The Liberian Progressives: Prisoners of the Superpowers’ Cold War

   By Teah R. Jardia



The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 8, 2014

                  


Dr Amos Sawyer

Our nation is under siege by the Ebola virus with no ending in sight yet and as Liberian from everywhere asking God almighty for an answer to this deadly disease, Theodore Hodge decided to ceased the moment to bashed the late G Baccus Matthew, Dr. Togba-Na-Tipoteh and the progressives.  

 Amazingly, How can any one in his right mind accuse the Late Gabriel Baccus Matthew of not known what he started; the struggle for Multi-party democracy in Liberia without mentioning the major role the ‘cold war ‘had played in the Liberian people’s struggle for change?  In Theodore Hodge’s article, “ You Could put Lipstick on a pig, but...” -Published in the August 28, 2014 edition of the perspective.org, he accused the late Gabriel Baccus Mathews of the following:

“ …He [the late G. Baccus Matthews started a revolution and didn’t establish the necessary political steps to accomplish the goals to achieve success.  Perhaps it could be said that he set no goals, except to change the Tolbert regime.  He had no clue what it would take to change the Liberian “System”.  He thought changing the regime was tantamount to changing the system. He hurriedly and boldly asked for Tolbert’s resignation.  Incidentally, Tolbert was removed faster than he Matthews anticipated.  But he got caught with his pants down.  He had no plan to change the system; regime change did not effect system change. Mr. Matthews was exposed and went on to lead a marginalized life…. we know the rest of the story”.

The Cold War Politics

The period that divided the world between Western blocs led by the United States and the Eastern bloc led by the Soviet Union through the 1980s had so many implications that cannot be left out in any credible analysis.  The fight between these superpowers defined every legitimate struggle of a people struggling to free themselves from outside domination is viewed as being on side of one or the other. Nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America were mere pawn in these superpowers’ chess game.  Example abound, One of the confrontations that almost led the world in to world war III was the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between the Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev and United States president John F. Kennedy.

It is important to note that the Cold War was fought due to the refusal of these former imperialist powers to abandon their vested interests  (mineral and natural resources} abroad. The independence of Asia and African nations changed the global balance of power of which Liberia was a victim like other African nations   to see it otherwise is blind to the reality of geopolitics. The West in particular, defined every legitimate struggle of a people as Communism--you are either on the side of the west or the East. It is alleged that the British instigated the Nigerian Biafra war, over the control of petroleum (oil).

The United States in opposing the expansion of Communism around the world, often maintained political and economic ties with dictators or regimes that are pro Western.  This type of policy often influenced nonaligned nations to favor doing business with the Soviet bloc.  During this period, leaders of developing nations often criticized United States for unconditionally supporting Israel’s treatment in Palestine, the minority whit Apartied government in South Africa, and the Americo-Liberians’treatment of the majority African-Liberians in Liberia in the 1970s.

 

The nonaligned movement that developed as a result of US and her allies’ policies, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles characterized their stance as  “immoral”.  In addition, in 1979 professor Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, who later served as advisor to the Reagan Administration wrote an article for commentary, entitled  “Dictatorship and Double Standards,” in the article she argued that right-wing   “authoritarian” governments, such as those in Argentina, Chile and South Africa, suited American interests better than left-wing regimes.  She criticized the emphasis placed on human rights by Jimmy Carter and blamed it for undermining right-wing governments in Nicaragua and Iran.  She went on to argue that right-wing dictatorships were reliably pro-American.   She therefore proposed that the U.S. government should treat authoritarian regimes much more favorably than other governments.  Kirkpatrick added:    “Liberal idealism need not be identical with masochism and need not be incompatible with the defense of freedom and the national interest”.

Some political commentators of that time referred to the U.S. government’s constructive Engagement policy in dealing with South Africa as:  “it is better to deal with the devil that you know than the Angel, you know nothing about.”

In the Book written by the late Zimbabwean born professor Dickson A. Mungazi entitled Reagan’s policy of Constructive Engagement: An American Dilemma, writes:

“ In January 1981, when Americans thought that their government had formulated a policy to restore African confidence in the U.S. ability to promote its own national interests by seeking to promote those of the Africans, they were surprised to learn that the Reagan administration operated under a different set of beliefs.  Not only did the administration return to the days of John Foster Dollies, which equated African demand for majority rule and socialism with anti-capitalism, but it also questioned the philosophy that was central to the policy of the Carter administration.

“ To conclude that the policy of the Reagan administration became an American dilemma is to suggest that it created new problems out of its thinking that halting possible Communism influence in South Africa was far more important to U.S. interests” than ending political repression by the minority whit settlers of the Africans majority.

These were the harsh realities and struggles the Liberian progressives of the 70s and 80s were up against.  The only weapon the Late Gabriel Baccus Matthews, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh and the progressives had at their disposal was to expose the exploitation, corruptions, lawlessness, abused of power, and hypocrisy that existed in the society, which was at the expense of the poor masses.  Laughable, How could Gabriel Baccus Matthews advocate for these changes up to his last day on earth without known what he was against?  Can Theodore Hodge say for certain that the people’s Redemption council dethroning of the True Whig party dynasty and subsequent democratic elections that took place had nothing to do with the concretization of the progressive movement of Liberian people in the 70s and 80s? Why then is G. Baccus Matthews is referred to as the  “ Father of Multi-party democracy in Liberia?  Is it because he did nothing? What are Hodge’s contributions to the struggle?  It is better to try, than not to try!

For Theodore Hodge to claim that he applies deductive reasoning in his analysis and conclusions is far from the truth.  He falls short in understanding the dynamics of the struggles between the powerful and the righteous; it is NOT as simple as putting lipstick on an ugly pig.  When dealing with human behaviors, there will be setbacks due to betrayals, conspiracies by bigger powers to delay the struggle; it could be for a while or the same length of time it took to declare slavery unjust, and finally bring this horrible human experience to an end.  It is like  “ Night follows Day”; truth with the help of the almighty prevails in the end against unjust institution or system.

Now, it is important to share with Hodge the dynamic of geopolitics that was not factored in his blanket accusation of Liberian progressives---Gabriel Baccus Matthews, Dr. Togna-Nah Tipoteh, Oscar Quiah, David Karn Carlor, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, and Dr. H.B. Fahnbulleh respectively. It is not as simple as he makes it seem!

Example of Modus Operandi Used

This information is taken from page 151 of D. Elwood Dunn’s book, Liberia and the United States during the Cold war (2009)

It is a friction of what we know now and it reads:

“… Although critical of Doe for shortcomings of his administration, Ambassador James Keough Bishop (US Ambassador to Liberia, from 5/ 4/87 to 03/31, /90 was equally critical of the Liberian opposition.  The American envoy thus emitted mixed signals.  At one level, Amb Bishop saw the opposition as a college of  “ Americo-Liberians” who once overwhelmed the US Embassy “with its hospitality and access”, but now taken a posture of hostility toward the embassy in the aftermath of the 1980 coup d’ etate that ended the First Republic (1847-1980).  In self-imposed exile in the United States, these Liberians of immigrant descent clustered in communities in Reston, Virginia, Silver Spring, Maryland, in parts of New Jersey and New York, some managing to acquire UN employment.  Cumulatively, they managed to exercise disproportionate influence on the US Congress.  For Example, the staffs of such key members of Congress as Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Congressman Howard Wolpe had a strong Liberian presence…”

Page 237 of the book contained this crucial, revelatory information:

 

“The facts are that Liberians Earl Burrowes and Joyce MendsCole joined others in lobbying both the African Affairs and Human Rights Committees of the House and Senate.  Not directly working as members of the congressional staff, they were, during the period, introduced to key legislative aides by Debby Harding, a former Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) and friend of the president of the Equator Bank where Ellen Johnson Sirleaf later worked.  Burrowes recalls that they started with the Human Rights Committee in the House.  When wolpe became chair of the African subcommittee, the African American Adowa Dunn-Mouton was appointed his legislative assistant.  She greatly facilitated the activities of Burrowes and Mends Cole, and scores of other Liberians keen on exposing systematic violations of Human rights in Liberia.  Burrowes adds:  “We were so successful in embarrassing the State Department with information their embassy didn’t even know about that the State Department started referring to us  “The Network”…Once Doe’s regime arrested 8 students and had some of them sent to Belle Yallah.  Based on facts we gathered and presented to Congress, we were successful in getting fund disbursement and allocation suspended.  The problem for GOL was that this happened just as the disbursement period was coming to an end and if the funds were not used it would not carry over.  When they realized this they rushed to bring the students back to Monrovia…sending the ambassador to tell Rep Wolpe that the students had been released. Wolpe had Adwoa call me for verification. I called Monrovia and found that they hadn’t dispatched the plane to pick them up.  When Wolpe told the Ambassador this they say he  was visibly shaken. That night I got a call from a night club on Lynch Street with a message that the students had just been dropped off at the corner by an army truck!!!!”

The last part of the information was obtained from an e-mail-Burrowes sent to D. Elwood Dunn on June 11,2008.

This is a complete operation manual of how these guys made their voices heard by Congress deceitfully and to the continued detriment of the Liberian masses.  Also, this practice continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These were some of the things the Liberian progressives was up against—that Hodge referred to as  “nonsense” and “putting lipstick on pig.”

Let me continue! Also pages 143-144 of the book are a treasure trove.  It reads:

“. In the aftermath of the executions of the issue of asylum acquired prominence, as congressional and other American friends of the executed officials pressured their diplomats and other administration officials for explanations.   In one cable message the Monrovia Embassy sought to explain:  “We were requested by four individuals to grant them asylum because they felt their lives endangered: Cecil Dennis (deposed foreign minister), Joseph Chesson (deposed justice minister), Will Clark (Wilfred Clarke, deposed security minister), and Spencer Edriss (deposed national security agency director).”  Then a later message indicated that two had actually asked for a place to spend the night.  The other two (Chesson and Clarke) were simply seeking information on the situation at the time.

“These contradictory messages about what US diplomats in Monrovia might have been able to do to save the lives of the deposed Liberian officials were in response to a firestorm of protests in Congress led notably by California Senator S. I. Hayakawa and New York Congressman Steven Solarz.  As things subsided, Ambassador Smith remained convinced that  “refuge” offered to Liberians against what is now the constituted authority in this nation would in the long run be of no avail and would cause that authority to react against Americans generally.”  The identical posture was later taken by William Harrop of the State Department in a public testimony before Congress…”

(Hadjor, Kofi Buenor (1987), on transforming Africa: Discourse with Africa’s Leaders (1987),

This is Cold War politics 101 for Hodge’s benefit and those who think like him in their unfounded vilification of the progressives.  In a book titled: On transforming Africa: Discourse with Africa’s Leaders (1987), by kofi burner Hadjor of which Dr. Toga-Nah Tipoteh wrote the foreword that reads:

“…Those Africans interested in transforming [Africa] were either thrown aside or turned into window- dressing critics.  In the end, governing became a euphemism for technical administration and politicians adopted the language and mannerisms of superior civil servants.  In most places inertia and complacency exhausted the vocabulary of politics, while the masses suffered and were robbed of their rights to participation in decision-making.”

Another factor Mr. Hodge did not consider in his  ‘deductive reasoning’ exercise is the classic example stated below. Since it appear that some of his followers if any at all are ignorant  (don’t know) of the Tubman era manipulation, I am making it available as I got it from the United States’ Country Report on Liberia. It reads:

 

“Despite the positive image created abroad by the Tubman administration and its popular appeal at home, criticism of the government (if it was widely publicized) and opposition to the True Whig Oligarchy (if it became too overt) was firmly suppressed and in individual cases harshly punished.  Nor did Tubman tolerate expressions of the new nationalism that sought to incorporate pan-Africanist sentiment with tribal consciousness in Liberia.  The government was particularly embarrassed in the 1960s by signs of unrest among workers in the foreign concessions.  Another source of antigovernment, anti-foreign agitation was the campus of the University of Liberia, which the government identified as the seedbed of radical dissent.   Discontent also surfaced in Liberians armed forces (formerly the LFF), whose ranks were composed largely of soldiers from tribal backgrounds.    Meanwhile, elements of the party’s old guard, whose attitudes on some issues, such as the pace of economic development and the extent of foreign involvement in it, were similar to those of the radicals, prodded the government to take stronger action against dissidents activities.

“In 1961 strikers from the rubber plantation marched on the Executive Mansion to demand government action against alleged discrimination in pay and promotions.  On that Occasion Tubman had consented to meet with representatives of the strikers, serving them refreshments and calling in the police band to entertain them.  The president promised to look into complaints that better jobs had been denied to qualified black employees but turned aside another demand that foreign concession be phased out.   Tubman cautioned the plantation workers that if the foreign companies left Liberia, the jobs they had created would go with them.  The demonstrators disbanded, apparently both chastened and appeased.   The government subsequently alleged that the rubber worker’s strike had been communist inspired.

“ A more immediate threat to Tubman came from elements in the armed forces.  In 1963 and again in 1966, 1969, and 1970, high-ranking officers were implicated in plots to kill the president and overthrow the government.  Concern had focused during that period on the shadowy Aborigines Liberation Movement, which, in its slogans, had attempted to link tribal consciousness and leftwing ideology with a base of support in the armed forces.  All of those involved in the attempts against Tubman’s life were of tribal background, but their actions were interpreted as representing discontent among small cliques of officers rather than an indication of their affiliation with a larger ethnic or political movement.  (Taken from Liberia:  A Country Study (1985), American Colonization Society)

What follows was the fabricated indictment of Ambassador H.  Bioma  Fahnbulleh, Sr.

Mr. Hodge, while the Liberian progressives may have made some mistakes in the past, they were done in the process for a greater cause on behalf of a people that were yarning for change.  Gabriel Baccus Matthews came on the scene in the latter 1970s and changed the political phase of Liberia forever along with Dr. Togba-Nah Topiteh and other progressives.  G. Baccus was referred to as Socrates and was accused by the power that is for “corrupting the minds of our Country’s forlorn and dispossessed”.   In the midst of threats and tortures, he stood the test of time and today his brilliance along with other progressives opened the political floodgate that you are enjoying today.  One of his comrades, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer addressing the nation at one point called the late Gabriel Baccus Matthews of the United People’s Party, as the maradona of Liberian politics. By all accounts, Gabriel Baccus Matthews was a true leader with an uncommon charisma and ability to inspire.  Like Nelson Mandela, G.  Baccus Matthews was the messiah who have come to free his people from the bondage of political inequity and he give his life for the come man and now resting in the pantheon of the world’s political giants.  History has recorded he was here and his present was felt.   As a visionary, Gabriel opposed the war and predicted the out come to take the country 100 years backward and from all indications, the Country is quiet today amid the lack of leadership foresight by the Ellen’s administration because the icon of Liberian politics has gone to bed.  

He watches from the distance as the Country wallows in shameful condition but all is lost because Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh has not abandon the struggle along with other progressives. Let it be known to Hodge that the progressives never claim in any way or manner to be flawless yet continue to forge ahead in keeping current the political irregularities of our country.

Finally, Mr. Hodge, empty criticisms serve no useful purpose then, and will NOT therefore, it is best that he join the forces of good will in seeking alternatives measures to remedy the Ebola virus crisis facing our nation with images of dead bodies littering the streets of Monrovia.  G. Baccus and Tipoteh has never been the problem of the political cronyisms and corruption the country has ever experienced but rather the architect for social justice and change for a Country in which we can remain as our brother’s keepers.


Teah R. Jardia, MPA tjardia@yahoo.com

T. Nathaniel Tamba 111
Mr. Jardia, keep that rap for the poor. Your so called progressives are and have not been "prisoners to the Superpower´s Cold War", but rather these guys have been haunted By their pretentions or hypocracies sanwished in their greed for vain-bluff political power, and for money in the shameless disguise of love for pubic service.

The fact that their selfish hustle transpired during one party rule in Liberia as was in most part of the continent in no way changes the fact that Tipoteh, Matthews, Fahnbulleh, Wolokolie, Mayson, Sawyer, Wisseh, etc etc are not on record of being mere political hustlers chasing after money and their vain-bluff with national political power.

When Tipoteh came to power with the PRC he told the masses "do not expect too much too soon", Baccus Matthews worked with Taylor as Public Relations Officer for one of Taylor´s looting companies, Boima Fahnbulleh is the chief adviser to this very bad and worthless Ellen Johnson Sirleaf´sgovernment, Tipoteh is serving on nearly all the ministerial Boards and getting richer By the hour, while Conmanny Wisseh during a recent Press panel at the Ministry of Information in Monrovia tol the Liberian people to "stop complaining and complaining"!

Is this what you call The Liberian Progressives: Prisoners of the Superpowers’ Cold War? The Liberian people do not think so. The Liberian people have now relized that thse guys have all along been seeking for their own selfish interests.
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