What Role Did The Ureys Play During Charles Taylor-led 1989 Bloody Civil War – GNN Investigation Finds Out
By Jacob S. Brown
Amid numerous reports on both the social and the mainstream media platforms that the political leader of the opposition All Liberian Party (ALP), Mr. Benoni Wilfred Urey actively took part in the Liberian civil war, particularly with the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) during its war days, our staff recently took up time to ascertain the actual facts of this allegation.
In order to ascertain the real story regarding the ALP’s political leader role during the senseless Liberian civil war which led to the demise of over 250,000 innocent and armless civilians and the destruction of the country’s infrastructural, in a brief telephone interview, Mr. Benoni Urey declined to publicly dignify the insinuations by people he described as detractors.
As our staff consistently quizzed Mr. Urey to allow the public to know his role in the Liberian civil war, he again declined to comment further, but noted, “I have lots to do for my people and the party, go and find out yourself about my role in the war,” he told our staff via mobile phone last week.
However, being persistent to getting the facts regarding the ALP political leader’s role during the war has been alleged by several media outlets in Monrovia, GNN staff reach out to others who said they knew Mr. Urey during the onset of the war and prior to its outburst, noting that he was nowhere around the then Charles Taylor stronghold, Gbarnga, Bong County.
“I can remember they only Urey I knew to be with Mr. Taylor during the war was one Earnest Urey, who is said to be a brother of Benoni; Earnest was very active with Mr. Taylor in Gbarnga,” Abraham Q. Johnson who was then a resident of Gbarnga during the time of the war in an exclusive interview with our staff said.
Mr. Williams speaking further said insinuation by people he described as detractors have refused to gather the facts surrounding the whereabouts of Mr. Benoni Urey during the war, stressing, “I am taken aback by people who believe in hearsay and they say by deliberately refusing to gather the facts”, Williams in a rather concerted mood told our staff.
Also speaking on the issue to our staff was Eric Zuo, who claimed that at the time of the war in Gbarnga, Bong County he was fourteen years old, and was recruited as Child Soldier assigned at the Phebe around the Cuttington University Campus told the GNN, “I was fourteen years old when I was recruited as Child Soldier in 1991, in all my time with the NPFL the only Urey I knew was big brother Earnest Urey, a very nice guy, I did not hear anything about Benoni Urey, until I came to Monrovia after the war”, Zuo who is now a businessman down Water Street ina chat with our staff said.
Others Liberians who said they were with the then ‘Behind the lines’ in Gbarnga recounted their fierce memories of the Liberian civil war, noting that people have publicly misconstrued the role some Liberians played by not naming the actual players of the civil war, making specific reference of the Ureys.
According to information gathered, during the height of the war, it was reported that Benoni Urey and his family was in neighboring Sierra Leone fearing for their lives in returning amid the war until things (fighting) dwindled as many Liberian begin returning home from their hideout or refugee camps around the world.
With these testimonies from the public, GNN has realized that many of these reports about the role of Benoni Urey’s during the Liberian civil was considered as mare negative propaganda against the ALP political leader, thus separating fallacy from facts, an act on the part of those involved must be condemned.
Meanwhile, the objective of this report is to publicly bring out the facts of the matter regarding to who did what during the Liberian fifteen years senseless civil war, and not to negatively impose unnecessary blames on people aimed assassinating the character of the innocent.
For the benefit of those who are in doubt of misleading information, we highlight below from WIKIPEDIA information about Benoni Wilfred Urey’s role in the Liberian civil war.
Some basic facts about Benoni Wilfred Urey
Urey was born on 22 June 1959 at his family home in Careysburg, Montserrado County, Liberia. His father was married to three women, his mother, Emma Boyce Urey, Martha Urey and Kpannah Urey. Two of his father’s wives were Kpelle and one was Americo-Liberian. His father, Daniel Urey, was an Americo-Liberian from Careysburg. Urey’s father met two of his wives in Caresyburg and one in Bong County. Two of Urey’s mothers were dominantly native women who never spoke English, while the other was a school teacher. His father was subsistence farmer. This family lived in Careysburg throughout their lives.
Benoni is the eighth of eleven children. He attended kindergarten and first grade at Careysburg Public School. With the aid of a scholarship from the U.S. government through the Voice of America relay station, Urey attended the American Cooperative School (A.C.S), a private American school in Monrovia, from first grade until his graduation from high school in 1976. While attending A.C.S, he participated in almost every varsity sport, including basketball. His love for basketball led him and some friends to form The Uhuru Kings and Queens, a social and sports club that eventually became a first division member of Liberia Basketball Federation. Uhuru Kings still is a member of the Liberian Basketball Federation and has participated in numerous national championships over the years.
After high school, Urey attended Cuttington University, in Bong County. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in General Science with emphasis in chemistry in 1980. At Cuttington University, Urey served as the President of The Mason Social and Athletic Club, and in his last year, President of the Senior class. Later in 2010, Urey was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) Honoris Causa from Cuttington University.
After university, Urey moved to Monrovia and began to work for the government, at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC). He worked as a Training Officer until he was awarded a scholarship to pursue a M.A. in Public Finance and Human Resource Development and a M.Sc in Planning from the University of Southern California. He graduated from USC in 1986.
Upon his return to Liberia in 1986, Benoni was appointed Deputy Director General for Planning and Training of the Liberia Electricity Corporation Training Center under the Presidency of the late President Samuel K. Doe. He worked at the corporation until the war broke out.
In 1990, when the Liberian Civil War broke out, Urey left Liberia and traveled to Sierra Leone and lived there for eight months and later moved to Ivory Coast. While there, he started to work at African Development Bank as a consultant. In 1994, Urey returned to Bong County, Liberia and started to work as the Managing Director at Liberia Rubber Development Corporation.
Under the Interim Government of Liberia, chaired by Wilton Sankawulo, in 1995, Urey was appointed President of Agricultural Cooperative Development Bank of Liberia.
In 1996, the Council of State appointed Urey as Commissioner of Maritime Affairs. When Charles Taylor came to power after winning elections in 1997, Urey was reappointed to his position as Commissioner of Maritime. He served as Commissioner until 2003, when Taylor resigned from office.
Urey has denied any involvement in the violence of the Liberian and Sierra Leone civil conflicts, maintaining that as a civilian being appointed to head the Maritime Commission, he made no war-related decisions. An investigation by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Liberia’s political situation in 2013 concluded that it “did not have information suggesting that Urey was involved in activities that would destabilize Liberia and the subregion”.
The Panel also stated that “Urey’s business activities, and the profits gained from them, would appear to suggest that civil conflict in Liberia would have a significant negative financial impact on him”. In December 2013, Urey was de-listed from the United Nations Sanction Lists.
In November 2015, the US Treasury Department lifted sanctions against a number of Liberians, including Urey. But a Liberian newspaper reported that Urey was subsequently denied a US entry visa in 2016, a claim which was denied by the All Liberian Party.
In 2009, Urey was elected Mayor of Careysburg City by the City Council. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf endorsed the appointment by subsequently appointing him Mayor. He served as Mayor until 2012.
He is a Liberian businessman and politician, who was formerly the Liberian Commissioner of Maritime Affairs.
His Business career
Urey currently owns Lonestar Communication Corporation, Liberia’s largest mobile phone service provider which is partnered with the MTN Group, through his PLC Investments group. Lonestar is one of the largest taxpayers in Liberia. Urey has served as the Chairman of the Board since the establishment of the corporation.
Wulki Farms I & II
Urey established an agricultural farm and resort in Careysburg City, Wulki Farms I and Farmers Paradise Resort, developed on land owned by his father, Daniel Webster Urey IV. Benoni’s wife, Mai Urey, is the Managing Director of Wulki Farms and Farmers Paradise. The property includes commercial production of poultry and eggs, fish and fresh produce and guest accommodation.
Urey owns the sixth largest rubber plantation, Wulki Farms II, located in Konola, Margibi County.
Love Media Incorporated
Owned solely by Urey, Love Media Incorporated was established in 2003 and comprises radio and television stations and a newspaper. These stations are based in Monrovia and Careysburg City. Shiata FM, another station owned by Urey, was established in 2005 and is based in Careysburg City. During the 2011 election campaign, Love Radio and TV stations were set on fire. Urey accused the Government of being involved in the burning of his stations because he was a financial supporter of the opposition party, Congress for Democratic Change.
U-Housing is a real estate development company owned by Urey. He began developing real estate in 1994 when he returned to Liberia. U-Housing has acquired and developed a wide range of commercial and residential properties throughout the country.
2017 Presidential Elections
In December 2013, Urey declared his desire to run for the Presidency of Liberia in 2017, with initial speculation in Liberian media that he would do so with the Congress for Democratic Change party headed by former footballer George Weah. Urey subsequently launched the All Liberian Party in November 2015 at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia.
Urey married Mai Bright Urey on 26 May 1986. They have four daughters: Danielle Ashlee Urey, Telia Urey, Jebbeh Naomi Urey and Benita Whitney Urey. He is a Christian. He was born and raised as a Presbyterian and serves as the sexton at the First Presbyterian Church of Careysburg. Urey is fluent in English and his native dialect, Kpelle. Urey also serves as “Deputy District Grand Master” of the Grand Lodge of the Freemasonry Republic of Liberia, and Honorable Grand Patron of the Order of the Eastern Star of Liberia.