“I can join FELMAUSA anytime because I am a Mandingo from Liberia, but we will never be a part of FELMAUSA.” —– Isiaka Fofana, Caretaker Leader, A.M.A.
Community organizations are, for the most part, formed to bring people with similar ideologies together in order to foster common interests and goals. Typically, when these converging interests and goals are realized in a structured manner, the motivation of the group pivots inevitably to putting away personal differences and focusing on the reality of the day—harnessing the benefits of their successful collaboration.
Contrarily, in instances where the common interests and goals are not crystalized in the formative stages of a community organization, the resulting reality is almost always inevitable chaos. Eventually, such turmoil leads to the sprouting of competing, if not rival, organizations which in turn stalls the progress of all.
Often, these rival organizations, since they originate out of spite, are constructed on the fleeting foundation of masterful manipulations for want of a better phrase. In cases where and when manipulations fail to materialize, the would-be planners are prone to face a sobering fact.
Interestingly, this is a situation the former administration of FELMAUSA experienced as custodian of the single largest Mandingo association, this side of the Atlantic. Instead of unifying chapters as the organization’s charter calls for, the leadership was entrenched in a fight of personal interests, personal interests that were diametrically opposed to the organization’s interests.
The purported fight which, according to reports, was initiated in an effort to undermine “one faction” of the Liberian Mandingo Association (LMA) of Atlanta flubbed. As it happened, the manipulation did not yield the intended result. The Bility-led administration did not get the full support of the Atlanta Mandingo Association (AMA). Had the administration gotten that support, it would have appeared as though there were two separate organizations in Atlanta fighting for representation/recognition within FELMAUSA.
Even more bizarre is the fact that it was never made known to the membership of FELMAUSA that the two Atlanta-based organizations in question are completely different in scope and membership orientation. LMA recruits only Liberian Mandingoes. On the other hand, AMA seeks membership from all Man-dingoes regardless of the country of nationality they hail from in Africa. In fact, this begs the question: what was Bility-led FELMAUSA doing in ATLANTA on a so-called ‘peace mission’?
It was no surprise, therefore, that the said designed ‘peace mission’ took a dramatic turn for the worse. There wasn’t any conflict between the Atlanta-based sister Mandingo organizations, to start with. This lack of conflict between the sister organizations [even though FELMAUSA at the time had tried in vain to manufacture one] made the Bility-led administration’s blood to boil; they practically suffered a self-inflicted humiliation. They left Atlanta as baffled as anyone else for the folly they made of themselves. “They” one young community political pundit recently told me, “wasted time, money and effort on a self-manufactured conflict, one that didn’t in fact exist in reality”.
In the aftermath of this manipulative ploy by the Bility-led administration, it has now come to pass that FELMAUSA under the leadership of current President Bangalee Trawally, has been notified through writing that the Atlanta Mandingo Association (AMA) is not seeking membership from it.
According to the letter, a copy of which Bamba1News has viewed, this decision is a unanimous among members of the Atlanta Mandingo Association (AMA). In its formal communication, AMA said it was withdrawing a previous letter written by its former leader, Mohammed Jabateh, requesting connection to FELMAUSA.
What is even more interesting about all of this is that, if AMA was a signatory to the “Final document that gave birth to the federation,” why would its former president write a letter requesting formal connection to FELMAUSA? In a June 9, 2014 audio interview Bamba1News conducted with Isiaka Fofana, caretaker leader of the Atlanta Mandingo Association (AMA), he revealed as much.
Mr. Fofana, in fact, dismissed the notion that his organization was ever “a signatory to the final document that gave birth to the [FELMAUSA] federation.” He said an attempt was made to establish connection with FELMAUSA, but it was never finalized. They reneged on that decision due to the fundamental reason for which their organization was formed—diversity. He said membership to his organization is open to Mandingoes from all parts of the world, unlike FELMAUSA whose membership is opened to Liberian Mandingoes only. Fofana furthered that his organization is in cordial relation with the Liberian Mandingo Association of Atlanta (LMA), which is a chapter of FELMAUSA. “I can join FELMAUSA anytime because I am a Mandingo from Liberia, but we [AMA] will never be a part of FELMAUSA” Fofana averred.
Relative to longtime LMA president, Sam Layee Toure’s membership in AMA, Fofana said such would be acceptable because Layee is a “Mandingo by tribe.” Whatever that means is something left with their membership to decide; but it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that the fact that Sam Layee Toure is a Mandingo means he is allowed to join the Atlanta Mandingo Association (AMA) at his own discretion.
Given all of what have been laid out in this report so far, it becomes a little fishy to think about why the Bility-led FELMAUSA administration was bent on sowing seeds of discord among Mandingoes in Atlanta. A little bit of investigative journalism points to a major reason. In a January 14, 2011 letter addressed to the Famod Konneh-led FELMAUSA BOD, a copy of which is in the possession of Bamba1News, then Secretary-General Ahl Donzo wrote:
“The President agrees that the Atlanta Mandingo Association was a pivotal participant in the formation of FELMAUSA and a signatory to the final document that gave birth to the federation.”
From all indications, this was a subtle move, a manipulation, if you will, to undercut the Liberian Mandingo Association of Atlanta (LMA) headed by Sam Layee Toure. If the Bility-led administration had succeeded in this plot, it would have enriched the voting bloc of President Bility, thereby ensuring for him a second term in office.
It appears, however, that the hanky-panky in FELMAUSA did not just start with the Bility-led administration. In fact, a 2011 video recorded during the Silver Spring convention shows some disturbing scenes. During that convention and the subsequent election that ultimately brought Mohamed S. Bility to power, the video clearly shows the out-going Dukuly-led leadership engaging in activities bordering on wrongdoing. Such manipulations, independent observers pointed out at the time, slanted the playing field and allowed for the controversial victory Mohamed Bility eventually scored.
Distasteful among the underhanded ploys at that convention, was the issue of the five delegates from the Arizona Mandingo Association, a duly recognized chapter. These delegates paid their dues to FELMAUSA and were receipted accordingly. However, when they showed up to vote, they were denied their rights to do so.
Video recording in the possession of Bamba1News clearly shows former president Dukuly instructing the election commissioners (who were supposedly independent) not to allow the Arizona delegation to cast their ballots. Elections Commission Chairperson, Dr. Abu Massalley, who many had thought would be a fearless advocate of fairness and transparency disappointingly ceded his independence and took a back seat allowing President Dukuly to unduly interfere in the process by way of “investigating” the Arizona delegates. President Dukuly, in effect, became judge, jury, and executioner! This move was heavily criticized because it was visible that the commissioners had compromised their well respected positions by allowing the sitting president to preside over such an important electoral case.
Following the victory of Bility in Silver Spring, Maryland, some members of the federation silently withdrew their support in protest and remained on the fence. Most of these folks waited to see how far the new leadership would progress. It wasn’t long before the organization’s listserv imploded into harsh exchanges that led to the suspension of some die-hard members of the federation.
This, in a nutshell, made the road to a second term muddier for the Bility administration. In apparent realization of this impossible electoral calculus, the leadership busied itself with what was referred to at the time as “peace missions” to chapters—some of which were clearly artificially manufactured.
Over the past several months, Bamba1News has made entreaties to Mr. Abubakarseleke Soko Sackor, Jr. who served as Publicity Chairman under the Bility administration in an attempt to get his view, in retrospect, on what has now come to be known as the phony peace mission to Atlanta. Voice and text messages left for Mr. Soko Sackor, Jr., have not been responded to as at the running of this article.
Manyou MAS Bility of Milwaukee, a onetime strong advocate of the Bility-led administration and now Assistant Secretary of FELMAUSA, was contacted by Bamba1News to solicit his views on the topic as well. According to MAS Bility, President Bility’s attempted peace talk between the two Atlanta-based organizations favored AMA more than LMA. “They wanted to work with the other guys more than Layee Toure, but those guys did not show up” MAS Bility acknowledged. Apparently frustrated with the way the community organizations are being administered, Manyou told Bamba1News that at this point in time, he is taking his advocacy to another level; he is looking at exploring “other options” in life.
Note: All comments from Manyou were not used in this report, only parts that were useful to it. He also said he is taking his “Advocacy outside of the Mandingo community.”
Bamba1News investigation, has also uncovered that even some administration insiders had hoped that Mohamed S. Bility would be a one-term president. According to these insiders who asked for anonymity, this would pave the way for FELMAUSA to gather its fragmented parts and head in the right direction.
As it happened, indeed, Bility was a one-term leader, but the fragmented parts of the federation further
crumbled when again the federation’s current president, Bangalee Trawally was brought to power through back channels without going through the vetting process as indicated in FELMAUSA’s constitution—a constitution that has been amended/rewritten multiple times to suit each sitting administration.
Now that another election is nearing, it is the desire of many that people who find themselves at the helm of leadership for an important organization like FELMAUSA will desist from going on personal ego trips and instead focus on what they are elected to do—lead for the betterment of the community as a whole. FELMAUSA needs to set an example that is worthy of emulation.
Bamba1News has reports that point to Mandingoes in Europe contemplating on forming an umbrella organization in the ilk of FELMAUSA but are wary of what is unfolding among their kinsmen here in the United States. This is not good news, because it appears like this is the best time to foster peace and goodwill in FELMAUSA. Peace in FELMAUSA means peace for all Mandingoes, empowerment for the less fortunate, especially for those in Africa. But if peace cannot be attained at this time, it does manifest that Mandingoes would face one of the biggest disappointments not only for this generation, but for generations yet unborn.
Accordingly, at FELMAUSA’s next election, its members must not engage in sinister machinations. They must let the process be fair and transparent so that together they can put in office brothers and sisters who are in it less for personal power and more for the benefit of the community. As together they seem to be gasping for leaders that can deliver the goods, they must therefore elect folks that are capable in every respect, but not someone this time because they are friends or family members. FELMAUSA deserves better than that. As Thich Nhat Hanh, author of “The Miracle of Mindfulness” says in his book, “If you want the tree to grow, it won’t help to water it from the leaves. You have to water the roots,” let members water FELMAUSA at the roots!
Lassana Bamba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-852-6773