Responding to “The Ways of Our Leaders”


By: Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 2, 2004

Dr. Harry Moniba
I come to respond to Mr. Writhers Nyenie-Wea, who recently wrote under the title, “The Ways of Our Leaders”. It is my opinion that Mr. Nyenie-Wea’s piece offers a confused and insensitive opinion regarding the life and times of Dr. Harry Moniba, who recently passed away in a tragic car accident on Thanksgiving Day.

The purpose of this piece is to offer a counter-view to what he has written and urge him to exercise restraint and decency during this moment of grief --- it is the customary thing to do in moments such as these. But knowing the history of hate mongers, this appeal for honor and decency may be an entirely waste of time. However, I consider it my duty, led by my conscience, to register my dissent in this public manner, whatever the cost.

Mr. Nyenie-Wea opens a flood of confusion when he writes: “…In our Liberian community, however, it seems acceptable to make financial contribution to bereaved families and therefore it becomes a wonderful idea when the ULAA Administration calls for a National Appeal for financial contribution to the family of the late Dr. Harry Moniba.”

From the foregoing, the unsuspecting reader may be deluded into thinking that Mr. Nyenie-Wea does support the idea of making “financial contribution to bereaved families” and seemingly lauds ULAA for the “wonderful idea”. However, he unleashes a tirade of insensitive remarks with hatred pouring forth uncontrollably. In the meantime, he writes, “We do not mean to be seen as insensitive”. Oh, really?

Mr. Nyenie-Wea pulls a page from Liberia’s recent dark history when he and other folks went on a rampage chanting, “Monkey come down”, in reference to the late Liberian President Samuel K. Doe. He refers to the late Liberian President as the “evil monkey” who was captured and slaughtered to their delight.

Yes, many Liberians remember the “capture and slaughter” of Mr. Doe. It is a nightmare many wish to forget. It is difficult to do because the ugly and uncivilized incident was captured on film and later televised, to the dismay of many, giving the Liberian nation a black eye. But at such an inopportune time, a time of grieving, Mr. Nyenie-Wea vividly recollects the moment in glee. To make matters worse, he glorifies and praises the man behind the act, Prince Johnson. We all know who Prince Johnson is.

Not only does Mr. Nyenie-Wea praise Prince Johnson for “capturing and slaughtering the evil monkey”, he laments the fact that Dr. Moniba escaped a similar fate, which he deserved because he was Doe’s chief lieutenant, “hands in gloves”.

Uncontrollably, and without just cause, he goes on a tirade against the family of the late Dr. Moniba and the newly-elected ULAA administration whom he refers to as co-conspirators, intending to deceive and exploit the Liberian community by appealing for $7,000.00 (seven thousand dollars) “to help with funeral arrangements”. The prudent observer will wonder if the Moniba family ever made such a request. It is most unlikely the case. But doses it matter? No, according to Mr. Nyenie-Wea, Dr. Moniba was or should have been an independently wealthy person. Mr. Nyenie-Wea fails to offer any proof as to how he reached such a conclusion, but according to him, since Dr. Moniba was running for the presidency, he must have been rich. This is strange logic to deal with, but so it goes, unfortunately.

In the end he writes, “The ULAA Administration should do everything within its powers to resist the temptation of being seen as appeasing the king makers from the Central and Northwestern regions or trying to pave their way to political stardom…”

Who are these “king makers from the Central and Northwestern regions”? Mr. Nyenie-Wea does not feel an obligation to tell us. Could this be a figment of his warped imagination? That would be my guess. Is it not a bit disingenuous to accuse the newly elected administration of ULAA of seeking political stardom? Would $7,000.00 buy such alleged stardom? Does “political stardom” come so cheaply?

I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m trying to silence Mr. Nyenie-Wea from expressing legitimate political views. It is his natural right and I respect him for attempting to exercise such. But as I have already stated, airing such strong and negative views at such a time sends a message of insensitivity and intolerance at this sensitive moment.

It is customary in Africa and most other places, not to speak evil of the dead, at least not before burial. This is simply an affront to the bereaved family, no matter one’s political persuasion. We must be constrained from expressing our political views at such crucial times, no matter how strong the urge to do so; it is only the civilized thing to do.

The point here is Liberians are split along the political continuum. Was Doe a hero or villain? Was he not considered a hero by many simply because he killed Tolbert, whom many considered a political enemy? Ask some of your friends from Maryland County, Mr. Nyenie-Wea. Believe me, this is a sensitive issue. Many did not consider Doe a monkey but a “golden boy”. I leave the rest up to you to ponder.

If ULAA is trying to raise as much as $7,000.00, each of its local and affiliate chapters is expected to donate about $250.00. Assuming that the Minnesota Chapter does make the required donation, each member may personally donate a dollar. After all, there are over two thousand five hundred Liberians in Minnesota. Life is too short to argue over a dollar. The prudent thing to do at this moment is either to pay the dollar or not pay it. But it’s certainly not worth the insults. I consider it uncivilized that Mr. Nyenie-Wea chose such a moment to insult the family of the deceased. If he has one nerve of decency, he will apologize instead of wasting his time by responding to me and defending himself.

Postscript: Here is the piece written by Mr. Nyenie-Wea that I am responding to:

The Ways of Our Leaders

As human beings, one of the prices we all pay for human attachment is that we grieve
when a love one dies and every society has found ways to support and contain the mourner's grief. In our Liberian community however, it seems acceptable to make financial contribution to bereaved families and therefore it becomes a wonderful idea when the ULAA Administration calls for a National Appeal for financial contribution to the family of the Late Dr. Harry Moniba.

We do not want to be seen as being insensitive here but what is the purpose of the National Appeal and why now? What is the psychological and moral wisdom behind the National Appeal at this time. What primacy are we setting here? Why weren't a national appeal launched for Ruth Perry or Dexter Tahyor? They too were former officials who served the Liberian government and its people faithfully. Or are we suggesting that their lives and deaths do not merit our generosity? I just hope not. And what better justification there is to exclude Ruth and Dexter from such a National Appeal? What makes Dr. Moniba's life precious than Ruth Perry and Dexter Tahyor?

Moreover, it is difficult, if not troubling, to comprehend the motivation behind the National Appeal. Yesterday, when we chanted slogans for the "Monkey to Come Down" the living Moniba was the chief lieutenant of the "Evil Monkey" we despised. And when the "Evil Monkey" was captured and slaughtered, Dr. Moniba still maintained that he was the legitimate successor to the "Evil Monkey". Maybe Prince Johnson's rendition of the remix of "By the rivers of Babylon" would have made the Top Ten Hits list had he captured Moniba and Doe at the Freeport of Monrovia on that fateful September morning. Then of course we wouldn't be launching a national appeal, would we? What is wrong with us? Am I missing something here? How can we sit around today and say Doe is tyrant and still maintain that Moniba is a hero when these two men (hands in gloves) managed the tyrannical government that was violently removed from power. If this is not damn right hypocrisy then I don't know what it is.

Then again, Dr. Moniba was not a poor man for his family to appeal to ULAA for $7000.00 to help with funeral arrangements. Because if you tally up the ULAA Leadership List against the $250.00 minimum donation per organization, this is how much they hope to get. For Christ's sake, if the man is a former Vice-President and a "true Liberian hero", as many of you are are claiming then I don't see any reason why the Gyude Bryant Administration cannot arrange for the the body to be sent to Liberia and accorded it the appropriate state burial. And just look around you. How many poor people do you see running for presidential office? None. Only those who have ways and means and can afford the luxury of presidential campaign pursue such lustrous goals. Was it not what Dr. Moniba was doing before his accidental death? Yes. Accidental death. Oh yes, tell me about it. Did ULAA forget that insurance companies in these parts of the world do compensate for accidental death? How about Dr. Moniba's life insurance policy? Has anyone considered that? Because ULAA Administration cannot tell us that they are helping the family because of financial reasons. Why should we collect money for someone who already has more than many of us?

The ULAA Administration need to explain the underlying reason behind this National Appeal at this time. To tell us that they are launching the National Appeal because the family wants to send the body home or because Dr. Moniba was a former Vice-President and a Liberian hero or because the family needs help does not cut it. The ways of our leaders in dealing with the rest of us must be amiable. The Moniba family is not among the poor family that we know today. And there is nothing that anyone can point to that can paint an image of a Dr. Harry Fumba Moniba working in the interest of the downtrodden masses of the Liberian populace. The ULAA Administration should do everything within its powers to resist the temptation of being seen as appeasing the king makers from the Central and Northwestern regions or trying the pave their way to political stardom. The $7000.00 will do a whole lot of good for the living who most need our help today.

Writhers Nyenie-Wea
Brooklyn Center, MN

Editor's Note: Mrs RuthPerry is alive - she is not dead as erroneously stated in the Nyenie-Wea's piece.