By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
The newspaper Front Page Africa reports (FPA, October 28, 2016) that “A deportation date (back to Liberia) has been set for Jeffrey Gbatu, the former Speaker of Samuel Doe’s People Redemption Council... The Daily Observer newspaper reported recently that Gbatu was arrested... in Charlotte, North Carolina after Homeland Security alerted INTERPOL, which subsequently charged him (Gbatu) with ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ which he allegedly committed in the aftermath of the 1980 coup”.
This is our Response to the US security Agencies and our Liberian press reporting, over time, of the events.
These Reports Raise Many Questions
Indeed, the reports raise several deeply-troubling questions - diplomatic, political, legal and Liberian national questions:
a. Firstly, when did the US Homeland Security and INTERPOL become Liberia’s War Crime Investigators and arrest-and-detention Agents? The United States may not, under law, arrest, detain and try a non-citizen for offence(s) committed not on US territorial jurisdiction, let alone offence(s) alleged to have been committed in Liberia, a foreign country. The US is keenly aware of this international law and convention.
b. General Gbatu must have been duly investigated, found competent and lawfully-admitted into the United States; therefore, he may not be deported on charges of offences allegedly committed in Liberia. Moreover, a search of the Ministry of Justice, Liberian National Police and National Security Agency shows no record of such charges against General Gbatu or that the General is a fugitive from Liberian Justice, in general.
c. So, where did the Homeland Security and Interpol get their orders to arrest General Gbatu, leading to the reported, pending deportation?
According to Front Page Africa, “The Daily Observer newspaper reported recently that Gbatu was arrested . . . in Charlotte, North Carolina after Homeland Security alerted INTERPOL, which subsequently charged him (Gbatu) with ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ which he allegedly committed in the aftermath of the 1980 coup”.
Coup d’états are universal, revolutionary phenomena (are accidents of history) illegal and punishable by death in most cases, unless successful. The April 12, 1980 Event was a phenomenal success with support of the overwhelming majority of the nation’s population that danced in streets, nationwide.
Recent Wave of Arrests . . .
The recent heightened wave of harassment, arrests, detentions, trials and, often, deportation of selected Liberians by the US Immigration Service, Homeland Security and related security agencies bring back memories of my student days (during the 1970s) in the United States as student leader and President of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, Inc. (ULAA).
In a speech delivered in the parlors of the Executive Mansion, Monrovia, on March 11, 1980 in response to invitation extended to ULAA by Dr. Tolbert, then President of our country, I told the President and gathering that one of our “third”, serious concerns, as students, was the “US Immigration Service Harassment of Liberian Students”.
“At issue in this instance is the overly aggressive, persistent, often unnecessary, harassment of Liberian students in the United States by the US Immigration & Nationalization Service. Liberian students have been and being arrested, often in the dead of nights, at transportation terminals, held without bail or the opportunity to contact friends or relatives for assistance, coerced, threatened with deportation for alleged offences, summarily tried and, sometimes, deported without the right to be represented by legal counsel”.
“In some cases in which counsel is provided, he/she is, often, the traditional public defender-type who cared less whether or not the accused student was found guilty, a political conservative and avowed racist who believes that black Africans should not be in the US in the first place. Mr. President, the US Immigration treatment of Liberian students, on the basis of our experience, has taken on a new dimension – the notion of race. In a recent discussion with the newly-assigned, Liberian Ambassador to the US (the late) His Excellency H. R. Wright Brewer on the subject, he noted that ‘reciprocity is an indispensable element in international diplomacy’; we agree. The time has come for the US to treat Liberians with the same ‘favored people’ status that the Liberian Government and people accord US citizens. To make this a reality, we request that the President of Liberia name a special team to begin, without delay, negotiation with the US Department of State for relaxation of the undue, unreasonable restrictions, including travel to the US against Liberian students. We believe that this approach is possible”.
“Mr. President . . . we hasten to make it perfectly clear that the American People are warm, kind, gracious, helpful, understanding and sympathetic to the problems of the average, Liberian student. Indeed, without their assistance, many Liberian students, including your humble servant, could not have survived the difficulties of getting a college education in a distant, strange environment”.
But today, 2016, innocent, low-level, average Liberians have been, are being, again, harassed, arrested, detained, subjected to costly court trials, coerced, threatened with harsh sentences, including deportation and, often, deported on charges of offences allegedly committed in Liberia during the civil war. Meanwhile, the Liberian elites, the “big fish” warlords, war criminals who organized, carried out the war and committed mind-boggling atrocities - human rights violations - bought homes and live comfortably in the US under the noses of the Homeland Security and the US Immigration & Citizenship Services for years with impunity. Some include the-now political rulers of Liberia, parading the country and the world community as World-Class Leaders & Democrats, but warmongers in reality.
The case of Mr. Tom Woewiyu is the prime example. Woewiyu, the notorious “Defense Minister” and Second-in-Command of the NPFL fighting forces lived in US while moving between Liberia and the US for some 30 years. He was arrested recently upon a simple mistake of lying on the application for US citizenship. There are thousands of other rebel honorables and warlords in and out of Liberia who enjoy the support and honor of the international community.
And finally, it is important to note that the United Nation’s International Community, dominated by former colonial rulers of Africa (now seeking to gain indirect political and economic control of Africa’s vast natural resources through puppet regimes) refused, rejected Liberia’s request for war crime tribunal for trial of the thousands of known war criminals now walking the streets of Monrovia as Honorables with characteristic impunity.
This was or is consistent with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of Accra, Ghana, for Transitional Reconciliation Commission’s Report & Recommendations now unattended, for years by the rulers of Liberia, the International Community’s “World-Class Political Leaders”.