It Is Time To Rethink


By B. J. Samukai

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 3, 2004


The weekend desperado violence in Monrovia and its environment is a vivid reminder of the arrogance of an incompetent and shortsighted leadership in our country, hell-bent on taking us on the path of failure. The NTGL must take full responsibility for the madness that took place, and must seek to broaden its support for stability through a National Conference in Liberia before elections 2005.

Initially there were reports that the resulting weekend violence was caused by land dispute between two different families; others had it as a conflict between former combatants of both LURD and NFPL that spilled over; and now the argument is of a major conflict between Mandingos/Muslim and Christians!!

Regardless of how it started, when gangs of criminals under whatever banner, be they Christians or Muslims decide to burn Mosques, Churches, loot private homes, gas stations, commercial businesses, burn vehicles, victimize innocent people, and carry on general violence resulting into death, do we brush these acts aside under the theme of reconciliation in order not to ‘shake up old wounds’?

Is it very disappointing that the Minister of Justice, himself a lawyer, would be seeking to assume the leadership of a notorious rebel group, LURD, at a time in our country when rebel groups were to disappear as of 31 October? It is very disappointing in our country when reaction to incidents become the panacea of solution to our problems without involving the population in the recognition of their problems. It is very disappointing when there has to be a pause in the euphoria of Liberians returning home, because the interim political leadership of our country is unable to provide reasonable argument for continuous instability, instead of saying this is democracy!!! Horse Wash when you are hiding behind steel gates.

It was worthy to have heard that some form of meeting was hastily arranged with stakeholders in the Jacob Town area. But it was grossly disappointing that both sides decided not to go into the details of what lead to the violence, so as not to “shake up old wounds”. Is this the attitude to lead us away from further violence and destruction? What are the lessons we have learned from our destructive contemporary history? What are the lessons we have learned from the destruction of April 6, 1996, September 17-18, 1998, 2003 “WW WWII, WWIII, and I”, and on Halloween weekend of 2004. Impunity under the circumstance is a logical precedent for the repetition of further destruction in our country. Failure to learn from our historical past will continue to shake the very foundation of a peaceful and harmonious society, even after elections 2005.

It took almost one year for the NTGL to extend the political authority of the government throughout the country. It took nearly a year before our people in other parts of the country could see NTGL. But right in Monrovia, when last did people in Paynesville and ELWA areas feel the authority of the regime, instead of convoy of sirens of entourage taking countless foreign trips. When was the last time marketers at Paynesville Red-Light Market felt a part of the political progress or the semblance of authority to suggest to them that there is recourse for justice if your properties are looted in the market. Do the people in Duala and Logan Town and elsewhere believe in the Criminal Justice System when their properties have been violated? Do we know why mob-justice has suddenly become a choice of angry ordinary citizens? When was the last time any one was successfully prosecuted for any act of violence, including widely publicized rape of children?

Indeed the NTGL has permitted itself to be swallowed by the Ostrich Principle allowing the Government to bury its head in the sand pretending that problems in Liberia are just ‘simple’ and will go away through Elections 2005. We don’t need Brain Surgeons to tell us that something fundamental is wrong and we must address it before elections 2005.

The astronomical figure of the rate of illiteracy in our country has created the perception that reconciliation is interpreted as impunity, and thus we should “forgive” criminals, bandits, gang rape, and murderers. To the contrary, Justice is the antecedent of reconciliation. Reconciliation is the resulting process of contrition, appropriate transparent justice, and recognition of mutual respectful co-habitation. Impunity is the legal jargon for ‘protection’ from judicial recourse. But judicial forgiveness for rapist, arsonist, murders, bandits, and looters? I beg to differ.

If election 2005 is to provide a political leadership for stability in our country, then the alternative to a National Conference before election 2005 is chaos after elections. Let us not assume the known or unknown. We must be practical in recognizing that premature political-egress through elections 2005 will be a tragic disaster regardless of who wins. Political ejaculation is not a practical solution to rectifying the decaying nature of our political, social and economic system. The demand for a National Conference before elections 2005 is reality one that we must accept. A National Conference, would be a reminder of the ‘Town Meetings” of our elders, or the ‘Village Council”, or even “Court of the Paramount Chief”, or even the recently held meeting of stakeholders in Jacob Town after the violence, by a member of the UN Ghanaian Contingent, to bring out the ills and good of the society and seek a way forward in harnessing the full endowment of the society. If a UN member can recognize the need for citizens to meet and talk and bring out the issues, is it not logical that Liberians need to wake up to the call for a National Conference for us “to talk”? Is it not a fact that those sitting in the NTLA do meet to deliberate on issues, and draw up their own conclusions and not necessarily the aspirations of the people? This is what happens to a leadership that is not elected and has no political mandate besides is own organizational agenda or platform.