewed about my meeting with Spicer, about the vari- 

ous meetings I had with Penfold, and what Penfold had said about his re- 

commending the contract to Kabbah, and how he had backtracked a bit 

on this when asked to put it in writing.  We drew up a written statement 

on all this, and I signed it. Tim Andrews and Linda St Cook went through 

a similar procedure,  Richard Dales and Ann Grant were also interviewed, 

though I am not sure if they also swore statements. 

Peter Penfold was back in the UK.  He was interviewed separately. 

Both Penfold and Spicer were interviewed under caution, as suspects for 

having broken the arms embargo.  

Then, suddenly, Tony Blair intervened.  On 11 May 1998, without con- 

sulting the FCO, he gave a statement to journalists.  Penfold, Blair de- 

clared, was “a hero”.  A dictatorship had been successfully overthrown 

and democracy restored.  Penfold had “Done a superb job in trying to 

deal with the consequences of the military coup.”  All this stuff about Se- 

curity Council Resolutions and sanctions was “an overblown hoo-ha”. 

I believe this episode is extremely important.  In 1998 the country was 

still starry-eyed about Blair, but with the benefit of hindsight, this inter- 

vention points the way towards the disasters of his later years in office.  

It is extraordinarily wrong for a Prime Minister to declare that a man is 

a hero, when Customs had questioned him two days earlier under caution 

over the very matter the Prime Minister is praising.  It shows Blair’s belief 

that his judgement stood above the law of the land, something that was to 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

occur again on a much bigger scale when he halted the Serious Fraud Of- 

fice investigation into British Aerospace’s foreign bribes.27  

But of course Blair’s contempt for UN security council resolutions, and 

the belief that installing democracy by invasion could trump the trivia of 

international law, prefigures precisely the disaster of Iraq.  As with Iraq, 

Blair was also conveniently ignoring the fact that Sierra Leone was left a 

mess, with Kabbah in charge of little more than Freetown. 

In the FCO we were astonished by Blair’s intervention, and deeply 

puzzled.  Where had it come from?  It differed completely from Robin 

Cook’s views.  Who was drafting this stuff for Blair to the effect that the 

UN and the law were unimportant?  For most of us, this was the very first 

indication we had of how deep a hold neo-con thinking and military in- 

terests had on the Blair circle.  It was also my first encounter with the phe- 

nomenon of foreign policy being dictated by Alistair Campbell, the Prime 

Minister’s Press Secretary.  The military lobby, of course, was working 

hard to defend Spicer, one of their own. 

A few days later Customs and Excise concluded their investigations.  A 

thick dossier, including documentation from the FCO, from the raid on 

Sandline’s offices, and from elsewhere, was sent to the Crown Prosecution 

Service.  The Customs and Excise team who had interviewed us told me 

that the recommendation was that both Spicer and Penfold be prosecuted 

for breach of the embargo.  

The dossier was returned to Customs and Excise from the Crown Pro- 

secution Service the very same day it was sent.  It was marked, in effect, 

for no further action.  There would be no prosecution.  A customs officer 

told me bitterly that, given the time between the dossier leaving their of- 

fices and the time it was returned, allowing time for both deliveries, it 

could not have been in the CPS more than half an hour.  It was a thick 

dossier.  They could not even have read it before turning it down. 

I felt sick to my stomach at the decision not to prosecute Spicer and 

Penfold.  So were the customs officers investigating the case; at least two 

of them called me to commiserate.  They had believed they had put to- 

27If you have been following carefully, you will recall that it was in the interests of this 

same company, BAE, and its sale of Hawk jets to Indonesia, that Blair first overruled 

Cook at cabinet. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

gether an extremely strong case, and they told me that their submission to 

the Crown Prosecution Service had said so. 

The decision not to prosecute in the Sandline case was the first major 

instance of the corruption of the legal process that was to be a hallmark of 

the Blair years.  Customs and Excise were stunned by it.  There is no 

doubt whatsoever that Spicer and Penfold had worked together to ship 

weapons to Sierra Leone in breach of UK law.  Security Council 1132 had 

been given effect in British law by an Order in Council.  I had never found 

in the least credible their assertions that they did not know about it.  I had 

personally told Spicer that it would be illegal to ship arms to Sierra Leone, 

to any side in the conflict.  Penfold’s claim never to have seen an abso- 

lutely key Security Council Resolution about a country to which he was 

High Commissioner is truly extraordinary. 

But even if they did not know, ignorance of the law is famously no de- 

fence in England.  Who knows what a jury would have made of this sorry 

tale of greed, hired killers and blood diamonds.  But I have no doubt at all 

– and more importantly nor did the customs officers investigating the 

case – that there was enough there for a viable  prosecution.  

The head of the Crown Prosecution Service when it decided not to pro- 

secute was Barbara Mills.  Barbara Mills is a very well-connected woman 

in New Labour circles.  She is married to John Mills, a former Labour 

councillor in Camden.  That makes her sister-in-law to Tessa Jowell, the 

New Labour cabinet minister with a penchant for taking out repeated 

mortgages on her home, and then paying them off with cash widely al- 

leged to have come from Silvio Berlusconi, the friend and business col- 

league of her husband David Mills28, who according to a BBC document- 

ary by the estimable John Sweeney has created offshore companies for 

known Camorra and Mafia interests.  Tessa Jowell and David Mills are 

close to Tony and Cherie Blair.  Blair  is also a great friend of Berlusconi, 

despite the numerous criminal allegations against Berlusconi and his long 

history of political alliances with open fascists.    

Did any of those New Labour relationships of Barbara Mills, the Direct- 

or of Public Prosecutions, affect the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision 

not to proceed with the case, and to take that decision in less time than it 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

would have taken them to read the dossier Customs and Excise sent 


Barbara Mills was to resign as Director of Public Prosecutions later that 

year, after being personally criticised in his judgement by a High Court 

judge who ruled against the Crown Prosecution Service for continually 

failing to prosecute over deaths in police custody.30  That has not stopped 

the extremely well connected Dame Barbara from being appointed to a 

string of highly paid public positions since then.  

With Spicer and Penfold exonerated, the heat was now squarely on me. 

Robin Cook had announced an independent investigation into what les- 

sons could be learned, to be conducted by Sir Thomas Legg and Sir Robin 

Ibbs.  Cook had now lost control, and with No 10 driving, the “Independ- 

ent” inquiry was a complete stitch-up – the first in a long line of Blair 

whitewashes that were to include the Butler and Hutton inquiries.  The 

inquiry found that Ministers were, of course, blameless, and so was 

Spicer, who had been led to believe he had permission to export arms to 

Sierra Leone, including by me.  

This was screamingly untrue.  Fortunately the House of Commons For- 

eign Affairs Committee had decided, against strong pressure from No. 10 

and the New Labour Whips’ Office, that it would conduct its own inquiry. 

I was told that I was too junior to testify, but I insisted.  I received very 

strong support in this from Anthony Laden, the head of my trade union, 

the Diplomatic Service Association.  Robin Cook and Sir John Kerr sup- 

ported me, while No. 10 resisted.  The committee itself, of course, very 

much wanted to interview me.  In the end, it was agreed as a compromise 

that I could accompany Ann Grant when she gave evidence.  I was not 

permitted to include any of the evidence that I had given to Sir Thomas 

Legg (who had largely ignored or discounted my evidence and Tim An- 

drews’ evidence, preferring Spicer’s).  I was however allowed to submit a 

statement of where I disagreed with the Legg report, and under question- 

29Ironically, Barbara Mills’ current position is as Adjudicator of Customs and Revenue. 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

ing tell more or less the whole story. 31  In my memorandum to the FAC I 

wrote of the Legg report: 

“I found some of the conclusions … unjust, inexplicable in terms of the 

evidence given, and deeply offensive and depressing.” 

It was good to be able finally to give my version in public, but I did not 

get to do this until 10 November 1998, by which time the media circus 

had moved on.  The story had had astonishing “legs”, as the media call it 

– it made big front page headlines from May right through to early 

November, when Spicer and Penfold gave their evidence to the FAC.  But 

I didn’t have their glamour, being viewed as just a pen-pusher, and stood 

already condemned following the Legg report.  While my memorandum 

to the FAC was only two pages long, it was obvious when I came before 

the committee that only one member had bothered to read it. 

Still, Ann and I were grilled by the committee for over five hours in 

total, and I think that most of the truth got out.  I was helped by the fact 

that Tim Spicer had not won many friends on the committee with his atti- 


I have said that when I met Spicer I found him very evasive about who 

owned Sandline, and how the Sierra Leone deal was financed.  Sandline 

had been involved in a failed operation in Papua New Guinea.  In line 

with all such mercenary operations, the aim was to secure a physical re- 

source for a Western company – in this case a copper mine for Rio Tinto 

Zinc.  Spicer had been arrested in Papua New Guinea, and had given 

evidence to a subsequent enquiry in Papua New Guinea that Tony Buck- 

ingham was the Chairman of Sandline.  The FAC reminded him of this, 

and Spicer now attempted to retract: 

Mr Spicer:  Perhaps I can cover that point by saying at the time I gave 

that evidence I was not really completely conversant with the structure. 

It was my view that if you like Mr Buckingham was the person I would 

turn to in the event of wanting some advice and support, and I may 

have referred to him as the Chairman but he is not the Chairman of 


Donald Anderson MP (Chairman):  Who is? 




The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

    Andrew Mackinlay MP:  Who is? Come on, tease us. 

    Mr Spicer  I have already agreed to provide you, or at least ask those 

investors who own Sandline to provide you, with a note of the corpor- 

ate structure. 

 Andrew Mackinlay MP:  But you told the Papua New Guinea inquiry 

who it was. You now say it is erroneous. Can you tell us, give us all the 

other stuff but satisfy us this morning: who is the Chairman of Sand- 


Mr Spicer  It is run on a day to day basis by me. 

Sir Peter Emery MP:  But you must know who your Chairman is. 

Andrew Mackinlay MP:  Come on. 

Diane Abbott MP:   You must know who the Chairman of your com- 

pany is. 

    Mr Spicer   As I have already said, it does not have a standard corpor- 

ate structure. I run it on a day to day basis. It is owned by a group of in- 

vestors who are formed into this group Adson Holdings. There is no 

Chairman as such. 

Diane Abbott MP:   I have to tell you that your description of Sand- 

line as some kind of workers’ collective does not really cut any ice at all 

with this Committee, nor are we persuaded that at one time you knew 

who the Chairman of your company was but now you do not. I have to 

say, Mr Spicer, that it does leave the Committee speculating as to why it 

is so important to you to draw a veil over the ownership of Sandline. 

Mr Spicer:  I am not attempting to draw a veil. I have said that I would 

ask whether the owners could supply the details of the corporate struc- 

ture to the Committee. I cannot do any more than that. 

Donald Anderson MP:   When was Sandline incorporated? 

Mr Spicer:  Some time in the middle of 1996. 

Donald Anderson MP:   And you have been employed since? 

Mr Spicer:  Yes. 

Donald Anderson MP:  Are you saying that you have not taken the 

trouble to find out  the Chairman and the other officials?  

Mr Spicer:  There is only one if you like senior official in Sandline and 

that is me. I have always made that very clear. The investors do not 

wish to have their identities revealed. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Diane Abbott MP:  I bet they do not.32 

When I eventually gave my evidence to the House of Commons For- 

eign Affairs Committee I was given firm instructions on what I was and 

was not allowed to say.  It was made very plain to me by Sir John Kerr 

that I was giving evidence on behalf of the Secretary of State, not on be- 

half of myself.  I was therefore to stick to the FCO line.  I was also not to 

be drawn into speculation or comment.  In particular  I was not to men- 

tion that Peter Penfold had been in Canada between his two London 

meetings with Spicer.  And I was not to call Spicer a liar. 

The latter was especially difficult.  Tim Andrews and I on the one hand, 

and Spicer on the other, were giving diametrically opposite accounts of 

our meeting.  Tim Spicer claimed he had told us he was shipping 

weapons to Sierra Leone, and that we gave approval.  Tim Andrews and I 

said that he had made no mention of shipping weapons himself but 

rather stressed that he was sending non-lethal equipment, and we had ex- 

plained to him it would be illegal for anybody to send weapons to Sierra 


Now plainly, both those accounts cannot be true, and such fundament- 

ally different accounts of the key point of the meeting could not be acci- 

dental.  Somebody has to be lying.  But instructed not to say so, I had to 

resort to verbal contortion before the Foreign Affairs Committee: 

Dr Norman Godman MP:  Now, you have also said that Mr Spicer has 

not been telling the truth. We, in the west of Scotland, might call him a 

bit of a chancer, but what you are suggesting here is that he is a liar. 

Mr Murray I do not want to get into— 

Dr Norman Godman MP:  Well, might I infer from this that he is a 


Mr Murray  You can certainly infer that he is not telling the truth. 

Dr Norman Godman MP:  Well, I am not going to engage in a debate 

on semantics with you, but, as I said, there is a profound contradiction 







The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

In the end, the committee split perhaps predictably on party lines with 

the Conservatives choosing to believe Spicer, the Labour and Liberals 

choosing to believe Tim Andrews and I.  So the official report failed to ex- 

onerate me.  

By that stage I was getting used to it.  I seldom think about it 

nowadays; but when I do, as now, my burning anger and resentment re- 

turns to me. 

Worse of all, the Blairites were already promoting the idea that the key 

lesson to be learnt was the need to regulate – by which they meant make 

legal – mercenaries, or private military companies, as we were told we 

were now to call them.  Astonishingly, the British government had imme- 

diately adopted the terminology “Private Military Companies”.  Unlike 

the term “Mercenary” which occurs in the Hague and Geneva conven- 

tions and has legal force of long-standing, “Private Military Company” 

was a new term invented by the PR company Pearson working for … 

Sandline!  It had no history or legal force, but already in 1998 the British 

Government adopted Sandline’s own bought-in euphemism.  

The British army employed mercenary regiments of Gurkhas, the argu- 

ment went, and Spicer’s operations were no different.  Provided the em- 

ployer was a legitimate government – any government – mercenary activ- 

ities operated from the United Kingdom should be legal.  There was 

much more of this argument – in the post Cold War world mercenaries 

could bring valuable flexibility and reduce costs.  There was even support 

from within DFID, where the fashionable doctrine of the moment, anoth- 

er Blairite concept, was that security was a necessary precondition for de- 

velopment – a handy excuse for invading pretty well any poor country 

you feel like.  A white paper was written proposing the legalisation of 

mercenaries.  They were to be employed in Iraq on a scale unprecedented 

in history. 

Now, of course, Tim Spicer is an extremely rich man.  Hundreds of 

thousands of people have died in Iraq, including thousands of British and 

American soldiers, but some people have made huge amounts of money 

from the war.  These include of course arms manufacturers (Tony Blair’s 

old chums British Aerospace actually wrote in their 2006 annual report 

that profits were up “in the Land and Munitions division because of 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

heavier than expected ground fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan”).  Other 

suppliers to the military, and engineering and logistics companies like 

Bechtel and Halliburton have also made a killing – an appropriate phrase. 

Big oil companies have profited from the huge leap in oil prices the war 

has caused, and are increasingly taking over Iraqi oil resources.  The Iraq 

war is, of course, the most spectacular example recently of Western inva- 

sion of a developing state to secure mineral resources – and as always, the 

mercenaries are there. 

Tim Spicer has made a fortune out of the Iraq War.  There are at least 

40,000 western mercenaries operating in Iraq, protecting Western person- 

nel and of course oil and other mineral installations.  Tim Spicer now runs 

Aegis, the latest incarnation of the Executive Outcomes and Sandline 

crew.  This is all on a much bigger scale than Sierra Leone – Aegis has 

many contracts in Iraq, but one of their Pentagon contracts alone is worth 

US $293 million.  

Tim Spicer, Tony Blair’s favourite mercenary, whose company is now 

called Aegis Services, now has more hired killers working for him in Iraq 

than there remain troops of the British Army there.  Aegis have gained 

something of a reputation for being aggressive and trigger happy in 

shooting-up local civilians, just as Executive Outcomes did in Africa.   The 

“Aegis trophy video” that was posted on their website by one of their em- 

ployees, shows the shooting up of civilian cars in Iraq by Aegis.  I really 

do recommend you to look at this.  You can find it at: 

If that link is down, “Aegis trophy video” is a pretty easy internet 

search.  For me, the really scary thing about this video is that it was the 

subject of a formal United States Army enquiry, which says that the incid- 

ents shown were “Within standard operating procedures”, as laid down 

by the US army, which in effect give Aegis the right to shoot up any car 

approaching them, in case it is a car bomb.  Usually, of course, it turns out 

to have been someone taking the kids to school.  Aegis themselves put out 

a statement that “There is no evidence of any civilian casualties as a result 

of the incidents.” 34 

Please do look at the video. 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Jack Straw, whose 1997 election expenses were 50% met by a Director of 

British Aerospace, was as ever in the forefront of those banging the drum 

for military interests.  As British Foreign Secretary he was to declare: 

“States and international organisations are turning to the private sector 

as a cost-effective way of procuring services which would once have been 

the exclusive preserve of the military…The demand for private military 

services is likely to increase…The cost of employing private military com- 

panies for certain functions in UN operations could be much lower than 

that of national armed forces”. 

Interestingly in the light of the Aegis trophy video, Tim Spicer has long 

been an advocate of shooting civilians in case they have bombs.  In West 

Belfast in 1992, commanding a battalion of the Scots Guards, he had de- 

cided upon an aggressive approach, in his own words “to carry the war to 

the enemy”35.  

Operating under Spicer’s command, soldiers shot and killed an 18 year 

old Irish Catholic, Peter McBride.  He was shot in the back when he ran 

away when challenged – a response that was probably prompted by the 

aggression Spicer’s men had shown in Belfast “carrying the war to the en- 

emy”.  McBride was found to be unarmed; he was not on any wanted list 

and not believed to be a member of the IRA.  He was just a young father 

who panicked when confronted by aggressive soldiers.  

Almost uniquely, the case was so blatant that two soldiers, James Fisher 

and Mark Wright, were actually tried and convicted of McBride’s murder. 

Spicer was outraged.  He writes in An Unorthodox Soldier  “They believed, 

and the evidence suggests they had good reason to believe, that they were 

about to come under attack.”  At least the man is consistent: that is pre- 

cisely the excuse for the shooting up of Iraqi citizens in the Aegis trophy 

video.  In Belfast, a civilian court did not agree that an unarmed young 

man running away could reasonably be construed as about to attack.  

In Iraq, of course, Aegis do not have to answer to civilian courts. 

In Ghana, our scholarly Deputy High Commissioner, Iain Orr, had 

suffered a heart attack and was not going to be able to return to his post. 

We needed to find a replacement quickly, and by now I really was feeling 

35Tim Spicer, An Unorthodox Soldier, p.111 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

fed up in London.  So I suggested myself.  Ann Grant was taking over as 

Director of Africa Command from Richard Dales, and she was keen.  Sir 

John Kerr was helpful.  I left AD(E), and was due in Ghana in January 


First the FCO asked me to help out for a few weeks on the Administra- 

tion Restructuring Team, which was conducting a review of the FCO’s 

support services.  The acronym was ARRT.  I can’t remember what the 

second R stood for, but it was designed to make it sound as if we were not 

solely a cost-cutting exercise, which of course we actually were. 

The head of the team was Peter Collecott, undoubtedly the most na- 

kedly ambitious man I have ever met.  We were told to indulge in “Blue 

skies thinking”.  On the first day in our stark white attic room, I produced 

an organogram of all the support departments of the FCO, on a long 

whiteboard, then amended it to my proposed new structure, with an es- 

timate of jobs that could be shed.  When the final report was eventually 

produced three months later, it conformed almost 100% to my starting or- 


There is indeed a great deal of waste in the FCO, but most of it is found 

in the top of the office in London.  Between the Heads of Department and 

the Permanent Under Secretary there are two levels of Director, and one 

of those levels needs to be abolished, just as was done in the Treasury. 

However I was being tasked with shedding jobs among clerks and trans- 


There were indeed some remarkable quaint survivals from a more com- 

fortable age – the FCO had an in-house team of upholsterers, for example, 

based in Milton Keynes.  I can understand intellectually that activities 

which are that far from the core activity are best outsourced.  But there 

was something soul-destroying about searching out the ancient organisa- 

tion’s surviving Gothic nooks and crannies, only to eliminate them.  I was 

also constantly on the receiving end of lectures from Peter Collecott for 

being too honest, or “open” as he called it.  I went visiting parts of the or- 

ganisation we were looking to “Restructure”, and explained what we 

were doing.  We were looking to shed some 400 jobs.  The FCO however 

was hopeful we could achieve this without anyone noticing. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Of course, our activity had not in gone unnoticed anyway.  A friend of 

mine in the trades union Unison told me that very early one morning they 

had sent a small group to snoop around our attic.  They had studied my 

organogram on the whiteboard, which they recognised as the master 

plan.  But unfortunately they had reported back that it was written in 

code.  In fact, it was in plain English – it was simply that they could not 

decipher my very bad handwriting! 

While I was in AD(E), every second Friday lunchtime we had a get-to- 

gether between the two deputy heads of Africa Department (Equatorial) 

and the single deputy in Africa Department (Southern).  We would dis- 

cuss pan-African issues and policy coordination, and work out resource 

allocations.  In time honoured FCO fashion, these meetings were held in 

the basement of the Red Lion pub on Whitehall, and we would each buy a 

round.  I never otherwise drank during the day – in fact throughout these 

months I hardly ever drank at all, I was too busy. 

As was also the tradition, I was invited to the first get-together after I 

had left AD(E).  As no successor had been appointed yet, there were still 

three of us and we drank three pints each.  So it is fair to say I was not en- 

tirely sober.  But neither was I drunk, and I returned to my desk and was 

typing up a report on the integration of language services.  Another team 

member, Ian Whitehead, was with me.  Suddenly Peter Collecott came in, 

and strode up to my desk. 

“I hear you’ve been in the pub at lunchtime!”  

It was an accusation. 

I looked up, surprised.  

“Yes” I replied mildly. 

Collecott looked at me intently, as though he expected me at any mo- 

ment to wrap my trousers around my head and sing “Lili Marlene.” 

“Are you capable of work?” 

“I seem to be doing some.” 

“Come to my office.” 

Three of our four man team sat in one room, while Collecott had his 

own room next door. 

“I don’t approve of drinking at lunchtime.” 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Do you think you should go home?” 


“Don’t do it again.” 

Ian gave me a sympathetic smile as I returned to my desk.  I liked Ian a 

lot; he was a greatly experienced diplomat, who was currently recovering 

from a heart attack.  If he had a higher opinion of Peter Collecott than I 

did, he hid it well. 

“Jumped-up prick” I said.  Ian grinned. 

A short while later, I was off to Accra. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 


Deputy High Commissioner 

Accra is an astonishing city.  With no real centre and very few high rise 

buildings, it essentially consists of two hundred square miles of middle 

class suburban housing.  There are shanty areas like Nima and shabby 

areas like Nungua, there are markets and shopping centres, but the over- 

whelming impression is of tens of thousands of really rather nice villas 

and bungalows, linked by many hundreds of miles of neat well tar- 

macked streets. 

It is absolutely not what people expect of Africa, and it underlines the 

fact that Ghana, more than any other African country, retained its higher 

educational facilities, has a reasonably balanced economy, and an urban 

social stratification recognisable to Western eyes.  It has prosperous 

skilled working, lower middle and upper middle classes.  There are less 

extremes of wealth in Ghana than anywhere else in Africa.  There is not 

one billionaire, and nobody starves. 

Of course, there still is poverty, and in particular people still die of mal- 

aria for want of the knowledge and finance for a three dollar cure.  Social 

and economic circumstances are such that it ought to be possible to elim- 

inate this evil in Ghana, but it has not come yet. 

But the overwhelming first impression that greets a visitor to Accra is 

of quiet prosperity, order and spaciousness.  There is also a tremendous 

bustle of economic activity.  Everyone is hustling, working, striving to 

make a living and get the next step up the economic ladder.  Many people 

have two or three jobs.  And every inch of roadside space supports some- 

body trading.  They may start with a plank on two concrete blocks, with a 

few sweets, cigarettes and drink packs on it.  They progress up to a table 

and stand, with the addition of biscuits, mobile phone chargers and cuff 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

links.  The next step up is a little wooden tin roofed shack, then part of a 

converted cargo container, finally progressing to the fully blown shop.  It 

is a seamless progression, and the total value of the goods available in the 

street trade of Accra must amount to many tens of millions of dollars.  I 

chose a twenty yard strip of road at random and walked along it counting 

the different items on sale, giving up somewhere over three hundred. 

There were CDs and silk ties, lighters and exercise bicycles, guitars and 

bobble hats, televisions and peanut butter, condoms and local spirits.  A 

self-employed Ghanaian is a tremendous bundle of entrepreneurial en- 

ergy.  It is however extremely difficult to kindle that energy when they 

work for someone else. 

We had family history in Ghana.  My father, Bob Murray, with his 

youngest brother Tommy, had lived and worked in Kumasi for five years 

in the mid-1960s.  They had done well there, owning a timber yard busi- 

ness producing parquet flooring, which was then very fashionable in the 

UK.  They had also been involved in electricity distribution from the great 

Akosombo hydro-electric scheme which had created Lake Volta.  About 

three hundred miles long and covering ten per cent of Ghana, it is the 

World’s second largest man-made lake. 

Before departing for Accra, I went to visit my mother and father at their 

small home in Incheswood, between Culloden and Inverness.  My father 

was quietly pleased that I was going to Ghana in as exalted a role as Brit- 

ish Deputy High Commissioner – though like many Scots, he seemed to 

object in principle to praising his children.  I recall in 1982 when I phoned 

from Dundee breathlessly to tell him that I had just learnt I had been 

awarded a first class honours degree.  He had replied: “Aye, well some 

folk have PhDs”. 

When I told him I had been accepted into the diplomatic service, he 

told me to watch out for all the poofs.  I knew that a well of deep affection 

underlay those words – but the well remained concealed. 

Fiona, the children and I now spent a couple of days walking on the 

moors with him.  Jamie was ten and Emily four.  My mother was carefree 

and laid-back as ever.  It was a really happy couple of days, despite the 

very cramped sleeping arrangements.  We sat in a pub one evening, the 

children overjoyed to watch the dolphins gambolling in the Moray Firth. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

(Moray is precisely the same word as Murray, and pronounced exactly the 

same, just a spelling variation).  My father turned to me with a serious 

look on his face: 

“Craig, you’ll be spending time in Kumasi.  The Ashanti are a very at- 

tractive people.  If you see any good–looking girl, age about thirty, light- 

skinned, whatever you do, don’t touch her – she could be your sister!” 

And his laugh roared out over the Firth. 

My father had lost everything in Ghana when his companies were na- 

tionalised after a coup – I believe the coup by General Acheampong, al- 

though I never asked him exact details for reasons I shall explain later. 

My father had made good friends with the regional minister in Kumasi. 

In the coup a howling mob had come to drag the minister out to goodness 

knows what fate.  My father had smuggled out the minister’s teenage 

daughter, hidden under a tartan car rug in the back of his Land Rover. 

He had driven right through the riot, leaning his head out of the driver’s 

window,  waving his passport and shouting “British tourist!  British Tour- 


At least that was the story as he told it.  I might not have given it too 

much credence had I not met the lady herself when she visited my father 

in the mid-80s. 

This was a very sad parting, because my father had been diagnosed 

with lung cancer.  A number of operations had failed to clear it and, al- 

though he seemed ruddy and hearty, we all knew he hadn’t got long to 

go.  He was still more full of life than ten ordinary people.  He had a cha- 

risma that could hold a room and even now, poor and ill, he was automat- 

ically treated as very important everywhere he went.  It was just 

something about his presence.  But It was all fast burning out. 

As we arrived in Accra on British Airways, we were first out the plane 

door as it opened and I was pleasantly surprised.  In Lagos, you are 

greeted by a blast of warm, sickly sweetness.  The humidity there is like 

being wrapped completely in hot wet blankets, and the smell of sewage 

and decay is everywhere.  In Accra, while there is a welcoming warmth, 

the humidity is gentle on the skin and there is a dull, slightly smoky smell 

that is not unpleasant.  There was nobody from the High Commission air- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

side to meet us and no VIP lounge, but the formalities were pleasantly 

conducted.  Ghanaians queue meticulously, while officials are beaming 

and helpful.  A High Commission Landrover was waiting to take us to 

our new home, Devonshire House. 

Built for the Duke of Devonshire, a former colonial governor, Devon- 

shire house has grounds as imposing as the title, and looks fairly large, 

but that is illusory; the long frontage obscures the fact it is only one room 

deep.  Built to Colonial Office specifications in the frugal post-war period, 

if you strip away its verandahs it resembles nothing so much as a three 

bedroomed council house.  The reception rooms had been extended sev- 

eral times, leaving a distinctly odd assortment of pillars and beams break- 

ing up the space.  But it is a lovely family home, it has a guest wing, and 

the gardens really are on a scale that befits a Duke.  Accra never wobbles 

more than a very few degrees either side of 30 degrees Centigrade, all 

year round, day or night.  It has the same rainfall as London only concen- 

trated into a couple of brief rainy seasons.  So the entertaining could al- 

most all be outdoors.  We fell in love with the varnished mahogany, ceil- 

ing fans and mosquito nets at first sight (while immediately putting in a 

requisition to extend the air conditioning). 

We were greeted by a rather macabre sight.  The car had pulled up 

short of the house’s portico, because squarely in the middle of the parking 

space sat a large, strangely marked rock.  On close inspection, it was diffi- 

cult to be certain if it was rock or wood.  Apart from some deep incisions 

its surface was much smoothed, and I surmised had been in the sea.  It 

was very heavy – I bent to lift it out of the way, and I could scarcely budge 

it.  I could not work out what it was – my best guess would be a very 

large calcified or even fossilised bunch of palm fruits.  

It transpired that it had been the cause of Iain Orr’s heart attack.    My 

predecessor had found it on the beach, and had been fascinated by it.  He 

had decided to take it home to investigate what it was.  Lifting it from the 

back of his Landrover, he had suffered a heart attack.  The object lay 

where it fell, because the staff were scared to move it, thinking it jinxed. 

This must have been a strongly held superstition as it was bang in the 

way of the front door, and the removals firm had packed and taken away 

Iain’s possessions since.  Fiona, Jamie and I rolled it away round the side; 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

that seemed to symbolise the new spirit of our family taking over the 


My boss was the High Commissioner, Ian Mackley.  Ian was a bull of a 

man, both in  appearance and attitude.  Overbearing and irascible, he la- 

boured under a continual disappointment that his career had not ended 

in a more distinguished posting than Accra.  He did not try to hide this – 

indeed he continually referred to it.  He had previously been Deputy 

High Commissioner in Australia, and he had hoped one day to be High 

Commissioner there.  Instead he had been put in charge of Training De- 

partment – about which he was particularly resentful – and then sent to 


He was a complex man who at times could exhibit an attractive degree 

of self-knowledge.  He would repeatedly joke about becoming “Twitter 

and bisted”.  But then he would just go back to being bitter and twisted 

again.  His wife Sarah was a large, jolly hockey sticks sort of woman.  Her 

social status was rather too important to her.  She was considerably 

younger than Ian. She had been the secretary he divorced his wife for. 

Ian adopted an anti-intellectual persona, which was peculiar as he was 

in fact very bright, well read and well travelled.  But he preferred the 

company of what the English call rugger buggers and the Americans call 

jocks.  He didn’t so much wear his learning lightly, as attempt completely 

to conceal it.  He attributed the failure of his career to reach the heights he 

felt he deserved, to discrimination against him by the upper class types 

who dominated the senior ranks of the FCO.  He may well have been 

right in this.  My problem was that he identified me with those upper 

class types, in fact quite wrongly. 

It did not help matters at all that, pretty well as soon as I arrived in Ac- 

cra, I was sent away to Lome, the capital of Togo.  I was to be the UK rep- 

resentative at the Sierra Leone peace talks between the RUF rebels (who 

still controlled much of the hinterland) and the government of President 

Kabbah.  Now our High Commission also covered Togo, so my doing this 

did not remove me from Ian’s territory.  But he was not in my line of com- 

mand on these peace talks, and he resented it.  When the instructions first 

came from London, he called me in to his office. When he was angry his 

broad face went very red, and now it was scarlet.  He grumpily said that 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

he would give his assent, but that as he was not involved, he could give 

me no credit for this work in my annual appraisal.  On the other hand, if 

my work in Accra suffered because I was away in Togo, that would be re- 

flected in my appraisal.  He wanted that clearly understood.  

I said OK, and in fact I was delighted to be involved in the peace talks, 

because I felt Sierra Leone was unfinished business.  I especially wanted 

to resolve the problem without resort to force, by Spicer and his mercen- 

aries or by the British Army.  It had been the biggest problem in my ca- 

reer, and I had walked away from it unresolved.  Now I had the chance to 

be back in the thick of it. 

A situation where you are bringing those who have committed acts of 

terror into government always leaves a queasy feeling and poses a knotty 

moral dilemma.36  But ultimately the only way to resolve violent conflict is 

to reconcile interests. It is a story as old as war.  The atrocities in Sierra Le- 

one were so stark and horrible as to sharpen the relief of the moral di- 

lemma.  Sitting across a table, smiling and talking with a man who has, 

personally, with those hands now clutching his pen and his whisky glass, 

lopped the limbs off children and other helpless human victims with a 

matchet, is a hard thing to do.  But butchering your live victims’ limbs 

with your own hands, is only more horrific in its immediacy than plant- 

ing a car bomb, or bombing an Iraqi town from the air in your invulner- 

able jet.  The results are exactly the same.  If there is a moral difference of 

real importance, it is lost on those civilians ripped apart. 

So on 28 April 1999 I made the three hour drive from Accra to Lome for 

the start of the peace negotiations.  I was looking forward to seeing Lome 

again, for the first time in ten years.  In the late 1980’s it had been a haven 

of order and luxury.  The Sarakawa hotel on the beach had been simply 

superb, with service and cuisine that would have rated five stars any- 

where.  Lome had teemed with expats, and the city, which was tidy, bust- 

ling and prosperous, exuded a very French glamour and sophistication 

that was poles apart from anything Lagos or Accra had to offer.  That was, 

of course, the time that great delegations from the then European Eco- 

36There have been numerous academic articles published on the Sierra Leone peace talks 

and Lome peace accords, most of which bear little relation to what really happened. 

Much better are the many vibrant Sierra Leonean internet portals.  See for example http:// 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

nomic Community (EEC) met there to negotiate the Lome trade agree- 

ments with their former colonies.  That in itself vouches for the degree of 

luxury in 1980s Togo – senior Eurocrats are not inclined to slum it. 

I left Accra’s neatness and sped East along the cost road towards Togo. 

I was trying to teach the High Commission drivers to drive the way I 

liked.  Ghanaians have a mortal fear of potholes.  If they are speeding 

along the road and one appears, no matter how big or small, they will 

stand on their brakes as hard as they can, slowing the car radically until 

their front wheel, locked, thumps down into the pothole, possibly after 

skidding and slewing all around the road in a desperate attempt to avoid 

it.  If they have plenty of notice that the pothole is coming, they will do 

this in a more controlled way, changing down to five miles an hour and 

then either driving carefully around, or bumping down through, the 

pothole.  As there might be scores of potholes per mile, this causes severe 

traffic delay. 

Based on my experience all round Nigeria, I was trying to teach the 

High Commission drivers that, with very few exceptions, if you kept the 

wheels running and your speed up, you could skim across the potholes 

almost without noticing them.  Only unusually large and fierce ones 

might cause a bump and even deflection, but again this was much easier 

to control if you didn’t brake harshly.  

The drivers found this counter-intuitive.  The coast road ran straight 

and true for a hundred and fifty miles through low salty scrublands to 

Aflao and the Togolese border.  The surface was basically good, running 

straight as a Roman road as it rose and fell over a series of undulations. 

Potholes tended to be concentrated at the bottom of each dip, where the 

water had gathered. They would show up as fierce red gleams in the dark 

grey asphalt, as we sped down the road towards them.  The driver Joe 

had started to get the hang of my new technique, but now and then he 

would suddenly panic just before reaching a pothole.  He would either 

slam on the brakes or veer alarmingly, sometimes right off the road.  Then 

he would turn round in his seat and beam at me: 

“Sorry sir!  I have to get used!” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Speeding through the town of Viume, I was struck by the extraordinary 

vividness of the banks of pots displayed at the side of the road.  It is com- 

mon in villages for their local production to be offered for sale in this way, 

and the road is often lined with metalwork, furniture, food, wood 

carvings or other offerings from that particular locality.  But these pots 

were so striking I asked Joe to stop, and reverse back to them. 

The pots were essentially all vases or plant pots, in a variety of sizes 

and shapes of great elegance and simplicity.  But they were finished in the 

most extraordinarily vivid colours, including many different shades of 

shimmering metallic finish, giving an effect much like oil on water.  Some 

had striking patterns, ridged or incised.  I was so struck that not only did 

I immediately buy four, but I asked to see the potter.  

I was taken to a hut where I met an inarticulate young man wearing 

only torn khaki shorts.  His dark torso was extraordinarily well defined 

and gleamed with sweat in the sunlight.  Unfortunately he didn’t seem to 

speak much English, and did not seem to understand when I asked to see 

the kiln. 

I was then taken off to the low built hut of the local chief.  It was made 

of concrete building blocks and consisted of two rooms, with dirty louvre 

windows and mesh doors.  But the chief, who appeared very old, was ex- 

tremely welcoming and professed himself delighted to have a British vis- 


He told me that there had been an important pottery at Viume, “for 

centuries”, because of the excellent clays found by the banks of the Volta. 

But in 1943 the famous British potter Michael Cardew had been sent there 

to improve the quality of production, and to teach local potters.  He had 

lived in Viume for six years.  His pottery had been kept running by his 

pupils, and the tradition still survived.  The chief noted sadly that 

Cardew had wanted to improve domestic African pottery production, 

and had worked on everyday items like cooking pots and drinking ves- 

sels.  But now all that was produced in his style were plant pots for the 

tourist and expatriate markets.  The chief added casually that “it was 

Clem Atlee’s idea that Michael should come.”  Ghana regularly throws up 

these surreal moments when, seated in the most African of surroundings, 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the conversation becomes not just typically English, but the typical Eng- 

lish of a 1950s Sussex drawing room.  

I thanked the chief, and received another pot in return for my gift to 

him of a bottle of Johnnie Walker.  It was a remarkable tribute to the colo- 

nial authorities’ improving spirit that, slap in the middle of the Second 

World War, they were appointing an official Pottery Officer to Viume. 

Still more extraordinary that it should be someone who even then was re- 

cognised as a major ceramic artist.  I suspect the vast majority of people 

who pull up their four wheel drives to buy a vase at Viume have no idea 

of the existence of Cardew.  But his remarkable influence still lives on.37 

At Sogakope we crossed the bridge over the mighty Volta.  There is 

something wild in the spirit of a great African river, something I feel 

when I look at the Niger or Volta or Congo, that I just don’t feel when I 

look at the Danube or Missouri or even the Syr Darya.   African rivers 

have a mischief to them – it is nothing measurable, the Volta here being 

regulated by a great dam.  There is a great thrill in crossing any African 

river, even on a bridge. 

Amid the crowds and the clamour as we emerged on the Togolese side 

of the border, there was one thing in Togo that clearly had not changed in 

the past ten years: the scooters.  We were immediately buzzed by myriad 

scooters, trailing us like seagulls around a fishing boat, diving across the 

front of us as though determined to go under our wheels.  You could live 

in Accra from one month to the next without ever seeing a scooter, but in 

Togo they were everywhere, their T-shirted riders calling out to passers- 

by as they dodged around the city, short-skirted girls riding pillion, ad- 

justing their hair as they cling on with their knees, and everybody 


Otherwise I was to be much disappointed by Togo.  Lome had re- 

gressed rapidly to an advanced state of decay in the ten years I had been 

away.  The Togolese customs post at Aflao, which had seemed much more 

modern than its homely,  wooden Ghanaian counterpart, appeared to 

have lost its shape under layers of dust and grime. Once into Lome, 

which starts immediately at the border, it seemed that not a lick of paint 

37There is a video of Cardew throwing a pot at 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

or a pane of glass had been added or renewed in the entire city. Now 

nature seemed to be bent on return.  There was much more greenery than 

there had been ten years ago, mostly bursting out in places it wasn’t 

wanted. Street lighting seemed a thing of the past.  The wonderful 

Sarakawa hotel, where I remembered champagne breakfasts, dancers im- 

ported from the Moulin Rouge  and sumptuous banquets on the sands, 

was now dark and deserted, many of its windows smashed.38 

Togoland was initially a German colony.  In 1914, in arguably the first 

German setback of the First World War, the British authorities of the Gold 

Coast and the French of Dahomey (modern Benin) acted with surprising 

speed to take Togoland.  Flags from the German Governor’s residence are 

displayed at the Suffolk Regiment’s museum in Bury St Edmunds and the 

Ghanaian Military Museum in Kumasi.  Eventually Britain incorporated 

the Western part of Togoland into the Gold Coast, now Ghana, and France 

kept the Eastern part separate as Togo.  This splitting down the middle 

explains Togo’s long thin shape. 

Of course the division took no notice of existing cultural, ethnic or lin- 

guistic divisions.  The Ewe people, for example, spread along the South- 

ern portion of Eastern Ghana, Togo, Benin and Western Nigeria, their im- 

portance obscured by their division.  In 1914 the boundaries were realloc- 

ated and the locals just had to get on with forgetting German and learning 

French or English, which they appear to have done with great alacrity.  It 

always seems to me a great wonder – and not in a good way – that, one 

side of a completely artificial line, an African speaks French, smokes 

Gitanes and rides a scooter, while just across the line another man, quite 

probably his cousin, speaks English and is obsessed with getting the 

Manchester United score. 

German presence has lingered more in Togo than in Eastern Ghana. 

Germany has a much larger Embassy than you would expect in a country 

of just six million people.  There remains a small amount of striking Ger- 

man colonial architecture in the capital, and there are still a couple of ex- 

cellent German restaurants.  But it is in some of the hunting lodges dotted 

38It has since been refurbished and reopened as part of the Meridien chain, but is a 

shadow of its former self. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

in the hills North of the capital that you can still close your eyes and ima- 

gine that you hear the German chatter as you breathe in the wood smoke. 

Slashing colonial borders through tribal areas has had one delicious 

side-effect.  Much of Ghana was proselytised by Scots Presbyterian mis- 

sionaries.  Many churches have great St Andrews crosses painted across 

their gable walls.  These Scots protestants brought with them many of the 

cultural rites they mixed with their religion, such as Scottish rite freema- 

sonry, which is very strong among Ghana’s ruling classes, and even Or- 

ange lodges.  There are over thirty Orange lodges in Ghana.  They dress 

up in full regalia of orange sash, bowler hat and furled umbrella, and 

parade about to pipe and drum.  The umbrella is a traditional symbol of 

chieftaincy and power in Ghana, which might be why they caught on so 


Every year a small delegation of Ghanaian Orangemen visits Belfast for 

the Orange parade of 12 July.  What some of the more bigoted Ulstermen 

make of these strange comrades is an interesting question.  I have little 

doubt what they would make of the Togolese Orangemen. 

Orange Lodges being popular among the Ewe, and involving enjoyable 

dressing up and parading about, some of the neighbouring Ewe chiefs in 

Togo thought that they would like to have their own Orange lodges too. 

That is why I was to be astonished to see, on the streets of Atakpame in 

Togo’s Plateau region, a full blown orange parade with perhaps eighty 

French speaking Orangemen strutting to beat of drum – walking behind 

choirboys in white surplices carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary!  I asked 

the local schoolteacher if the Orangemen were protestants, and he replied 

that one or two might be atheists (by which I think he meant protestants) 

but of course, most were Catholics; this was Togo.  

Africa has many marvels, but the Catholic Orangemen of Togo remain 

one of the funniest and most heart-warming sights I can recall.  Africa still 

has a great deal to teach us. 

On my first night at the peace talks, those of us who had already ar- 

rived convened for an introductory meeting. Apart from me there were 

three representatives of the Libyan security services, two of Charles 

Taylor’s henchmen, three senior aides to President Eyadema of Togo and 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

eight of the RUF delegation.  Looking around the room at these hard eyed 

men, a sudden chill struck me. 

I realised I was almost certainly the only person in that room who had 

never killed  anybody.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 



There is nothing that concentrates the mind more than being locked up 

in an African hotel with a bunch of assorted killers.  I asked one of the 

RUF delegation, Colonel Isaac39, how many people the RUF delegation 

had killed personally.  He gave it some serious thought: 

“At least a thousand between us”, he said.  

I don’t think he was being boastful. 

“But Isaac,” I said cautiously, “you can’t possibly have killed that many 

in the heat of battle.  You’d all have been killed yourself.” 

“Oh, no” he replied, “most of them were prisoners.  They were…prison- 

ers.”  A long pause and he looked up at me.  “That is wrong, isn’t it?” 

“Yes Isaac, that was very, very wrong.” 

The next day I paid my first call on President Gnassingbe Eyadema, in- 

troducing myself as the British representative for the talks.  Eyadema was 

not just a brutal dictator, he was personally an extremely hard man.  He 

had joined the French army, and fought in the brutal conflicts of Algeria 

and Vietnam, obtaining the rank of Sergeant.  Returning to Togo, he be- 

came a member of the Presidential bodyguard, and  in 1963 he personally 

murdered President Sylvanus Olympio as part of a coup that installed 

Nicolas Grunitzky as President.  In 1967 Eyadema led a further coup 

against Grunitzky and installed himself as President.  After 32 years he 

was still in power. 

He had kept himself there by ruthlessness.  He had murdered and tor- 

tured thousands of opposition figures.  Only the year before in 1998 he 

had won re-election against opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio – the son 

of the President he had murdered.  The ballot – which Eyadema “won” 

39Name changed 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

52% to 48% – was heavily rigged, which Iain Orr had witnessed at first 

hand.  Hundreds of Olympio’s people were massacred during the cam- 

paign.  Bodies were still being discovered in the bush.  Just the week be- 

fore I had arrived, a batch of bodies of more recent political victims had 

been washing up on the beach at Lome.   Nobody could consider himself 

safe in Togo – in 1996 a German diplomat was shot and killed by Togolese 

security services. 

It is a good example of the EU’s moral blindness in international affairs 

that they had chosen Togo for their vast junkets to negotiate international 

trade treaties with the developing world.  But Eyadema had always en- 

joyed the warm patronage of France, and been the friend of successive 

French Presidents.  These relationships were based on blood diamonds, 

for which Eyadema was a major conduit and to which successive French 

Presidents were extremely partial.  The webs of brutality and corruption 

that linked the dictators of la Francophonie with recent Presidents of 

France of all parties would make a fascinating book. Throughout Ey- 

adema’s rule, a battalion of French paratroops was stationed close to 

Lome airport ready to give him assistance if needed, and his vicious se- 

curity services were controlled by French “Advisers”.  40 

Over the next day or two, the rest of the key participants rolled into 

town.  The Sierra Leonean government delegation was lead by the highly 

likeable Solomon Berewa, the Attorney General.  Solomon was dignified 

but practical, and a pleasure to negotiate with. He was one of the few 

people there who was genuinely well-motivated.  The UN representative 

was Frances Okelo, a Ugandan who was something of an aloof figure.  He 

chaired the formal sessions together with Togo’s Foreign Minister, Joseph 

Koffigoh, representing ECOWAS.  In fact the formal sessions were mean- 

ingless, just occasional statements of position.  All the real negotiating 

took place in corridors, hotel rooms, bars and restaurants.  The United 

States sent Ambassador Joe Melrose, a grizzled old veteran Africa hand 

whose main interest was the stability of Liberia.  He was a very good 

listener, a wise adviser and always helpful. 

The negotiations were a grim game.  The essential points of the peace 

plan were these.  All fighting would cease immediately.  There would be a 

40Following Eyadema’s death in 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbe is now President. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

general amnesty, but not for “crimes against humanity.”  The RUF would 

disarm and enter the process, becoming a political party.  There would be 

a government of national unity until  elections a couple of years later.  The 

RUF would have ministers in the government of national unity.  They 

would get some funding to transform themselves into a political party, 

and help to develop their policy programme.  They would get offices and 

office equipment in return for guns.  There would be scholarships for 

their young leadership to be educated.  The fighters would be disarmed 

and go into camps.  There would be training programmes, and coun- 

selling for child soldiers.   A percentage of the RUF fighters would be rein- 

tegrated into the national army. 

This was an immensely complex negotiation.  There were a huge num- 

ber of practical points to agree upon, and then there were major ethical 

and legal questions at stake.  Let me start by making a list on some of the 

practical points on which we had to reach agreement: 

Amnesty – who would benefit from this, and who be exempted?  Did 

the massacres and amputations carried out by the RUF constitute a 

“Crime Against Humanity”?  If so, would the leadership or the actual 

killers be held responsible?  And if everyone involved was held respons- 

ible, would that not make the amnesty in practice meaningless?  Would 

trials be held in Sierra Leone or the Hague?  Under international or Sierra 

Leonean law?  

Remember the possible answers to these questions meant that the RUF 

delegation were negotiating for their very lives.  While they were kept in 

luxury and under a safe conduct from the government of Togo, they were 

all too aware that they were in fact prisoners. 

Disarmament – should only the RUF disarm?  What about the Kama- 

jors?  What about the various factions of the Sierra Leonean army?41 

Would a bounty be paid for guns?  How did you prevent it being used to 

pay for more guns?  Who would fund this?  Who would fund the disarm- 

ament camps and their education and training programmes?  How many 

RUF fighters could be incorporated into the Sierra Leonean army?  What 

41The Armed Forces Ruling Council was supposed to be in the talks alongside the RUF, 

but in fact played very little part and had more or less melted away. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

kind of weapons could they be given?  Should they be in distinct units, or 

dispersed in existing structures? 

RUF as a political party  – if the RUF was to be given funds, offices and 

training to enable it to become a genuine political party, who would fund 

all this?  Would that not put the RUF at an advantage compared to estab- 

lished political parties?  Who would monitor and supervise elections? 

Power sharing – how many minister’s should the RUF get?  The RUF’s 

opening position was eight, the Sierra Leonean government’s opening po- 

sition was two.  Who would have key ministries in charge of diamonds 

and the army?  Would President Kabbah choose RUF ministers, or could 

the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, nominate them?  What would Foday 

Sankoh’s position be in a power sharing government?  Could he be Vice 

President?  What would happen if an RUF minister were indicted for 

crimes against humanity? 

That is by no means an exhaustive list of the points on which I was try- 

ing desperately to broker and agreement.  Many lives were at stake; there 

was at least one serious renewal of fighting in Sierra Leone during the 

talks.  But also there were major areas of principle at stake, involving 

some very tricky moral dilemmas. 

Was not this whole exercise an appalling appeasement, rewarding the 

RUF for their grisly campaign of murder and mutilation?  Were we not 

just as wrong to be involved with the highly corrupt government of Sierra 

Leone, where beyond the formal written proposals on which ministries 

went where under power sharing, we were holding blunt and grubby 

talks about which politician or warlord got physical control of which dia- 

mond field?  

On the RUF side, only their lawyer, Omrie Golley, was not guilty of 

multiple murder.  For the agreement to stick, Sankoh and his top lieuten- 

ants would have to be given immunity.  But one or two senior figures, and 

a large number of junior ones, would have to be tried and probably ex- 

ecuted in Sierra Leone to appease the suffering population, while their 

colleagues went on to high office and riches.  I was to find myself discuss- 

ing with Sankoh which of his colleagues he wanted to nominate for the 

chop as scapegoats.  Then there was a deeper, longer game that, after dis- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

armament and power-sharing, after the elections,  Kabbah’s people and 

the party of James Jonah in Freetown might be strong enough to topple 

and execute Sankoh at last. That is if there were no further coup by the 

army, while nobody could predict what Sam Hinga Norman and his 

kamajors, or Charles Taylor of Liberia’s militias, might do.  Every parti- 

cipant in these talks was acutely aware of all of these permutations.  We 

were playing a game of life and death for thousands in Sierra Leone, and 

in a very real sense for many of those around the table.42 

Officially my role was very unclear.  The negotiations were being con- 

ducted by the UN and ECOWAS.  But in fact, as the former colonial 

power, everybody was looking to the UK to lead the negotiations, and 

that included both the Sierra Leoneans themselves, of all factions, and the 

Americans.  Joe Melrose made it plain to me that the US was puzzled by 

the UK’s failure to get a grip in Sierra Leone, the way the US had in neigh- 

bouring Liberia.  Everybody was also looking to DFID as the only body 

able to provide substantial amounts of funding at short notice.  This was 

to cause me real problems.  We wrapped up agreement on the items pa- 

tient step by patient step.  For example, it was eventually agreed that the 

RUF would get six regional offices for its political party, and each would 

be provided with two computers and a photocopier.  I was asked to try 

for funding for this.  DFID outright refused to provide any funds specific- 

ally to the RUF.  I recall trying desperately to call the Westminster Found- 

ation for Democracy to ask them to give £40,000, before this particular 

hard won segment of the jigsaw of agreement evaporated before my eyes. 

Secure communication with London was difficult.  For the first week I 

was communicating by the hotel fax, and feeling sympathy for Peter Pen- 

fold’s ordeal in Conakry.  But after a week I drove back to Accra to pick 

up a bit of MI6 kit flown in for me from London.  It was a satellite tele- 

phone and a laptop configured to MI6 and the  FCO’s secure communica- 

tions network.  

I could hook the laptop and satellite phone together and send an en- 

crypted telegram back to the FCO.  The FCO’s cipher keys change daily 

and are normally held beneath numerous combination locks and steel 

42A succinct and largely accurate account of these negotiations can be found at 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

doors in Embassy registries worldwide.  I had them on a number of discs 

to insert into the laptop when transmitting.  These were classified top 

secret, as anyone obtaining a copy would be a long way to decoding any 

secret British government communication worldwide.  

I wrote “Swedish Porn”, “Gay porn”, “Donkey Porn” and similar titles 

on each disc with a DVD marker pen.  I had nowhere secure to store 

them, so in the day I carried them in a single case inside my underpants. 

After sweeping my hotel room for bugs with another handy gadget I had 

been given (the room had an audio bug) I removed one of the foam rub- 

ber pillows on the bed from its case and cut a slit in it.  At night I pushed 

the discs into the slit and sideways through the foam until they were well 

buried, then slept with my head on the pillow. 

The satellite telephone was locked into a large metal briefcase, and the 

lid of the case became the satellite dish.  This lid had to be pointed dir- 

ectly at the satellite.  As there was a choice of one in South Africa and one 

in Spain, both were extremely low on the horizon in Lome.  The only 

place I could get a signal was on the hotel roof –  so I had to sneak up 

there, via the fire escape, at about 4am most mornings.  The hotel Deux 

Fevrier is thirty six storeys high, and with the North Atlantic hitting the 

heat of Africa a few hundred yards away, it was pretty windy up there. 

Sometimes it would take a couple of hours to find the satellite and get the 

connections and encryption to work.  If this all sounds very jolly, remem- 

ber that the Togolese had shot and killed a German diplomat less than 

five years earlier. 

About the third day I did this I returned to my room.  The laptop bat- 

tery was pretty drained.  I put it on the desk to recharge, the cord 

stretched across the room to the nearest working power point.  I put the 

discs into the slit in the pillow, turned out the lights, put my head on the 

pillow and quickly fell asleep. 

I was awoken an hour later by a loud clatter.  I sat up quickly, and 

without my spectacles saw a blurred figure lit by the corridor light as it 

opened the door and ran away.  I leapt up and to the door, but by the time 

I got there the corridor was empty. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Somebody had entered the room and been approaching my bed when 

they tripped over the outstretched power cord and pulled the laptop onto 

the floor.  

This was a bit worrying.  That night I reported this to London.  I did 

not want to make too much of it in case they simply pulled me out of the 

negotiations; but I did feel they might have found another member of 

staff to come and support me.  So I stressed that there were plenty of pos- 

sible explanations.  It could, I wrote, have been a common thief or even “A 

prostitute with a pass key” – which was indeed something I had come 

across before in West Africa.  But I was later to be reprimanded for this by 

Ian Mackley, who told me that John Kerr was appalled that I had used the 

term “Prostitute” in an official telegram, which would be seen by minis- 

ters (poor things).43  

The immediate outcome was that I was instructed by the FCO to apply 

to the Togolese authorities for protection.  I was assigned a Togolese gov- 

ernment bodyguard, who was very nice and cleaned my shoes, but obvi- 

ously hampered my activities.  It took me a few days to negotiate him 

away again. 

I had to play things with a high hand in order to meet everybody’s ex- 

pectations that the UK would play the leading role, when there was only 

me and I received very little in the way of instruction from London other 

than rather long-winded “Nos” from DFID.  

It was taken as read that the Sierra Leonean government delegation 

would lean on the UK for support, and they duly did so, constantly.  The 

great difficulty was to get the RUF to agree to a deal.  There was little real 

danger that ECOMOG would do the hard fighting needed to drive the 

RUF from their home territories, and a return to guerilla terror tactics ap- 

pealed to many of the RUF.  

The RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, never left his suite on a high floor of 

the hotel.  He did not attend negotiating sessions.  People went to see him. 

Photos of him on the internet show a cheerful, tidy man in a little cloth 

hat and kaftan with a neat, clipped beard.  In Lome, he didn’t look like 

this at all.  His beard was matted and had bits of what looked like twig 

43Sir John Kerr now states that he said no such thing.  I am inclined to believe him – but 

I was definitely told he had objected. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

and cloth woven into it.  He smelled rank, and his clothes looked stained. 

He was incapable of following a logical argument, and I believe may have 

been illiterate – I certainly never saw him read or write.  

Sankoh was obsessed with becoming Vice-President, which was neces- 

sary to “Clean Sierra Leone”.  On almost every other question he would 

reply “Dey no important”.  He usually spoke to me in pidgin, but I heard 

him interviewed much more rationally on the BBC.  Solomon Berewa sug- 

gested to me he was “Playing mad, like Hamlet.”  I suspected he was on 

drugs – nearly all the RUF delegation were up to their eyeballs in cocaine 

most of the time.  Sankoh lived with a young woman “Corporal Agnes” 

who seemed terrified of him, and he also had a constant stream of prosti- 

tutes taken to his rooms. 

If the RUF were to disarm, they had to trust the peace deal would deliv- 

er the things they wanted – money and personal security.  Once they were 

disarmed, they would be very vulnerable, and these people had lived 

whole lives by the gun where the unarmed were killed and mutilated.  So 

to gain that level of trust in a few weeks was truly a formidable problem. 

To do that, I had to forge friendships with them.  Remember, they were all 

mass murderers. 

In these circumstances, you need to gain entry into their group, so they 

accept you socially and interact freely in front of you and with you.  You 

have to become an accepted part of the scene, while not allowing yourself 

to be emotionally “captured” or others to perceive you as biased towards 

one group.  That is a hard act to pull.  To start, I needed an “in” to the 


My “in” was to be Colonel Isaac, the young man I had started to be- 

friend on my very first night in Togo.  I made a point of greeting him in 

friendly fashion whenever I saw him, and especially in front of other 

parties. For someone in Isaac’s position, unsure if the future was execu- 

tion, friendly acknowledgement from the official representative of the 

British government was pretty heartening.  I started drinking with him, 

and in the course of the next few nights I learnt his story, as he told it in 

morose and pained gobbets of memory.  I don’t think anyone had ever 

really asked him about this stuff before, and it was like exorcising a ter- 

rible substance from the depth of his soul. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Colonel Isaac thought he was nineteen years old. 

The first people Isaac had killed had been his own parents, when he 

was just about eight.  Charles Taylor’s men had come to his village and 

raped his mother and sisters.  They had killed both his older brothers, for- 

cing him to watch as they clubbed them to death.  Then they gave him a 

pistol and ordered him to shoot his father and mother in the head; other- 

wise they would do the same to his sisters.  His father had cried and 

screamed, but his mother had begged him to do it to save his sisters.  

Shooting his mother was easy; she closed her eyes and prayed quietly. 

He had been stunned when he pulled the trigger and her head exploded. 

Shooting his father was more difficult.  He had always been so scared of 

his father, and he was confused to see him crying and begging.  His shot 

took off the side of his father’s head but didn’t kill him.  One of the fight- 

ers then plunged his hand right into his father’s brain.  Amazingly, for a 

few seconds his father had continued to speak. 

“What did he say?” I asked gently. 

“He say ‘tell your mother’.  Only ‘tell your mother’.”  

The men then killed Isaac’s youngest sister and took the other two as 

sex slaves.  They killed one a few days later.  After a few weeks some of 

the men left with his last sister; he never heard from her again.  By then, 

Isaac was already a fully fledged fighter in the Liberian civil war: “I don 

go fo sojah” – I went to be a soldier. 

Since then he had known nothing but brutality and killing. He made no 

distinction between fighting for Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone and fight- 

ing for Charles Taylor in Liberia.  To him it was the same struggle against 

the “Gnomes and ogres” who had cheated the people of the wealth of the 

country.  He referred to all enemies as “Gnomes and ogres”.  I wondered 

where he had picked up the expression. 

I thought I already knew a fair amount about African conflicts, but I 

was surprised to learn that, he thought aged about eleven, Isaac and 

about three hundred other boys had been put on a ship out of Liberia to 

go and fight for Unita in Angola.  They had been packed into the hold of a 

cargo ship and quite a few died on the journey – he had been in charge of 

collecting bodies twice a day and throwing them overboard.  In Angola 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the fighting had been murderous.  Eventually they were declared victori- 

ous, and taken back to fight in Liberia again.  Of that three hundred, only 

about forty made it back to West Africa. 

Isaac was the product of the sores of Africa.  He was a hardened killer, 

but he was also the little boy forced to kill his own mother.  He caused me 

to think a great deal.  Had Isaac been just two years younger, he would 

still have been a child soldier and there would be great concern to rehabil- 

itate him.  But now he had slipped past that category and into the adult 

killer range.  

But had he ever had a chance?  He was one of the middle ranking mem- 

bers of the RUF delegation.  He really believed that now these peace talks 

were going completely to change his life, to wipe away all that hate and 

hurt.  What Isaac wanted out of the peace talks was to go to College in the 

United States. I encouraged him to believe this could be possible.  Despite 

the unthinkable things he had done, I believed Isaac was redeemable, and 

not only in the next world.  

In fact, I also knew that the illiterate Isaac was definitely one of the 

people Foday Sankoh was indicating could be sacrificed by the RUF to 

stand trial.  

Sankoh himself varied from day to day, but definitely was more often 

against a deal than for one.  As he asked the BBC World Service “Did I 

fight a war for all those years  just to get four ministers?”  He was himself 

already sentenced to death in Sierra Leone.  Unless the RUF delegation 

were strongly in favour, Sankoh would back out, so I continued to be- 

friend Isaac and, through him, form relationships with the rest of the del- 


In these circumstances it is fatal to be guarded.  You have to display 

your own vulnerability in order to win trust.  This means, in short, that 

you have to be blind drunk, or whoring, or singing raucously together. 

Shared secrets are the basis of trust, and I became accepted with the RUF 

as “a man”.  There are limits – I don’t take hard drugs, and they were 

stoked up at least half the time.  They continually offered drugs to me, 

and I had to laugh it off, usually countering by buying a whole bottle of 

Chivas Regal.  I recall explaining to “Leatherboots”, one of the more terri- 

fying RUF commanders, that I didn’t take cocaine because it stopped me 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

getting it up.  I had to grab at a couple of local girls to carry this off (let- 

ting them go again as soon as I could).  It was also at times truly terrify- 

ing.  They were violent and unpredictable, and would take to smashing 

up chairs, or throwing glasses at each other’s faces, at no apparent pro- 

vocation.  The apparently scholarly Paolo Bangura, a former member of 

the AFRC, proved to be one of the more irascible. 

I was extremely fortunate in having Solomon Berewa, the Sierra 

Leonean Attorney General, to work with.  He was very shrewd and play- 

ing the long game, aware that once the RUF were disarmed the game 

would change.  He was determined that the rule of law should be ap- 

plied, but was also rational.  I explained to him how I felt about Isaac.  I 

suggested killers who had themselves been brutalised since early child- 

hood could not be viewed as entirely responsible for their actions.  He un- 

derstood what I was saying. 

There was one member of the RUF delegation for whom I felt no sym- 

pathy.  Omrie Golley was a British national, whose father had been a Si- 

erra Leonean minister.   He had a legal practice on Kensington High 

Street, before (according to my briefing notes from the British intelligence 

services) being disbarred by the Law Society for embezzlement of a cli- 

ent’s funds.  He now operated out of Croatia, and had been popping up 

for the last couple of years as the official spokesman of the RUF. 

Golley lived in great style in Lome.  He had the entire top floor of a 

very pleasant French owned boutique hotel, complete with roof garden 

and pool.  Omrie did the drafting and detailed negotiating for the RUF, 

reporting to Kabbah daily.  One day he invited me to his suite to discuss 

the final draft of the peace deal.  Once I arrived he made an excuse and 

left, leaving me for two hours in the company of his absolutely gorgeous 

Croatian wife, who was wearing just knickers and a negligee.  

I don’t think this was any kind of honey trap – the poor girl, apart from 

her deshabillee, behaved perfectly normally.  She was bored and unhappy 

in Lome.  She appeared completely ignorant of what was going on, and I 

believe genuinely had no idea that there was anything dodgy about her 

husband or disreputable about the RUF.  It was a strange afternoon in a 

surreal period of my life.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

For Isaac and some of his companions I felt sorry.  A cruel fate had 

brought them here.  Golley, however was different.  He tried continually 

to ingratiate himself with me, posing as my fellow English gentleman in 

his pinstripe suits, talking of cricket and the Royal Family in his public 

school accent.  But he very much had a choice, and was making money 

out of all this.  He gave me the creeps, and I preferred the company of the 

Sierra Leonean, Togolese, Libyan, Nigerian and other assorted killers in 

our party. 

At the start of the third week of the negotiations, I awoke one morning 

and had immediately to dash to the bathroom and sit there for an hour. 

The stomach cramps were very painful.  My vision had taken on a yel- 

lowy tinge, and objects in my peripheral vision were circling around in a 

disconcerting manner.  Once it seemed safe, I crawled back to my bed and 

took some imodium.  About half an hour later I started to vomit. 

I thought I recognised the symptoms; it felt just like the salmonella 

poisoning which Dr Handa had treated me for in Accra. The same treat- 

ment should work again.  I called the driver to come up to my room. 

“Joe,”  I said, “I am really sick.  I need some hydration salts and some 

Noroxin.  Let me write it down.  I really think it’s pretty bad and I need it 

urgently.  Go quickly.” 

Half an hour later he was back.  He was grinning at me and smirking in 

a way that did not seem at all appropriate for the gravity of the situation.  

“Here you are, sir”, he smirked, “Hope you get better soon.” 

I was mystified.  Joe always seemed a very grounded, friendly and re- 

sponsible person.  Why this sudden callousness? 

Anyway, the priority now was not Joe but my sickness.  I pulled the 

medicine from the bag, and looked at the little white box of Noroxin.  It 

was the same drug, only with a slightly different French spelling – Norox- 

ine.  And in its French packaging, it had displayed prominently on the 

front of the box: “Contre la syphilis”.  

No wonder Joe was giggling! 

That night I hardly slept at all.  I turned the air conditioning up to max- 

imum and took the blankets off the bed, but I couldn’t get cool, and felt 

like iron bands were being tightened around my head.  The next morning 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

my face looked strangely orange.  My bodyguard Maurice was genuinely 

worried, and hurried me off to see “the white doctor.” 

We drove a short distance through the residential streets of Lome; 

everywhere the white paint looking like it had been rubbed off, revealing 

patches of light grey concrete.  Vivid stretches of green vegetation were 

appearing on masonry, sprouting from gutters and downpipes, eating 

into roofs and thrusting strong searching roots into cracks in walls.  We 

came to a building of a dirty sandstone colour, an open courtyard at the 

front with weeds growing between flagstones. An old copper coloured 

Peugeot 306 was parked diagonally across this space, its back window 

missing.  From the top of the rear seats’ cream coloured leather uphol- 

stery, a huge lime green praying mantis stood a motionless, angular 

guard as we approached.  It is the only insect which visibly looks at you, 

Inside and out, the whole building seemed the same dirty sand colour, 

and it was difficult to tell if any of it had ever been painted.  We walked 

up three steps, and opened the much holed mesh insect screen closed 

across the front door, which stood ajar.  The local receptionist recognised 

Maurice and we were shown straight through to a back room.  The walls 

were lined with dark wood shelves from which yellowing periodicals 

seemed determined to escape, spilling in inexplicably frozen cascades. 

Behind a massive wooden desk heaped with cardboard files a small, age- 

ing man sat in a large carved chair whose back rose above his head.  He 

wore silver spectacles and a green corduroy jacket, rubbed at the elbows 

and cuffs.  A thin clipped moustache rose above a smile of yellowing 

teeth.  Evidently he had been expecting me, as he already knew my name. 

“Monsieur Murray.  Do you have fever?  Vomiting?  Diarrhoea?” 

I nodded yes to all of these.   The doctor didn’t move. 

“It’s probably malaria” he said.  “Go next door and see my young col- 

league for a blood test.” 

In the next room sat a younger Frenchman, perhaps in his early twen- 

ties.  He wore a white shirt, the rolled up sleeves held above the elbows 

by gold elasticated bracelets.  He had black chest hair curling over his 

shirt where it was open at the top, and about three days’ growth of beard. 

At least it would have been three days growth for me – he looked like he 

might have produced it since breakfast. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

As I entered, he motioned me to a chair placed against the wall, put 

down his magazine and stubbed out his cigarette.  Getting up, he walked 

around his desk and motioned me to hold out a finger.  He donned rub- 

ber gloves then took a microscope slide from a box, unwrapped it from its 

paper coverings and held it under my finger.  As he prepared to prick my 

finger with something in his other hand, I saw what he was using and 

suddenly wrenched my hand away. 

“Hang on!”  I yelled in English, “Is that clean?” 

He had been about to cut my finger with a sliver of broken glass.  Look- 

ing annoyed by my outburst, he got up, looked at me, and pointedly 

shrugged his shoulders in a decidedly Gallic fashion.  He carefully placed 

his piece of glass in a yellow bin, then started rummaging under his desk 

for something.  He pulled out a small pane of glass, which incongruously 

brought memories flooding back to me of my grandfather’s greenhouse, 

the strong smell of the tomato plants mingling with damp manure and 

rotting wood. The pane the young man now held had a substantial piece 

broken off from one top corner. He shrugged again, then quickly and ex- 

pertly gave the broken pane a light knock against the side of his desk. 

Two or three small shards broke off and fell onto the desktop.  He 

grinned, picked up one of these, and came back to me.  He drew the glass 

shard across the top pad of my middle finger to draw blood, and I must 

say it hurt like hell.  He then smeared my bloody finger across his glass 


I was returned to a waiting room, feeling still more dazed.  Some half 

an hour later I was told I definitely did have malaria, and given medicine 

to start taking.  I told Joe not to go back to the hotel but drive me straight 

to the border and back to Accra.  From my experience of Togolese medical 

care, the sooner I was back in Ghana the better. 

I was away for over a week.  Paul Harvey, who had been the East Afric- 

an Deputy Head in African Department (Equatorial) while I was the West 

African Deputy, came out to take over.  Paul continued the work I was do- 

ing and had the down to earth personality to win the trust and affection 

of all involved.  By the time I returned, we had thrashed out an agreed 

draft peace deal on all of the major points.  President Kabbah was under 

intense diplomatic pressure from Nigeria and the United States to agree. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Frances Okelo, Joe Melrose and I knew that there was no point in any 

deal if Charles Taylor did not sign up to it.  He had the ability to send 

fighters to restart war in Sierra Leone, more or less whenever it suited 

him.  We decided we needed to go to Liberia and present him with the 

draft.  We also wanted to go to Freetown to see President Kabbah.  He 

had not attended the talks, not being able to be seen to treat Foday 

Sankoh as an equal.  Now we would go to him to add to the pressure for 

his agreement. 

President Eyadema lent us his private plane.  It was a small jet, 

equipped with massive swivel chairs in ivory leather for about six people. 

A stewardess plied us with vintage champagne.   But there was 

something very disconcerting about the jet.  As it flew, every minute or so 

it would shudder and buck, the tail twisting from side to side.  I turned to 

Frances Okelo and asked him where they kept the parachutes.  He was 

looking decidedly nervous. 

We flew in to Freetown Airport.  It said much for the lack of control of 

President Kabbah, and of ECOMOG, that the road from the airport was li- 

able to RUF ambush. The only way in to Freetown was across the bay by 

UN helicopter.  This was a huge old Russian machine, crewed by Ukraini- 

ans.  I was strapped to a wall, perching my bum on a kind of ledge.  

Our delegation of six was protected by about twenty Nigerian ECO- 

MOG troops, who came in the helicopter with us.  There were two heavy 

machine guns, manned out of the great open doors each side.  The Nigeri- 

an troops were almost comically swathed in bandoleers, grenades, rocket 

propelled grenade launchers and guns of various calibres.  There was a 

great crush in the helicopter and soldiers were hanging out, clinging on to 


It felt even less airworthy than Eyadema’s plane, although I imagine it 

skimmed the water as a precaution against enemy fire, not because it 

could not get higher.  Once in Freetown we decanted to a motley convoy 

of old vehicles, and thumped uphill to the Presidential palace.  We 

threaded our way through a variety of whitewashed rooms, all empty of 

personnel and uninhabited looking, until we came to President Kabbah, 

sat alone in his office, behind an uncluttered desk. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Frances Okelo put the key questions to Kabbah.  Would he be prepared 

to grant Sankoh a pardon and accept four RUF ministers in his transition- 

al administration, making Sankoh vice-president?  Why yes, replied Kab- 

bah, provided his cabinet, the council of churches and civil society 

agreed.  But would he be prepared to work for their agreement?  Why 

yes, he said.  Provided his cabinet, the council of churches and civil soci- 

ety agreed that he should work for their agreement.  We were not going to 

get far with Kabbah, but at least we could give him a definitive text of the 

proposed agreement.  

We left again for the old helicopter, then we took off again in Eyadema’s 

juddering aircraft.  Forty minutes later, we approached Monrovia airstrip. 

There were blast craters in the grass alongside the runway, and bullet 

holes in the crumbling concrete of the terminal building.  This time we 

were squeezed into a minibus, with no air conditioning.  As we travelled 

to Taylor’s home through a nightmarish warscape, we were escorted by 

several pick-ups mounting heavy machine guns.  About a dozen warriors 

were crammed into the load bay of each pick up.  A few had neat new 

American military fatigues and boots, but most were in shorts and old 

shirts.  A large number were children. 

Entering Taylor’s house through a large razor wire topped wall, past 

sandbagged artillery emplacements, the building itself had the air more of 

a large private house than an official residence.  Entering on the ground 

floor, we went down a large spiral staircase to the living room, which was 

in the basement – presumably for protection from missile attack.  It was a 

huge room, with several different levels.  The astonishing thing about it 

was the sheer number of knick-knacks it was stuffed with.  As well as far 

too much furniture, there were statues, paintings and vases everywhere.  

A large number of these articles were gold and silver pieces, two or 

three feet high, of the sort that would be a table centrepiece for an army 

regiment or city corporation.  It was the room of somebody who liked to 

spend their money in very expensive New York jewellers and furnishers, 

and had no style. 

Taylor came in, dressed in a sharp, light grey, Italian silk suit.  Monsters 

come in many guises and Charles Taylor both looked and sounded like a 

very bright New York lawyer, only more honest.  He was slickness itself 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

as he outlined, in his smart East Coast accent, his deep concern for his 

brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone, his outrage at the amputees, and his 

desire for peace and development.  He said that he had never supported 

any party in Sierra Leone and had never had any links to any fighting 

there, while he had just secured firm control of Liberia’s own borders and 

was acting firmly to prevent any cross-border mischief. 

He flicked through the draft peace agreement, and said he would study 

it in detail.  We could always rely on him to do anything to bring peace. 

Of course he would be happy to urge agreement on Foday Sankoh, but he 

had no influence there.  He would also urge agreement on President Kab- 

bah.  But his efforts to help by securing the border would be very expens- 

ive for Liberia.  Of course Liberia wished to play a very constructive role, 

but it was a poor country, and would need to be financially supported to 

do so… 

It had not been an overwhelming success of a day, but it was a part of 

the process that had to be gone through, and at least nobody was openly 

opposing or obstructing the process.  It would remain a case of ensuring 

everyone’s self interest was served by securing a peace agreement.  Altru- 

ism is in short supply in West Africa. 

Our escort were noticeably nervous as we returned through the gather- 

ing dusk.  Flames flickered in the city, and every now and then we heard 

gunfire, though whether in anger of celebration we could not tell.  At the 

airfield our pilot was visibly agitated.  With tropical swiftness, dusk 

turned to darkness as we climbed up the short flight of steps into the 

plane.  Monrovia airport had no lights or beacon, or indeed electricity. 

We waited in the dark for half an hour. The distant sounds of gunfire 

seemed much more ominous as we sat helpless in our fragile little cocoon. 

By the light of torches, I could see men starting to roll an oil barrel down 

the railway.  A further wait, then flames leapt up just beside us, and raced 

ahead of us.   Then we lurched off down the runway, accelerating breath- 

takingly fast.  We tore along the line of liquid fire, some of which clung 

briefly to our fuselage, and were up in the air. Climbing steeply, we 

pulled through the bank of heavy cloud and the gloom vanished as a 

bright silver moon shone on the crystal plumed castles just beneath us. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Our plane still juddered alarmingly, but suddenly felt homely and secure 

as we sped back to Lome.  I fell asleep. 

In fact, the plane was neither safe nor secure.  Two days later, en route 

to Kara in Northern Togo, it fell out of the sky and was destroyed, killing 

our pilot and his crew. 

The next few days consisted of diplomatic tidying up for us, with work 

to gain acceptance for the agreement being done in capitals.  The only real 

question now was Foday Sankoh.  He would indicate agreement one day, 

then denounce the deal to the media the next.  He appeared increasingly 


Jesse Jackson was flying in for the signing ceremony.  His personal dip- 

lomacy had been key to initiating these peace negotiations, through a 

meeting he had held with Kabbah,  Sankoh and Eyadema on 18 May 1999. 

In fact Jackson had caught the UK on the hop; the British government was 

wary of negotiations with the RUF and tended to favour the hard-liners in 

Kabbah’s government who wanted a military solution.  Jackson had been 

in Accra for an African-American summit, and had by force of personality 

swept up President Kabbah and forced him on an unplanned trip to Togo 

to meet Foday Sankoh.  My own view was that Jackson’s coup was bril- 

liant – he had achieved a most unlikely ceasefire and the start of negoti- 


Nonetheless I was worried that Jackson’s return at this stage would 

damage the extremely delicate agreement we had reached.   I asked Joe 

Melrose why Jackson was coming back now; we had walked a knife edge 

to get to this point; the last thing we needed was any new factor.  Joe 

grinned, shrugged, stubbed out a cigarette and said “Africa is high on the 

agenda of the Clinton administration.  And it’s got to look like it.  Jack- 

son’s Presidential Envoy for Democracy in Africa.  Liberia matters a lot to 

African Americans, and this shows progress on Liberia”. 

A young staffer working for Jackson had arrived a couple of days be- 

fore the ceremony, to prepare the ground.  I can’t remember her name, but 

she looked like a Leanne.  Very pretty, in her mid twenties, she knew 

nothing about Sierra Leone, little about Africa, and kept pestering us for 

details of what was going to happen, which we old Africa hands knew we 

would not get to know until it actually happened.  Joe was keeping her at 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

arms length, so she asked me whether I would be prepared to travel to 

the airport to meet Jackson off the plane, and come back in the car with 

him to brief him on the journey in. 

The private jet pulled up outside the terminal building and Jackson, 

dressed all in black, appeared at the top of the steps, waving and pointing 

to the non-existent crowd.  There were about six of us waiting there for 

him.  I was thrilled to meet him – one of my political heroes.  When I was 

introduced on the tarmac, he was looking around, craning his neck and 

not looking at me at all.  

“Where’s President Eyadema?”  He barked the question at Leanne. 

“He’s waiting in the Presidential place sir.  You’ll see him this after- 

noon” she replied, her expensive poise disintegrating fast. 

I sat with them in the back of a capacious limousine.  He was still ignor- 

ing me, and still talking sharply to Leanne. 

“Just what is going on here.  Where were CNN?  Where were NBC? 

What the heck did I fly all this way for?” 

Leanne looked about to cry:  “Well, I am afraid they don’t have bureaux 

in West Africa sir.  But there’s someone from the New York Times in 


“The New York Times!  Damn!  Hey girl, why do I pay you?  This is not 

good.  It’s not good at all.  I flew across the Atlantic for this?  There had 

better be media at the signing ceremony, or….” 

He seemed to see me for the first time. 

“Oh, Ambassador…Murphy, isn’t it?  Tell me about this peace deal.  I 

hope we’re not pardoning human rights abusers?” 

To avoid disappointment, never meet your idols.  I believe Jackson 

genuinely wanted to help the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia.  But 

even more so he wanted to be seen to be helping in the US, and he wanted 

good television images to do that.  But he wasn’t getting those, and he 

wasn’t happy.  

In fact, it was an even more distinguished visitor than Jesse Jackson 

who nearly upset the apple-cart, by not appearing.  We were gathering for 

the signing, and I was seated quietly on a verandah outside one of Ey- 

adema’s gilded anterooms, when Foday Sankoh shuffled out and joined 

me.  He had been tidied up a bit, his hair and beard clipped, and thank- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

fully appeared to have had a good wash.  His little blue pot hat was 

pulled even more firmly down on his head than usual, and he looked out 

at me quizzically from under it.  For an incongruous moment he re- 

minded me of Winnie the Pooh. 

“Hello, Ambassador Murray” he said.  “Can I call you Craig?” 

He gave a shy smile, and then squatted down on his haunches beside 


“I am worried” he said.  He looked me straight in the eyes.  “God don’t 

come to see me today.  He always come before ten o’clock in the morning. 

This morning, he don’t come.” 

There was really not much I could say to that.  I thought, tens of thou- 

sands of lives depend on the word of this lunatic. Christ! 

“So I am thinking” Sankoh continued “Maybe God don’t come because 

he don’t want me to sign the agreement.  Maybe God is angry about the 


Sankoh had gone back on the draft agreement twice that month 

already; a third time could be fatal to the peace. I gripped the top of his 


“No, Vice President Sankoh” I said, using his proposed future honorific 

as a piece of bait.  “I know what it means.  God is very happy with you, 

and this piece of work is finished, so he doesn’t need to see you today.  He 

doesn’t want to disturb your peace, and just wants you to go on and sign 

the agreement.  I am sure that is what it means.  I swear this by the Bible.” 

He returned my grip on a shoulder, and we just stayed there for what 

became a very tense couple of minutes.  Then he stood up, shook his 

head, and started repeating to himself, chuckling gently: 

“Ambassador Murray, Ambassador Murray, Ambassador Murray.  You 

think Foday Sankoh is a simple Corporal.  You think Foday Sankoh don’t 

understand.  I understand, I know exactly what is happening.” 

He laughed out loud.  Then he exclaimed: 

“And you are right.  That is what God meant.  I knew it already.  I just 

check if you too are a man of God.  God is strong in you, Ambassador 


And he simply shuffled off.  In history, we can never answer “What if”? 

Maybe my line in bullshit wasn’t really needed.  But it may have been the 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

most valuable thing I ever did, because if war had re-erupted at that 

stage, almost certainly thousands would have died again before it could 

have been brought under control. 

The signing ceremony went very well, washed down by a good deal of 

excellent vintage champagne, served in ringing crystal flutes with deep 

gold leaf around the rims.  The Togolese had produced a very grandly 

presented document which was signed first by Solomon Berewa for the 

Government of Sierra Leone, followed by a beaming Foday Sankoh for 

the RUF, then by President Eyadema for ECOWAS and Jesse Jackson for 

the United States.  After that came the representatives of Nigeria, Ghana, 

Ivory Coast, Libya and numerous other countries.  Places had been found 

for the consultants and civil society groups to sign.  

The British Government remained deeply ambiguous about the agree- 

ment, being grateful for the ceasefire but only very reluctantly accepting 

the need to bring the RUF into government.  To mitigate the danger of 

press or public criticism in the UK, I was under strict instruction not to 

sign the document in any capacity.  Given that we had done more than 

anyone to bring about this peace agreement, and it was undoubtedly 

already saving hundreds of lives, I felt sad about this. 

After the signing ceremony, President Eyadema awarded medals to all 

the key participants.  I was awarded Togo’s highest order, becoming Offi- 

cier de l’Ordre de Mono, named after Togo’s major river. 

Given that I oppose the honours system in the UK, and had three times 

rejected the offer of British honours, it was pretty strange to be accepting 

one from a brutal African tyrant.  But it had been sprung on me and to re- 

fuse, on top of not signing the peace document, might have been taken as 

a signal that the British government did not support the peace deal.  With 

Kabbah already facing massive criticism in Freetown from James Jonah 

and his faction for dealing with the RUF, I decided that it was best to go 

along with the general air of bonhomie, a decision later confirmed by the 


So I stood in line as President Eyadema handed me a large scroll and a 

beautifully enamelled and jewelled little cross in a bright red box, from a 

top Paris jeweller.  He beamed at me, enclosing my hand in his huge fist: 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Mr Ambassador, I create you an Officier of the Order of Mono.  Well 

done.  Very well done.” 

“Thank you.  If I get two, is it the Order of Stereo?” 

He released my hand and clapped his great paws on both my 

shoulders.  He leaned his head in towards mine, still smiling but blood- 

shot eyes glaring balefully. 

“Craig” – it was the first time he had used my name, I was surprised he 

knew it – “You should drink coconut milk.  It will make you piss.” 

With that enigmatic advice, he stalked from the room.  I was to meet 

him once more, about a year later, when George Opata and I went to 

Lome for the State Visit of President Jacques Chirac, and Eyadema per- 

sonally invited us to drink champagne with him at 6.30 am.  We remin- 

isced about the Sierra Leone negotiations, and he showed me a bullet 

which had been dug out of his spine following a failed assassination at- 


“They can’t kill me.  Eyadema is Togo”  he declared.  He beckoned us to 

leave, then as I reached the great gilt door of his audience room he called 

out to me again. 

“Oh, Ambassador, did you every try that coconut milk?” 

I laughed and waved.  Those were the last words I heard from the late 

President Gnassingbe Eyadema. 

Returning to Accra from Lome, I received a personal letter of thanks 

and appreciation from Robin Cook for my success in the Lome peace 

talks.  It remains a much valued memento, not least of Robin Cook.  The 

beautiful star of the Order of Mono got lost by the children in a dressing 

up game. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The Strange Attraction of Jeremiah Rawlings John 

The peace accord we reached at Lome formally only lasted a year or so. 

But even a year’s peace is a lot of lives saved, and the structures it set in 

place remained the foundation for subsequent settlements, particularly on 

disarmament.  When fighting did break out again, we had the unusual 

development of direct intervention of the British armed forces.  The addi- 

tional structures they brought in – with British “Advisers” effectively of- 

ficering the Sierra Leonean army, and a British head of the police force, 

with British officials effectively running the Sierra Leonean Treasury – 

amounted to no less in practice than a return of colonialism.  In many 

ways it was a blueprint for future puppet administrations in Iraq and 

Afghanistan, and while undoubtedly there have been short term gains for 

the population of Sierra Leone, I do not myself believe that a return to the 

colonial model represents the way forward for Africa. 

At last, I could return to my desk in Accra and concentrate on Ghana. 

Ghana epitomises much of the best of Africa, but in so doing it only 

throws into sharp relief the tragedy of Africa.  I started working on Africa 

in 1984.  Ten years later, Africa was substantially poorer, in absolute not 

comparative, terms, than it was when I started.  Ten years later, it was still 

poorer again and the rate of decline had accelerated.  Today, Africa as a 

whole continues to get poorer and I have no reason to believe that ten 

years hence the poverty will not be worse than it is today.  I hope we can 

harness the naive enthusiasm of those who marched to “Make Poverty 

History”, and I detest the manipulative cynicism of Gordon Brown and 

the other politicians who tried to hijack the bandwagon.  But I fear there 

is little real understanding in the West of just how difficult the task is. 

Take Ghana.  At independence in 1957, Ghana was a middle income 

country.  It had then massive foreign reserves of US$417 million, which 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the colonial government handed over to Nkrumah (who squandered 

them inside three years).  With a 1957 GDP per capita of over $300 per 

head , Ghana was significantly richer than Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia or 


Today all of those countries are massively wealthier than Ghana, each 

by factors of over ten. When I arrived in Ghana in 1998, Ghana was stuck 

more or less where it started with GDP of under $400 per head.  Compare 

that to over $300 at independence thirty years earlier.  Let me be plain. 

These are the actual figures – they are not uprated for inflation or compar- 

ison.  If you translate that into real terms, national income per capita in 

Ghana is, even now, well below income at independence.  

What does that mean to ordinary people?  Well, my friend George 

Opata told me his uncle was a schoolteacher.  On his schoolteacher’s 

salary, they used to have a car – not a new car, but a series of old ones. 

Nowadays, the government in Ghana has just launched a campaign to 

give cheap Chinese bicycles to teachers as a reward for diligent service in 

rural areas.  And those that receive them are pathetically grateful for these 

cheap Chinese bicycles.  That is the difference in Ghana after fifty years of 


Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you that this proves that the Empire 

was a good thing – that requires the shallow populism of a Niall Ferguson 

But nor is it true that colonialism is the cause of all of Africa’s woes. 

For more food for thought on this, go to the town of Nkroful and visit 

the birthplace of Kwame Nkrumah.  The house is no longer there, but its 

very modest dimensions are marked out on the ground, and it brings 

home to you that this was a man from a very poor background in a poor 

village, who went on to become the greatest leader of the African inde- 

pendence movement, a symbol of black pride and respect and the driving 

force behind pan-Africanism. 

Yet it is more complicated than that.  It was the British who raised Nk- 

rumah from that hut. They spotted his potential and recruited him for the 

colonial elite.  They gave him a thorough schooling enabling him to go off 

to university in the United States.  He applied the grounding the British 

gave him to win freedom and build a nation.  And, in the nation he built, 

you realise as you look around Nkroful that nobody from that sad little 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

place will ever get a good schooling or get to a good University again. 

Nkrumah dynamited the bridge behind him. 

Nkrumah was not only post-colonial Africa’s first independent Head of 

State, he was post-colonial Africa’s first dictator and the model who 

blazed the trail of anti-democratic rule.  In many ways he was the model 

for Mugabe, with a similar record of destroying both democracy and the 

economy.   Mugabe studied in Ghana under Nkrumah and met his first 

Ghanaian wife there.  

Nkrumah’s Preventative Detention Act swept many of his opponents 

into jail with more gusto than the British had ever used.  He closed down 

newspapers, banned trades unions and made strikes illegal.  The great in- 

dependence campaigner and journalist J B Danquah was imprisoned by 

Nkrumah for his writing and died in prison of kidney failure caused by 

the beatings he had endured. 

In the United States and then in England, Nkrumah picked up the 

Marxism which was then being fashionably peddled by public school 

educated tutors from wealthy families.  Finding it gelled well with his 

fierce, Oedipal anti-colonialism, Nkrumah was all prepared to kick start 

the destruction of the Ghanaian economy by unleashing Marxism upon it. 

A nation which had achieved quiet comfort through astute trading of the 

products of assiduously cultivated agricultural small-holdings, was to be 

dragged towards utopian prosperity by the application of grandiose 

schemes of central planning and massive industrial projects. 

By 1961, having already squandered the reserves – equivalent to about 

$38 billion today – the British had left him, Nkrumah brought in the key 

instruments that were to wreck the Ghanaian economy.  Import licences 

meant that the government controlled who could import goods.  Allied to 

an over-valued exchange rate, these became a license to print money for 

government cronies and the Nkrumah government descended rapidly 

into massive corruption.  The completely false “official” exchange rate, 

and the import license limiting who has access to it, became the chief in- 

strument of economic corruption all over Africa – and is still so today in, 

for example, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.  It became the method of choice for 

dictators to reward their key supporters.  Having led the way in African 

nationalism, Nkrumah was pioneering the forms of economic misman- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

agement that were to destroy the economies of the continent and bring 

starvation and immeasurable suffering to billions.  That is the “achieve- 

ment” for which Nkrumah should truly be remembered.  

Nkrumah also confiscated private foreign currency holdings, replacing 

them with government junk bonds, enforced a monopoly cocoa board 

purchaser and forced down the cocoa price to farmers, at the same time 

skimming off the Cocoa Board’s revenues.  He thus initiated the process 

by which Ghana’s share of the World Cocoa market fell from 37% in 1957 

to 17% in 1972. 

Western commentators focus, quite rightly, on the disastrous impact 

that dumping of subsidised Western food produce on the African market 

has had on African farmers.  The West has been culpable in Africa’s plight 

in a number of ways.  Of these, the worst has been in irresponsible lend- 

ing to dictatorial regimes to finance grandiose capital projects, whose ma- 

jor object was generally corruption and which resulted in generations of 

debt for the poor Africans who received no benefit from them.  Those 

who did benefit – massively – were the dictators, their cronies, and the bo- 

nus-quaffing Porsche driving bastards of the City of London. 

But even greater damage was done by our dumping of cheap food on 

Africa.  In both the US and Europe, the farm lobby carries disproportion- 

ate political clout and since the Second World War Western farmers have 

received huge sums from their countries’ taxpayers’ to produce vastly 

more food than their societies could absorb.  Sometimes this meant it built 

up in storage mountains of beef or grain, but the major policy instrument 

for getting rid of the unwanted surplus was always the export subsidy. 

This did what it said on the box – large sums of money were given to 

Western farmers to produce food which was sold on foreign markets at 

subsidised prices. 

Throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties, US maize and rice was 

being landed in Ghana at a price that varied between 40 and 70 per cent of 

its production cost.  That drove the maize and rice farmers of Ghana into 

bankruptcy.  The EU was landing in Accra subsidised beet sugar at one 

third the cost of its production.  Sugar cane is vastly more efficient than 

sugar beet – without subsidy and protection sugar beet has never been vi- 

able.  Sugar cane grows prolifically in West Africa, but the EU taxpayer 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

spent billions in paying EU farmers to send beet sugar to West Africa.  I 

watched  first hand as the large Nigerian plantations of Bacita and Savan- 

nah Sugar were driven under by this, and many thousands made unem- 

ployed.  This is fashionable analysis now, but I sent in 1987 from Lagos 

what may have been the first British government memo railing against 

the devastating effects of EU subsidy on African agriculture. 

All of the above is true.  It is now widely acknowledged, all too slowly 

Western policies are shifting and the NGOs indulge in some well-de- 

served flagellation of governments over the issue.  But the truth is that an 

even bigger factor in the destruction of African agriculture has been the 

disaster Nkrumah first adopted – import licensing and the false official 

exchange rate.  Agricultural commodities – wheat, rice, maize, barley, 

sugar and salt – were always the most sought after and profitable import 

licences.  If the President’s nominee has an import license for rice, that 

gives him monopoly access to import it at an official exchange rate that is 

one fifth of its true cost, and that rice already carries a US government 

subsidy – then what chance is there at all for the local producer?  On top 

of which the President’s mates obtain an active interest in driving the loc- 

al producer out of business.  This pattern too has repeated all over Africa. 

So there are indigenous African factors of trade policy mismanagement 

which we tend to ignore.  There is a further one equally important – 

massive tariff and non-tariff barriers limiting trade between African na- 

tions.  If you manufacture almost any item in Ghana (except certain tex- 

tiles), you can import it into the European Union free of duty.  But, des- 

pite ECOWAS resolutions to the contrary, try and export it to a neigh- 

bouring state – say Togo, Ivory Cost or Mali – and you will face tariffs, 

impenetrable bureaucratic delay and unceasing demands for bribes.  A 

manufacturer of slaked lime in Takoradi who sent regular supplies to 

gold mines in Ivory Coast, told me that in addition to formal tariffs there 

were eighteen different checkpoints along the route where bribes had to 

be paid. 

Again, much of this comes down to the pernicious effect of import li- 

censing.  It would undermine your position as the monopoly import li- 

censee of rice, if in neighbouring Togo their licensee could get his rice 

over the border into your country.  So West  Africa devoted vast resources 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

to border protection between African states and to controls virtually im- 

penetrable to trade.  If you go to any of the major border checkpoints, be- 

neath the hum, colour, bustle, stench and vibrant noise, the really interest- 

ing thing is to note just what a low volume of trade goods actually goes 

over.  The killing of regional trade has been at least as devastating to 

African economic development as anything the West has done, depriving 

industrial producers of a critical mass of local market.  

Africans have destroyed their own regional trade, for the protection of 

corrupt private interests.  This has required no help from the West, and as 

we have no reason to feel guilty over it, has gone little remarked by West- 

ern analysts. 

The result was a predictable disaster.  But this was par for the course 

for all of Africa, as the Cold War powers fought out their proxy battles, 

funding murderous dictators here and murderous guerillas there, the 

Bible and the dollar pitched against Das Kapital and the Kalashnikov. 

The British were nonetheless somewhat affronted when the CIA 

sponsored the coup that got rid of Nkrumah in 1965.  But the military 

were to prove just as keen on nationalisation and expropriation as the 

Marxists.  Ghana went through thirty years of ludicrous economic mis- 

management, which I shall not outline in detail.  But I must say 

something of Jerry Rawlings, who was to have a great influence on this, 

my story. 

It is impossible to discuss modern Ghana without discussing the con- 

troversial figure of Jerry Rawlings, who by 1999 had been running the 

country for nineteen of the previous twenty one years.  Flight-Lieutenant 

Rawlings had been sentenced to death following an alleged failed coup 

against the then military dictatorship in May 1979.  Like Danton only 

more successfully, he used his trial to make populist speeches from the 

dock.  A successful coup organised by others later the same year released 

him from jail.  Rawlings became the head of the government and immedi- 

ately organised the execution of a number of senior officers, including 

three ex-Presidents, Generals Acheampong, Afrifa and Akuffo.  He un- 

leashed a wave of terror against the middle classes which he called 

“house-cleaning.”  Many were “disappeared”, and others jailed or beaten 

in this period. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Rawlings handed over to a civilian government for a few months, but 

then took power again in a further coup in 1981.  It is beyond doubt that 

these first years of Rawlings in government unleashed political terror on 

Ghana that outstripped anything done by British colonial rule or by Nk- 

rumah,  or by successive military regimes, which had been comparatively 

genteel in their methods.  

Rawlings’ power and populism attracted fierce ideologues to his Provi- 

sional National Defence Council, including some of the Marxist base of 

Nkrumah’s support, and some British anti-colonial intellectuals.  His cam- 

paign against the middle classes in some ways resembled Mao’s cultural 

revolution.  People were terrorised for having quite small amounts in the 

bank, or two indoor toilets.  Market women were stripped, beaten and 

sometimes killed for “Profiteering”.  All this was accompanied by popu- 

list rhetoric which did genuinely make Rawlings popular with the 

masses, plus a powerful appeal to his Ewe tribal base. 

In May 2008, Rawlings was to declare that personally he only ever 

ordered the execution of three people, referring apparently to the former 

Heads of State.  He claimed to be unable to restrain the “Righteous anger 

of the army and the people” that caused all the other killings.  Few people 

believe him. 

One brutality above all has come to symbolise those days of terror.  On 

30 June, 1982, three high court judges and a retired army major were ab- 

ducted from their homes by soldiers in the night.  Their partially burnt 

bodies were discovered at Bundase, some twenty miles away.  The judges 

had been sitting to consider the constitutionality of Rawlings’ regime.  

The soldiers who murdered them were commanded by Amartey Kwei, 

one of Rawlings’ ministers.  In response to international outcry, Rawlings 

had Kwei executed, but not before Kwei revealed that he was acting un- 

der the instruction of Kojo Tsikata, Rawlings’ right hand man.  The squad 

that carried out the murders had actually been living in a house belong- 

ing to Rawlings, and they collected the keys to the Fiat truck they used for 

the operation from the home of Rawling’s wife, Nana Agyeman Rawlings. 

The law is a greatly respected profession in Ghana, and of the many thou- 

sands killed under the Rawlings, these murders of judges caused the most 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Kojo Tsikata was still very much around when I arrived in Accra, in 

charge of national security and the most feared man in the country.  But 

the orientation of Rawlings’ government had changed.  He had moved 

from being the protégé of Gadaffi to the pin-up boy of the IMF.  Who was 

Jerry Rawlings, and how had this happened? 

The Caledonian Society of Accra remains a thriving organisation, and I 

much enjoyed speaking at its Burns’ Nights.  Every year it elects a chief- 

tain, and every year that chieftain has his name added on a new gold link 

on the chieftain’s chain of office.  The links are substantial chunks of gold, 

and after many decades the chain has become very valuable and very 

heavy to wear.  One name appears twice as chieftain, in the late 1930s and 

early 1940’s.  That name is James Ramsay John.  Rawlings believes John to 

be his father. 

John was a Stirlingshire pharmacist who came out to Accra with the 

United Africa Company (UAC).  He was known as “Dr John”, but he was 

a chemist, not a doctor.  But then Ghanaians kept calling me “Ambassad- 

or”, and I was only a Deputy High Commissioner.  Ghanaians are very 


“Dr John” had an affair with Rawlings’ mother, Mrs Agbotui, who was 

a cook in the civil service.  Jerry was born in 1947.  Shortly before the 

birth, Dr John (whose Scottish wife was also in Accra) broke off the rela- 

tionship with Rawlings’ mother, because he believed his mistress was un- 

faithful.  Dr John never acknowledged Rawlings as his son, though he did 

contribute money towards his education.  On the one occasion Rawlings 

travelled to Scotland to see his father, John refused to meet him.  John 

died in 1982. 

A Ghanaian contact of mine who knew Rawlings’ mother at the time 

said that she was a “very friendly lady”, and that a more likely candidate 

for Rawlings’ father was a Greek sailor he knew.  But Rawlings’ mother 

herself has never deviated from the view that Dr John is the father, and 

Rawlings appears to have followed her word. 

Rawlings was sent to the prestigious Achimota School, one of a number 

of extremely good schools the British founded based on their own public 

schools, to inculcate a colonial elite.  Rawlings was a poor student, but he 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

did pick up his name there.  The school told him his name was not Jeremi- 

ah Rawlings John, as John was not a surname.  They registered him as 

Jeremiah John Rawlings, and Jerry John Rawlings he has been ever since. 

It is interesting to speculate if Dr John, who was picking up some or all of 

the school fee but did not accept Rawlings as his son, had a hand in the 

change of surname.  In a school for the elite, as a fatherless child of an un- 

educated mother of dubious reputation, Rawlings must have had a diffi- 

cult time at Achimota.  Ghanaians are very snobbish.  This is almost cer- 

tainly the root of the extremes of class hatred he brought into Ghanaian 


An alternative story current in Accra is that the change of surname 

from “John” to “Rawlings” was imposed on him not at school, but on 

joining the Air Force. 

Given an almost complete lack of educational qualification, strings 

must have been pulled to get Rawlings into the Ghana Air Force in the 

coveted position of Flight Cadet, and it would be interesting to know who 

stood behind him at age 19 to do this.  

Rawlings was happy in the Air Force, his natural intelligence asserted 

itself and he was a talented pilot.  As a young officer he was known 

around Accra for his flashy sports cars and flashier girlfriends.  He was 

popular with British expatriates; nobody thought of him as a political fig- 

ure.  But resentments were seething underneath his debonair exterior. 

Once in power, his poor absorption of formal education made him a 

prey to ideologues, be they promoting Marx or Monetarism.  On his jour- 

ney from one to the other, he kept with him most of the people who 

joined him early. His administration when I arrived therefore contained 

several anti-colonial ideologues who hated the British – some of them 

British, like Shirley Ababio and Valerie Sackey.  His foreign minister, Vic- 

tor Gbeho, was a very nasty little man, eaten up by spite.  

I had not yet met Rawlings, or even seen him close up.  Every day Ian 

Mackley would pass on to me those official invitations he did not want to 

take up – which was almost all his official invitations.  He would either 

tell me to deputise, or ask me if I wanted to, depending on his view of the 

importance of the event.  One on which he asked if I would like to go was 

the summer 1999 graduation ceremony of Ho Polytechnic.  Jerry Rawlings 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

was due to present the degrees.  Ho was only about three hours drive 

North East; I decided to go. 

Like Ian, the entire rest of the diplomatic corps had somehow managed 

to resist the invitation to the graduation ceremony.  This was their loss, 

because it was fascinating.  When I arrived into a riot of flustered academ- 

ics, boisterous graduands and proud parents, nobody had any time for 

me as they were all overawed by the impending arrival of Jerry.  I was left 

to find my own place. 

The ceremony took place outdoors, in a courtyard between 1960’s style 

school buildings, coloured panels alternating with rows of large win- 

dows.  Rows of chairs for the students filled the centre of the space, facing 

a raised pavilion canopied in the Ghanaian colours of red, green and gold. 

The chairs for the students sat in the brilliant light of the Ghanaian sun; 

behind them was another raised area for the audience, with a corrugated 

iron roof supported by rough wooden beams, and rows of wooden 

benches sitting on the plank floor. 

The chairs were already filling up with noisy and irreverent students, 

clad in American high school style gowns and mortar boards.  They 

seemed all to be screaming at or wrestling with each other, in friendly 

fashion.  On the benches at the back were crammed proud parents, the 

women swathed in improbable yards of cloth, with head coverings of 

many, many yards wrapped, curled and twisted around and up from 

their heads, rising towards the iron roof like improbable swathes of trop- 

ical plant growth.  

I moved towards the back of the crowded rows of benches, but with the 

Ghanaian politeness and hospitality I was to meet again and again, 

people spontaneously and unanimously stood up, pushed, bustled and 

chattered until space had been made to squeeze me on to the front row. 

I sat amid a happy, cheery crowd in the sweltering heat of the oven like 

space for a while, until suddenly motorcycle outriders came screaming 

into the area, circling the seats.  The crowd stood and went absolutely ec- 

static.  It was like a goal being scored at a major cup final.  Jerry Rawlings 

was walking in, and he was here, in the heartland of his Ewe tribe, the 

nucleus of his support, among his very own people.  They went crazy for 

him – screaming, jumping up and down, ululating, waving their hands in 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the air.  I was knocked forward and had to step down from the platform 

until the storm subsided a bit. 

It was my first look at Jerry Rawlings.  He was whiter than I expected, 

even knowing he was half European.  A tall, strapping, barrel-chested 

man with a cropped beard and attractive smile.  He had the ability to pro- 

ject, without the use of words, his personality to that entire crowd, includ- 

ing me.  That quality is a strange thing, but very real.  From my personal 

observation Thatcher and Mandela had it, but some you might think 

would – like Blair and Walesa – did not.  It is a morally neutral force, be- 

ing shared by Mandela and Mussolini.  Where Rawlings stands in the 

moral spectrum is a complex question, but beyond doubt Rawlings had 

charisma by the bucketful.  The aura he projected was strong, warm and 

comforting – in a word, paternal.  His grin seemed entirely genuine.  By 

contrast his tall, elegant wife, still beautiful, wore the falsest of grins and 

took her chair, flapping languidly with a fly whisk made from strips of 

the same bright green cloth as her dress. 

I will never forget Rawlings’ speech, not so much for its extraordinary 

content, as for the way he held his audience in the palm of his hand, 

played with them, and made them love him.  This is what he said, work- 

ing up punctuating cheers like a gospel preacher: 

“Hi!  Hi!  Hi! It’s great to see you!  You’re looking good!  The young 

people of Ghana are looking good!  Ghana is looking good!  We are look- 

ing good!  Alright!” 

“Now education.  Education.  We need education.  Education is neces- 

sary if we are to develop Ghana.  Education is necessary if our young 

people are to take their place in the World.” 

“You know, here in Ghana a lot of people don’t have education.  Take 

Jesus.  You know, here in Ghana, a lot of people think he really had that 

thing on his head.  You know, you see it in the paintings.  What do you 

call it?  You know, that shiny thing above his head.  What do you call it 

again?  Halo?  That’s right, thank you.  Halo!  A halo!  You know there are 

some people here in Ghana who think that Jesus really did walk around 

with a halo above his head!” 

“But think about it.  It can’t be true!  People would have noticed!  If he 

had one of those things on his head, they would have noticed!  Wouldn’t 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

they have written about it in the Bible?  In the Gospels it tells us about his 

robe.  Don’t you think it would have mentioned that he had this amazing 

thing above his head?” 

“Also, if people saw someone coming towards them with a strange 

thing like that above their head, they would be scared.  They’d run away. 

Like it says in the Bible, when the shepherds saw the angels they were 

sore afraid.  But does it say that when people saw Jesus they were sore 

afraid?  Does it say they saw the Lord and ran away?  No, it doesn’t.  It 

doesn’t say that at all.  So, you see that he didn’t have one of those things 

above his head.  He didn’t have a … a halo.  The painters just put it in to 

show it’s him.  In a painting it’s like a figure of speech.”  

“But here, even here today, here in Ghana, some people still think that 

he had that thing above his head, really, not just as a figure of speech. 

They are wrong to think that.  They think that because they are ignorant. 

But it’s not their fault they are ignorant.  I say it’s not their fault.  They are 

ignorant because they never got the chance of good education.  Now we 

are making sure that everybody gets good education.  I am here today to 

support good education and the success of these great young people here 

in Ho.  Because education is the future of Ghana.  Thank you.” 

The crowd erupted again and roared for a good five minutes.  I was 

gobsmacked.  I didn’t know what to make of it.  It had been like top qual- 

ity, surrealist comedy delivered by a master of timing in an extraordinary 

stream of consciousness.  The central passages had been punctuated by 

screams of delight and collective guffaws of laughter.  But what did Rawl- 

ings mean by it?  How consciously was he being funny?  Did he view the 

belief in the reality of haloes as a problem he must tackle, or had he just 

picked on it as a humorous example?  

I was to discover that surreal conversation, but with an underlying 

shrewdness, had become Rawlings’ hallmark of late, and nobody seemed 

confident as to his state of mind and health.  Rawlings was, and remains, 

a profound enigma.  It is important to remember that he introduced the 

practice of systematic political murder and violence into Ghanaian polit- 

ics and for many years ruled by fear and destruction.  Whatever he is 

now, that must not be forgotten. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Ian passed on to me another invitation, to attend the opening of an anti- 

corruption seminar hosted by the British Council.  These can be dull and 

worthy affairs, and this one was no different in that everyone spoke po- 

litely about corruption as though it were an abstract and unavoidable evil, 

that descends at random, and certainly has no connection with present 


After three or four waffling speeches by experts, I made my brief four 

minute contribution.  I referred to a recent World Bank survey which 

pointed to a sharp increase in corruption in Ghana at all levels,  I went on 

to say it was quite wrong to view corruption as an uniquely African dis- 

ease, and noted that in most large scale corruption cases in Africa Western 

companies, including British companies, were involved. 

The speech caused a furore.  In particular the opposition media, both 

print and radio, picked it up as a major news item.  “Your Government is 

Corrupt says British High Commission” screamed one full front page 

headline.  The Ghanaian Foreign Minister, Victor Gbeho, called in Ian 

Mackley  to protest.  Ian was grumpy about the inconvenience, but 

broadly agreed with what I had said.  I knew I would be supported by 

Ann Grant, and I had cleared the text of my speech in advance with 

DFID, who were the lead department on corruption issues.  Indeed I had 

based my text and approach on a recent speech by Clare Short. 

Nonetheless I found myself in very hot water because a British com- 

pany felt their interests in Ghana could be damaged and decided to make 

a formal complaint in London.  This resulted in a formal investigation 

into my speech and why I had made it.  This was taken so seriously that it 

was conducted by the Permanent Under Secretary, Sir John Kerr, himself. 

It concluded with a formal letter from Sir John.  He ruled that there had 

been no misconduct.  I had been right to make the speech, which was in 

line with policy on corruption and had been properly cleared with DFID. 

However, he wrote me a formal letter of reprimand, stating that I should 

not have said that British companies were involved in corruption, as I 

could have damaged British interests.  Sir John had in fact managed to re- 

verse a snap ministerial judgement to withdraw me from Accra because 

of my anti-corruption speech. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I was outraged by this bollocks.  How, with any credibility, could we 

condemn corruption in Africa if we refused to admit that British compan- 

ies were sometimes involved? It lacked all intellectual credibility – “we 

condemn corruption, which is always the work of coons, wogs and da- 

goes”.  An anti-corruption policy which refused to recognise even the ex- 

istence of British corruption was not worth the name.44 

But at least Ghana now knew I had arrived. 

44Sir John Kerr’s attitude prefigured the appalling behaviour of the government over the 

BAE Saudi arms bribery scandal, where New Labour illegally attempted  to subvert the 

rule of law and prevent investigation of over a billion dollars worth of bribes.  Sadly the 

UK government no longer has any credibility on international corruption issues. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 


The African Queen 

One morning I was sitting in the lounge at Devonshire House, with its 

fitted wool carpets and chintz sofas.  I was drinking the tea that our stew- 

ard, Nasser, had brought me.  I heard movement in a corner of the room, 

and thought it must be Nasser cleaning there.  But looking round, I saw 

nobody.  Puzzled, I got up and walked towards that corner.  Rounding a 

settee, I nearly stood upon a thin, green snake.  About four feet long and 

just the thickness of your thumb, it was a bright, almost lime green colour. 

There was not much wedge shape to its head, which rather tapered from 

its neck.  Its tongue was flickering toward me, perhaps a foot away, its 

head raised only slightly off the floor.  I took a step backwards.  In re- 

sponse it too retreated, at surprising speed, and zipped up the inside of 

the curtains. 

I stood stock still and yelled “Nasser!  Nasser!”  This brought Nasser 

hurrying into the living room with Gloria, the cook.  

“Nasser, there’s a snake in the curtains!”  

Nasser and Gloria screamed, threw their arms in the air, and ran to- 

gether into the kitchen and out the back door of the house.  This was not 

altogether helpful.  I remained where I was to keep an eye on the snake, 

not wanting it to be lurking inside the house unseen.  After a while the 

front door opened and somebody, presumably Nasser, threw in Nasser’s 

scruffy little dog.  The dog was normally banned from the house, and cel- 

ebrated this unexpected turn of events by immediately urinating against 

the hall table.  Then the dog too ran into the kitchen and out of the back 


Abandoning my watch, I went out and recruited the reluctant garden- 

ers and gate guards.  They armed themselves with long sticks and came 

in and beat the curtains until the snake fell onto the floor.  As it sped for 

cover under a sofa, Samuel the youngest gardener got in a solid blow, and 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

soon everyone was joining in, raining down blows on the twitching 

snake.  They carried its disjointed body out on the end of a stick, and 

burnt it on a bonfire. 

Everyone identified it as a green mamba.  I was sceptical.  Green mam- 

bas are among the world’s deadliest snakes, and I imagined them to look 

beefy like cobras, not whip thin and small headed like this.  But a search 

on the agonisingly slow internet showed that indeed it did look very like 

a green mamba. 

The important question arose of how it had entered the house.  With air 

conditioning, the doors and windows were usually shut.  Nasser seemed 

to have solved the mystery when he remarked that a dead one had been 

found last year inside an air conditioner.  The unit had stopped working, 

and when they came to fix it they found a  snake jammed in the mechan- 

ism.  That seemed the answer; it had appeared just under a conditioner, 

and it seemed likely the slim snake had entered via the vent pipe, avoid- 

ing the fan as it crawled through the unit. 

This was very worrying.  If anti-venom was available (and we held a 

variety in the High Commission) an adult would probably survive a 

green mamba bite.  But it would almost certainly be fatal to Emily, and 

possibly to Jamie. 

A week or so later, I was constructing Emily’s climbing frame, which 

had arrived from the UK.  A rambling contraption of rungs, slides, plat- 

forms and trampolines, it required the bolting together of scores of 

chrome tubes.  I was making good progress on it and, as I lifted one walk- 

way side into position above my head, a mamba slid out of the end of the 

tube, down my arm, round my belly and down my leg.  It did this in no 

great hurry; it probably took four seconds, but felt like four minutes. 

There was one terrible moment when it tried an exploratory nuzzle of its 

head into the waistband of my trousers, but luckily it decided to proceed 

down the outside to the ground.  It then zig zagged across the lawn to 

nestle in the exposed tops of the roots of a great avocado tree. 

Again the mob arrived and beat it to death with sticks.  I persuaded 

them to keep the body this time, and decided that definite action was 

needed.  I called in a pest control expert. I was advised to try the “Snake 

Doctor”.  I was a bit sceptical, equating “Snake Doctor” with “Witch Doc- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

tor”, but when he arrived I discovered that this charming chubby Ghanai- 

an really did have a PhD in Pest Control from the University of Reading. 

As Fiona had an MSc in Crop Protection from the same Department, they 

got on like a house on fire and it was difficult to get them away from cups 

of tea to the business in hand. 

He confirmed that the dead snake really was a green mamba.  We obvi- 

ously had a colony.  They lived in trees, and he advised us to clear an area 

of wasteland beyond the boundaries of our house, and build a high 

boundary wall of rough brick at the back, rather than the existing iron 

palings.  He also suggested we cut down an avenue of some 16 huge ma- 

ture trees along the drive.  I was very sad, but followed this sensible ad- 

vice.   That removed the mamba problem from Devonshire House.  But I 

continued to attract mambas on my travels around Ghana. 

The second half of that first year in Ghana was to be almost entirely 

taken up with preparations for the State Visit of the Queen and Duke of 

Edinburgh in November 1999.  A huge amount of work goes into organ- 

ising such a visit; every move is staged and choreographed, designed for 

media effect.  You need to know in advance just where everybody is go- 

ing to be, who will move where when, and what they will say.  You need 

to place and organise the media to best advantage.  You need to stick 

within very strict rules as to what the Queen will or will not do.  Most dif- 

ficult of all, you have to agree all this with the host government. 

I had been through it all quite recently, having paid a major part in the 

organisation of the State Visit to Poland in 1996.  That had gone very well. 

The Poles regarded it as an important symbol that communism had been 

definitively finished.  It was visually stunning, and at a time when the 

Royal Family was dogged with hostile media coverage, it had been their 

first unmixed positive coverage in the UK for ages.  I had handled the me- 

dia angles, and my stock stood very high in the Palace. 

I am a republican personally; I was just doing my job.  The Palace staff 

knew I was a republican, not least because I had turned down the offer of 

being made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) after the 

Warsaw visit.  I had earlier turned down the offer to be an Officer of the 

Order of the British Empire (OBE) after the first Gulf war. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Rawlings was delighted that the Queen was coming.  He craved re- 

spectability and acceptance in the international community, which had 

been hard to come by after his violent beginnings.  But he had turned his 

Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) into a political party, the 

National Democratic Congress (NDC), and had fought elections in 1992 

and 1996 against the opposition New Patriotic Party, which had an un- 

broken tradition running back to Nkrumah’s opponent J B Danquah and 

his colleague Kofi Busia. There were widespread allegations of vote-rig- 

ging, violence and intimidation, and certainly in 1992 the nation was still 

too cowed to engage in much open debate.  Even by 1999, social life was 

still inhibited by the fact that nobody except those close to the Rawlings 

would do anything that might be construed as an ostentatious display of 

life, while Rawlings had sustained and inflated the personality cult of Nk- 

rumah still further (he is known as Osagyefo, “the conqueror”.)  Open dis- 

cussion of the disasters Nkrumah brought upon Ghana was almost im- 

possible.  It is still difficult for many Ghanaians today, after decades of 

brainwashing.  As Rawlings had gradually liberalised society, the increas- 

ing freedom of the media, particularly the FM radio station, was giving a 

great boost to democracy.  But there was still much prudent self-censor- 

ship.  The media was particularly reticent about investigating govern- 

mental corruption. 

The NDC government was massively corrupt.  There was one gratuit- 

ous example which especially annoyed me.  A company called Interna- 

tional Generics, registered in Southampton, had got loans totalling over 

£30 million from the Royal Bank of Scotland to construct two hotels, La 

Palm and Coco Palm.  One was on the beach next to the Labadi Beach 

hotel, the other on Fourth Circular Road in Cantonments, on the site of 

the former Star Hotel.  The loan repayments were guaranteed by the Ex- 

port Credit Guarantee Department, and the time a British government 

agency designed to insure UK exporters against loss.  In effect the British 

taxpayer was underwriting the export, and if the loan defaulted the Brit- 

ish taxpayer would pay. 

In fact, this is what happened, and the file crossed my desk because the 

British people were now paying out on defaulted payments to the Royal 

Bank of Scotland.  So I went to look at the two hotels. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I found La Palm Hotel was some cleared land, some concrete founda- 

tions, and one eight room chalet without a roof.  Coco Palm hotel didn’t 

exist at all.  In a corner of the plot, four houses had been built by Interna- 

tional Generics.  As the housing market in Accra was very strong, these 

had been pre-sold, so none of the loan had gone into them. 

I was astonished.  The papers clearly showed that all £31.5 million had 

been fully disbursed by the Royal Bank of Scotland, against progress and 

completion certificates on the construction.  But in truth there was virtu- 

ally no construction.  How could this have happened? 

The Chief Executive of International Generics was an Israeli named 

Leon Tamman.  He was a close friend to, and a front for, Mrs Rawlings. 

Tamman also had an architect’s firm, which had been signing off comple- 

tion certificates for the non-existent work on the hotel.  Almost all of the 

£30 million was simply stolen by Tamman and Mrs Rawlings.  

The Royal Bank of Scotland had plainly failed in due diligence, having 

paid out on completion of two buildings, one not started and one only 

just started.  But the Royal Bank of Scotland really couldn’t give a toss, be- 

cause the repayments and interest were guaranteed by the British taxpay- 

er.   Indeed I seemed to be the only one who did care. 

The Rawlings had put some of their share of this looted money towards 

payments on their beautiful home in Dublin.  I wrote reports on all this 

back to London, and specifically urged the Serious Fraud Office to prosec- 

ute Tamman and Mrs Rawlings.  I received the reply that there was no 

“appetite” in London for this.  

Eventually La Palm did get built, but with over $60 million of new 

money taken this time from SSNIT, the Ghanaian taxpayers social security 

and pension fund.  Coco Palm never did get built, but Tamman continued 

to develop it as a housing estate, using another company vehicle.  Tam- 

man has since died.  The loans were definitively written off by the British 

government as part of Gordon Brown’s HIPC debt relief initiative. 

That is but one example of a single scam, but it gives an insight into the 

way the country was looted.  The unusual feature on this one was that the 

clever Mr Tamman found a way to cheat the British taxpayer, via Ghana. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I still find it galling that the Royal Bank of Scotland also still got their 

profit, again from the British taxpayer.45 

So while the State Visit was intended as a reward to Jerry Rawlings for 

his conversion to democracy and capitalism, I had no illusions about 

Rawlings’ Ghana.  I was determined that we should use the Queen’s visit 

to help ensure that Rawlings did indeed leave power in January 2001.  Ac- 

cording to the constitution, his second and final four year term as elected 

President expired then (if you politely ignored his previous decade as a 

military dictator). We should get the Queen to point him towards the exit. 

Buckingham palace sent a team on an initial reconnaissance visit.  It 

was led by an old friend of mine, Tim Hitchens, Assistant Private Secret- 

ary to the Queen, who had joined the FCO when I did.  We identified the 

key features of the programme, which should centre around an address to 

Parliament.  A walkabout might be difficult; Clinton had been almost 

crushed in Accra by an over-friendly crowd in a situation which got out 

of control.  

A school visit to highlight DFID’s work would provide the meet the 

people photo op, otherwise a drive past for the larger crowds.  Key ques- 

tions were identified as whether the Queen should visit Kumasi to meet 

Ghana’s most important traditional ruler, the Asantehene, and how she 

should meet the leader of the opposition, John Kufuor.  Rawlings was 

likely to be opposed to both. 

The recce visit went very well, and I held a reception for the team be- 

fore they flew back to London.  Several Ghanaian ministers came, and it 

ended in a very relaxed evening.  Tim Hitchens commented that it was 

the first time he had ever heard Queen and Supertramp at an official func- 

tion before.  It turned out that we had very similar musical tastes. 

Planning then took place at quite high intensity for several months. 

There were regular meetings with the Ghanaian government team tasked 

to organise the visit, headed by head of their diplomatic service Anand 

Cato, now Ghanaian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.  We 

then had to visit together all the proposed venues, and walk through the 

proposed routes, order of events, seating plans etc. 

45Only recently have Ghanaians felt able to talk about these things.  See, for example, 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

From the very first meeting between the two sides, held in a committee 

room at the International Conference Centre, it soon became obvious that 

we had a real problem with Ian Mackley.  The High Commissioner had 

been very high-handed and abrupt with the visiting team from Bucking- 

ham Palace, so much so that Tim Hitchens had asked me what was 

wrong.  I said it was just his manner.  But there was more to it than that. 

In the planning meetings, the set-up did not help the atmosphere. 

There were two lines of desks, facing each other.  The British sat on one 

side and the Ghanaians on the other, facing each other across a wide di- 

vide.  The whole dynamic was one of confrontation. 

I have sat through some toe-curling meetings before, but that first joint 

State visit planning meeting in Accra was the worst.  It started in friendly 

enough fashion, with greetings on each side.  Then Anand Cato suggested 

we start with a quick run-through of the programme, from start to finish.  

“OK, now will the Queen be arriving by British Airways or by private 

jet?” asked Anand. 

“She will be on one of the VC10s of the Royal Flight” said Ian. 

“Right, that’s better.  The plane can pull up to the stand closest to the 

VIP lounge.  We will have the convoy of vehicles ready on the tarmac. 

The stairs will be put to the door, and then the chief of protocol will go up 

the stairs to escort the Queen and her party down  the stairs, where there 

will be a small reception party…” 

“No, hang on there” interjected Ian Mackley, “I will go up the stairs be- 

fore the chief of protocol.” 

“Well, it is customary for the Ambassador or High Commissioner to be 

in the receiving line at the bottom of the aircraft steps.” 

“Well, I can tell you for sure that the first person the Queen will want to 

see when she arrives in the country will be her High Commissioner.” 

“Well, I suppose you can accompany the chief up the steps if you 


“And my wife.” 


“My wife Sarah.  She must accompany me up the steps to meet the 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Look, it really isn’t practical to have that many people going on to an 

already crowded plane where people are preparing to get off…” 

“I am sorry, but I must insist that Sarah accompanies me up the stairs 

and on to the plane.” 

“But couldn’t she wait at the bottom of the steps?” 

“Absolutely not.  How could she stand there without me?” 

“OK, well can we then mark down the question of greeting on the 

plane as an unresolved issue for the next meeting?” 

“Alright, but our side insists that my wife…” 

“Yes, quite.  Now at the bottom of the steps Her Majesty will be greeted 

by the delegated minister, and presented with flowers by children.” 

“Please make sure we are consulted on the choice of children.” 

“If you wish.  There will be national anthems, but I suggest no formal 

inspection of the Guard of Honour?  Then traditional priests will briefly 

make ritual oblations, pouring spirits on the ground.  The Queen will 

briefly enter the VIP lounge to take a drink.” 

“That’s a waste of time.  Let’s get them straight into the convoy and 


“But High Commissioner, we have to welcome a visitor with a drink.  It 

is an essential part of our tradition.  It will only be very brief.” 

“You can do what you like, but she’s not entering the VIP lounge. 

Waste of time.” 

“Let’s mark that down as another issue to be resolved.  Now then, first 


The meeting went on for hours and hours, becoming increasingly ill- 

tempered.  When we eventually got to the plans for the State Banquet, it 

all went spectacularly pear-shaped as it had been threatening to do. 

“Now we propose a top table of eight.  There will be the President and 

Mrs Rawlings, Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, The Vice Presid- 

ent and Mrs Mills, and Mr and Mrs Robin Cook.” 

Ian positively went purple.  You could see a vein throbbing at the top 

left of his forehead.   He spoke as though short of breath. 

“That is not acceptable.  Sarah and I must be at the top table”. 

“With respect, High Commissioner, there are a great many Ghanaians 

who will feel they should be at the top table.  As we are in Ghana, we feel 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

we are being hospitable in offering equal numbers of British and Ghanai- 

ans at the top table.  But we also think the best plan is to keep the top 

table small and exclusive.” 

“By all means keep it small,” said Ian, “but as High Commissioner I 

must be on it.” 

“So what do you suggest?” asked Anand 

“Robin Cook” said Ian “He doesn’t need to be on the top table.” 

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Neither could Anand. 

“I don’t think you are being serious, High Commissioner” he said. 

“I am entirely serious” said Ian.  “I outrank Robin Cook.  I am the per- 

sonal representative of a Head of State.  Robin Cook only represents the 


I decided the man had taken leave of his senses.  I wondered at what 

stage can you declare your commanding officer mad and take over, like 

on The Cain Mutiny?  Anand was obviously thinking much the same. 

“Perhaps I might suggest you seek instruction from headquarters on 

that one?” he asked.  “Anyway, can we note that down as another out- 

standing item, and move on to…” 

I don’t know whether Ian secretly realised he had overstepped the 

mark, but he didn’t come to another planning meeting after that, leaving 

them to me and the very competent Second Secretary Mike Nithavriana- 


The most difficult question of all was that of meeting the opposition. 

Eventually we got the agreement of Buckingham Palace and the FCO to 

say that, if the Queen were prevented from meeting the opposition, she 

wouldn’t come.  But still the most we could get from Rawlings was that 

the leader of the opposition could be included in a reception for several 

hundred people at the International Conference Centre. 

I had by now made good personal friends with several Ghanaian politi- 

cians.  Among those who I could have a social drink with any time were, 

on the government side John Mahama, Minister of Information and 

Moses Asaga, Deputy Finance Minister, and on the opposition side John 

Kufuor, leader of the opposition, his colleagues Hackman Owusu-Agye- 

mang, Shadow Foreign Minister, and Nana Akuffo-Addo, Shadow Attor- 

ney General.  In the International Conference Centre the precise route the 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Queen would take around the crowd was very carefully planned, so I was 

able to brief John Kufuor exactly where to stand to meet her, and brief the 

Queen to be sure to stop and chat with him.  As he was the tallest man in 

the crowd, this was all not too difficult. 

Once the Queen arrived and the visit started, everything happened in a 

three day blur of intense activity.  Vast crowds turned out, and the Palace 

staff soon calmed down as they realised that the Queen could expect an 

uncomplicated and old fashioned reverence from the teeming crowds 

who were turning out to see “Our Mama”.  

The durbar of chiefs in front of Parliament House was a riot of colour 

and noise.  One by one the great chiefs came past, carried on their palan- 

quins, preceded by their entourage, drummers banging away ferociously 

and the chiefs, laden down with gold necklaces and bangles, struggled to 

perform their energetic seated dances.  Many of the hefty dancing women 

wore the cloth that had been created for the occasion, with a picture of the 

Queen jiggling about on one large breast in partnership with Jerry Rawl- 

ings jiving on the other, the same pairing being also displayed on the but- 


After the last of the chiefs went through, the tens of thousands of spec- 

tators started to mill everywhere and we had to race for the Royal convoy 

to get out through the crowds.  Robin Cook had stopped to give an ad hoc 

interview to an extremely pretty South African television reporter.  Mike 

Nithavrianakis tried to hurry him along but got  a fierce glare for his 

pains.  Eventually everyone was in their cars but Cook; the Ghanaian out- 

riders were itching to start as the crowds ahead and around got ever 

denser.  But where was Cook?  We delayed, with the Queen sitting in her 

car for two or three minutes, but still there was no sign of the Secretary of 

State or his staff getting into their vehicle.  Eventually the outriders swept 

off; the crowds closed in behind and we had abandoned our dilettante 

Foreign Secretary.  Having lost the protection of the convoy and being 

caught up in the crowds and traffic, it took him an hour to catch up.46 

46Gaynor Cook was with him on this trip.  She was very pleasant and a bit shy, and I 

remember little more about her on this visit.  When I saw Cook hang back to give the 

interview, for example, I do not recall her being with him. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Cook was an enigma.  I had already experienced his famous lack of 

both punctuality and consideration when kept waiting to see him over the 

Sandline Affair.  His behaviour now seemed to combine an attractive con- 

tempt for protocol with a goat-like tendency – would he have fallen be- 

hind to give a very bland interview to a male South African reporter?  He 

was also breaking the tradition that the Foreign Secretary does not make 

media comments when accompanying the Queen. 

When we returned to the Labadi Beach Hotel, there was to be further 

evidence of Cook’s view that the World revolved around him.  He was in- 

terviewing FCO staff for the position of his new Private Secretary.  Aston- 

ishingly, he had decided that it would best suit his itinerary to hold these 

interviews in Accra rather than London.  One candidate, Ros Marsden, 

had an extremely busy job as Head of United Nations Department.  Yet 

she had to give up three days work to fly to be interviewed in Accra, 

when her office was just round the corner from his in London.   Other 

candidates from posts around the World had difficult journeys to com- 

plete to get to Accra at all.  I thought this rather outrageous of Cook, and 

was surprised nobody else seemed much concerned.  

The port town of Tema, linked to Accra by fifteen miles of motorway 

and fast becoming part of a single extensive metropolis, sits firmly on the 

Greenwich Meridian.  As far as land goes, Tema is the centre of the Earth, 

being the closest dry spot to the junction of the Equator and the Green- 

wich Meridian.  You can travel South from Tema over 12,000 miles across 

sea until you hit the Antarctic. 

There was in 1999 a particular vogue for linking the Greenwich Meridi- 

an with the Millennium.  This was because of the role of the meridian in 

determining not just longitude but time.  Of course, the two are inextric- 

ably linked with time initially used to calculate longitude.  That is why 

Greenwich hosted both the Naval Academy and the Royal Observatory. 

The fascination with all this had several manifestations.  There was a BBC 

documentary travelogue down the Greenwich meridian.  There was a 

best-selling book about the invention of naval chronometers, Longitude by 

Dava Sobel, which I read and was as interesting as a book about making 

clocks can be.  There were a number of aid projects down the meridian, 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

including by War Child and Comic Relief.  Tema and Greenwich became 

twin towns.  And there was the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to Tema. 

I think this was the idea of my very good friend John Carmichael, who 

was involved in charity work on several of the meridian projects.  It was 

thought particularly appropriate as one of the Duke of Edinburgh’s titles 

is Earl of Greenwich – though the man has so many titles you could come 

up with some connection to pretty well anywhere.  We could make it a 

new game, like six degrees of separation.  Connect your home town to the 

Duke of Edinburgh. 

Anyway, Tim Hitchens had warned me that the Duke was very much 

averse to just looking at things without any useful purpose.  As we stood 

looking at the strip of brass laid in a churchyard which marks the line of 

the meridian, he turned to me and said: 

“A line in the ground, eh?  Very nice.” 

But we moved on to see a computer centre that had been set up by a 

charity to give local people experience of IT and the internet (providing 

both electricity and phone lines were working, which thank goodness 

they were today) and the Duke visibly cheered up.  He was much happier 

talking to the instructors and students, and then when we went on to a 

primary school that had received books from DFID he was positively 

beaming.  The genuinely warm reception everywhere, with happy 

gaggles of people of all ages cheerfully waving their little plastic union 

jacks, would have charmed anybody.  We returned to Accra via the coast 

road and I was able to point out the work of the Ghanaian coffin makers, 

with coffins shaped and painted as tractors, beer bottles, guitars, desks, 

cars and even a packet of condoms.  The Prince laughed heartily, and we 

arrived at the Parliament building in high good spirits. 

There he was first shown to a committee room where he was intro- 

duced to senior MPs of all parties.  

“How many Members of Parliament do you have?” he asked. 

“Two hundred” came the answer. 

“That’s about the right number,” opined the Prince, “We have six hun- 

dred and fifty MPs, and most of them are a complete bloody waste of 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The irony was that there was no British journalist present to hear this, 

as they had all thought a meeting between Prince Philip and Ghanaian 

parliamentarians would be too boring.  There were Ghanaian reporters 

present, but the exchange didn’t particularly interest them.  So a front 

page tabloid remark, with which the accompanying photo could have 

made a paparazzi a lot of money, went completely unreported. 

On a State Visit, the media cannot each be at every occasion, as security 

controls mean they have to be prepositioned rather than milling about 

while the event goes ahead.  So by agreement, those reporters and photo- 

graphers accredited to the visit share or pool their photos and copy.  At 

each event there is a stand, or pool.  Some events may have more than one 

pool to give different angles.  Each journalist can probably make five or 

six pools in the course of the visit, leapfrogging ahead of the royal pro- 

gress. But everyone gets access to material from all the pools. The FCO 

lays on the transport to keep things under control.  Organising the pool 

positions ahead of the event with the host country, and then herding and 

policing the often pushy media in them, is a major organisational task. 

Mike Nithavrianakis had carried it off with style and only the occasional 

failure of humour.  But he had found no takers for Prince Philip in parlia- 

ment, which proved to be fortunate for us. 

I should say that I found Prince Philip entirely pleasant while spending 

most of this day with him.  I am against the monarchy, but it was not cre- 

ated by the Queen or Prince Philip.  Just as Colonel Isaac of the RUF was a 

victim of the circumstances into which he was born, so are they.  

Had I been born into a life of great privilege, I would probably have 

turned out a much more horrible person than they are. 

Prince Philip then joined the Queen in the parliamentary chamber.  Her 

address to parliament was to be the focal point of the visit.  I had contrib- 

uted to the drafting of her speech, and put a lot of work into it. 

The speech was only six minutes long (she never speaks longer than 

that, except at the State Opening of Parliament.  Her staff made plain that 

six minutes was an absolute maximum.)  It contained much of the usual 

guff about the history of our nations and the importance of a new future 

based upon partnership.  But then she addressed Rawlings directly, prais- 

ing his achievements in bringing Ghana on to the path of democracy and 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

economic stability.  The government benches in parliament provided an 

undercurrent of parliamentary “hear hears”. 

But there was to be a sting in the tale: 

“Next, year, Mr President,” the Queen intoned, “You will step down 

after two terms in office in accordance with your constitution.”  

The opposition benches went wild.  The Queen went on to wish for 

peaceful elections and further progress, but it was drowned out by the 

cries of “hear hear” and swishing of order papers from the benches, and 

loud cheers from the public gallery.  There were mooted cries of “No” 

from the government side of the chamber.  I had drafted that phrase, and 

it had a much greater effect than I possibly hoped for, although I did 

mean it to drive home the message exactly as it was taken. 

For a moment the Queen stopped.  She looked in bewilderment and 

concern at the hullabaloo all around her.  The Queen has no experience of 

speaking to anything other than a hushed, respectful silence.  But, apart 

from some grim faces on the government benches, it was a joyful hullaba- 

loo and she ploughed on the short distance to the end of her speech. 

Once we got back to the Labadi Beach Hotel, Robin Cook was com- 

pletely furious.  He stormed into the makeshift private office, set up in 

two hotel rooms.  

“It’s a disaster.  Who the Hell drafted that?” 

“Err, I did, Secretary of State” I said. 

“Is that you, Mr Murray!  I might have guessed!  Who the Hell ap- 

proved it.” 

“You did.” 

“I most certainly did not!” 

“Yes you did, Secretary of State.  You agreed the final draft last night.” 

His Private Secretary had to dig out the copy of the draft he had signed 

off.  He calmed down a little, and was placated further when the Queen’s 

robust press secretary, Geoff Crawford, said that he took the view that it 

was a good thing for the Queen to be seen to be standing up for demo- 

cracy.  It could only look good in the UK press.  He proved to be right. 

The State Banquet was a rather dull affair.  Ian Mackley’s great battle to 

be on the top table proved rather nugatory as, in very Ghanaian fashion, 

nobody stayed in their seat very long and people were wandering all over 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the shop.  There were a large number of empty seats as, faced with an in- 

vitation to dinner at 7.30pm, many Ghanaians followed their customary 

practice and wandered along an hour or so late, only to find they would 

not be admitted.  This caused a huge amount of angst and aggravation, 

from which those of us inside were fortunately sheltered.  

Mrs Rawlings had chosen a well known Accra nightclub owner named 

Chester to be the compère for the occasion.  His bar is a relaxed spot in a 

small courtyard that features good jazz and highlife music, and prosti- 

tutes dressed as Tina Turner.  It was a second home for the officers of the 

British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT).  Chester himself 

was friendly and amusing, but amusing in a Julian Clary meets Kenneth 

Williams meets Liberace sort of way.  Chester says he is not gay, (regret- 

tably homosexuality is illegal in Ghana) but his presentation is undeni- 

ably ultra camp.  It is hard to think of a weirder choice to chair a state 

banquet, but Chester was a particular pet of Mrs Rawlings. 

Chester was stood on the platform next to the Queen, gushing about 

how honoured he was.  His speech was actually very witty, but the deliv- 

ery was – well, Chester.  I turned to Prince Philip and remarked: 

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen two Queens together before.” 

To give credit to Chester, I gather he has been telling the story ever 


High camp was to be a theme of that evening. 

Fiona and I accompanied the Royal party back to the Labadi Beach 

Hotel to say goodnight, after which Fiona returned home to Devonshire 

House while I remained for a debriefing on the day and review of the 

plans for tomorrow.  By the time we had finished all that it was still only 

11pm and I retired to the bar of the Labadi Beach with the Royal House- 

hold.  The senior staff – Tim and Geoff – withdrew as is the custom to al- 

low the butlers, footmen, hairdressers and others to let off steam. 

The party appeared, to a man, to be gay.  Not just gay but outrageously 

camp.  The Labadi Beach, with its fans whirring under polished dark 

wood ceilings, its panelled bar, displays of orchids, attentive uniformed 

staff and glossy grand piano – has the aura of a bygone colonial age, like 

something from Kenya’s Happy Valley in the 1930s.  You expect to see 

Noel Coward emerge in his smoking jacket and sit down at the piano, 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

smoking through a mother of pearl cigarette holder.  It is exactly the right 

setting for a gay romp, and that is exactly what developed  after a few of 

the Labadi Beach’s wonderful tropical cocktails. 

We had taken the entire hotel for the Royal party, except that we had al- 

lowed the British Airways crew to stay there as always.  Now three of 

their cabin stewards, with two Royal footmen and the Queen’s hairdress- 

er, were grouped around the grand singing Cabaret with even more gusto 

than Liza.  Other staff were smooching at the bar.  All this had developed 

within half an hour in a really magical and celebratory atmosphere that 

seemed to spring from nothing.  I was seated on a comfortable sofa, and 

across from me in an armchair was the one member of the Household 

who seemed out of place.  The Duke of Edinburgh’s valet looked to be in 

his sixties, a grizzled old NCO with tufts of hair either side of a bald pate, 

a boxer’s nose and tattoos on his arms.  He was smoking roll-ups. 

He was a nice old boy and we had been struggling to hold a conversa- 

tion about Ghana over the din, when two blokes chasing each other ran 

up to the settee on which I was sitting.  One, pretending to be caught, 

draped himself over the end and said “You’ve caught me, you beast!” 

I turned back to the old warrior and asked: 

“Don’t you find all this a bit strange sometimes?” 

He lent forward and put his hand on my bare knee below my kilt: 

“Listen, ducks.  I was in the Navy for thirty years.” 

So I made my excuses and left, as the News of the World journalists 

used to put it.  I think he was probably joking, but there are some things 

that are too weird even for me, and the lower reaches of the Royal house- 

hold are one of them.  I have heard it suggested that such posts have been 

filled by gays for centuries, just as harems were staffed by eunuchs, to 

avoid the danger of a Queen being impregnated.  Recently I have been 

most amused by news items regarding the death of the Queen Mother’s 

long-standing footman, who the newsreaders have been informing us was 

fondly known as “Backstairs Billy”.  They manage to say this without giv- 

ing the slightest hint that they know it is a double entendre. 

The incident in parliament had made the Rawlings government even 

more annoyed about the proposed handshake in the International Confer- 

ence Centre reception between the Queen and John Kufuor.  My own rela- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

tionship with Ian Mackley had also deteriorated still further as a result of 

the Royal Visit.  I had the advantage that I already knew from previous 

jobs the palace officials and Robin Cook’s officials, and of course Robin 

Cook himself, not to mention the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.  All in 

all, I suspect that Ian felt that I was getting well above myself.  As the 

party formed up to walk around the reception in the International Confer- 

ence Centre, Ian came up to me and grabbed my arm rather fiercely.  

“You, just stay with the Queen’s bodyguards” he said. 

I did not mind at all, and attached myself to another Ian, the head of 

the Queen’s close protection team. I already knew Ian also.  Ian set off to- 

wards the hall and started ensuring a path was clear for the Queen, I 

alongside him as ordered.  Suddenly I heard Sarah Mackley positively 

squeal from somewhere behind me: 

“My God, he’s ahead of the Queen!  Now Craig’s ahead of the Queen.” 

If I could hear it, at least forty other people could.  I managed to make 

myself as invisible as possible, and still to accomplish the introduction to 

John Kufuor.  The government newspaper the Daily Graphic was to claim 

indignantly that I had introduced John Kufuor as “The next President of 

Ghana.”  Had I done so, I would have been in the event correct in my pre- 

diction, but in fact I introduced him as “The opposition Presidential can- 


As always, the Queen’s last engagement on the State Visit was to say 

farewell to all the staff who had helped.  She gives out gifts, and confers 

membership of the Royal Victorian Order on those deemed to merit it. 

Only once in the Queen’s long reign had she ever been on a state visit and 

not created our Ambassador or High Commissioner a Knight Command- 

er of the Royal Victorian Order – that is to say, knighted him.    Ian and 

Sarah were to become Sir Ian and Lady Sarah.  This seemed to me to 

mean the world to them. 

The day before, Tim Hitchens had turned to me as we were travelling 

in the car: 

“Craig, I take it your views on honours have not changed.” 

“No, Tim, I still don’t want any.” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Good, you see that makes it a bit easier, actually.  You see, the thing is, 

we’re trying to cut down a bit on giving out routine honours.  The gov- 

ernment wants a more meritocratic honours system.  We need to start 

somewhere.  So, in short, Ian Mackley is not going to get his K.” 

I was stunned.  

Tim continued: “And as well, you see, it hasn’t exactly escaped our at- 

tention that he has …issues with the Ghanaians, and some of his attitudes 

didn’t exactly help the visit.  Anyway, if you were to want your CVO, then 

that would be more difficult.  Ian Mackley is going to have one of those. 

So that will be alright.” 

No, it won’t be alright, I thought.  You’ll kill the poor old bastard.  For 

God’s sake, everyone will know.  

I wondered when the decision had been taken.  The kneeling stool and 

the ceremonial sword had definitely been unloaded from the plane and 

taken to the hotel: that was one of the things I had checked off.  When had 

that decision been reached? 

We were lined up in reverse order of seniority to go in and see the 

Queen and Prince Philip.  I queued behind the Defence Attaché,  with Ian 

and Sarah just behind me.  She was entering as well – nobody else’s wife 

was – because she was expecting to become Lady Mackley.  Tim was go- 

ing to tell them quickly after I had entered, while they would be alone still 

waiting to go in.  You may not believe me, but I felt completely gutted for 

them.  It was the very fact they were so status obsessed that made it so 

cruel.  I was thinking about what Tim was saying to them and how they 

would react.  It seemed terribly cruel that they had not been warned until 

the very moment before they were due to meet the Queen. I was so wor- 

ried for them that I really had less than half my mind on exchanging 

pleasantries with the Queen, who was very pleasant, as always.  

If you refused honours, as I always did, you got compensated by get- 

ting a slightly better present.  In Warsaw I was given a silver Armada 

dish, which is useful for keeping your Armada in.  In Accra I was given a 

small piece of furniture made with exquisite craftsmanship by Viscount 

Linley.  Shelving my doubts about the patronage aspect of that (should 

the Queen be purchasing with public money official gifts made by her 

cousin?) I staggered out holding rather a large red box, leaving through 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the opposite side of the room to that I had entered.  Outside the door I 

joined the happy throng of people clutching their presents and minor 

medals.  Mike Nithavrianakis and Brian Cope were Ian Mackley’s friends, 

and they were waiting eagerly for him. 

“Here’s Craig” said Mike, “Now it’s only Sir Ian and Lady Sarah!” 

“No, it’s not, Mike”, I said, “He’s not getting a K” 

“What! You’re kidding!” 

It had suddenly fallen very silent. 

“Ian’s not getting a K, he’s only getting a CVO.” 

“Oh, that’s terrible.” 

We waited now in silence.  Very quickly the door opened again, and the 

Mackleys came out, Ian with a frozen grin, Sarah a hysterical one beneath 

the white large-brimmed hat that suddenly looked so ridiculous.  There 

was a smattering of applause, and Sarah fell to hugging everyone, even 

me.  We all congratulated Ian on his CVO, and nobody ever mentioned 

that there had been any possibility of a knighthood, then or ever. 

Personally I don’t understand why anyone accepts honours, when there 

is so much more cachet in turning them down. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 


Democracy In Africa 

One of the great things about our time in Ghana was the constant 

stream of visitors.  Peter Hain, Robin Cook’s new deputy minister for 

Africa, was one of the earlier ones.  I was very pleased about this – Peter 

Hain’s anti-apartheid campaigns had aroused the first stirrings of political 

consciousness in me, and influenced my decision to join the Liberal party 

in 1973, age 14.  By the time I made my way on to the national executive 

of the Young Liberals, Hain was just about leaving, but we overlapped 


We were giving a large afternoon reception for him to meet civil society 

groups.  His Private office had sent us a long list of dietary requirements. 

He was a strict vegetarian who required a gluten free diet and was aller- 

gic to nuts.  Fiona and Gloria had some difficulty in coming up with 

things that he could eat.   We had been in meetings all day and arrived a 

little late for the reception, which was in full swing.  The brightly dressed 

Ghanaian guests were lining up at the rows of barbecues, and sitting con- 

tentedly around circular tables across the lawn.  A live band was playing. 

Gloria was hovering with her specially prepared food for Hain.  He ig- 

nored this and strode up to a barbecue, picked up a skewer of meat, and 

bit into it. “Great” he said, grinning happily, then disappeared into a 

backslapping crowd.  He remains very popular in Ghana from the anti- 

apartheid years. 

The British Council had an excellent and energetic Director in Accra, 

James Peters.  He had established a football programme for street chil- 

dren.  They signed up to receive professional football coaching, and in re- 

turn they guaranteed to stay off drugs and out of crime, and do a certain 

amount of community work every week.  The scheme had been a great 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

success, and I had been very active in finding money to expand it.  War 

Child were involved through my friend John Carmichael.  

Peter Hain was a very good football player, as I remembered from 

games in my youth.  He had professional trials.47  So I had suggested to 

London he might like to take part in a charity football game between the 

children from the community football scheme and the High Commission. 

I conceived it as a fun event for which we could get sponsorship for the 

project from British companies.  Peter Hain readily agreed. 

We changed at Devonshire House, as the game was being held on one 

of the project’s pitches in the shanty district of Nima, and there were no 

changing facilities.  Arriving there, the first problem was the pitch.  Al- 

though carefully cleared of refuse and approximately level, it consisted of 

red laterite without a single blade of grass.  It was, quite literally, rock 

hard.  It was studs off and trainers on, but a fine covering of red dust still 

made it very skiddy.  The second problem was the opposition.  Rather 

than the kids from the project, lined up against us were super-fit profes- 

sionals, some of them on the fringes of Ghana’s world class national 


Peter grinned at me.  “This should be fun”.  I smiled nervously back. 

The last time I had seen Peter in a football game, I was helping to carry 

him off it.  At the Young Liberal national conference of 1976 in Great Yar- 

mouth we had played a game there on the lees.  I was playing in defence 

against Peter, who was making an idiot of me, going past me at will.  So I 

had kneed him in the bollocks, rather harder than I intended. 

Now in Nima Peter and I were playing up front, and we spent the first 

five minutes chasing back, lungs bursting in the heat.  I was going 

through that barrier you have to cross before you get your second wind. 

But I never got there. 

Someone played a hopeful long punt out of defence.  I got in front of 

and across my huge defender, trying to glance the ball through for Peter 

to run on to.  But the defender was much bigger quicker and younger 

than I, and he came right though me.  I went down heavily, and stuck out 

my right hand to break my fall.  It was extended rigidly as it hit the rock 

47Frank Keating, Caught By Keating ,p 92,  Andre Deutsch, London, 1979 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

hard ground, and just at that moment the big defender landed across my 


I felt stunned as I picked myself up, but not in great immediate pain.  I 

could tell something was very wrong.  I could not move my left arm, and 

my left hand seemed to be hanging below the level of my left knee. 

Something seemed to be pushing on my shoulder and chest.  I peeked in- 

side my football shirt, and was stunned to see a bone sticking out of the 

left of my chest, above the nipple, not piercing the skin but showing white 

through it.   This was definitely not good. 

I stood in puzzlement.  Play was carrying on, and I lifted my right arm 

for help, then involuntarily fell down again.  This time it was Peter Hain’s 

turn to help carry me off the field.  

I travelled in an Embassy Landrover to the Trust hospital, Fiona with 

me.  By now the pain had really started, and it was indescribable.  Doctors 

will tell you that a dislocated arm is about as painful as anything can be, 

because of the great bundles of nerves travelling through the shoulders. 

It was excruciating in the most literal sense.  It was the dislocation of the 

shoulders that made crucifixion such a terrible death.  It has been used as 

torture forever – the drawn in hung, drawn and quartered, and the rack, 

were both to dislocate the arms.  There is no worse pain, and I was suffer- 

ing now.  Supporting the arm, or not supporting the arm, both brought 

simply slightly different qualities of extreme agony.  Every bump in the 

road was terrible to me. 

By the time I reached the hospital I was literally out of my mind.  I did 

not, for example, know who Fiona was.  I was lain down on a trolley, 

while a surgeon was called.  Although I learned later that Fiona had 

urged, begged, screamed, threatened and cried, the hospital had refused 

to give me any pain relief stronger than paracetamol until the surgeon ar- 

rived.  I lay for four hours in the most appalling  agony.  I wish I could tell 

you that I became accustomed to the pain, but I did not, nor did I lose 

consciousness.  The four hours seemed to me to last four months.  If you 

were now to tell me I had to go through that again, or to surrender every 

single thing I own, including my clothes, books and the laptop I am now 

writing on, I would give you everything without a second’s hesitation. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Eventually the surgeon did arrive, and I was thankfully put under. I 

awoke in a private room, in pretty well no pain.  The only good thing 

about a dislocated shoulder is that, pretty well as soon as it gets put back, 

it stops hurting.  But I discovered that I had my left arm attached firmly to 

my chest, simply taped there with what looked like several rolls of sticky 

tape wrapped right around me.  It was to stay completely immobile like 

this for eight weeks, which was very inconvenient, especially as I am left 

handed.  I had to invest in a number of floaty kaftans I could wear over 

my strapped arm.   

There was one long term consequence.  While having no sporting tal- 

ent, I was always an enthusiastic player.  My shoulder never did recover, 

and I have never been able to play active sport again.    I had already de- 

cided I would be giving up football, and because of the weakness of the 

shoulder I have not been able to take up tennis or golf – Fiona had just 

bought me the clubs.  When the accident happened I weighed 73kg. 

Within four months, I was 80kg and today am 88kg.  I view that football 

game as the start of middle age! 

We were able further to boost the community football project with an- 

other charity game, this time starring Bobby Charlton.  He had come to 

Ghana seeking support for England’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup.  I 

have to say that he was still an astounding player at age 60 – his fitness 

levels and robustness were astonishing, and it was extremely good of him 

to get on the pitch for an obscure charitable cause.  Large crowds turned 


That having been said, I found Charlton very disappointing.  He was 

the opposite of his gentlemanly image, being entirely self-centred and 

generally ratty and demanding throughout his time in Ghana.  He was 

one of those heroes you wish you hadn’t met, like Walesa.  

On the other side of the equation, Roger Moore came out as a goodwill 

ambassador for UNICEF.  Fiona and I hosted a small dinner party for 

him.  He was charming and suave, just as you would expect, with a fund 

of brilliant stories beginning with lines like “One day Frank, Dean, Tony 

and I decided to play a trick on Marilyn…”  But while he played the role 

of Roger Moore to perfection, there was much more to him than that.  He 

was genuinely very well briefed about children’s issues in Ghana, and 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

was prepared not just to do the PR stuff, but to get his hands dirty help- 

ing out in refugee camps without a camera in sight.  I was impressed by 

Roger Moore. 

I was less impressed by Jamie Theakston.  The BBC were filming an 

episode of The Really Wild Show in Ghana, looking at the endangered 

green turtle population near Ada.  I had been very much looking forward 

to meeting Michaela Strachan, and was slightly disappointed to be getting 

Jamie Theakston instead.  The Ghana Wildlife Society  was yet another 

body I had been working closely with, so we did a large party for them 

and other conservation and environmental groups.  We had music and 

dancing, and a great party atmosphere. A group of young volunteers had 

accompanied the BBC team, to help the newly born turtles to reach the 

ocean.  But one poor girl became hysterical.  A schoolteacher in her mid- 

twenties, her brown hair was dishevelled and streams of mascara had 

spread down her flushed pink cheeks.  I took her off to wash herself in the 

guest wing, and sent someone to look for Fiona. 

Her story was that Jamie Theakston had been sleeping with her on this 

trip, and that he had told he he was in love with her and wanted a con- 

tinuing relationship.  But now, on this last evening, he had told her before 

the party that he was moving on and did not want to see her again.  The 

poor girl was totally distraught.  Meantime, Jamie Theakston sat surroun- 

ded by young women, enjoying the adulation, and showing not the 

slightest concern for the girl he had just dumped and the state she was in. 

Not the most pleasant of people.  

Much of my work focused on development and our assistance to the 

Ghanaian economy.  This was in the doldrums because its two leading ex- 

port commodities, cocoa and gold, were suffering from low export prices 

on World markets.  Gold in particular was at an all time low in terms of 

the real dollar price.  It had been hovering at around US$280 an ounce for 

a couple of years, and was there at the start of 1999.  But by the summer of 

1999 it had slipped down to just under US$250, and many gold mines 

could no longer produce profitably.  But then suddenly at the end of 

September it leapt up to $300, and reached $325 before settling back to 

around $290 at the end of the year. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Obviously this volatility around low prices would be a problem for any 

gold mining company.  But Ashanti Gold, the largest company in Ghana, 

got itself into trouble in ways that opened my eyes to much of the crazi- 

ness of modern world markets, with their reliance on futures and derivat- 

ives trading, or betting as you and I might call it.  It also told me a great 

deal about Rawlings and his government. 

Ashanti Gold was the third biggest gold mining company in Africa and 

about the ninth in the World.  It was traded on the London Stock Ex- 

change.  At Obuasi it had the third largest hole in the ground in the World 

in the shape of its open cast mine.  But most of its remaining reserves in 

Ghana were now in deep mines, and becoming unprofitable at these very 

low prices.  Ashanti’s big hope for the future was a very valuable resource 

at Geita, in Tanzania, but that was at a development stage where money 

was still being pumped in, rather than taken out.  So Ashanti was vulner- 

able in 1999. 

Despite this, in the first half of that year, Ashanti was doing rather well, 

because of its hedge book.  That is precisely the same as “Hedging your 

bets”.  What Ashanti was doing was buying financial instruments that 

amounted to a bet that the price of gold was going to fall.  In effect, the 

more the gold price fell, the more money they made on their hedge book. 

That may sound strange, but it is not stupid.  If you are producing gold 

and the price drops, to offset your losses would be described by those do- 

ing it as insurance against a price fall, rather than a bet.  

But Ashanti went at it so enthusiastically that they stood to make more 

money if the price of gold fell, than if it increased.  When you think about 

it, that is not good for a gold mine.  They might as well have given up the 

mining completely and just have taken the available cash to a casino. 

Anyway, all went well until the autumn of 1999 when there was a sud- 

den 20% jump in the gold price.  Ashanti started losing their bets – in fact 

they lost $450 million worth of bets in three months.  The share price 

plummeted and the company – which had already taken out large loans 

in the City of London to finance the Geita development – could no longer 

service its debt. 

Ashanti sought to restructure its debt – which means put off payment – 

and to look for new loans.  It also negotiated to reduce the payments on 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

its hedge book, which means welsh on its bets.  Then, at the end of Janu- 

ary 2000, Rawlings intervened to try to drive Ashanti Gold into bank- 


Ashanti had originally been part of the Lonrho group, but had been na- 

tionalised by a previous Ghanaian government.  In his IMF phase, Rawl- 

ings had re privatised it, but with the Government of Ghana retaining a 

“Golden Share”, which gave it a veto on the board. 

In privatising Ashanti, Rawlings had not expected it would actually 

start behaving like a private company.  Ghana still had many parastatal 

companies, and these all loyally, if often unofficially, contributed funds to 

the Rawlings family, to Rawlings’ NDC party, or to its many offshoots 

such as the ubiquitous “31 December Women’s Movement”, which was 

run by Mrs Rawlings and used by her as a front to buy up many compan- 

ies.  Equally, the apparatus of the state had been used to make it very dif- 

ficult for anyone to run their business who did not support and contribute 

to Rawlings.  So the idea that the country’s biggest company would stop 

paying over cash was highly antithetical to the Rawlings.48 

The Chief Executive of Ashanti was Sam Jonah, a very tough old min- 

ing professional.  The Rawlings had demanded a million dollars from 

him, ostensibly for election purposes.  Sam had refused.  Mrs Rawlings 

was now determined to regain control of Ashanti from Sam, and the fin- 

ancial crisis in the company seemed to provide the perfect opportunity. 

The long-term chairman of Ashanti, Kwame Peprah, was now Rawlings’ 

Finance Minister.  Rawlings obliged him to resign from Ashanti, as a com- 

pany going bankrupt with the Finance Minister as Chairman doesn’t look 

good.  On 10 February 2000 the Ghanaian government then issued a 

strong statement attacking the board of Ashanti in no uncertain terms and 

making plain its refusal to agree to restructuring. 

I was picking up from a wide variety of my contacts that Mrs Rawlings’ 

view was that the gold reserves were in Ghana and would remain in 

Ghana.  To drive Ashanti bankrupt would not lose the gold, only liberate 

it from interests hostile to the Rawlings.  They could then bring Ashanti’s 

gold reserves back under control, either through renationalisation or a 

more compliant private company. 

48Taylor, AA, Sam Jonah and the Remaking of Ashanti p182 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Ashanti was a major company.  London banks and London investors 

stood to lose a great deal of money it if went under.  At this juncture I re- 

ceived a phone call from Sir Leon Britten.  He was leading the loan rene- 

gotiation efforts with Ashanti on behalf of the consortium of British 

banks.  He was somewhat baffled by the very negative signals the govern- 

ment of Ghana was sending out about Ashanti.  Surely a government 

could not be wilfully undermining the largest company in the country?  I 

explained the political background to him, and advised him not to panic. 

We would have to bring the government round.  

I next invited Sam Jonah round to Devonshire House for tea.  I like Sam 

immensely.  We discussed recovery plans, debt restructuring and the fu- 

ture of the Geita project in Tanzania. There was pressure on Ashanti to 

sell its interest in Geita to redeem some debt, but that would be to throw 

away enormous potential for the future.  I then telephoned Sir Leon again 

and outlined Sam’s plans.  We also discussed widening the board of 

Ashanti with strong non-executive directors with good international 

political connections, and the need to seek support from the IMF in press- 

ing Rawlings.  Then came the difficult bit.  

I called on President Rawlings at the castle, finding him moody and 

subdued.  He launched a tirade against Ashanti’s management folly of 

over-hedging.  I cheered him up by agreeing with him that futures trad- 

ing and the extent of speculative financial flows had become a danger to 

the real economy everywhere.  But I said that the UK would take it very 

badly if the government of Ghana blocked Ashanti’s restructuring and 

sent it into bankruptcy.  A lot of British money was at stake, both loan and 

investment.  Certainly the international community would react very 

badly if Ashanti were nationalised.  We may have to reconsider DFID’s 

aid to Ghana. 

I had absolutely no authority to say the last, and DFID would have 

been horrified.  But something worked, because in the next few days we 

got the restructuring package together without encountering a govern- 

ment veto.  Ashanti recovered, and its share price more than doubled 

within a year.  It went on to merge with Anglo Gold, with Sam Jonah be- 

coming President of Anglo Ashanti. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I like Sam very much.  He started underground in mining, as a shovel 

boy, and went on to a British university education as a mining engineer, 

before becoming arguably Africa’s most successful legitimate business- 

man.  He remains down to earth, and enjoys nothing better than drinking 

whisky or going fishing, both of which I have done with him. 

Before leaving Accra I nominated Sam for a knighthood.  I wanted to 

underline the fact that Africans are perfectly able to operate at the very 

highest levels of the corporate world, and that African businesses can be 

world class.  On the rare occasions Africans are honoured in the West, it is 

usually in a context that portrays Africa as a basket case, concerned with 

famine, aid or political disaster.  Sam for me personifies what Africans can 

be, and he did it by his own endeavours.  

The story of his knighthood is an example of how difficult it is for 

Africans to win recognition.  The first proposal I drafted was rejected by 

the Downing Street honours committee on the grounds they had never 

heard of him!  I had to redo it, with citations from Lynda Chalker and the 

Financial Times. 

Brian Page, our Consul, was one of several staff at our High Commis- 

sion whose quiet competence and pleasant attitude made my life more 

enjoyable.  He came in to see me one day looking particularly unhappy. 

“James has been arrested” he said.  James Peters, the excellent British 

Council Director, was gay.  Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, and James 

had been reported to the police by somebody who had tried to blackmail 

him.  James was now in a cell at Asylum Down police station.  I prepared 

to go there, and went to tell Ian Mackley what was happening.  I found 

Ian very truculent: 

“It’s up to James to follow the law of the land”, he said, “If he’s broken 

it, he’ll have to follow the consequences.  I don’t want to get in an argu- 

ment with the government of Ghana about foolish behaviour.” 

I was shocked by Ian’s lack of empathy, and the fact that he seemed to 

have no instinct to support a colleague.  I suggested that the best thing we 

could do is squash the problem before it became a real issue. 

A paradox of Ghana is that it is a kind and friendly society, and on a 

day to day basis homosexuality is tolerated.  But fundamentalist Chris- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

tianity has such a grip on the country that when confronted with the 

question of whether gays should be jailed, most Ghanaians would sadly 

say yes.  Society works by looking the other way and never getting con- 

fronted with the question.  If it became a high profile question – if the me- 

dia got hold of the issue – then we would be drowned in politicians insist- 

ing that James be jailed.  No prominent Ghanaian politician, even from 

those many who are members of the English bar, has ever dared to speak 

out against the persecution of gays.  

So it was essential that I kept the matter of James’ arrest inside Asylum 

Down police station.  Once news got out, we were likely to be in trouble. 

I arrived at the run-down old colonial building, with its aluminium 

louvred windows and filthy net curtains, and was shown into an office to 

meet the Inspector.  He mumbled on about this being a serious offence.  It 

was extremely hot and uncomfortable in that mouldering office, and I 

wondered how James was faring in the cells down below.  I explained 

that homosexuality was not a crime in the UK, and that what we had here 

was not a crime but a cultural misunderstanding. 

The Inspector was in no hurry, and called for tea.  We then chatted 

about the weather and cricket and football; he was anxious to demon- 

strate how Anglophile he was.  We had been chatting for a good hour 

without any further mention of James.  I felt that to press would not be 

productive.  Then he started to get to the nub of the matter.  His old car 

was irreparable and he needed a new one; and he was having financial 

difficulties with his son, who was studying in the UK. 

He did not make any demands, he just set these out as open problems. 

I asked for more tea, and then it was my turn to get discursive, talking 

about my love for Ghana and the different places I had visited.  We chat- 

ted on and on, and eventually I got on to saying what a happy relation- 

ship now existed between Ghana and the UK, and how nothing should 

disturb our friendship.  We then had more tea, and started another round. 

Eventually, after over three hours, I left with James in return for a small 

sum given in friendship, and the case was dropped.  

I should note that James thinks it was simultaneous behind the scenes 

work by a senior Ghanaian official, rather than my stint in the police sta- 

tion, which secured his release. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I took James back to his home, a lovely house which he had furnished 

beautifully.  We sat and chatted over a cold bottle of Pinot Grigio.  I had 

not really known James well before this event, but we became firm 


Ian Mackley, who had school age children, had returned to the UK for 

the Easter holiday.  For the Easter weekend Fiona and I took Jamie and 

Emily to the Ankobra beach resort, past Takoradi, then over four hours 

drive from Accra.  This is a beautiful place, the archetypal tropical para- 

dise, with a long bay of pure white sand stretching along to distant rocks 

and breakers, the whole fringed by coconut palms and littered with play- 

ful crabs.  The hotel only has some twenty rooms, and you could have 

acres of beach to yourself.  We enjoyed ourselves hugely, running around 

with the children. 

On Easter Sunday we were eating lunch in the resort’s beach restaurant 

when I glimpsed a navy uniform with silver buttons.  Looking up, I saw 

Buckman, a High Commission driver, coming towards me.  Buckman was 

always cheerful, but now he looked sombre and I had a sinking feeling as 

I stood up to greet him.  Something was very wrong. 

As I stood up from the table, Buckman said “I am sorry, sir” and 

handed me a note.  It said, very briefly, that my father had died.  I told 

Fiona what had happened.  I left with Buckman back to Accra, leaving 

Fiona to round up the children, pack and return with Peter, our personal 

driver.  I returned to London on British Airways, leaving Accra at mid- 

night that night, and took a connecting flight to Inverness.  Ian Mackley 

had arrived back in Accra on the plane that took me out. 

About a month earlier I had received a telephone call from my father to 

say that the doctors had given him just three months to live.  The FCO 

paid for one leave journey per year back to London, but you could get a 

compassionate journey to attend the funeral of an immediate relative.  I 

had written to ask them if I could get the journey in order to see my father 

one last time, rather than wait until he had died.  The FCO had replied 

demanding a medical certificate to prove that my father was dying.  He 

had gone to ask his Inverness GP for this, and the doctor had exploded: 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Bloody Hell!  They trust Craig to represent the interests of the United 

Kingdom, and then they don’t trust him when he says his father is dying! 

Do they think he would make that kind of thing up!  These bureaucrats 

are bloody well sick!” 

But he did write the certificate, and the FCO had agreed I could go to 

the funeral early.  I had agreed with Ian Mackley I would leave once his 

Easter holiday was over.  

My father had remained at home, but as the end approached been 

moved into a hospice on the banks of the River Ness.  He had only been 

there one day when he suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly. 

Given the suffering caused by lung cancer, this was a good thing, al- 

though it robbed me of a chance to see him one last time. 

I have no doubt my father loved me, though he was sometimes not 

good at showing it.  This is not the place to write his detailed story, but 

some background is now needed.  My father had come from a very poor 

family indeed – as poor as you can be with twelve brothers and sisters 

and an alcoholic father in the worst slums of Edinburgh in the 1930s. 

Forced to leave school and do manual labour aged just 13, he had 

struggled hard to free his family from poverty.  He had not been the most 

present of fathers when I was a toddler.  Nor had he always stayed en- 

tirely the right side of the law, and when I was five years old he had been 

obliged to disappear abroad.  I saw him very rarely after that, totalling 

just a handful of weeks spread over thirteen years, then when I was nine- 

teen and at university he simply returned to the parental home as though 

he had never been gone.  

He had not seen me grow up, and his own father had not exactly been a 

good role model.  He bonded better with my two younger brothers, who 

were still children and living with him after his return, but I felt he was 

often hostile to me.  As I was at University and studying history, he also 

seemed worried I might be gay.  

It took a long while for us to get to know each other and become 

friends.  But we did eventually do so.  About a year after he had returned, 

when things were at rock bottom between us, we had a huge argument in 

Aviemore, almost coming to blows.  We both stalked off in different direc- 

tions.  Half an hour later, I was walking on a path through a conifer wood 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

looking for my father to apologise.  I saw him coming towards me on the 

same mission.  For the first time in fifteen years we hugged, and we both 

cried.  It was raining and we were surrounded by the dense smell of wet 

conifer.  Pine needles crunched underfoot.  The smell of pine still makes 

me want to cry in remembrance. 

Things got slowly better after that, but I still never knew my father as 

well as I would have wanted.   Now as I carried him in to the crematori- 

um, high on a hill with breathtaking views over the Moray Firth, I was 

full of pain for all I had lost, had not valued at the time, and will never re- 


Back in Accra, I was astonished to be called in to his office by Ian 

Mackley and dressed down in no uncertain fashion. I had not prepared a 

briefing for him on his return (normally I would do a two page “While 

You Were Away” note, with documents attached).  I had left my post 

without permission.  That was a sacking offence. 

“Ian,” I said, “My father died.”  Besides, I told him, I had telephoned 

London to say that I was coming back – indeed they had bought the ticket 

for me. 

Ian changed tack and said that I had deserted Accra without permis- 

sion, to go to Ankobra.  He was now talking complete nonsense – you 

don’t need permission to travel within the country.  We had over thirty 

diplomatic staff, so there were plenty of people to cope had a crisis arisen 

on Easter Sunday, which was unlikely.   There were also plenty of people, 

including four First Secretaries, to brief him on what had happened while 

he was away. 

The FCO is a strange place to work, and the nature of its staffing re- 

quirements in small overseas outposts makes it hard to eliminate bad 

management.  But that particular attack from Ian Mackley, after the death 

of my father, was the nastiest and most vindictive I have ever en- 

countered.  I was much relieved when Ian left later that year and was re- 

placed by the very pleasant Rod Pullen. 

I now faced the biggest challenge of my diplomatic career so far.  The 

Ghanaian Presidential and Parliamentary elections, due in December 

2000, were fast approaching.  All the signs were that the Ghanaian people 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

might be preparing for a change of government.  We were preparing to 

put in a major effort to ensure that the elections were free and fair.  DFID 

were financing the greatest part of a programme run by the Electoral 

Commission of Ghana, to introduce photo ID cards to reduce the electoral 

fraud that had marred the elections of 1992 and 1996. 

There would be one major change already.  Rawlings was finally step- 

ping down as Head of State, after a decade as military dictator followed 

by eight years of more or less constitutional rule.  Rawlings’ party, the 

NDC, was putting forward the Vice President, John Atta Mills, as its Pres- 

idential candidate.  Mills was a pleasant academic who enjoyed Rawlings’ 

trust.  There seemed to be little doubt that Rawlings was prepared to 

hand over power to Mills; the question people were asking was, would 

Rawlings be dictating Mills’ every move?  The further question on wheth- 

er Rawlings would be prepared to hand over power to the opposition 

NPP candidate, John Kufuor, was another matter.  Most believed Rawl- 

ings would not be prepared to let the NPP win. 

Remember, Rawlings had launched three coups, two of them success- 

ful.  There had never been a democratic handover of power to the opposi- 

tion in Ghana’s history.  Indeed, there had been extremely few democratic 

handovers of power to the opposition in Africa’s history.  Many were 

openly questioning whether democracy was suitable for Africa.  In 

Ghana, the seasoned expatriates in the major Western corporations were 

arguing that we shouldn’t worry too much about free and fair elections 

this time.  Rather than provoke a crisis, we should let Rawlings hand over 

to Mills as a step towards eventual democracy. 

I had other ideas. 

The Ghanaian Electoral Commission had a massive task in providing 

some 11 million voters, the majority of them living in rural villages, with 

photo ID cards.  The NDC had belatedly woken up to the threat that the 

photo ID cards posed to their ability to rig the election.  In particular the 

process of issuing the cards was leading to a wholesale cleansing of ficti- 

tious or “Ghost” voters from the register, because non-existent voters 

could not turn up to have their photo taken.  The exercise was to reveal 

and eradicate over a million fake names. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The NDC government had paid little attention to the plans to issue 

photo ID cards, which had been agreed between the Electoral Commis- 

sion and the British and Danish governments.  But as the Electoral Com- 

mission teams started to work their way around the country, with their 

Polaroid cameras and laminators, working region by region, they were 

setting up stall at every single polling station in Ghana – the scale of the 

logistical task was mind-blowing.  District Chief Executives started to 

send in panicky reports about the purging of the registers and the NDC 

started work to undermine the photo ID card programme.  

E T Mensah and Victor Gbeho made high profile speeches claiming that 

the photo ID cards were disenfranchising the rural voters because they 

had not reached every electoral district, and because insufficient informa- 

tion had been given to the electorate about the need to register. 

The problem was, given the scale of the difficulties associated with such 

a massive exercise in a country with Ghana’s weak infrastructure and dis- 

located public services, these claims had a distinct ring of plausibility.  I 

decided that I needed to take over personal supervision of the process, 

both to see how it was really going, and to try to make it go better, 

I therefore undertook a series of long up country trips with the ID card 

teams.  The results were fascinating.  In one village South East of Bol- 

gatanga, the team were perplexed that they had issued only 82 cards but 

there were 1,200 people on the register.  It was a typical northern village. 

The round huts were made of packed mud and thatched with millet 

stalks, while herringbone woven screens of the same material fenced the 

village into discreet living, livestock and food preparation areas.  Dotted 

apparently at random around the settlement were beehive shaped mud 

structures, taller than me, in which grain was stored.  The scent of dried 

dung hung in the hot, sticky air. 

 I squatted on a low wooden stool, set on the beaten earth floor of the 

chief’s hut, and drank Schnapps with him.  After ritual greetings and 

compliments, I discussed with him the curious case of the missing thou- 

sand from the electoral register. 

The chief was the retired head of a teacher’s training college, and un- 

derstood precisely what was going on.  I showed him the register and 

suggested that these voters possibly came from other, surrounding small 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

villages.  He laughed, and said that they were completely fictitious 

names.  They had been added by the District Chief Executive’s office.  He 

declared himself delighted that the British government had come and was 

going to stop this cheating and bring back true democracy to Ghana.  He 

then told me about his four children, who all lived in Manchester.  He 

went to a deeply carved wooden chest, so dry and cracked and grey with 

age it seemed already well on its journey to dust.  He rummaged under 

several striped local garments and produced a heavy, light blue football 

shirt, with a V neck and white edging.  It had what looked a fading black 

stain across the front.  That, he announced proudly, was Colin Bell’s sig- 


The chief’s enthusiasm for the cleansing of the electoral register was 

genuine; it shone in the half light of that low, mud hut from his beaming, 

sweat pearled face.  And it was an enthusiasm I found pretty well every- 

where in Ghana.  It was like a new dawn of hope; a thorough-going and 

all-pervasive enthusiasm for the democracy which people genuinely be- 

lieved would not only cement their individual freedoms, but also end 

their economic woes.  While slightly sceptical about the expectations, I 

found it nonetheless impossible to avoid being swept up in the enthusi- 

asm, which was irresistible.  The interest in politics was everywhere, and 

in the meanest village there would be a group of people under the banyan 

tree listening to the FM radio and arguing about the coming change.  It 

was one of those rare moments of joy and expectation in human life, 

where a whole society feels that things can become radically better and 


Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive 

But to be young was very heaven. 

In the West, tired of the venality and deceit of our politicians, we no 

longer much value our democracy and feel little empathy for our ancest- 

ors who struggled, fought and died to achieve and then protect it.  It truly 

is a wonderful thing to see a people who have been abused and trampled, 

exercising for the first time their real power as a people over those who 

would govern them.  In 1999 the sheer enthusiasm of the ordinary people 

of Ghana for democracy was truly inspiring and at times deeply moving. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

FM radio was of vital importance in spreading the spirit of democracy – 

indeed I would go further and say that the FM radio stations were the 

most vital single factor in bringing real democracy to Ghana.  Between 

1996 and 2000 some thirty independent FM stations had been established 

and they all featured the liveliest political debate.  There was almost 

nowhere in the whole country where an independent station was not in 

range.  In small villages you would find groups of locals seated under the 

shade of the banyan tree, grouped around a battered old transistor and 

discussing debt cancellation policy.  

The Rawlings regime must be given credit for allowing the growth of 

independent media.  Ghana’s lively, indeed quarrelsome, newspapers 

were also a factor but by no means reached the depth of population or the 

geographical spread of the radio stations.  Again, I think that Rawlings 

simply did not realise the transformational effect of the outburst of free 

debate he was unleashing – until it was too late.  I was to witness directly 

a cack-handed attempt to shut down the FM threat once it was way too 

late, on the eve of the election. 

The direct impact of this intellectual ferment that I was now to discover 

was that it was completely untrue that people did not know about the 

voter ID cards.  The FM stations had been broadcasting for weeks inform- 

ation about them and details of where and how to obtain them in each 

electoral district.  There was an extraordinary enthusiasm for the project, 

explained only in part by the fact that in many places the large majority of 

the people had never seen a photo of themselves, and getting one for free 

was irresistible. 

In order to be sure that the process was really reaching everyone, I vis- 

ited the teams in the most remote parts of the country, including the un- 

ruly lands of Upper East (where chieftaincy disputes were still being re- 

solved by beheading), the NDC heartlands of Volta region where there 

was hostility to the whole process, and the areas in the higher Western 

reaches of the Volta known as “Overseas” because you could only pass 

the swampy complex of creeks and reed beds by canoe.  Everywhere I 

went, I found orderly queues of people getting their photo ID cards, 

many having hiked long distances to do so.  The electoral officers were 

carrying out their task with thorough-going diligence but also with flexib- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

ility – where there was a problem, such as a shortage of film or laminated 

pockets, they would extend their stay if necessary.  Such problems were 

surprisingly rare, due largely to the quite remarkable organisational skills 

of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan.  I 

had only just met this wry, slim, chain-smoking and beer drinking bundle 

of energy, but was to come to have the most profound respect for him 

over the course of the next few months. 

Travelling North West from the city of Sunyani, I visited the town of 

Tainano49. This had been a renowned market gardening centre, but had 

gone into a dreadful economic decline some ten years earlier following 

the collapse of its bridge in a storm.  I arrived at the fallen bridge,  a 

simple concrete structure spilling down into a river, a major tributary of 

the Black Volta,  some 40 metres across, its brown surge flowing fast 

enough for there to be little eddies flecked with flashes of white.  We were 

only an hour’s drive from Sunyani, but I was told that the drive to the 

next bridge was some four hours on a very rough road.  The alternative 

was to cross by canoe.  

I walked down to where a jumble of four or five canoes was pulled 

onto the steeply sloping bank.  The rare sight of a white man wanting to 

cross caused huge amusement and there followed some excited competi- 

tion as to which canoe I should take.  I eyed them dubiously – they were 

all of local dugout construction, hewed from a single trunk with rough 

pieces of wood nailed across as seats.  Each already contained a fair 

amount of water slopping about in the bottom.  I chose the largest looking 

one and we set off. One paddler in front and one at back.  They were in- 

credibly muscled; their torsos would have been the delight and envy of 

any Californian gym, and they were soon sheathed in gold as the sun re- 

flected off a mixture of sweat and river water.  I was continually wiping 

my glasses clear.  

We set off more or less straight upstream, the men paddling like crazy 

with huge muscular strokes but still making very little headway, the force 

of their efforts rocking the canoe from side to side so that water poured in 

and I had to lift my feet clear of the floor while gripping the slimy canoe 

49I think it was Tainano but my notes are not  quite clear which of  a number of towns I 

visited that day it was.  I intend to explore this region again. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

sides to try and retain my balance.  That didn’t feel safe, so I reluctantly 

planted my feet again, the water in the well of the canoe now over my 

ankles.  We had started straight upstream in order to come back to a point 

opposite our starting one in a graceful arc.  As we were broadside to the 

current in the middle of this manoeuvre, the water flowed over the side 

and along my seat, thoroughly wetting my arse. 

I was in danger of wetting myself anyway.  I have a terrible and irra- 

tional fear of water – I can bath but get scared in a shower for example, 

and even get scared in very heavy rainfall.  Unsurprisingly, I have never 

learnt to swim.  There was one other passenger, an old lady who had 

hoisted up her brightly flowered dress and knotted it beneath her loins, 

while balancing an improbably large cloth bundle of goods on her knees. 

I told myself that if she could do it, I should not be pathetic, but she didn’t 

improve my mood by screwing up her eyes and yelling out “Lord have 

mercy” throughout the entire passage. This rather cancelled out my ef- 

forts to tell myself that the boatman must make this crossing scores of 

times a day and it must have been completely routine for the local villa- 


After turning at the top of the arc, we were racing down with the cur- 

rent on the other side of the stream at a quite alarming rate.  As we sped 

past the road, the rear boatman threw a rope to someone on the bank who 

whipped it round a tree trunk, pulling the canoe up with a jolt that nearly 

pitched me into the water.  I disembarked on shaky legs, deeply conscious 

of my wet trousers. 

I had been vaguely aware of flashes of fluorescent orange in a large tree 

that was growing to the right of the collapsed bridge on the bank on 

which we had now arrived.  After wiping my glasses again I could now 

see about a dozen life jackets, hung high in the tree.  The effect was rather 


I turned to the boatman and asked why they didn’t use the life-jackets. 

He flashed me a wide grin. 

“Oh,” he said, “We don’t use them since people drown in them.” 

The poverty and squalor of the town were as bad as I had seen in 

Ghana.  Unlike most rural towns, which smell earthy but clean, this one 

had a palpable smell of sewage and the buildings were visibly decaying. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The brown spots on the corrugated iron roofs had swollen and merged, 

and in places the ensuing holes had gone rampant, reducing the covering 

to a fragile latticework of fern-like iron oxide tendrils.  

As usual, I chatted with the local schoolmaster, and he firmly alleged 

that the government’s failure to replace the bridge was because it was an 

opposition town which the government was happy to see dwindle.  In his 

school I was impressed to find the electoral commission personnel with 

their cameras set up, quietly and methodically issuing photo ID cards to a 

queue of several hundred people.  They had lost some film stock on the 

crossing but still had plenty. 

I took a trip around the surrounding countryside in an old plum and 

orange coloured taxi, which had lost a door and whose bodywork was 

battered beyond recognition, but had a Peugeot badge on the steering 

wheel.  The chrome front bumper was rather bafflingly tied across the 

roof, secured to the window struts either side with ties made from strips 

of old fertiliser sacks.  The driver, Aaron, was a bright man who was go- 

ing to vote NDC on the grounds that Rawlings willingness to hold a free 

election meant that he deserved support.  

But my trip showed the surrounding farmers to be as impoverished as 

the town, and I determined on return to try to persuade DFID to rebuild 

the bridge.  It seemed to me that the resulting benefit to an area which 

had been effectively cut off from economic interaction with the rest of the 

country, would justify the expenditure. 

In fact I was to get nowhere with this.  DFID were in the throes of chan- 

ging from project work to a doctrine which is now the basis of their philo- 

sophy, that of budget support.   The idea is that no longer will the UK do 

something for the aid recipient, like building a bridge, a hospital or some 

schools, or providing inputs and training to farmers.  Instead we help the 

government, together with its civil society, to plan its budget and its pro- 

grammes to maximise poverty alleviation.  We then pump money into its 

budget to help it to achieve these agreed aims. 

This has several advantages.  It is more democratic, with the African 

country pursuing its own objectives.  The consultation structures in- 

cluded boost the role of civil society.  It also builds up the capacity of the 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

African administration and African professionals to deliver goods to the 


Unfortunately, these happy ideas are hopelessly unrealistic.  With the 

greatest will in the world, the capacity of African ministries to deliver 

anything to the people is in practice highly constrained – even in Ghana, 

which probably has the best civil service in Africa.  There are numerous 

factors behind this.  There is a lack of middle management capability, and 

a lack of incentive for ordinary civil servants  to deliver.  African bureau- 

cracies almost entirely lack any link between performance in the job and 

reward or discipline, with family and tribal linkages almost always being 

much more crucial to your career than ability or performance. 

There is also the sadly unavoidable fact that African governments are 

corrupt – all of them, to a greater or lesser degree.  Now that is not to say 

that Western governments are not corrupt – of course they are, all of 

them, to a greater or lesser degree.  But African governments are more 

corrupt.  Why they are more corrupt, and whose fault that is, opens up 

another range of very interesting questions touched on from time to time 

in this book.  But the sad truth is that African governments are rather in- 

tensely corrupt, and so simply to hand them over in effect large wodges  – 

amounting to billions of pounds – of the British public’s cash as “Budget 

support” is not a policy that is going to strike the man in the street as glar- 

ingly sensible. 

DFID would argue, with some justice, that they then carefully monitor 

the spending of the African government and the achievement of the ob- 

jectives of the programmes, to make sure the money is being well used. 

There are two problems with this.  The first is a wonderful DFID word, 

fungibility.  It means the ability to switch around funds and I think the 

meaning is clear if you think of it as fudge-ability.  Put simply, it means 

that you put the £100 million DFID gave you for education, into educa- 

tion.  Meanwhile you put the £40 million of your own taxpayers’ money, 

that you had for education, into your own pocket.  Nobody will notice 

amid the flood of resources coming from donors.  Fungibility – where 

would the Swiss banks and London property market be without it? 

The second problem is that in its decade of re-orienting to budget sup- 

port, DFID has vastly reduced the percentage of funds it devotes to mon- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

itoring and evaluation – so it doesn’t really know how much fungible 

leakage is occurring. 

Anyway, Ian Stuart, the head of DFID’s Ghanaian operations, advised 

me that there was no way DFID would do something as old-fashioned as 

building a bridge, and though I continued to try for another year, he was 


Despite what I have written, there is a role for budget support in aid 

policy – an element of it is essential to have a real effect on primary edu- 

cation, for example.  And other approaches can also be fraught.  In 1999 

the British Council organised for DFID the delivery of basic textbooks to 

every single primary school in Ghana – a programme of which I was 

proud.   Again I made a point of journeying to the most remote locations 

to make sure they had got through, and in almost every case they had. 

But in a significant number of cases they were not being put to use.  One 

headmaster proudly showed me that they were “safe” in a locked steel 

container in a locked cupboard in his locked office.   The packets had not 

been opened.  Another teacher told me they read to the children from the 

books but did not let them see them as “They would get them dirty.”  

But in deep rural districts the biggest problem in education I had found 

was teacher absenteeism.  Talking to those teachers present, to local 

priests and others, I reckoned teacher absenteeism in rural areas ran at 

over 60%.  Often schools would have no teacher present at all, or a single 

teacher holding the fort for all the others – I suspect they took turns.  The 

simple truth was that educated teachers were not prepared to live in vil- 

lages with no running water, little electricity and none of the delights of 

urban society. 

I found DFID remarkably ignorant of the true state of affairs.  The prob- 

lem was that neither permanent nor visiting DFID staff or consultants 

would dream of calling in to a village school ten hours drive from Accra, 

certainly not without first giving warning and almost certainly arranging 

the visit through, and being accompanied by, officials from the local re- 

gional office.  Whereas I would be driving through the bush and simply 

see a school and call in.  DFID also credited official figures which, while 

acknowledging the problem, hid its true extent. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

To return to the Ghanaian election in 2000, it would be foolish to deny 

that there is a tribal element in voting in Ghana.  The Ewe vote over- 

whelmingly NDC, the Ashanti overwhelmingly NPP.  The significant 

swing is among other smaller tribes.  But then, it is foolish to pretend this 

is uniquely African.  Look at an electoral  map of the United Kingdom. 

The Scots and Welsh vote overwhelmingly Labour, the South East of Eng- 

land votes Conservative.  Celts have a higher than average propensity to 

elect Liberal Democrats.  Is all that tribal?  Yes, up to a point.  Ghanaian 

voting is tribal up to a greater point.  But there are other social and eco- 

nomic factors at play, too.  

In Ghana as in the UK, it is a matter of the community that you feel em- 

bodies and protects your individual interests, and a collective view or 

consensus within that community, on how best to take forward the in- 

terests of that community. 

Nor was electoral fraud limited to the NDC.  It was simply that, as the 

party in power, they had more opportunity.  In fact there were different 

methods of fraud prevalent, with the Ewe areas going for multiple voting, 

while the Ashanti rather favoured under-age voting.  The Electoral Com- 

mission had to guard against both. 

One key weapon was indelible ink.  When somebody voted, their 

thumb was painted.  It is difficult to find an ink that is truly permanent, 

and DFID, who were paying for it, found India to be the only source of an 

ink that truly could not be washed or rubbed off.  (Hence the term Indian 

Ink, which is what permanent markers were called when I was a child). 

This special ink was applied with a little plastic tube that was rubbed 

inside the nail, where it joins the skin, to make it hard even to sandpaper 

the ink away. 

Election monitoring abroad by EU member states normally comes un- 

der the purview of the European Union, but the EU reached the rather ex- 

traordinary conclusion that Ghana was a mature democracy and monitor- 

ing was not necessary.  Ghanaian civil society had mobilised to provide a 

number of formidable monitoring organisations, as Ghana’s middle class 

asserted itself.  I managed to persuade the FCO to provide three experts 

from the Electoral Reform Society for several weeks in the run-up to the 

election, with a further team of volunteers for the voting itself.  I was de- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

lighted that these included my old friend, Andy Myles, Chief Executive of 

the Scottish Liberal Democrats and a veteran of these monitoring missions 


There were a scattering of other European observers.  For the poll itself 

we effectively closed the High Commission and sent almost all our staff, 

local and diplomatic, around the country to observe the poll.  A few staff 

were also lent by other EU missions, who consented to put the ERS team 

in charge of the organisation of the whole effort.  The ERS team carried 

out training and allocated the staff, in teams of two, to different regions 

around Ghana, with instructions to tour the polling stations ensuring all 

was in order, ballot boxes were sealed, ballots checked, ID shown etc.  

A further valuable addition were two British MPs, Roger Gale and 

Nigel Jones, who came out under the auspices of the Inter Parliamentary 

Union. Their prestige with Ghanaian parliamentarians was a great help to 

our effort. 

The United States did their own thing.  This included, in what seemed 

to me an absurd example of political correctness, sending a delegation of 

blind election observers.  In any event, as the Ghanaian elections followed 

immediately upon President Bush’s fraudulent election, the US had no 

credibility on the issue. 

Votes were counted in individual polling stations, and then the results 

sheet, signed by the polling station officers and local party representat- 

ives, would be sent to a constituency centre for collation, together with 

the sealed ballot papers themselves.  In the constituency centres, constitu- 

ency results would be tallied, declared by the returning officer, signed off 

and sent to the regional centre.  In the regional centre they would be veri- 

fied, and then faxed to the Electoral Commission HQ in Accra.  We had 

supplied the fax machines, and back-up satellite telephone systems. 

Once polls had closed, our monitors would follow the ballot boxes 

through the stages, until they all reached the regional centres.  They 

would then telephone the results through to me at the Electoral Commis- 

sion HQ, so I could check the fax eventually produced at HQ against the 

result declared in the region.  It was at this stage that most of the fraud 

was to occur in the 2007 Kenyan and Zimbabwean elections, where vigil- 

ant local observers ensured accurate local results, but they were altered at 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the centre.  We had independent international verification of every re- 

gional result before it arrived at the centre, where it was I who was actu- 

ally taking it off the fax and moving it to the collation, so there was no op- 

portunity for fraud. 

The issue of photo ID cards brought perhaps the most startling ex- 

ample of people power in recent African history, exercised above all by 

the women of Ghana.  Alarmed that they were going to lose a fair elec- 

tion, the NDC government brought a case against its own Electoral Com- 

mission to seek to have the photo ID card system  declared illegal, on the 

grounds that it disenfranchised legitimate voters.  I knew this to be non- 

sense, but ever since a sitting Court had been murdered, High Court 

judges were reluctant to oppose Rawlings, and they ruled against the 

electoral commission and the ID card system, despite the mass demon- 

strations around Accra chanting “No ID No Vote”.  

It appeared I had wasted £10 million of DFID money on the photo ID 

scheme.  But I had seen two things from the court case.  One was the cour- 

age of the Electoral Commissioner, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, in being pre- 

pared to stand up to the bullying government.  The second was the popu- 

lar demand for the photo ID cards. 

The people now took over.  The polling station officers, all over the 

country, who had supervised the issuing of the photo ID cards, decided 

they were going to use them, whether the High Court wanted or not. 

These were local school teachers and bank or post office managers, and it 

was a quiet, middle class revolution.  While the voters themselves, as 

people queued to vote, were checking the others in the queue and kicking 

out anyone without a photo ID.  This movement was led, everywhere, by 

Ghana’s formidable female market traders.  This popular adoption of the 

Photo ID system was common throughout the entire country, even in gov- 

ernment areas: and in most of the country spontaneously supported by 

the local police. 

After myself inspecting polling stations all day, I entered the Electoral 

Commission on the night of 7 December, and carefully monitored the col- 

lation of the first round results.  A more or less uniform swing to the op- 

position across the whole country was soon obvious, and my phone ran 

hot as results were telephoned in to me from the regions.  There were just 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

a very few suspect constituency results, in  Brong Ahafo and Northern re- 

gions, sharply in conflict with the national trend, but 98% of the constitu- 

ency results rang true.  It became obvious that the opposition was head- 

ing for a small parliamentary majority, while no candidate would exceed 

50% in the Presidential election, leading to a run-off.  When the votes 

were finally tallied, John Kufuor had 48.4% against John Atta Mills 44.8%. 

The NDC had woken up too late to the fact that they could not win a le- 

gitimate election.  They had then made clumsy and unpopular steps to try 

and prevent a legitimate election.  The failed attempt to thwart the voter 

ID scheme was one example.  They also tried to move against FM radio 

when it was far too late. 

On the evening before the poll, I was taking Roger Gale and Nigel Jones 

to visit Joy FM, possibly Ghana’s most influential radio station, run by my 

good friend Sam Attah Mensah.  We were sitting in the back office of the 

station when an armed posse of Rawlings’ security men from the castle 

came in the front door and announced that they had come to close down 

the radio station on the President’s instructions.  

I appeared from the office and said: 

“Good evening.  I am Craig Murray, Deputy British High Commission- 

er, and these gentlemen are Mr Roger Gale MP and Mr Nigel Williams 

MP, members of the British Parliament who are here on behalf of the Inter 

Parliamentary Union.” 

Roger Gale then added: “Obviously there has been some mistake.  I 

thought I heard you say that you were closing down the station, but we 

are here to visit our fellow democracy, Ghana, and democracies don’t 

close down radio stations.” 

Nigel Williams then chipped in: “It must be a misunderstanding.  Per- 

haps you can go back and ask for more instructions?” 

The goons, thwarted by this unexpected manifestation of the British 

parliament, left in some confusion.  Joy FM never was closed down.  We 

returned to our tea, and Sam opened something a bit stronger to celeb- 


I had been able to predict the result of the first round with some accur- 

acy, having spent the past year travelling all around Ghana and speaking 

to Ghanaians of all ranks in both cities and villages.  I had also formed a 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

view of how many people had changed their vote since the election.  It 

was very obvious to me that the substantial change in Kufuor’s vote – up 

from 39.6% in 1996 to 48.4% in 2000 – was more due to our reducing fraud 

than to a change in real votes cast.  Put another way, I estimate the NDC 

cheated in 1996 by around 7% of the vote net (i.e. they cheated more than 

that, but some was cancelled out by cheating the other way).  I am satis- 

fied we reduced cheating in 2000 to under 2% net.  A fair election is one 

where the margin of victory is greater than the margin of cheating – you 

can hope for no more than that.  

Electoral fraud is everywhere. The glaring Bush 2000 election, with 

myriad black voters turned away from the polls and some very dodgy 

electronic voting machines, was no example.  I was myself to encounter 

more electoral fraud in Blackburn than I ever did in Ghana.  

With the second round looming, the NDC started to think that I was a 

part of their problem.  They assigned a secret service team to follow me 

everywhere, which must have been very boring for them.  Sam Jonah 

came round for a drink one day and remarked that the agents who used 

to shadow him had disappeared around a week earlier.  Now he knew 

why – he had just spotted them all lurking around my gate.  With my 

driver Peter I used to go for long pointless drives, because the security 

services had never been given enough money for petrol.  We also used de- 

liberately to go places our 4WD Mitsubishi Montero could go, but their 

saloon cars couldn’t.  

Rod Pullen, the High Commissioner and my boss, was also getting a bit 

alarmed that we were in too deep.  He saw dangers that we could be ac- 

cused of rigging the election if Kufuor won, or that if Mills won, the NDC 

might be vindictive against us for our strictness over the elections.  But 

Rod was still new in Accra, and I still had influence with Africa Com- 

mand of the FCO, and strong support from Clare Short.  Anyway, the die 

was now cast. 

DFID had to find more money to help fund the second round of voting, 

on 28 December.  16 million ballot papers had to be printed and distrib- 

uted.  Word was reaching me from many sources that the NDC was plan- 

ning to increase its vote in Volta Region – which it called its “World Bank” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

as it was so safe – by a big effort on multiple voting.   Minibuses and pick- 

ups were being assembled to bus voters around from booth to booth.  

Our chief weapon against multiple voting was the Indian ink, but there 

was not enough of this for a second round.  DFID had therefore bought 

more, but it had to be specially made, and the batch would not be ready 

until 24 December.  With the election on 28 December this was cutting it 

very tight, and we found that we would have to charter a private plane to 

get it to Ghana.  Chartering an inter-continental private plane to set off on 

the evening of Christmas Eve was more easily said than done.  I also had 

no budget and no way of getting one, Whitehall having gone into festive 

mode, so I took a chance on using the Embassy’s own local budget 

pending a resolution.   Yes, that ultimately got me into yet more trouble. 

The government plainly from various actions did not really want the 

Electoral Commission to get the India ink, and I was most concerned that 

it would get delayed by Customs.  That is why, on Christmas Day 2000, 

instead of eating my Turkey I was baking on the heat of the tarmac at Ko- 

toko airport.  When our plane taxied in, we quickly unloaded the boxes of 

little ink bottles straight onto two trucks.  I escorted these straight out of 

the VIP lounge gateway, helped by a substantial Christmas tip to the 

guards.  The truck drivers then set off around Ghana, taking the ink to the 

regional centres for onward distribution to the constituencies.  I spent 

Christmas evening briefing election observers; that sounds crazy, and it 

says something extraordinary for the spirit of those times that we had 

100% attendance of observers on a purely voluntary basis.  I remember 

Fiona, herself an observer, striding though the volunteers distributing 

Mince pies, and Andy Myles making a number of serious and valuable 

points while wearing a silly paper hat. 

As for Roger Gale and Nigel Jones, I cannot speak too highly of them. 

We British have a pretty scathing view of our MPs, and often it is justified. 

But while it was one thing for these MPs to come out in early December, it 

was quite another for them to give up their holiday and come out again 

between Christmas and New Year.  Frankly, I had not expected it. 

Nobody could say that this trip was a jolly, or even comfortable, and they 

certainly both dived into the field and worked hard.  Their presence un- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

doubtedly was one of the small factors that combined to tip the scales in 

favour of a successful democratic transition.  

It had been a major pre-occupation for some time to find a retirement 

role for Jerry Rawlings that he would feel commensurate with his dignity, 

and which would thus encourage him to give up power and move on. 

The UK had been making discreet soundings in the United Nations and 

other international bodies to try to initiate a tempting proposal that could 

be put to him.  Our efforts were hampered by the widespread internation- 

al perception that Jerry Rawlings was off his rocker, while the fact that he 

had been a military dictator who had executed (among others) his prede- 

cessor meant that we could not automatically count on support even from 

EU partners.  “He hasn’t murdered anyone for a while” is not the most 

compelling of arguments.  In the end we decided that it looked like the 

best that might be done was some sort of roving UN Ambassador status 

on HIV awareness and malaria prevention, which might utilise his un- 

doubted charisma and ability to communicate with Africans. 

One of the problems of history is that there is a tendency to see 

whatever occurred as inevitable, whereas there may have been in truth a 

whole range of possible outcomes, with tiny factors tipping the scales. 

Nowadays people tend to take the view that Ghana’s transition to real 

democracy was natural and easy.  Some even measure Ghana’s democrat- 

ic era from Rawlings’ 1992 plebiscite.  

But in fact in 2000 nobody could be sure how Rawlings would react to 

losing power.  The NDC had no shortage of hotheads like Tony Aidoo 

and indeed Mrs Rawlings – normally so influential over her husband – 

who wanted to react to a NPP victory with a military takeover and claim 

of electoral fraud. Rawlings held a meeting in a hangar at the military 

base of Burma Camp to judge the reaction of the army to a possible 

takeover.  He spoke of the dark forces threatening to usurp the country. 

My sources in the meeting told me that the soldiers became restless, and 

some even started to drift away as Rawlings was speaking.  But he had 

the security services and some military units still undeniably loyal to him, 

particularly his notorious “Commandos”.  Certainly at Christmas 2000 

nobody was ruling out a military coup. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

There was even a very real danger of civil war.   The Ashanti, who had 

been the dominant political force for centuries, were furious at what they 

saw as the stolen elections of 1992 and 1996.  If they were excluded from 

power again, there was a real danger that Kumasi, Ghana’s most teeming 

and vibrant city, would explode into violence.  In 2000, Ghana by no 

means felt safe from the spectre of violent conflict.  Every Embassy was 

dusting down and updating its emergency consular evacuation plan. 

Once again I found myself slap in the middle of a game being played for 

the highest possible stakes. 

Our election monitors dispersed again around the country.  I saw the 

head of our commercial section, Malcolm Ives, depart for the North with 

his wife Sue, looking like they were off for a picnic, with straw hats, 

hampers, and even that most English of facilities, a windbreak.50    The 

result of the second round of voting was a foregone conclusion.  Kufuor’s 

first round lead had destroyed Rawlings’ aura of invincibility.  I spent 

election day in Volta region, looking for evidence of multiple voting.  I 

found a couple of minibuses full of young men who were plainly engaged 

in multiple voting.  They all had traces of India ink on their thumbs which 

had plainly been sanded off.  A couple were actually bleeding.  I told 

them they were under arrest and to go and report to the local police sta- 

tion.  Rather amazingly, in both cases they actually did this, although I 

was only bluffing, having no authority at all. 

That evening with Peter at the wheel we raced back through the dark- 

ness to Accra, for me to take my place at the Electoral Commission.  It is 

on a small back street near Ridge.  I found both entrances to the street 

blocked off by soldiers.  They said they were there to guard the Commis- 

sion, but this seemed to me ominous.  There was a definite tension in the 

Electoral Commission that night which had not been so obvious in the 

first round. 

Slowly, from around 1am, constituency results started to come in. 

There wasn’t much movement from the first round, but there was a slight 

additional and more or less consistent swing to Kufuor.  You could have 

50Malcolm and Sue were a really nice couple.  Malcolm was always friendly and helpful, 

and I was extremely sad at his quite sudden and early death not long after leaving Accra 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

cut the tension with a knife.  Party representatives came in and out, check- 

ing on what was happening.  The Electoral Commissioner, Kwadwo 

Afari-Gyan, was the coolest man in Ghana that night.  He and I sat in his 

office, collating the master register of the faxes from the constituencies 

and personally checking the addition of the votes.  When there was a 

pause, we would stop for a beer and discuss how the election was going. 

Kwadwo’s phone kept going, and after a while it became clear that he 

was getting a whole string of threatening phone calls from the Castle, in- 

structing him to fix the result.  He replied very calmly: “The result will be 

what the result will be.  I am just making sure it is fairly counted.  I have 

no influence on the result.”  It became his mantra. 

Then, suddenly, taking his umpteenth phone call, he stiffened.  He 

summoned me to his side to listen.  It was his wife.  Soldiers had come to 

their bungalow, taking Kwadwo Afari Gyan’s wife and children hostage. 

They were threatening to kill them if he did not deliver the “Right” result. 

As the pressure on him had mounted through the night, the only sign of 

stress that Kwadwo had given was to smoke faster and faster.  Now he 

barked down the phone: 

“Put their leader on.” 

A soldier quickly took the phone, and started repeating the demand to 

Kwadwo.  Kwadwo interrupted him.  It is very taboo for Ghanaians to 

swear, so I have edited what Kwadwo said: 

“Listen you little *****.  Do you think you soldier boys can still tell us all 

what to so?  How dare you come to my house and threaten my wife and 

children.  I am sitting here with the British Deputy High Commissioner, 

and he knows what is happening.  Now get the **** out of my home be- 

fore we have you thrown into jail!” 

There was a short silence, and then the soldier said “Yes sir, sorry sir.” 

Kwadwo then told his crying wife not to worry, and turned calmly back 

to his work as though nothing much had happened.51 

51Remarkably, this story of the Electoral Commissioner’s family being held hostage by 

the military has never become public.  Kwadwo is not the kind of man to tell it, and I was 

the only other one there.  Ghana has never given Kwadwo all the honour he deserves.  I 

called on Kwadwo in February 2008 to confirm that my memory of this is correct.  He 

confirmed that it is. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Two other unwelcome developments had started to happen.  The first 

was armed soldiers appearing inside the Electoral Commission, not actu- 

ally doing anything wrong, but just intimidating by their presence.  I kept 

throwing them out.  The second was that for the first time we started to 

get some apparently altered duplicate constituency results turn up.  I had 

our observers phoning in the results, and these always tallied with those 

arriving on the main fax.  But one or two different results from the same 

constituencies then started to follow, brought in by Afari-Gyan’s deputy, 

Mr Kanga.  It was not necessarily Kanga’s fault, but it was he who 

happened to bring them in.  I started to keep a jealous physical guard of 

the authentic results to avoid substitutions, and as the second night of the 

count moved into its early hours, I had been awake solidly for over three 

days, so I stole a couple of hours sleep with my head on the faxed origin- 

als of the election results for safekeeping.  It is that image of me that has 

found its way into Ghanaian popular mythology. 

I awoke again in the early hours, because we were now moving to the 

white heat of the crisis, and my mobile phone was constantly ringing.  By 

3am on the second night there remained only two remote constituencies 

still to declare.  Afari-Gyan and I calculated that, even if every eligible 

voter in those two constituencies voted for Professor Atta Mills, John Ku- 

fuor could still not be beaten.  Kufuor had been elected President.  But 

Kwadwo Afari-Gyan was not legally entitled to make the declaration until 

all results were in. 

This was now or never for the NDC; if they were to launch military ac- 

tion against the result, it had to be now.  And my contacts were calling 

from all over Accra, giving me details of the movements and the sayings 

of key NDC figures and senior army personnel.  There was undoubtedly a 

faction in the NDC that was looking to what could be done to cancel the 

result by military action. 

At the same time, Kufuor and his people had become highly nervous. 

Why was the result not being announced?  Were fraudulent results being 

prepared?  Was it going to be stolen again?  Was there a delay to enable 

the military to prepare? The NPP General Secretary, Dan Botwe, was 

pressing hard for a declaration.  Then, around 3am, I received two pieces 

of news about the same time.  Kufuor, on the advice of his key advisers 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

including Hackman Owusu Agyemang, was going to declare himself 

President.  Almost simultaneously the NDC had decided that, in the event 

that Kufuor declared himself the victor, they would denounce it as an un- 

constitutional coup and move in the military.  Just at this time I also re- 

ceived a firm order from Rod Pullen; he had heard that things may be go- 

ing pear shaped, and ordered me to leave the Electoral Commission 


I phoned Hackman: 

“Hackman, I hear you are going to declare victory.” 

“Well, it looks like we’ve won, and…” 

“Hackman, please, listen to me.  Do not declare.” 

“But it’s been…” 

“Please, Hackman, I beg you.  Tell John.  Tell him from me, personally, 

that Craig says he has to trust him.  Do not declare.  Then come to the 

Labadi Beach Hotel.  I will see you there in half an hour.” 

“OK, Craig, I’ll try.” 

Devonshire House was being watched, and I didn’t want Hackman be- 

ing seen scuttling around there in the early hours.  With some of Rawl- 

ings’ crew’s anti-British views, that might itself have been enough to spark 

a coup.  I shook hands with Afari-Gyan, and as I left the Electoral Com- 

mission, a squad of soldiers were coming up the stairs, guns carried 

rather than shouldered.  I yelled at them that soldiers were not allowed 

inside the building, they could guard it from around the perimeter,  Then 

I drove them before me down the stairs, and ordered the old man at the 

entrance to padlock the gate.   So at 4am the bar of the Labadi Beach Hotel 

became my HQ, with George Opata joining me, Peter shuttling messages 

all over Accra, and Roger Gale and Nigel Jones adding weight when I 

needed (they were living in the hotel and extremely sporting about being 

dragged out of bed). 

Hackman arrived and I explained to him urgently that Kufuor had, un- 

doubtedly won.  I told him that I absolutely guaranteed that Afari-Gyan 

would announce the true result when all constituencies were in.  But I 

also knew that forces in the NDC were poised for a military takeover if 

Kufuor made an “Unconstitutional” early declaration. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The big problem is that, although I am a big fan of Afari-Gyan, the NPP 

were not, viewing him as the man who delivered the fixed 1992 and 1996 

results.  But I had seen that he could be both brave and honourable, given 

the resources and support. Finally I persuaded Hackman to trust Afari- 

Gyan, and the NPP did not make a premature declaration.  The most dan- 

gerous moment had passed. 

I then concentrated on encouraging a wide variety of respected and 

senior elderly Ghanaians to send messages to John Atta Mills conceding 

defeat.  Atta Mills is an honourable man, and he did concede, to the abso- 

lute fury of Mrs Rawlings.  Mills thus killed off the chances of a coup. 

This all cleared the way for the formal declaration, made about 3pm, 

with Roger Gale and Nigel Jones supporting Afari-Gyan.  I sat in the next 

room, enjoying a quiet beer.  Then I went home and slept, completely ex- 


On the Sunday afternoon, I drove round to the home of President-Elect 

Kufuor.  We were both in shorts and T-shirts, and we sat in his garden 

with our sandalled feet up, drinking Chivas Regal and discussing plans 

for Ghana in the coming year.  

After a whole generation of rule by Rawlings, Ghana had come through 

to genuine freedom and democracy.  An African country had shown that 

real democracy was possible in Africa, with a change of power to the op- 

position after a good debate and a peaceful election.  This was really the 

kind of progress I so desperately wanted for Africa.  And I had helped to 

do it. 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 


Local Hero 

My main task was accomplished in Ghana, and I could spend my last 

year there undertaking important but not stressful tasks and basking in 

the friendship I had earned from Ghanaians.  It should be stressed that I 

still had many friends in the NDC, who acknowledged that Ghana had 

benefited from a genuine election, and were even prepared to say that a 

short period out of power would do them good, enabling them to become 

a real party and not just a Jerry Rawlings fan club. 

Fiona spent much of that last year in the UK, to get Emily started at a 

British primary school, leaving me alone in Devonshire House.  We had 

been through the difficult need to sack the long-serving steward, old Nas- 

ser.  Drink had been disappearing from our store at an alarming rate. 

Fiona had instituted a stock check system, and this had stopped the losses 

between functions, but Nasser was still reporting the use of improbably 

large amounts of spirit at functions. 

I had initiated a monthly meeting of the British business community, 

and one evening, after one of these gatherings of about thirty people, 

Nasser reported that we had used thirteen one litre bottles of Gordon’s 

gin.  I thought that highly unlikely.  We used small individual bottles of 

Schweppes tonic, and I asked how many of these had been used. 

“Seven”, he replied.  

Nasser had to go, having been warned several times.  He had been at 

Devonshire House many years, and lived in the servants’ quarters at the 

back of the grounds, so it was a horrible thing to do.  Once we actually 

fired him, the other staff quite cheerfully told us that he had regularly 

been passing crates of mixed spirits to an accomplice over the wall.  It had 

been going on for years.  It is very typical of Ghana that all my domestic 

staff knew, but nobody had told me, until after he was actually gone, 

when there was no harm in telling me.  Then they were completely mysti- 

fied as to why I might be angry with them.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

My good friend Hackman was newly installed as Foreign Minister.  His 

determination to protect Ghana’s interests led him, very early in his ten- 

ure, to indulge in a rather feeble bit of populism that brought us into un- 

expected conflict. 

Visa applications for Ghanaians to visit the UK continued to rise.  We 

were processing about 300 new applications every day.  Rather surpris- 

ingly, about two thirds of all applications were successful.  When the ap- 

plication was refused, a small stamp would be applied to a page stating 

“Visa applied for”, and this little statement would be underlined  in ink, 

as a warning for future applications that an application had been refused. 

This would not lead to automatic refusal of new applications, but it 

would certainly cause the entry clearance officer to look hard. 

As we had by far the largest and best staffed visa operation in Accra, 

our decisions were taken as a benchmark for other Embassies,  In practice 

once you had a British “visa applied for” stamp underlined in your pass- 

port, you would be unlikely to be able to get a visa to anywhere. 

This annoyed those refused, but we were surprised when Rod received 

an official letter from Hackman asking us to stop putting “Visa applied 

for” stamps in Ghanaian passports, as this amounted to a defacement of 

Ghanaian passports, which were the property of the Ghanaian govern- 


Having made this peculiar request to us, Hackman leaked his letter to 

the Ghanaian media.  It made front page news and was indeed popular, 

with the media angle being that Hackman had requested the British to 

stop refusing visas. 

As it happened, I was due that day to give a radio broadcast on Joy FM 

with a phone in on the subject of Gordon Brown’s debt relief initiative. 

Needless to say, the first caller asked me about Hackman’s request that we 

didn’t put “Visa applied for” stamps in passports.  The presenter added 

that surely the Ghanaian government indeed had the right to ask us not 

to put stamps in Ghanaian passports? 

I replied that the argument about defacement of passports seemed to 

me nonsensical.  Passports had pages specifically for the insertion of vari- 

ous stamps; that was what passports in practice were for.  Furthermore, 

when we actually issued a visa, we put a much bigger visa stamp in the 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

passport.  That was a bigger defacement, if you wished to describe it in 

those terms.  If the government of Ghana really wanted us not to put any 

stamps in their passports, then we couldn’t issue visas.  That seemed to 

me not a good road to go down. 

Two days later, Rod called me in to his room.  He had his gravedigger 

face on.  He said that Hackman had issued a formal complaint about my 

interview.  Hackman had said I was trying to make a fool of him on the 

radio, and that if we stopped issuing visas to Ghanaians, it would be a 

major diplomatic rupture.  Looking fixedly at the floor, Rod went on to 

say that I had no right to threaten to withhold visas from Ghanaians.  It 

was an extraordinary thing to do.  Looking ever more mournful, Rod said 

he had been obliged to report this incident to the FCO, including to Per- 

sonnel Department. 

I replied that I had not threatened to suspend the issuing of visas to 

Ghanaians – I had merely pointed out the logical consequences of saying 

we were not permitted to stamp Ghanaian passports.  I had specifically 

said we didn’t want to go down that road.  I pointed out that no other me- 

dia outlet had picked up on my interview, so it couldn’t have been that 

shocking; and I suggested that Hackman was being ridiculously thin- 

skinned.  Besides which, Hackman’s  letter had been out of order and a bit 

of low populism at our expense.  We should be robust.  Rod pointed out 

that we had not had a reply from London yet on how to respond to Hack- 

man’s letter.  He said he was banning me from further media appearances 

without consulting him first. 

I returned to fume in my office.  I phoned Hackman on his private mo- 

bile; Hackman denied point blank having complained in anything like the 

terms Rod had described.52  

I especially enjoyed working with the various British charities and 

NGOs operating in Ghana, many doing great work.  I have particular ad- 

miration for Sight Savers.  I visited several of their mobile clinics around 

Ghana, and it was truly heart-warming to see their surgeons restore the 

52At the time I believed Hackman over Rod, though with hindsight perhaps I was wrong. 

A few years later I sent Hackman a copy of Murder in Samarkand via a friend. 

According to that friend, Hackman tossed it aside saying: “Craig Murray!  He’s nobody 

now.  Jack Straw was right to sack him.” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

sight of scores of people every day by simple cataract operations.  In the 

UK, we think of this as an affliction of old age, but in Ghana Sight Savers 

were also helping many younger people.  There is no better feeling than 

seeing somebody have sight restored to them – it is like a continuous gen- 

eration of miracles.  My favourite was a boy called Ben, who I spoke to in 

Hohoe the day before his operation, and again the day after.  The second 

time I saw him he said: 

“Oh, you’re Craig Murray.  Nobody told me you were ugly.” 

Raleigh International are a good cause in a slightly different way. 

Providing adventurous projects for young British people, who pay a lot to 

participate, their benefit probably lies mostly in the development of the 

young British people rather than of the host nation.  But there was also a 

benefit to Ghana in having the Raleigh expeditions there.  They worked 

on clinics together with Sight Savers, built schools, and undertook a num- 

ber of projects with the Ghana Wildlife Department. 

One of these was the forest reserve at Ankassa, near the Ivory Coast 

border.  This is one of the few surviving stretches of primary rain forest 

for thousands of miles, and home to a good concentration of rare species 

including pygmy elephant and bongo.  The idea of the project was to im- 

prove local livelihoods from the forest by means other than poaching, 

through developing controlled tourist facilities.  Raleigh were building a 

visitor reception centre and educational walkway, a campsite, and an ob- 

servation post.  These were not small tasks.  The walkway involved a 

bridge over a river, and construction included use of great timber up- 

rights some eighteen inches square and twelve feet long.  

The Raleigh volunteers were living for months in hammocks simply 

slung between trees in the middle of the rain forest.  I went to visit them 

on what was billed as a “Morale-raising visit”.  It raised my morale, any- 

how – I don’t know if it worked for them.  

It was the Easter holiday, so I took Peter and my private car, and we 

battled our  way down to Ankassa though torrential rain.  When it rains 

in Ghana, it feels like someone just lifted a bit of the sea and dumped it 

straight on your head.  The rain is so dense you fear you might drown in 

it.  You very quickly find yourself knee deep.  It is an exciting and exhilar- 

ating experience.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The rain turned a five hour drive to eight hours, and it was dark as we 

threaded our way along a narrow, partly submerged track in the rain 

forest.  The World was limited by the beam of our headlights, and that 

was hemmed in and foreshortened by the sheets of rain.  Rounding a 

corner, suddenly our headlights hit a wet wall a few yards ahead.  It was a 

dead end.  Then, slowly, the wall moved away, and I realised to my 

amazement that it was an elephant.  Peter pressed on.  Eventually we 

were signalled to a halt by torches flashing from the track side, and met 

by half a dozen enthusiastic young volunteers from Raleigh.  They led us 

by torchlight along a track, half a mile into the forest.  There, in a dell – 

not a clearing, it was full of trees – was their camp, visible only as the odd 

flicker in the dark of torch or storm lantern. 

I am not sure I had ever seen blackness as dark as the darkness of that 

night.  A mature rainforest canopy is itself pretty impenetrable, even in 

daytime only letting through a dank green gloom.  But any chance of star- 

light or moonlight was removed by the vast banks of storm cloud, many 

miles high and covering the entire sky, that invisibly separated us from 

view of the rest of the universe.  Absolute, perfect darkness is something 

we rarely experience, and on which a torch beam has very little effect. 

Once I was in my hammock and the lights were off, the total absence of 

light was oppressive. 

I had not anticipated that we would be straight to bed (it was only 

about 8pm), but the volunteers started backbreaking physical labour at 

first light, worked all day, then got into their hammocks before total dark 

fell.  I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but it was straight out of my now sod- 

den clothing and into my hammock.  This consisted of a tarpaulin spread 

with sticks at both ends and suspended by ropes between two great forest 

trees, with a second larger tarpaulin bent over a single rope above it, tied 

to the ground both sides to form a roof. 

The problem was, the torrential rain wasn’t falling on to the roof, it was 

being driven in sideways under the roof and a substantial amount of it 

was collecting in the hammock.  I emptied it out before getting in, but my 

sleeping bag was soon sodden, and within a quarter of an hour I was 

sleeping in a positive puddle.  I considered cutting a hole in the bottom of 

the hammock with a penknife, but it wasn’t my hammock.  I could not 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

empty it out every fifteen minutes all night, so I decided just to try to 

sleep in the puddle, which was surprisingly successful. 

It says something for the ferocity of a Ghanaian storm that it could 

drive sideways a continual stream of great gouts of water, underneath the 

rain forest canopy and through the massed undergrowth, without any ap- 

parent diminution in the amount of the rain or speed of the wind.  As the 

bottom of the large hammock filled with heavy water, it sunk down more 

steeply and I, sleeping, curled more and more into the bottom.  I woke up 

choking.  My head had fallen below the water level in my hammock!  I 

cursed, wondering if anyone had ever drowned in a hammock.  I got out, 

emptied it again, and got back in (getting yourself into a sleeping bag on a 

hammock in total darkness is not easy at all).  As I lay there in the abso- 

lute dark, I heard from somewhere in the camp the distinctive noises of a 

couple having sex.  I could only admire the fortitude of youth.  

I awoke at 6.45 to a bright sunny morning with the camp bathed in 

green light, with my nostrils filled with the delicious mixed smells of 

wood smoke and bacon.  Opening my eyes I looked down from my ham- 

mock, to where a heart-stoppingly beautiful young girl was frying bacon 

and eggs over a wood fire.  She looked up at me and smiled, with her 

wide mouth and sparkling teeth and with her clear blue eyes.  She had 

long light hair and a delicate, freckled complexion.  

“Boz thought you’d be wanting your breakfast” she explained.  

She was one of those light, Scottish girls so fey as to be almost invisible. 

She told me her name was Rose and she was on a gap year before starting 

at Edinburgh University.  

She handed me breakfast on a metal plate and a cup of tea in a china 

mug with a picture of Lincoln Cathedral on it.  The campsite looked like 

the Battle of the Somme.  Now there was some light I could see that 

everything and everybody was covered in thick black mud, including all 

my clothes.  In fact it took me quite a while to identify one heap of dirt as 

my trousers. 

“They don’t call it rain forest for nothing” Rose said, “you’ll want those 

washing”.  She collected all my things and went walking down the path 

towards the river, looking like a mystical creature in the forest half light. 

Boz appeared, staring at Rose’s lithesome retreating back. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Yes, mate.  I know how you feel.  Gorgeous, isn’t she?” he grinned.  

Boz was a large, heavy man, in his late twenties, fond of a beer and 

with a ready laugh.  A self-employed builder from Birmingham, he was 

very different from the normal Raleigh participant.  He had come for one 

expedition and stayed on for another.  He wasn’t paying Raleigh and they 

weren’t paying him, but he was happy, and his skills were essential to dir- 

ecting his enthusiastic young volunteers.  

We went to inspect the very impressive building projects Raleigh were 

undertaking.  I was startled by their ambition.  Peter, who used to be a 

carpenter in the gold mines, started helping out enthusiastically, while I 

posed for photos with a hammer and a gaggle of beautiful girls in boots 

and hard hats.  The volunteers enjoyed showing off what they had done, 

and showing me around the reserve.  It is a beautiful place.  The “Bamboo 

cathedral”, a vast natural space enclosed by hundred foot arches of bam- 

boo, is amazing, with a truly numinous atmosphere.  As I stood looking 

up, a green mamba emerged from the litter of bamboo leaves at my feet, 

whipped through my legs, and vanished into a great clump of bamboo. 

Too soon I had to leave, as I was visiting another Raleigh project with 

Sight Savers in the afternoon.  I was giving Boz a lift back to Accra.  

“I know a good place for lunch; we are going past it anyway,” he said. 

He directed us to the Ankobra Beach Resort.  I felt in something of a daze 

as we walked in.  I could not explain why.  As we sat in the restaurant, I 

realised that it was again Easter Sunday, and one year later I was in ex- 

actly the same restaurant, at the same table, as I had been on Easter 

Sunday the last year when Buckman came in to me with the message of 

my father’s death.  I had not been back to Ankobra since, and would not 

have done so now if Boz had not suggested it.  It was not too wild a coin- 

cidence, but it still made me feel closer to my father.  

That put me in to a rather reflective mood, and Boz looked at me ques- 


“Still thinking about Rose?” he asked.  I said I was, and to lighten 

things up, I said that I bet him three beers I could get Rose’s name at least 

five times into my two minute speech at the Sight Savers clinic.  Boz read- 

ily agreed, adding: 

“But “A rose by any other name” is not allowed, OK?” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I readily agreed.  Arriving at the village housing the clinic, we found 

scores of local dignitaries seated under canopies, and then a large crowd 

of grateful patients.  It was all very celebratory.  The Sight Savers doctors 

and Raleigh volunteers, who were doing the organisation and nursing, 

stopped work for twenty minutes to watch.  Winking at Boz, I strode to 

the microphone, acknowledged the local chief and other dignitaries, and 

then gave a brief speech: 

“This morning, when I aRose, I was concerned how many people 

would bother to come out on Easter Sunday to this ceremony.  Nonethe- 

less I Rose to the occasion, and when I arrived I was delighted to see so 

many Rose upon Rose of beautiful people seated here.  That is of course, 

not a tribute to me but to the excellent work being done by Sight Savers 

and by Raleigh, helping those who once having suffered the slings and 

aRose of outrageous fortune, their sight is now thankfully restored…” 

Champs Bar in Accra remains my favourite bar in the whole world. 

The original Irish Rover in Warsaw was perhaps just better, but has long 

gone.  Champs still goes strong, and the atmosphere has not really 

changed in ten years.  Patrick, the Canadian owner, is a great host. 

Those young NGO volunteers, mostly from the US and UK, form the 

backbone of the clientèle, and when they hit town they are really out to 

party.  Add to that meandering backpackers, including a fair smattering 

of ageing hippies and rastafarians, a whole gaggle of young Ghanaian 

professionals, a few expatriates and prostitutes from West Africa, Eastern 

Europe and Morocco, and you have the most vibrant mixture I know. 

Somehow at least a score of extra totally random ethnicities get added 

into that mix on any given Friday night, and you have the most multi-cul- 

tural crowd imaginable.  I used to be the oldest person there in 1999, and I 

am still going. 

My favourite drinking companions were the girls who worked in our 

visa section.  It was sadly not possible to give jobs on visa issuing and visa 

processing to Ghanaians – the social pressures on Ghanaians from family 

and friends to steal or defraud visas would be absolutely irresistible.  You 

would be putting Ghanaians in an impossible position, and even possibly 

at risk, if it were known they had physical access to visas.  I had a con- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

stant fight with London over this, because of the most senseless piece of 

New Labour political correctness combined with Treasury meanness – 

bluntly, it’s cheaper to employ Ghanaians.  I fought off the demands to 

“indigenise” visa issuing and processing, at one stage facing an accusa- 

tion of racism for my insistence that it would be wrong to give the job to 

Ghanaians.  The strange thing was, every one of my many Ghanaian 

friends agreed with me entirely that it would be crazy to employ Ghanai- 

ans in this role.  It was people in Whitehall who had never seen West 

Africa who were pressing for it. 

The upshot was, that I was able to reserve the jobs for non-Ghanaians, 

but at salaries too low to attract British people, even partners of those 

settled in Ghana or in the High Commission.  So we ended up recruiting a 

number of young people who enjoyed being in Ghana and were not too 

bothered about money, and a number of Eastern Europeans.  I made great 

friends with these girls.  There was Michaela from Germany, a real party 

animal with a motherly soul; the very conscientious Luda from Belarus; 

pert little Nathalie who was half Russian and half Togolese; the beautiful 

ethnic Korean, Irina from Tashkent, who had a husband in the US Em- 

bassy, and the imposing Ukrainian Zhanna Horn, who with her Scots hus- 

band Keith formed a permanent party.  These were the people I spent my 

weekend nights with.  After Champs we would often go on to The Office, 

a great cocktail lounge owned by a friendly Sierra Leonean named Abdul. 

This venue was always very crushed and much given to spontaneous 

dancing.  As I often had my arm in a sling or strapped, Abdul installed 

me on a cocktail stool on the barmen’s side of the counter to save me from 

the crush.  Just as had happened in Poland, I soon reached the stage 

where in my favourite bars they never charged me. 

I came downstairs in Devonshire House one Sunday morning with a 

frightful hangover, one of those really piercing headaches you get when 

you have been mixing your drinks too foolishly.  I staggered into the kit- 

chen and filled the kettle from the big stainless steel water filter in the 

corner.  Then I pushed the plug into the socket.  Surreally, I met with no 

resistance and my hand just kept moving forward until my arm was fully 

extended.  For a split second my rather blurry brain was trying to make 

out how this could be, then my eyes focussed on the kitchen wall, which 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

seemed to be falling away from me in slow motion.  Bloody hell, what 

had I drunk last night?  Then there was a huge “Crash!”  The wall hit the 

ground, and I was staring out at the garden through a cloud of dust 

That would be pretty disorienting even if you didn’t have a hangover.  I 

had simply pushed the wall out trying to insert a plug.  I had not dis- 

covered superpowers.  It turned out that the kitchen, which was a single 

storey addition on the back of the house, had been built of a single file of 

bricks and without any foundation at all.  

I didn’t realise it, but I was in great danger as I stood there, bewildered. 

A single concrete slab had been cast on top of the wall for a roof.  The con- 

crete was over a foot thick, and the slab must have weighed many tons. 

The back wall having fallen out, it was held up only by the two equally 

flimsy side walls, which had of course just lost most of the little structural 

integrity they had.  I stepped over the rubble into the back garden and sat 

down on the grass, still clutching my kettle.  I had to go and live in the 

Labadi Beach Hotel for a couple of months while Devonshire House was 

partially rebuilt.  

A very bright young Second Secretary, Greg Quinn, had replaced Mike 

Nithavrianakis on the political side, and Greg had organised an intern 

from the FCO to spend the summer with us.  Her name was Adrienne Ra- 

mainian, an English girl from a French Iranian family, and she came with 

a very impressive CV.  As Greg brought her in to my office on her first 

morning, I was even more impressed by her darks wells of eyes and by 

her dazzling smile.  She was a witty, charming companion.  I took her to 

Champs, and took her marlin fishing with my great friend Bryan Harris at 

his superb beach house at Ada, where we spent many lazy afternoons.  I 

introduced Adrienne to President Kufuor.  We spent her first week in Ac- 

cra constantly together, and the hour got later every day in which I 

dropped her back at her flat, with a chaste peck on her forehead. 

London had called for a report on child labour in the cocoa industry. 

Cocoa remains fundamental to the Ghanaian economy, but the major 

farming areas had retreated westwards before the spread of blackpod dis- 

ease from the East.  I asked Adrienne if she would care to join me, and we 

travelled by Landrover deep into the major cocoa producing regions. 

After a long, eventful journey, much of it on unmade road through forest, 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

we arrived at the district capital of Enchi, and stayed there in a govern- 

ment guest house.  We had a chicken supper, washed down with the 

champagne I always took with me when I travelled.  After supper we 

called on the village chief, which involved a lot of Schnapps, and then vis- 

ited a very pleasant Scottish volunteer named Donald, who came from 

Crieff and was teaching maths at the local teachers training college. 

By the time we returned to the government guest house, it was late and 

we were not entirely sober.  The staff had automatically taken my things 

into the master bedroom, which was large, clean and air-conditioned, 

with a double bed.  The other available bedrooms were old and very dirty 

with no air-conditioning.  Adrienne’s stuff had been taken to one of these. 

I gave Adrienne her customary peck on the forehead to say goodnight. 

“I was wondering,” I asked, “would you like to sleep in the double bed?” 

Crack.  Her open palm slapped hard into my cheek, sending my spec- 

tacles flying across the room.  

“I thought as much,” she yelled, “you just brought me out here so you 

can try and screw me.” 

“No,” I said, “I didn’t mean that.  I just meant would you like the single 

bed, and I’ll take the crummy room.” 

I was telling the truth, and the misunderstanding was so funny that we 

both dissolved in giggles.  They were a bit hysterical, partly because we 

were drunk, and partly because her remark had stripped away the cover 

on a whole mess of sexual tension between us.  She declined the better 

bedroom, and we each went to our own beds. 

The next day we started a slow sweep Eastwards through the cocoa 

belt.  We stopped in many towns and villages, and then I would ask the 

farmers about their practices regarding child labour.  I would also ask the 

chief and the local priest, if I could find one, and ask the schoolteacher if 

children were missing school through work on cocoa. 

The results were consistent.  Cocoa in Ghana is a smallholding crop, 

with individual farmers having a hectare or two of mixed crops, includ- 

ing cocoa.  It is not a plantation crop as it is in Brazil or Ivory Coast.  That 

is why Ghanaian cocoa is of higher quality, and commands a premium on 

commodity markets.  Cadbury’s chocolate in the UK uses 95% Ghanaian 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

There is an old sailor’s rhyme that goes: 

“Beware, my boy, o’the Bight o’ Benin, 

There’s one that comes back for twenty goes in.” 

That wasn’t too much of an exaggeration.  White people just could not 

survive the climate and disease of West Africa, before the advent of mod- 

ern medicine.  There are numerous sad little colonial graveyards all over 

Ghana, not just in Accra and Kumasi, but all along the coast in places like 

Keta, Ada, Elmina and Axim.  The surviving gravestones show most of 

the occupants to be in their early twenties.  Nor could their cattle survive 

the climate and pests. 

A country where white men could not settle, and the cattle could not 

live, had the advantage of being subject only to the lightest form of coloni- 

alism.  Locals were not forced from their land as they were in Kenya or 

Zimbabwe, and traditional land structures remained in Ghana, as did the 

chieftaincy institutions which control them.  That is a major contributor to 

Ghana’s social stability. 

I used to be a devotee of the theory made popular by De Soto, that se- 

curity of land tenure, giving a farmer mortgageable capital to raise cash 

for improvement, was a necessary step to development.  Now I have my 

doubts.  The violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast can all be 

traced directly to the uprooting of peoples entailing disruption of tradi- 

tional land patterns. 

We are also terribly arrogant about African farming, convinced that our 

science and techniques are better than the knowledge of those whose 

methods have accumulated from the experience of thousands of years 

winning a living from the soil in local conditions.  In Ghana as elsewhere 

in Africa, farming has to cope with extremely friable soil, baking heat, and 

rain that comes in heavy torrents.  No matter how careful the design of 

bunds and ditches, every attempt I have seen to introduce Western sys- 

tems has resulted in massive soil erosion.  

We also patronisingly underrate the productivity of African farms.  A 

typical mixed and intercropped Ghanaian smallholding is actually highly 

productive from the available resource.  Often to the untrained eye the 

spindly cassava and tufts of yam, mixed in with plantain, tomato, cocoa 

and even citrus, just looks like a bit of bush.  I enjoyed walking Adrienne 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

around and explaining all of this, and she had the politeness to look inter- 


My conclusion was that there is no real problem with child labour in 

the Ghanaian cocoa industry.  It is almost unheard of for children to work 

on any smallholding except their own family’s.  There they are simply 

helping their dad or uncle.  They are not working long hours, and for 

someone to miss a couple of weeks school in the harvest season would be 

extremely unusual, and would be about as bad as it gets. In short, I con- 

cluded that the problem which existed on the plantations of Ivory Coast, 

does not extend into the smallholdings of Ghana. 

After we finished our cocoa investigations, we went to visit Ashanti 

Gold’s mine at Obuasi.  Following my role in resolving their financial 

crisis, I was extremely welcome there.   To enter Obuasi leaves you in no 

doubt that you are approaching an environmental disaster.  A pall of 

choking red dust hangs over the town, and absolutely everything – build- 

ings, trees, vehicles, clothing, people – is stained by it.  The town is as 

sorry and dilapidated a shanty town as you can imagine, with cascades of 

rubbish on the hilly terrain.  It is a disgrace that the town that produces 

the greatest concentration of wealth in Ghana should be one of the least 

prosperous.  Ashanti was doing a certain amount in community pro- 

grammes, but plainly not nearly enough. 

By strange contrast, once you pass through the vast security fence into 

the mine area itself, the environment greatly improves.  The offices and 

management housing have the air of a colonial hill station and are located 

upwind from the mine.  We were very warmly received and taken on a 

tour.  The sheer size of the  opencast pit is breathtaking, with great 

vehicles roaring past and down the vast helter-skelter sides, until very 

quickly they look like small insects scuttling around below. 

Best of all is to see a gold pour.  In the gold house, a strapping bearded 

Ghanaian, in huge padded leather boots, a great leather apron and a 

welder’s helmet, raked the slag off the liquid fire of the furnace.  Then he 

tilted the crucible until a great stream of white hot gold gushed forth, fall- 

ing down one, two, three, four, five steps and forming ingots in the hol- 

lowed out mould in each.  This was the moment, the culmination, the 

apotheosis of thousands of tonnes of dirt milled, sieved, washed, sorted, 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

reduced and fired.  No matter how good the assay, you never really knew 

how much gold you had in your ore until this moment, when you saw 

how many ingot moulds the pour filled.  Afterwards, Adrienne got to 

hold a whole ingot; I have never seen eyes burn with lust the way Adrien- 

ne’s did as she saw the ingot and bent her knees to heft it.  I only wish her 

eyes had looked like that when she saw me! 

We stayed the night in the mine’s guest house.  Built in 1950’s colonial 

style, with Crittall aluminium windows, it was built on a steep hill so that 

the ground floor entrance on one side led to the first floor balcony on the 

next.  We had eaten a roast chicken dinner and the cook had just gone 

home.  The living room led on to the balcony and we decided to go and 

sit outside.  I had to put my shoulder to the metal door to get it open, 

with great difficulty and a nasty scraping noise. The hinges appeared to 

have dropped and there was a gouged arc in the concrete floor of the bal- 

cony.  I pushed the door  back closed again to keep out the mosquitoes. 

We sat on the balcony to enjoy our wine in the night.  Being so isolated, a 

dense canopy of stars spread above us with astonishing clarity.  I have 

never known the sky look so full. 

As we sat, rather awed, suddenly there was a hideous shriek from the 

garden.  It sounded almost, but not quite, human.  It sounded like some- 

body in extreme pain.  It seemed to come from very close, from the 

garden just below the balcony.  We both got up to look; there was a Stygi- 

an darkness down there, and no sign of movement.  Then more shrieks, 

unnervingly close and very human.  I looked at Adrienne: 


“No, thank you” she replied. 

Suddenly, the whole garden seemed filled with wailing, so loud we had 

to shout above it. 

“It really does sound like a lot of… things”– I didn’t like to say people. 

“And it sounds exactly as if it is coming from just down there.” 

“Weird, isn’t it?” said Adrienne, “must be a trick of the hills.” 

The suddenly, the noise stopped, with no prior abatement, just as if 

someone flicked a switch.  The silence was extraordinary, and it was a 

good thirty seconds before the cicadas whirred into life again and the nor- 

mal thrum of an African evening reached our ears. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

We both agreed that evidently there had been some noisy birds in the 

garden which had been suddenly frightened off by something.  I refilled 

our wine glasses and we tried to get back to normal conversation, when 

suddenly there came an angry scream, undoubtedly a human yelling at 

the top of his lungs, and it came from right beside us on the balcony – but 

there was no-one there. 

“OK, now I am scared” I said.  

Adrienne just nodded, wide-eyed.  Then suddenly the balcony door 

slammed open with a great crash. 

I tried to appear calm: “That’s strange, I didn’t feel any wind.” 

“That was really difficult to open earlier” said Adrienne. 

“Yes, it was.  Perhaps something fell back into place.” 

“Can we go inside now?” 

“Good idea.” 

Sticking together, we walked to the door.  It had opened with force and 

really wedged itself against the concrete at the end of its gouged arc, so as 

we entered the house it took both of us to wrench it back closed again.  I 

then opened it once more to see if it could now swing freely outwards. 

No, it still took a great deal of effort to get it open. 

“Look, don’t worry.  In this climate you easily get freak gusts of wind” I 

said, unconvincingly. 

Adrienne curled up in an armchair with a book, while I closed the bal- 

cony door again.  It had a hinged metal bar as a locking device.  When 

you swung it into position two closed metal loops, one attached to the 

balcony door and one to the frame, passed through a slit in the metal bar. 

You then passed the hasp of the padlock through both metal loops and 

locked it, securing the bar in position.  It felt very comfortable to have that 

door firmly locked against whatever was outside, even if it only was un- 

nervingly noisy birds. 

I got out a book myself and took another armchair.  After a few minutes 

Adrienne said: 

“Did you do that?” 

“Do what?” 

“Did you organise that performance to try to scare me into your bed?” 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“Certainly bloody not!  I’m sorry, of course I mean I’d love to have you 

in my bed, but I didn’t organise – whatever it was that happened.  How 

could I?  I don’t really know what happened myself.” 

“Well, it nearly worked.” 

Suddenly there was a metallic clang, then the balcony door flew open 

again with an almighty crash. 

Adrienne looked at me accusingly. 

“I thought you locked that.” 

“I did.  I mean I was sure that I did.”  

Now I really was feeling scared; that cold, clammy feeling when all 

your skin starts to sweat and the hairs stand up all over your body, and 

you feel uncertain if you want to go to the loo or to run. 

 With a huge effort I stood up and walked calmly to the balcony.  I 

looked out; there was no sign of anything or anybody.  I must just have 

not closed the padlock properly.  It was lying on the floor – I bent down 

and picked it up.  It was firmly locked!  This was impossible.  The locked 

hasp had somehow passed through the two closed metal loops of the 

door and frame.  I checked these and found them undamaged.  What on 

Earth had just happened?53 

I was shaken and confused.  Again it took a great deal of effort to 

scrape the door back over the floor and close it.  I fetched the key of the 

padlock, opened it, and went through the locking process again.  I could 

figure out nothing which I might have done the first time which could 

have that result.  Adrienne and I, by some unspoken agreement, did not 

talk about it further.  We both resumed reading our books, and after a 

little desultory conversation, went to our respective bedrooms.  I lay 

awake for quite some time, alert to every sound and moving shadow, but 

eventually tiredness overtook me.  The rest of the night was uneventful 

for both of us. 

The next day, before returning to Accra, I took Adrienne down to Cape 

Coast.  We visited Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle.  The castles of 

Ghana are an absolute wonder, and it is astonishing that they should be 

53 Kind friends have urged me not to publish this story.  I offer no explanation, I saw the 

impossible.  If we shy away from recording events we cannot explain for fear of ridicule, 

we will not help to advance the cause of human understanding. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

so little known in the UK.  The rival European empires established forti- 

fied trading posts along the coast, and these developed into fully fledged 

castles.    Elmina, built in 1480 by the Portuguese, was the first, and it is so 

old and so thoroughly European that it is really hard to believe it is in 

Africa.  The Dutch, Danes and British all followed and all built massive 


At first the traders sought gold and ivory, then the castles became the 

great depots of the transatlantic slave trade, then in the nineteenth cen- 

tury they were headquarters to the British Navy West Africa patrol as 

they fought to put down the slave trade.  Cape Coast castle remained the 

seat of the British colonial administration, and Ghana is still in 2008 ad- 

ministered by its Presidency from the 450 year old Danish castle of Kristi- 

anborg in Osu.  My good friend Thomas Svanikier grew up in Osu, a des- 

cendant of an 18th century Danish governor of the same name.  Ghana is 

full of living reminders of its long and mixed relationship with Europe. 

Some of the castles are exploited as a tourist attraction, with a strong 

eye on the interests of African American tourists.  But they concentrate ex- 

clusively on the slaving period of the castles.  Slavery was a terrible thing, 

and should be remembered.  But there is a dishonesty in the ideological 

presentation, which refuses to acknowledge the key role played in the 

slave trade by Africans.  Over 90 per cent of the slaves exported from 

Africa were sold by Africans.  Forget Alex Haley, white men did not go 

out catching slaves.  White men were of course far and away the chief be- 

neficiaries of the trade.  Slavery is a terrible blot on the history of Britain, 

most European countries and the United States.  But many African chiefs 

did rather well out of it too.  Later, there were thousands of Royal Naval 

personnel based in and around Ghana’s castles who died in West Africa, 

mostly of disease, over almost a century of concerted effort to stamp out 

the trade.  They also deserve a mention.  While we should always remem- 

ber, we should remember the whole truth, not just the simplified black su- 

premacist version which Ghana is now teaching. 

After the castles, I took Adrienne to the canopy walkway.  This is truly 

spectacular, as you walk across rope bridges suspended in the rain forest 

canopy, some 50 metres off the ground.  It was built by a Canadian NGO, 

and the fun is that, while it is perfectly safe and impossible to fall off acci- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

dentally, it feels dangerous.  It doesn’t really have the claimed educational 

or ecological value, any wildlife having been scared away from the area 

years ago by all the people on the walkway.  But it is certainly fun.  I was 

later to take a party of British MPs along it.  Diane Abbott had no prob- 

lems, but one strapping male Tory MP could not cope with the heights.  

Adrienne was now a little nervous, but managed OK.  I had organised a 

private tour, so we were the only people up there.  As we stood on a plat- 

form high above the ground, looking down at a sweep of rain forest 

through the valley, I decided that it was now or never, and leant forward 

to kiss her.  I had only made the very first move of my head, when she 

screamed and leapt back.  I thought that was a bit of an overreaction, then 

she pointed on to the walkway, just a few yards from us.  It was yet anoth- 

er bloody green mamba!  I know people who have been in Ghana sixty 

years and never seen one.  They seemed to be chasing me everywhere.  

The moment had passed.  Back in Accra, Adrienne and I continued to 

spend almost all our waking moments together.  She would invite me 

back for coffee in the evenings, and one night I sat up until about 3am, 

her head on my chest, stroking her hair, while she talked about her life 

and her hopes.  Still I made no real move – I don’t exactly know how it 

happened that way. 

I was giving one of my spectacular parties for British volunteer workers 

in Ghana and their Ghanaian contacts.  I was expecting about six hundred 

people.  They came from Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO originated in 

Ghana), Raleigh International, Teaching and Projects Abroad and a host 

of smaller organisations.  

These parties had a very special atmosphere.  Most of the participants 

were in their gap year; they were embarked on what would remain in 

many cases the great adventure of their lives.  They had mostly been 

working very hard, often living in what by British standards would be 

deprivation, eating local food with no drinkable tap water, no computer 

or satellite TV and sometimes even no electricity.  Sometimes they came 

from very isolated locations.  Certainly at least the Raleigh people had not 

been allowed to drink on expedition. 

Now they were thrown into the grand surroundings of Devonshire 

House, with three hundred flickering paraffin lights lining the sweep of 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

the drive between the large manicured lawns.  A couple of football pitches 

worth of lawn was bathed for the occasion in bright halogen light, and the 

grass extended beyond into the darkness. 

As I greeted young people as they started to pour out of buses, 

minibuses, taxis and battered Landrovers, I realised with surprise that I 

seemed a posh and important figure to these people, even remote.  Then, 

as they wandered into and through the house, between verandahs and 

marquees, the guests were offered every possible drink by a score of 

white jacketed waiters, and ate fillet steak, cheese soufflé, or a vast variety 

of canapés.  

Everyone had showered and the girls, their hair washed perhaps for the 

first time in weeks and glistening down long, tanned, bare backs, were 

each wearing their one party dress that had been retrieved from the bot- 

tom of the rucksack and lovingly ironed.  The boys were fit and tanned, 

open neck shirts revealing strings of multicoloured beads, hair long and 

wild, bodies fit and bronzed.  Eyes were bright and sparkling.  There 

would be a huge amount of shagging after the party, and even some dur- 

ing, as couples discovered the guest wing or the distant swathes of unlit 

lawn and shrub.  I signalled to my steward John to start the music, and 

the words and spirit of Supertramp seemed entirely apposite as it swept 

over the lawns and out over Accra: 

When I was young 

It seemed that life was so wonderful 

A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical 

And all the birds in the trees 

Well they’d be singing so happily 

Joyfully, oh playfully watching me 

And this was the night I was going to have Adrienne.  Our flirting and 

our snogging had been building, and I had several times whispered into 

her ear during a clinch that we would do it after the party.  She had 

shuddered, ground her hips against me and given me what she called a 

butterfly kiss, brushing my cheeks with her long fluttering eyelashes. 

Tonight I would fuck Adrienne at last. 

The excitement of the party was building; the excited buzz was near ri- 

otous, the dance floor was full, everywhere there was animated conversa- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

tion, and my High Commission staff were doing their job in making sure 

that nobody was left out and lonely.  Adrienne had arrived and was help- 

ing out everywhere.  I was going from table to table and marquee to mar- 

quee chatting to guests.  When Adrienne and I crossed paths, she would 

give me a sultry look.  I snatched one moment alone with her, inside the 


“I think you’ll marry me now” I said. 

“Yeah, right.  You’ll have to do a lot more than this” she replied.  She 

kissed me and then quickly pulled away.  

“Work to do!” she teased and vanished back towards the melee. 

And it was a melee.  The thirst of these young adults was quite aston- 

ishing.  Even my battery of waiters were overwhelmed.  They had taken 

to simply handing out bottles of wine and even spirits.  Two of the five 

vast chest freezers used to chill beer were already empty.  The drivers 

were shuttling around the city for ice.  Table service had more or less been 

abandoned and the waiters had retreated behind the bar.  Although the 

bar tables were heavy, they were not fixed to the ground, and the pressure 

of the crowd against them had moved the bar back about five yards until 

the space between it and the freezers was cramped.  As people crushed to- 

wards the bar, it was like a scene from Zulu! only with the black people 

inside the barricade.  Greg Quinn was helping out manfully.  I went 

round the back, and started serving behind the bar. 

“Bottle of white wine – certainly, here you are.  Need any glasses? 

Three, OK.  John how many people are on glass collection?  Two?  Detail 

two more, and one more on washing.  And open some new boxes of 

glasses.  Sorry sir, what was that?  Guinness and two gins and tonic.  OK, 

hang on.  Greg, which freezer has the frozen lemon slices?  Right.  Ham- 

mer to that ice block John, quick!  Here you are sir.  What’s that?  Four 

Pimms.  OK, take the bottle.  Here’s four glasses of ice.  Fruit over there, 

here’s a knife, cut it yourself.  Yes?  Three lagers.  Coming up!” 

I turned and lent over a chest freezer, plunging my left hand down and 

pulling up a crate of cold lager.  Sudden, hideous pain. 



The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I fell down, the crate of lager landing on my chest. The world was full 

of nothing but pain.  I had no idea where I was.  I couldn’t breathe.  I had 

pulled my shoulder out of its socket again, hefting the lager. 

I was carried inside the house.  Despite the terrible pain, my brain 

cleared somewhat.  George Opata and John were with me.  

“Get my sling, John.  It’s in the bedside cabinet.” 

John and Opie fastened the sling, and I stood up.  It was absolute 

agony.  Every movement was so painful that I actually lost vision for an 

instant.  I went down the stairs almost entirely blind, staggered outdoors 

to the very first table and sat down at it, to the astonishment of the young 

volunteers who sat there. 

“Hope you’re enjoying the party,” I slurred, and grinned a rictus grin. 

My shirt was completely wet with sweat and beads of it were dripping off 

my brow.  John had followed me. 

“I’ll have a Talisker, John.” 

The volunteers tried to make polite conversation, their party mood tem- 

porarily halted, but I couldn’t really hear them and could hardly see 

them.  I was making a monumental effort of will, and my brain was calcu- 

lating my chances: 

“I must shag Adrienne: must shag Adrienne.  Christ I hope I can still 

get it up.” 

I stared at the breasts of the very pretty blonde girl next to me, to see if 

anything stirred.  I could see her whole left breast through the armhole of 

her kaftan.  Yes, things seemed to be working.  My brain still worked too, 

but it was slowing: 

“Must shag Adrienne. See doctor tomorrow. Arm a problem.  Can’t 

move much.  I’ll have to sit and she can climb on. Adrienne can climb on. 

Jiggle about a bit.  Gently though.  Hospital in morning.  Where is Ad- 

rienne?  Oh, here’s Michaela.” 

And I passed out.  The next thing I remember, I woke up again in the 

Trust Hospital around noon, with my shoulder reset and mercifully little 

pain.  Apparently as I was loaded into an ambulance I had kept shouting 

urgently to Michaela and Greg:  “Don’t stop the party.  Take over.  Keep 

the party going.”  But they had closed it down as they were nervous 

about having hundreds of partying people in my home without me there. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

This time they put my arm in a sling rather than tape it to my chest, 

and I had another week in Accra, continuing with Adrienne as before. 

This included a wonderful day as guests of Dick Barber at his little hut on 

the beach at PramPram.  Dick was an old Scot who had been the repres- 

entative for United Distillers, until it became plain that he might drink 

through the entire stock.  He was a bright, wry man with a great know- 

ledge of West Africa, and a genuinely kind soul.  He was not a well man, 

but it didn’t stop him enjoying life. I had organised British passports for 

his children by his long term Ghanaian partner.  We now had lunch on 

the beach. It was an idyllic day, which I think Adrienne loved too. 

The next night, I was returning to London for an operation on my 

shoulder.  By the time I returned to Accra, Adrienne would have finished 

her internship with us, so this was the end of the great unconsummated 

love of my life.  The FCO had told me that there was even a danger that, if 

Guy’s Hospital were unable to stabilise my shoulder, I might not be al- 

lowed to return to Accra at all.  So the gang were meeting up in Champs 

before I left on the midnight flight, just in case this turned out to be a 

farewell party. 

We had been drinking and chatting for an hour or so, with me circulat- 

ing round several groups of friends who had been summoned at short no- 

tice.  Adrienne was looking at me strangely.  Tears were forming in the 

corners of her eyes. 

“Don’t think I’ll miss you.  I won’t” she said to me quite loudly.  I was a 

little embarrassed by this, as there were quite a few people around.  

“Do you want to talk outside?” I asked quietly. 

“Not to you, I don’t” she replied.  I squeezed her arm, and she shook 

me off.  Not wanting a scene, I moved on to talk to another group.  After a 

while. Patrick the bar owner came and whispered in my ear “Craig, I 

think you’d better go and see Adrienne.” 

I walked across to where Adrienne was surrounded by a group of girls. 

She pulled me in and started insulting me, while I tried to calm her.  Ad- 

rienne was by now in full spate, the tears flowing freely.  She spoke with 

an unnerving sense of the iron control of extreme emotion.  I was dis- 

tressed that I couldn’t understand her train of thought so was at a loss 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

how to respond.  I just stood there grinning weakly.  She was laughing 

and crying simultaneously. 

“You bastard,” she said, “I hate you.  I really do, I…firmly… hate you. 

That’s forever.  You thought you could make me fall in love with you, did 

you, and then coolly go back to your wife?  Well it didn’t work.  I don’t 

love you, you see.  I don’t love you, I hate you.  You’re stupid and arrog- 

ant.  I hear you can’t even get it up.” 

She turned to the bar in general and produced a large, firm booming 

voice that sounded suddenly and surprisingly sober and unslurred: 

“Do you hear that?  He can’t get it up.  The famous Craig Murray can’t 

even get it up.  He never fucked me.  Do you hear that?  He never fucked 

me.  He wanted you all to think he did, but he didn’t” 

“What kind of man is this?  Ask yourself, is this a man, standing here 

with that stupid grin on his face?  Call that a man?  What kind of man 

takes a young girl, here in Africa, she’s young, she’s scared she’s thou- 

sands of miles from home, and this man, this man, her boss, he’s sup- 

posed to take care of her.  He’s supposed to look after her.  He’s meant to 

be like … like …a parent.  And then he abuses her.  He abuses her emo- 

tions.  What kind of man is that?  He abuses her.  He abuses a student in 

his care.  Abuses without fucking.  What does it mean, abusing without 

fucking?  What can it mean?” 

“I’ll tell you what it means.  I’ll tell you what it bloody well means. 

Fucks with her head.  He can’t fuck my body.  So he’s fucking my head. 

He’s scum.  I hate him.  You don’t know how bad he is.  He’s scum.  I hate 


Adrienne then sat down again and started to sob.  I went to move to- 

wards her but Michaela ushered me away.  While Adrienne was address- 

ing the bar, people had originally gone quiet and listened, but as the 

tirade developed they started talking again, and by the time she had fin- 

ished the conversation level was back to normal.  It was still early even- 

ing, there were only a dozen or so people in apart from our group, and al- 

most everyone there was a friend of mine.  A protective huddle of girls 

formed around Adrienne.  Patrick discreetly came up to my shoulder and 

suggested it was time I left for the airport.  He was right. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I had been trying to seem casual about my own feelings – indeed I had 

not really been quite sure what my own feelings were.  But now the mo- 

ment came to part from Adrienne, possibly forever, I felt suddenly over- 

whelmed by grief, like I was hollowed out inside.  I believe I visibly 

swayed, as though recovering from a blow.  Michaela later told me I had 

gone an awful blue grey colour. 

I walked up to the girls.  

“Anyone coming to the airport?” 

Luda immediately bounced up and took my arm 

“Of course, we all are” she said. 

Adrienne looked at me with red-rimmed eyes, the lower lids still 

welling tears. 

“I’m not coming with that bastard”, she said.  It was strange.  She gave 

no impression at all of someone pretending hate to hide love, which I had 

rather hoped it was.  It came over as deep hatred, plain and simple. 

Michaela massaged her back. 

“Come on Adrienne”, she said, “you can’t leave him like this.  He did a 

lot for you.” 

So six of us left for the car, a strange group.  I led and a knot of girls 

came behind, Adrienne almost being dragged along.  She was still looking 

daggers at me.  She sat in the back of the Land Rover with three other 

girls, while I squeezed into the front with Joe Domi the driver and little 

Nathalie.  I felt a strong urge to stop the car, tell her I loved her, and not 

go to London.  But with the agony from my left arm, held on by being 

taped to my chest, and a bed and operating theatre awaiting me in Guy’s 

hospital, I could hardly just pull out now.  I felt like a prisoner being led 


Arriving at the airport, we all piled into the VVIP lounge.  There I tried 

to raise the general spirits.  I had to dictate my particulars to the immigra- 

tion officer as I couldn’t write without the use of my left hand; I got half 

way through spelling out my occupation as D R U N K A R D when he 

caught on and scrapped the first form.  

“Mr Murray, you are our favourite but silliest customer” he said. 

When it was finally time to go, British Airways insisted on pushing me 

across the tarmac in a wheelchair because of my arm, even though I poin- 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

ted out I didn’t walk on it.  At the exit from the VVIP lounge, which has 

its own immigration and customs facilities, to the tarmac, Michaela 

pushed Adrienne forward: 

“She’s his wife.  She must walk with him to see him on the plane.” 

So Adrienne accompanied me across the tarmac, now through stream- 

ing rain.  She took my good hand when I held it out to her, and at last I 

started to cry.  Now we were almost alone, apart from the man pushing 

the wheelchair, my soul yearned for some final words of comfort, endear- 

ment and hope for the future. 

Suddenly, Adrienne produced a wild, primeval scream that echoed in 

the dark night along the miles of airport tarmac. 

“You’re fat.  You’re old, old and you’re fat.  You’re a disgusting pervert, 

a disgusting, old old fattie.  You’re so old you’ll die soon.  Good.  I hate 

you.  I want you to die.” 

I was astonished.  I still told myself that surely this was a reaction to 

her love for me, that in time she’d come round.  But real doubt was under- 

mining me. 

The wheelchair reached the aircraft steps.  I stood and turned, feeling 

foolish.  The guy who pushed the wheelchair looked from one to the oth- 

er of us in amazement, then discreetly walked away.  I felt bewildered. 

Here, then was the end of a great love?  As the rain streamed onto the tar- 

mac, sparkling orange in the sodium light, this should have been our Bog- 

art and Bergman moment.  I would never get a chance like this again, so I 


“Well – here’s looking at you, kid.  We’ll always have Obuasi”. 

“Just fucking leave” she said.  She easily evaded my one-handed at- 

tempt at a hug, turned and stormed back to the VVIP lounge.  The other 

girls were waving from the entrance. 

A BA man came forward: “Please, sir.  The aircraft is waiting for you.” 

“Oh, sorry.  Thank you.” 

I walked up the forward steps, self consciously turning and posing 

halfway up to wave to the girls.  I hope the rain disguised the tears now 

streaming down my own face.  Of course I always had the excuse of a 

busted arm. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

I was in first class so I could lay out flat.  The seats were equipped with 

credit card phones that could call from the air, and I spent the first four 

hours of the flight calling Adrienne’s Ghanaian mobile many hundreds of 

times.  She never answered, and I was tormented with the thought that 

she had gone and screwed someone else because of her emotional state.  I 

was utterly desolate. 

Well, not quite utterly.  Nathalie was a very pretty little thing indeed, 

with an extremely good figure.  Adrienne would not still be in Ghana 

when I returned, but Nathalie would.  As we were crammed together in 

the front of the Landrover, I had given her an exploratory lingering 

squeeze, right at the top of her left thigh, that could not  have been con- 

strued as merely friendly.  She had responded with a sparkling open- 

lipped smile.  

One should never forget there is always a future. 

I was in the UK for a few weeks, having a successful operation on my 


It won’t surprise you that by now the diplomatic service really were 

scratching their heads as to what to do with me.  Over-passionate, over- 

committed and given to complete no-nos like admitting that British firms 

were involved in corruption.  Completely undiplomatic, and yet at the 

same time undeniably successful far beyond the limited goals of ordinary 

diplomats, and with a repeated history of earning respect and admiration 

for the UK wherever I served.  In fact successive bosses had noted disap- 

provingly that they were unsure if I was gaining publicity for the UK or 

for myself: the point is the two went together without conflict, at least un- 

til I hit Uzbekistan where the last thing the government wanted was the 

high profile promotion of democracy.  I had the definite respect of Robin 

Cook and Peter Hain and at least the goodwill of Sir John Kerr, who vis- 

ited Accra while I was in Guy’s Hospital and predicted to Rod Pullen that 

my career would end either in glory or in flames.  He was to be proved 

right on both counts. 

But I was delighted to find myself appointed as British Ambassador to 

Uzbekistan.  I was judged to have done a very good job in Ghana, and 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

particularly to be adept at pushing forward on democratisation.  That was 

what was thought to be needed in Uzbekistan – until everything changed. 

I was wandering around the FCO’s Training Department with my arm 

in a sling. I had travelled in from Gravesend to discuss details of my fu- 

ture training needs for Tashkent.  But there was a febrile atmosphere in 

the FCO, like nothing I had ever experienced before.  Nobody was at their 

desk, and nobody had any time to answer my queries.  People were 

gathered in little knots around the corridors, while one or two people 

were bustling around very fast, holding bits of paper and looking ex- 

tremely self-important.  I grabbed someone and asked: 

“What’s up with everybody today?  What’s happening?” 

They looked at me pityingly:  “Don’t you know?”, and steered me to- 

wards a television at the end of a long open plan office.  It was showing, 

again and again, the planes crashing into the twin towers.  It was Septem- 

ber 11, and the first attack had happened just as I was catching the train at 

Gravesend station.  As I watched the towers fall again and again, helpless 

and mesmerised, there was an overwhelming sadness at what must be the 

death of so many innocent people.  But there was also an awareness that 

the world had just changed for me.  The whole international climate 

would be thrown into confusion.  Just how that was to affect me, I did not 

yet understand. 

Returning to Ghana that September, I had just three more months to 

serve there.  It was a pleasant time, more like a lap of honour.  My name 

had firmly passed into Ghanaian popular culture as the midwife of the 

democratic transition – with which Ghanaians were still overjoyed.  They 

became a bit disillusioned later, as is inevitable in politics.  

I had one important task left, which was to persuade the Ghanaian gov- 

ernment to accept debt relief under the HIPC scheme.  I had been having 

lunch once a week in La Chaumiere, an excellent French restaurant, with 

the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Kwabena Dufuor, who had brought 

respectability back to that institution.  Kwabena  told me that when he 

took over, he found that senior bank staff and political figures had been 

borrowing money from the central bank for personal use against hand- 

written IOUs.  


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

The Ghanaian financial establishment were worried that accepting debt 

relief would damage the country’s credit rating and remove access to cap- 

ital for future development projects.  I was arguing that freeing up over $1 

billion per year of their own resources – then equivalent to their whole co- 

coa export – would outweigh this, and the end of so much debt would in 

the long term improve their credit rating.  I had convinced Kwabena Du- 

fuor, only to find on my return from London in the Autumn that he had 

been replaced.  Paul Acquah was another excellent governor, but I had to 

start my convincing again. 

Kufuor’s first finance minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo, was a financial genius 

who prepared the ground for total GDP growth of over 70% between 2000 

and 2008, meaning that the 2000s will be the first decade since independ- 

ence that the Ghanaian economy hasn’t gone backwards.  He did it by re- 

ducing government interference in industry, but making government 

more effective in promoting services to support the nation and the eco- 

nomy.  This does not mean only education and health, but projects which 

facilitate commerce such as rural feeder roads and credit and input 

schemes for farmers.  Money from HIPC debt relief has been a major 

factor in this success.  Yaw did not need persuading of the economic case 

for HIPC, but faced a huge political difficulty.  

The problem was essentially one of pride.  Yaw complained to me that 

the name summed up the problem – HIPC stood for Highly Indebted 

Poor Country.  The NDC were already pillorying the government for con- 

sidering the acceptance of this demeaning title, and were portraying 

HIPC as a major instrument of neo-colonialism.  It probably does in fact 

say something about the attitudes of those who dreamt up the title for the 

scheme, that they did not consider African sensibilities on the subject. 

I had several meetings with President Kufuor to discuss this, and a visit 

from Clare Short was the final catalyst in getting Ghana to sign up for 

HIPC.  Rod Pullen held a dinner for Clare, attended by President Kufuor, 

Hackman, and four other Ghanaian cabinet ministers, plus John Mahama 

from the NDC.  Most of the Ghanaian ministers present were also English 

barristers.  Hackman had just made a polite after dinner speech about 

how much Ghana had learnt from the British Empire, when Clare Short 

stood up and expostulated: 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

“The British Empire!  The British Empire!  Don’t tell me about the Brit- 

ish Empire.  I know about British colonialism.  My father was Irish, and 

we know about British colonialism.  I’ll tell you what the British did to 

your country.  They exploited it, that’s what they did.  They exploited it.” 

There was a few moments stunned silence at this unexpected line from 

a British cabinet minister.  There is often a mismatch between the percep- 

tions of the passionately pro-African Westerner, myself included, and the 

perceptions of African themselves.  Also, as I have tried to explain, there 

were different kinds of British colonialism, and the Ghanaian experience 

was very different from, say, the Kenyan.  There were Ghanaians who 

would have agreed with her – indeed I partly agreed with her – but the 

senior echelons of the NPP were staunchly pro-British. 

President Kufuor rose to his feet and said “Well, the key point is, his- 

tory is past and we are all friends now”.  He proposed a toast to our 

friendship, and the evening ended happily.  I was happy.  I loved my job, 

and felt I was working for my country, and that my country on the whole 

did good in the world. 

Yet again, I was to find I was very wrong. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Epilogue – Seven Years Later 

The concierge opened the door and the Nigerian detached himself from 

the rich leather upholstery of the sleek, silver, range-topping Mercedes. 

He stalked into the lounge of the Sheraton, as glossy as the sheen on his 

Italian silk suit and as smooth as the mirrored lenses of his designer spec- 


My heart sank as he headed towards our little group.  I had taken on 

the chairmanship of a Ghanaian energy company to help out some 

Ghanaian friends.  Our little venture had prospered and we were looking 

to expand across West Africa.  In doing so I was determined to steer well 

clear of capital tainted with corruption or drugs.  My surest guide to do- 

ing that was to avoid people who looked and dressed like this man whom 

my colleagues had arranged to talk with us. 

West Africa is now the third largest centre in the World for money laun- 

dering and narcotics capital formation.  But in terms of the percentage of 

total capital formation which drugs money forms, it is far ahead.  Money 

laundering is the raison d’etre of many West African financial institutions. 

In Accra in March 2008  a World Bank sponsored conference held in Accra 

on money laundering heard an estimate that over 60% of the capital of the 

mushrooming private banking sector in Nigeria could be drugs money. 

Recently Nigerian banks have started taking out huge poster adverts all 

over the UK’s major airports.  That is drugs money. 

One consequence of this is that I have found it too easy to attract the 

wrong kind of capital to a legitimate business proposal in West Africa. 

These investors from West African banks and private equity firms are not 

even expecting the kind of high returns that a high risk market normally 

demands.  With anti money-laundering regulations now so tight in the 

US and EU, their investors are looking to launder the money in the region 

before sending it to Europe.  The proceeds of a legitimate energy com- 

pany are accountable and clean; so we attract those wishing to put dirty 

money in to get clean money out.    The actual bank executives and fund 

managers are of course not themselves necessarily involved in narcotics; 

they just fail to query adequately the source of their investor’s cash. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

So when the new arrival introduced himself as a manager of a Nigerian 

private equity firm, I mentally switched off.  I giggled inwardly as he 

named his company as “Travant”, because I thought he said “Trabant”, 

which given the car out of which he had just stepped, would have been 

wildly inappropriate. 

But I came to with a start when he said that his Nigerian private equity 

firm had access to DFID funds because Baroness Amos was a Director.  To 

be clear, I asked whether Travant was an NGO or a governmental invest- 

ment agency.  He replied that it was not; it was a private, for-profit fund 

management company. 

Baroness Amos was of course the Secretary of State for DFID until 2003 

and until 2007 was Leader of the House of Lords.  I though that it was im- 

possible that DFID money would be given to a company of which she was 

Director.  On the face of it, nobody could look further removed from the 

development aid ethos than the man in the designer suit.  I went back to 

writing him off, deciding he was simply making it up  about Baroness 

Amos and his access to DFID money.  In West Africa among people who 

wear silk suits and are driven in Mercedes, the standards of truthfulness 

sadly leave in general a great deal to be desired. 

I would have forgotten the incident, but in December 2008 I found my- 

self sitting next to Baroness Amos on an airport bus heading for the plane 

to Accra.  Once on board she moved to Business class while due to over- 

booking I was downgraded to Economy Plus.  I shared this fate with John 

Paintsil, the Fulham and Ghana wing-back.  We sat together and I must 

say he is delightful.  He was flying back for two days mid-season to take 

his sick father to hospital.  He was extremely polite and unassuming, 

helped other passengers with their luggage, put up with my conversation 

about football, and was evidently devoted to his wife and children.  At 

the end of the flight I saw him search through the cabin to find one of the 

British Airways Unicef envelopes to make a donation, while not drawing 

anyone else’s attention to his gift.  We hear a great deal about the terrible 

behaviour of Premier League footballers.  But I am sure there are other 

John Paintsils. 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Baroness Amos was going out to Accra to head the Commonwealth 

monitoring team for the first round of the 2008 Ghanaian elections, as 

John Kufuor retired.  

Sending Baroness Amos to monitor an election seemed to me another 

tremendous example of British arrogance.  Valerie Amos is the very anti- 

thesis of a democratic politician.  One of the Blair inner circle, she rose to 

Cabinet rank despite never having faced the electorate.  Never, ever, at 

any level of politics.  Her entire career was based upon New Labour in- 

ternal patronage after making a very good living out of complaining 

about discrimination against minorities in the UK.  She opened up a sub- 

stantial income gap between herself and those on whose behalf she was 

claiming to work from a very early stage, and that gap has widened ever 


All this came back to me as I looked at Baroness Amos quaffing cham- 

pagne on that plane.  So I did a bit of digging.  Valerie Amos is indeed lis- 

ted on their website as a non-executive director of Travant Private Equity, 

one of only five directors54.    There is nothing about developmental goals, 

ethics, or the environment on the website.  There is a lot about real estate 

opportunities in West Africa (by which they do not mean housing for the 

urban poor), and a boast that they have  “the largest fundraising from do- 

mestic investors in sub-Saharan Africa”55.  Remember what I said about 

the sources of local capital formation?  Now Travant may have the most 

rigorous procedures for scrutinising the origin of the domestic money de- 

posited with them.  But if they do, they do not mention it on their website. 

Rather they emphasise that “we are deeply immersed in the business 

communities in which we invest”. 


But have Travant received DFID money?  On the face of it, Travant 

shouldn’t even want public money – they are aggressive proponents of 

the capitalist ethos: “We believe that the private sector, with appropriate 

oversight and governance, is the best shepherd of Africa’s resources. We 




The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

seek to empower entrepreneurs to pursue opportunities that they have 

identified, creating returns for investors, jobs and economic growth.”56 

Yet in 2007 the British Government financed Travant with £15 million of 

funds, provided through CDC, the investment arm of DFID57.  CDC is 

owned 100% by DFID.   At launch over one third of Travant’s first equity 

fund came from DFID.  A few months afterwards Baroness Amos, ex min- 

ister in charge of DFID, joined the board of this profit-making firm. 

It says everything about New Labour that CDC, which as the Common- 

wealth Development Corporation used to run agricultural projects to be- 

nefit the rural poor, was rebranded as CDC with a new remit to provide 

most of its funds to the financial services industry.  It says even more 

about New Labour’s lack of the understanding of fundamental personal 

ethics, of their embrace of greed, that they see no reason why one of their 

former senior ministers should not move to benefit personally from the 

DFID money  – even if through a 100% owned satellite – thus invested.  

To turn this story full circle, let us turn back to Sierra Leone.  65% of the 

measured exports of this country come from its rutile mines.  These were 

under guard by Sandline at the start of this memoir.  Following the British 

invasion of Sierra Leone, it returned to its normal state of extreme corrup- 

tion.  Life is hard for most of its inhabitants, and UN donated food and 

pharmaceuticals, clearly marked “not for sale”, are only available to the 

local population for cash they do not have, as the result of collusion 

between corrupt UN officials, government officials, and mostly Lebanese 


But the rutile mines are working full out, and extremely profitable, 

with armed white men again in charge of security.  A major rutile miner, 

Titanium Resources Group of Sierra Leone says in its 2008 interim report: 

“the long term future of our markets is sound and the quality and scale of 

our mineral reserves underline our future prospects.” 

The Chairman of Titanium Resources Group is Walter Kansteiner III, 

George Bush’s former Assistant Secretary of Sate for Africa and a found- 

ing partner of the Scowcroft Group, led by Brent Scowcroft, George 




The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Bush’s National Security Adviser and architect of the CIA’s re-introduc- 

tion of torture.  The Scowcroft Group advisory consultancy did huge 

harm in Africa in the 1990s with their advocacy of privatisation and de- 

regulation, particularly in the forestry sector, and with some influence ad- 

vocated policies worldwide which contributed to the credit bubble and 

collapse of recent years.  

But none of that prevented Kansteiner and Scowcroft from making 

money out of it, and Blair’s invasion secured Sierra Leone’s mineral re- 

sources to the neo-cons.  

Not everyone benefits.  Titanium Resources’ Interim Report 2008 men- 

tions the disruption in production as a result of the collapse of a dredger, 

without feeling the need even to mention the two Sierra Leoneans who 

died in the incident58.  

But New Labour believes in profit, especially for themselves, so it was 

no surprise to me when Titanium Resources announced in March 2008 

the appointment of Baroness Amos as a non-executive director.  For me 

that appointment59 sums up the cosiness of the alliance between Bush, 

Blair and their acolytes.  It was an alliance based on the acquisition of 

mineral resources by any means possible.  The wars in Iraq and Afgh- 

anistan are the most infamous example.  I saw it close up operating by 

war in Sierra Leone, and by the diplomacy of repression in Uzbekistan.  

I served as a bit-player, but with a privileged view, in the Bush Blair 

years.  I got to know many wonderful people of West Africa and of 

Uzbekistan, and formed strong views of how to assist them to make pro- 

gress.  But I was working for governments with quite a different agenda, 

that of international resource acquisition to benefit massive but specific 

commercial interests.  I hope that my memoirs will, taken together, enter- 

tain with their tales of a very human and colourful life.  But I trust that 

they will also throw some light on a most shameful period of British for- 

eign policy, viewed from some unusual and fascinating points of vantage. 


59Though she later resigned 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Select Bibliography 

Achebe, Chinua; Things Fall Apart,  Heinemann, London, 1962 

Biddlecombe, Peter; French Lessons in Africa, Abacus, London, 1994 

Drohan, Madelaine; Making A Killing: How Corporations use Armed 

Force to  do Business,  Random House, Ottawa, 2003 

Durrell, Gerald; The Bafut Beagles,   Penguin Books, London, 1965 

Ferguson, Niall;  Empire – How Britain Made the Modern World, 

Penguin Books, London, 2004 

James, CLR;  A History of Pan African Revolt ,  Charles H Kerr 

Publishing, Chicago, 1969 

Keating, Frank: Caught By Keating,  Andre Deutsch, London, 1979 

Kampfner, John; Robin Cook,  Phoenix, London, 1999 

Kampfner, John;  Blair’s Wars,  Free Press, London, 2004 

Murray, Craig;  Murder in Samarkand,  Mainstream, Edinburgh, 2006 

Pakenham, Thomas;  The Scramble for Africa,   Weidenfeld, London, 


Ross, Carne;  Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable 

Elite;  C Hurst & Co, London, 2007 

Saro-Wiwa, Ken:  A Month and a Day – A Detention Diary,  Penguin, 

London, 1995 

Schama, Simon;  Rough Crossings,  BBC Books, London, 2006 

Soyinka, Wole;  You Must Set Out at Dawn; A Memoir,  Methuen, 

London, 2007 

Spicer, Tim;  An Unorthodox Soldier,  Mainstream, Edinburgh, 2000 

Taylor, AA; Sam Jonah and the Remaking of Ashanti, Pan Macmillan, 

Johannesburg, 2006 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 


CM = Craig Murray 

Footnotes are indexed as 120n 

Ababio, Shirley  115 

Abacha, Sani  31–2, 50–1 

Abbott, Diane  65, 191 

Acquah, Paul  201 

AD(E) see Foreign and Commonwealth Office, African Department (Equatorial) 

Aegis Services  68–9 

Afari-Gyan, Kwadwo  157, 164, 170–3 

AFRC see Armed Forces Ruling Council 


CM’s passion for  9 

poverty  107 

trade  110–12 


Ghana  185–6 

subsidies  110–12 

Aidoo, Tony  168 

Akuffo-Addo, Nana  129 

Anderson, Donald  52, 64–5 

Andrews, Cedric  60 

Andrews, Tim 

at meeting with Tim Spicer  20–4, 58–9 

and Peter Penfold  39–40, 42, 46 

Sandline investigation  60, 66 

Angola, Executive Outcomes  17 

Ankobra beach resort, Ghana  150, 180 

Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), Sierra Leone  12, 14, 18, 48 

Arms to Africa affair  10, 20–8, 39–72 

ARRT see Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Administration Restructuring Team 

Asaga, Moses  129 

Ashanti Gold  145–7, 186–7 

Avebury, Lord  52–3 

Babangida, Ibrahim  32 

BAE see British Aerospace 

Bangura, Paolo  95 

Barber, Dick  195 

Berewa, Solomon  86, 92, 95, 105 

Biya, Paul  33, 34–5 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Blair, Tony  3, 10, 14, 25, 60–1 

Botwe, Dan  171 

British Aerospace (BAE)  10n, 60, 67, 120n 

British Airways, in Nigeria  31 

British Council  119, 140, 148, 161 

Britten, Leon  147 

Brown, Gordon  10, 107, 125, 175 

Buckingham, Tony  22, 26, 64 

Buckman (High Commission driver)  150 

Burton, Graham  32 

Cameroon  33–8 

Campbell, Alistair  54, 61 

canopy walkway, Ghana  191 

Cape Coast Castle, Ghana  190 

Cardew, Michael  80–1 

Carmichael, John  132, 141 

Cato, Anand  126–9 

Champs Bar, Accra  181–2, 195–6 

Charlton, Bobby  143 

Chester, State Banquet compère  135 

child labour  186 

child soldiers, Sierra Leone  12, 93–4 

Coco Palm Hotel, Ghana  124–5 

cocoa industry, Ghana  184–6 

Collecott, Peter  70–2 


Ghana  108–9, 202 

Sierra Leone  14–17 

Togo  82–3 

Colossus  6–7 

Conservative Party, Arms to Africa affair  24–5 

Cook, Gaynor  130n 

Cook, Robin 

backing for CM  106, 199 

character of  131 

ethical foreign policy  3, 9–10, 25 

eyes of  58 

Queen’s State Visit to Ghana  128–9, 130–1, 134, 137 

Sandline affair  53–4, 58–9, 63 

Cope, Brian  139 


Africa  160 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Ghana  109–10, 119–20, 124–6 

Nigeria  30–1, 32 

Sierra Leone  17, 18 

Crawford, Geoff  134 

Crown Prosecution Service  61–3 

Customs and Excise, Sandline investigation  24, 53–5, 60–2 

Cyprus  19 

Dales, Richard  43–4, 47–8, 49, 53, 54, 60 

Danquah, J B  109 

deforestation, Cameroon  33–4 

democracy, Ghana  153–6, 168 

Department for International Development (DFID) 

funding policy  159–61 

Ghana election funding  153, 166–7 

mercenaries  67 

military aid to Africa  30–1 

Sierra Leone peace talks  89 

Devonshire House, Accra 

CM arrives at  76–7 

partial collapse  182–3 

party for volunteers  191–5 

snakes  121–3 

staff  174 

DFID see Department for International Development 

diamonds, Sierra Leone  13, 17, 25–6 

Dufuor, Kwabena  200–1 

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)  13, 41, 43, 48–9, 51 

Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG)  13, 21, 23, 

28, 48–9, 99 


fraud  162, 163–4, 166, 169, 170–1 

Ghana  152–73 

Elizabeth II, State Visit to Ghana  123–39 

Elmina Castle, Ghana  190 

Emery, Peter  65 

European Union (EU), export subsidies  110–11 

Everard, John  20, 23, 24 

Executive Outcomes  17, 20, 21–2, 68 

export licences  110–11 

Eyadema, Gnassingbe  85–6, 99, 105–6 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

FAC see Foreign Affairs Committee 

FCO see Foreign and Commonwealth Office 

Ferguson, Niall  16 

Fisher, James  69 

food products, dumping in Africa  110–11 

football  140–3 

Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), Arms to Africa inquiry  23, 27, 44–5, 46–7, 52, 56, 63–7 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) 

Administration Restructuring Team (ARRT)  70–2 

African Department (Equatorial)  8–12, 49, 71 

bomb blast curtains  11 

CM’s career  5, 8–12, 19, 69–70, 199–200 

Cyprus policies  19 

policy of  3, 14 


Nigeria policy  31 

relations with Togo  86 

Fru Ndi, John  34, 35 

fungibility  160–1 

Gabon, proposed visit to  29, 36, 38 

Gale, Roger  16–18, 163, 165, 172–3 

gap year volunteers, Ghana  177–81, 191–2 

Gbeho, Victor  115, 119, 154 

German colonialism, Togo  82–3 


British visas  175–6, 182 

castles  190 

CM arrives in  73–7 

cocoa industry  184–6 

colonialism  108–9, 202 

corruption  109–10, 119–20, 124–6 

debt relief  200–2 

democracy  153–6, 168 

economy  73–4, 108–12, 144–7, 201 

education  161 

elections (2000)  152–73 

gold mining  144–8, 186–7 

homosexuality  135–6, 148–50 

ID cards  153–4, 156–7, 159, 164 

Nkrumah’s policies  108–11 

Orangemen  83 

Queen’s State Visit  123–39 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

radio  155–6, 165 

social cohesion  29–30 

volunteer organisations  177–81, 191–2 

Ghana Wildlife Society  144 

Glass, Colin  40 

Gloria (CM’s cook in Accra)  121, 140 

Godman, Norman  45–6, 66 

gold mining, Ghana  144–8, 186–7 

Golley, Omrie  88, 95–6 

gorillas, Cameroon  34 

Grant, Ann 

as CM’s boss  9, 69 

Sandline affair  23, 24, 43–7, 51–2, 54–7, 60 

Grant, John  59 

Gravesend  6–8 

Greenwich meridian  131–2 

Grunitzky, Nicolas  85 

Gurkhas  67 

Hain, Peter  140–2, 199 

Hamilton, William  7 

Harris, Bryan  183 

Harvey, Paul  98 

Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), debt relief  125, 200–2 

HIPC see Highly Indebted Poor Countries 

Hitchens, Tim  126–7, 132, 137–8 

homosexuality, Ghana  135–6, 148–50 

Hood, Andrew  53–4 

Ibbs, Robin  63 

ID cards, Ghana  153–4, 156–7, 159, 164 

Ige, Bola  32 

Indian ink  162, 167, 169 

Indonesia, sale of jets to  10, 60–1n 

International Generics  124–5 

Iraq  61, 67–9 

Isaac, Colonel  85, 92–4, 133 

Ives, Malcolm  169 

Jackson, Jesse  102–3, 105 

James, C L R  16n 

Jocelyn, Andrew  25 

John (CM’s steward)  192, 193–4 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Jonah, James  89 

Jonah, Sam  146, 147–8, 166 

Jones, Nigel  163, 165, 167–8, 172–3 

Kabbah, Tejan 

Lome peace talks  88, 98–102, 105 

ousted President  12, 13, 18, 40 

restored to power  48, 51, 60–1 

and Sandline  20, 21, 23–4, 26–7, 39, 41–5, 52 

Kamajors, Sierra Leone  21, 39, 41–3 

Kampfner, John  56, 57 

Kerr, John  59, 65–6, 91, 119–20, 199 

Koffigoh, Joseph  86 

Koroma, Johnny Paul  31 

Kufuor, John 

as President  201–2 

Presidential elections  153, 165, 171–3 

Queen’s State Visit  126, 129–30, 137 

Kwei, Amartey  113 

La Palm Hotel, Ghana  124–5 

Labadi Beach Hotel, Ghana  131, 135–6, 172, 183 

Laden, Anthony  63 

Lamb, Dick  19 

Legg, Thomas  63 

Liberia  13, 100–1 

Lloyd, Tony  51, 55–8 

Lome, Sierra Leone peace talks  77–9, 83–4, 85–106, 107 

Macaire, Rob  57–8 

Mackinlay, Andrew  51, 64–5 

Mackley, Ian 

as CM’s boss  77–8, 91, 115–16, 119, 152 

denied knighthood  137–9 

on James Peter’s arrest  148–9 

on Queen’s State Visit  127–9 

Mackley, Sarah  77, 127–8, 137–9 

Macleod, Frances  12, 32 

Mahama, John  129, 201–2 

malaria, CM contracts in Togo  96–8 

Mann, Simon  17–18 

Marfo, Yaw Osafo  201 

Marsden, Ros  131 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Marxism, Ghana  109 

Matrix Churchill case  54 

McBride, Peter  69 

Melrose, Joe  86, 89, 99, 102 

Mensah, E T  154 

Mensah, Sam Attah  165 


government approval of  67, 69 

in Iraq  67–9 

Sierra Leone  17–18, 25–6 

Michaela  182, 194–5, 196–7 

Mills, Barbara  62–3 

Mills, John Atta  153, 165, 173 

Moore, Roger  143–4 

Mugabe, Robert  109 

Murder in Samarkand  1–2, 44n, 176n 

Murray, Bob (CM’s father)  74–5, 150–2, 180 

Murray, Craig 

career in FCO  5, 8–12, 19, 69–70, 199–200 

created Officer of the Order of Mono  105–6 

dislocates shoulder  141–3, 194–5 

drinking companions  181–2 

encounters intruder in Togo hotel  90–1 

encounters with snakes  121–3, 180, 191 

fear of water  157–8 

love life  5, 54n, 191, 193–9 

refusal of honours  123, 137–9 

strange experience in Obuasi guest house  187–90 

taken ill in Togo  96–8 

Murray, Emily (CM’s daughter)  8, 122, 150, 174 

Murray, Fiona (CM’s wife)  5, 123, 142, 150, 167, 174 

Murray, Jamie (CM’s son)  8, 150 

Murray, William, Lord Mansfield  14–15 

Myles, Andy  163, 167 

Napoleonic Wars  6–7 

Nasser (CM’s steward in Ghana)  121, 174 

Nathalie  182, 197, 199 

National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ghana  124, 153–9, 162–73, 174, 201–2 

NDC see National Democratic Congress 

Nelson, Horatio  6–7 

New Patriotic Party (NPP), Ghana  124, 153, 171–3, 202 

Nigeria, CM in  9, 29–33, 49–50 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Nithavrianakis, Mike  129, 130, 133, 139, 183 

Nkrumah, Kwame  108–12, 124 

Norman, Sam Hinga  21, 89 

Northern Ireland  69 

NPP see New Patriotic Party 

Obasanjo, General Olesegun  31, 49–50 

Obasanjo, Stella  49 

Obuasi, Ghana  145, 186–90 

Okelo, Frances  86, 99–100 

Olympio, Gilchrist  85–6 

Olympio, Sylvanus  85 

Opata, George  106, 108, 172, 194 

Orangemen  83 

Order of Mono  105–6 

Orr, Iain  69, 76–7 

Owusu-Agyemang, Hackman  129, 172–3, 175–6 

Pacific and Atlantic Engineering  23 

Page, Brian  148 

Pakenham, Thomas  16 

Papua New Guinea, Sandline  64 

Penfold, Peter  26–7, 39–48, 51–4, 60–4, 66 

Peprah, Kwame  146 

Peter (CM’s driver)  166, 177–8, 180 

Peters, James  140, 148–50 

Philip, Prince, Duke of Edinburgh  132–3 

Poland  5–6, 123 

potholes, driving over  79 

pottery, Viume, Ghana  80–1 

poverty, Africa  107 

private military companies  67 

see also mercenaries 

Pullen, Rod  152, 166, 172, 175–6, 201 

Quinn, Greg  183, 193 

radio, Ghana  155–6, 165 

rain, Ghana  177–9 

Raleigh International  177–81, 191 

Ramainian, Adrienne  183–4, 187–99 

Rawlings, Jerry 

and Ashanti Gold  1467 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

background of  114–15 

brutality of  112–14 

government of  124 

Presidential elections  153 

public speaking  116–19 

retirement role  168 

Rawlings, Nana Agyeman  113, 125, 135, 146, 168 

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) 

atrocities  12–13, 14, 42, 78, 85, 93–4 

Togo peace talks  87–106 

Ross, Carne  3 

Royal Bank of Scotland  124–6 

RUF see Revolutionary United Front (RUF) 

Sackey, Valerie  115 

St Cook, Linda  22, 24, 39, 42, 46, 60 

Sandhurst  31 

Sandline International  17, 20–8, 41–8, 51–69 

Sankoh, Foday  88–9, 91–2, 94, 102, 103–5 

Saro Wiwa, Ken  31, 32 

Saxena, Rakesh  26–8, 52 

Schama, Simon  15 

scooters, Togo  81 

September 11 attacks  200 

Sheinwald, Nigel  59 

Shell, in Nigeria  32 

Shonekan, Ernest  32 

Short, Clare  119, 201–2 

Sierra Leone 

atrocities  12–13, 14, 78, 85, 93–4 

British administration  107 

CM visits  99–100 

colonial history  14–17 

coup (1997)  12, 31, 40 

diamonds  13, 17, 25–6 

ECOMOG invasion  48–9 

mercenaries  17–18, 25–6 

peace talks  77–9, 83–4, 87–106 

Sandline affair  17, 20–8, 41–8, 51–69 

weapons shipments to  22–4 

Sight Savers, Ghana  177, 181 

slavery  190–1 

snakes  121–3, 180, 191 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 

Spicer, Tim 

Iraq War  67–9 

meeting with CM at FCO  19–24, 28, 59 

Sandline affair  18n, 25–8, 41–4, 53, 64–7 

support for  24–5, 61–3 

Stanley, John  46 

Straw, Jack  10, 68–9, 176n 

Stuart, Ian  161 

sugar, subsidised  110–11 

Svanikier, Thomas  190 

Tamman, Leon  125 

Taylor, Charles  13, 89, 93, 99, 100–1 

Teaching and Projects Abroad  191 

Tema, Ghana  131–2 

Theakston, Jamie  144 


history of  82–3 

Orangemen  83 

scooters  81 

Sierra Leone peace talks  77–9, 83–4, 85–106 

trade, Africa  110–12 

Tsikata, Kojo  113–14 

United Nations 

corruption  18 

Security Council Resolution on weapons shipments  22–3, 24, 60–1 

United States 

Ghana election observers  163 

in Sierra Leone  23 

Uzbekistan  1–2, 200 

visas, Ghana  175–6, 182 

Viume, Ghana, pottery  80–1 

Volta, Lake  74 

Volta, River  81 

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)  191 

War Child  132, 141 

Washington, Cameroonians  34n 

Whitehead, Ian  71–2 

Williams, John  59 

Wright, Mark  69 


The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known 



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