Sheikh Kafumba Konneh had always taken a keen interest in his religion, Islam. The Saclapea, Nimba County-born Liberian prelate much earlier became Secretary General of the Muslim Union in Sanniquellie, capital of Nimba County. He later traveled to Monrovia where he continued his involvement in Muslim affairs, rising, in 2002, to the lofty position of Chairman of the National Muslim Council of Liberia.
It was in that position that Sheikh Kafumba united his people and shepherded them successfully through the turbulent 1980s and even during the terrible war years. The Observer publishers, staunch and unapologetic believers in the Almighty, felt it was important, at least once a week, to connect its many readers with Scripture, in order to keep them reminded that they were not here on this troubled earth alone. There is an unseen but loving and powerful Hand behind each one of us and the publishers felt the whole populace needed to be reminded of that—at least once a week. And what better day than Friday, the day on which Jesus was crucified; the day on which the Muslims gather for their prayers, the day before the Jews and Seventh Day Adventists observe their Sabbath and three days before the Christian Sabbath?
When in June 2005 the Daily Observer was re-launched following 15 years of exile, Sheikh Kafumba willingly agreed to contribute the Islamic column. He faithfully produced it each week, until he recently took ill and was unable to continue.
Sheikh was often misunderstood by some Christians and Muslems alike. There are some who, during the Liberian civil conflict, tried to link him with this or that warring faction.
But many who knew and were closely associated with him totally reject that accusation. They say he was consummately a man of peace.
Everyone, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who spoke at his funeral yesterday, made the identical point (See pages 4-5).
That is why Sheikh Kafumba became, along with the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Monrovia, the Most Rev. Michael K. Francis, the Liberia Baptist Convention’s Rev. Levee Moulton, the Pentecostal’s Bishop Dixon and the Episcopal Church’s Canon Burgess Carr, among others, a founding member of the Inter-Faith Committee of Liberia (now the Inter-Religious Council). Their aim: to stop the war and restore peace to Mother Liberia. The Committee made many trips to Freetown, Sierra Leone and elsewhere to participate in the Peace Talks.
Meanwhile, as the war raged on, many factions emerged, including Alhaji Kromah’s ULIMO and Damate Conneh’s LURD, all Islamic-based. Many assumed that because of this, Sheikh Kafumba had to be aligned with them. But that was far from the case. Kafumba was a man of peace and inter-religious tolerance and sacrificed his life for these principles. One prominent Moslem told the Daily Observer yesterday that the Sheikh was heavily criticized by people connected with these two warring movements—ULIMO and LURD. Its leaders could not understand why Sheikh Kafumba would not back them and so became estranged from him. Sheikh Kafumba always explained to warring faction leaders that he was a man of peace and could not under any circumstance participate in a violent movement.
And his colleagues on the Inter-Ministerial Council, which he also served as Chairman, as well as the Christian Council of Liberia and the Interim Government of National Unity Chairman Dr. Amos Sawyer, believed Sheikh Konneh.
The noted Liberian scholar and writer, Nvasekie Konneh, said in his highly enlightening piece, published in today’s edition of this newspaper, summed up the character of Sheikh Kafumba. Said Nvasekie, “At a time when some cold blooded criminals are committing terrible crimes in the name of Islam, Sheikh Kafumba Konneh represented the face of Islam that calls for moderation, interfaith dialogue and engagement.”
Thank you, Sheikh Kafumba, for your dynamic and exemplary leadership that helped in no small measure in creating the peace we enjoy in Liberia today.