Liberia’s 2017 Presidential Election: The Danger of Identity Politics and Tribalism

By Jones Nhinson Williams
Contributor


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 28, 2017

                  



 
 
 
 

In defense of decriminalizing marijuana use globally, former United Nations’ secretary general, Kofi Annan, once wrote on February 23, 2017 in the U.S.-based Huffington Post online journal: “In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.” 

Mr. Annan’s words herein may not only hold for this instance.  I believe these words can be applied to many spheres of human activities and undertaken, specifically with respect to politics, particularly African politics where tribalism, sectionalism and identity politics are not only ingrained in the conviction of the continent’s so-called opinion leaders and activists, but have become a common place and an obvious recipe for violence, deaths and destruction.

Liberia, a West African nation is, without a doubt, a failed and struggling state in terms of political, social and economic governance. Besides, the country continues to degenerate into further disunity and unending poverty under the current Unity Party-led administration which, of course, is led by Africa’s and Liberia’s first female president, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 

While the ruling Unity Party-led administration’s failure to provide good and strategic governance, reconcile the nation and unify Liberians around a common purpose is extremely disappointing to various stakeholders (western nations, regional and international organizations including the United Nations, European Union, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States that have invested so much resources) with interest in Liberia’s future and prosperity, it is intensely heart-wrenching to the forgotten elderly, the women, youth and children, especially young girls in both Liberia and Africa. 

More importantly, it is markedly dejecting to a nation of 4.5 million people whose hopes and aspirations as well as votes have been taken for granted through a wasted process of missed opportunities under the current president.  That said, President Sirleaf leaves office effective January 2018 due to term limits but her party (the ruling Unity Party), which has failed the nation, is seeking continuation of her rule.   

In short, Liberians will hold presidential and legislative elections in October 2017 to elect new leaders who are expected to change the direction of the country from failure and corruption, nepotism and social stratification, bigotry and economic paralysis to socio-economic prosperity and political decency, accountability and transparency, the rule of law and meaningful human development. 

The expected new leaders come 2018 will have the opportunity to transform Liberia by using good public policy that must be what Mr. Annan describes as, “best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not.” For this reason, it is crucial for Liberian voters and Liberians in the diaspora to know the visions, platforms, qualifications, and experiences as well as the characters of the candidates that are running for public office so that when elected, their policies will not be based on what Mr. Annan termed as “common assumptions and popular sentiments” which, according him, “can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions” perhaps in solving Liberia’s numerous problems.

So far, what we have seen and heard from many of the surrogates of the ruling party and other political entities as well as some key Liberian presidential candidates is nothing but tribal and identity politics and an artificial divide between who is “Congo” and “Congua,” or who is “native,” or  a “real Liberian.”  These types of ideas and utterances are dangerous for Liberia now and in the future.  They were also unscrupulous for Liberia decades ago and have led to our pointless years of civil war and colossal refugee flow in neighboring West African countries and around the world.

These tribally-bent utterances and fashion of thinking are acutely dangerous because they are being espoused by people who convey some form of social and oratory influence in a country and among a population that has a 70 percent illiteracy rate and a dismal comprehension level.  These utterances and political mawkishness are also dangerous because the proponents have nothing to offer the Liberian people and Africa in general. In short, this tendency is, at best, sickening because it perpetuates the social and political essence of the campaigners, their followers and fans as well as sustains the failure of the country year after year.  The question is: is this what Liberians and Liberia want now, after years of ongoing misery?

Absolutely not.  Liberians want change in the way they are governed; they also want progress in the country’s economic development, and improvement in their living standard­­––they demand a change that will be based on a clear and distinct national vision, not the status quo.

In view of the change Liberians want and the gloomy failure of the current ruling Unity Party-led administration, a host of other good-intentioned Liberian citizens and I established a political institution that has produced one of the best vision documents in the history of Africa, according western political commentators.  Besides, we bring an unmatched and unique qualification, experience, admirable character, and passion to our collective quest to change Liberia from a nation of poverty to one in which we can have investment in science, technology, engineering, and math as well as in advanced manufacturing, agricultural-food production, education, workforce training, and infrastructure development while adhering to the rule of law, and simultaneously advancing transparency and accountability.  

This political and socio-economic vision document is widely distributed and put online.  Yet, not a single proponent of tribal and identity politics in Liberia has ever sought clarifications or questioned these ideas and the process by which they could likely be achieved.  The reason is simple:  the narrative and concept are above their deliberative trajectory if it has nothing to do with tribalism.  So instead of discussing issues and ideas, they double-down on ethnic opinions.

Even though I have suspended my yearning to seek the presidency of Liberia due to some personal family goals and my international engagement with the global refugee crisis in which my voice matters at this critical moment, there are other respected and decent Liberians who are seeking the Liberian presidency because they believe they can better change the country. 
These candidates, I believe have good intentions and the character, qualifications, experience, and vision required to become president of Liberia.  

Notable among current field of presidential candidates are current Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP), Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, leader of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), and Mr. Alexander Cummings of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) party.  I know these three respected Liberians.  I have talked with them and I know their true passion and plans for Liberia.  Their hearts are in the right place and they all mean well.  Besides, these three candidates bring impeccable records to the Liberian presidential race, and they unquestionably remain some of the best options so far in the 2017’s presidential electoral process.  

For his part, Vice President Boakai, who happens to be the presidential candidate of the current ruling Unity Party-led administration, is an honest man.  He is, perhaps, one of the few individuals in the Unity Party-led administration that is not only uncorrupted, humbled, and caring; but remains a dignified leader who wants a Liberia where everyone will have a place and be happy.  Moreover, the vice president has pointed out and can still draw a clear distinction between his style and understanding of leadership from that of his boss, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  

However, instead of the vice president be given the chance to tell the Liberian people about his vision for the country as well as explain to the Liberian people why the Unity Party-led administration, in which he is the second most powerful official, miscarried the Liberian people so gloomily, some unsolicited surrogates acting on his behalf are doing his candidacy a disservice by advancing a faulty theory: using identity politics––by espousing a non-existent reality, the so-called “Congo” and “Country” appeal.

This entreaty is the wrong prescription for the kind of Liberia we want after jailed president Charles Taylor’s 14-years of ruining our nation and after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party-led administration 12-years of inopportune letdown.

Core Issues at Hand

This brings me to the core issue.  The fabricated impression that some candidates in the 2017 presidential race in Liberia are “Congo” people and others are “non-Liberians” is not only baseless and outlandish; it is profoundly ingenuous and largely comes from corners where proper reflection is lacking and truth-telling is uncharacteristic.

For anyone, especially informed voters, in their right mind, to forget about the inability and gross incompetence of the Liberian labor force to adequately compete in the global labor market due to a lethargic educational system, disorganized governance process and the lack of investment in workforce training and development, but instead think, believe and promote that someone with a surname name Williams, Cooper, Jones, Cummings or Brumskine is “Congo,” or just because someone like Cummings, who is a native-born Liberian citizen that has excelled at a global corporate level no Liberian in history has ever reached, is a “non-Liberian citizen” is astounding and reckless.   

Like Vice President Boakai, Dr. Mills Jones, Alexander Cummings and Charles Brumskine bring impeccable resumes to the 2017’s presidential race.  Both Cummings and Brumskine, in particular, have visions and platforms that aimed at creating a level-playing field in Liberia where economic and social prosperity will be the measurement. 

For his part, Alexander Cummings built Coca Cola’s Africa markets and expanded its global profitability.  He also led the global corporate giant overall’s administrative apparatus that covers worldwide operations, marketing, corporate governance, legal affairs and more.  He understands the world market and human capital development.  Besides, he is a Liberian who, like most Liberians from humbled beginnings, attended public schools, lived, and worked in the country before taking the leap of faith to seek external employment outside of the confines of the Liberian government, which is sadly the largest employer in the country.  With such a distinguished personality, the best we can do is to demand to know his vision and plans for Liberia rather than categorizing him within the limitations of our individualized personal thinking.

For his part, Cllr. Charles Brumskine brings a wealth of private sector experience and a record of accomplishments in government’s leadership that is exceedingly admirable and clean.  He is perhaps, one of the few persons who has served in the Liberian government (past and present) without any tainted record of corruption, or a record of the abuse of power.  As president Pro Tempore of the Liberian senate under a dictator, Charles Taylor, Cllr Brumskine is on record as the legislative leader who championed policy and statutory changes including regulations that increased the type of businesses that are solely intended for Liberian citizens.  Record revealed that he also led a senate that not only frown on corruption, but that set an example by expelling a sitting Liberian senator for corrupt acts.  

Besides, he has remained in Liberia and in the private sector despite threats and attempts to falsely disparage his character and person.  Moreover, Brumskine has a clear vision that seeks to make Liberian politics civil just as he wants to ensure that every Liberian citizen and resident enjoys economic prosperity through employment, access to healthcare, good roads and more. With such a remarkable track record and achievements, the best we can do as Liberians is to demand the right to further understand his vision and plans for Liberia and why he thinks he can make a better president than the rest of the field. Instead, some have and continue to deny the voters this right by insinuating irrelevant matters that have nothing to do with Liberia’s progress.

Our Role as Voters, Activist, and Liberians

Our role as voters, activists, and Liberians, both in and outside Liberia, is to celebrate all those who want to change Liberia. We need to ask them probing and reasonable questions rather than injecting falsehood and scorning their characters when there is no reason to do so.  Where we differ, we may make recommendations or debate the issues with them.  This trend will help and is far better than transplanting ourselves into tribal and identity politics that are based on obliviousness and misrepresentation with the sole intent of injecting fear and aversion in the minds of the Liberian public.

The impulse of falsely labeling people as non-Liberians just because we don’t support them or share their civic creed is worrisome, and it bothers me because I am not only a victim of it, I have seen how this mentality not only set many African nations behind, but tear them apart as well.  It is this same type of thought that fueled the 14-years Liberian civil conflict where Krahns attacked Gios and Manos, Manos and Gios attacked Krahns and Mandingos, Mandingos attacked everyone, and where Lormas and Kissis think Mandingos do not belong in Lofa County, so on and so forth. 

The Consequences of thinking tribal

Just yesterday, there were some Liberians (many still do today) that believe that anyone with a Mandingo or Muslim name is not a real Liberian citizen.  In fact, when the late Dr.  Edward Binyah Kesselly founded the Unity Party, there were people (including some officials who are grossly benefiting from it today) who opposed him not because he was a dishonest person, or a bad manager, or an uneducated individual; they opposed him simply because they thought he was a Mandingo man, or had a name that is common in Guinea, Mali etc.  Others opposed him simply because he worshipped differently from the way they do.  The question is: is this what Liberia needs?

I have also seen and heard from people who once accused and strongly believed that people like Dr. Amos Sawyer is not a true Liberian – falsely arguing that he is a Sierra Leonean.  In fact, one prominent Liberian lawyer with whom I once had a stern political and policy dissimilarity, covertly told some people that I am a Togolese by heritage when in fact my parents are Grebo from River Gee County.  His intent was to spew fear and hate against me as someone who had no true loyalty to Liberia knowing full well that his thesis was categorically untrue.

In 2012, when floated the idea that I would like to see a future political ticket with Kofi Woods and Tiawon on it because I admired their advocacy, I sadly listened to a Liberian with a graduate degree telling an audience that both Kofi and Tiawon are not true Liberian natives.  The individual shamelessly went further and argued that Tiawon’s ancestors descended from the Nzerekore forest region of Guinea. While these kinds of secretly perpetrated claims are misleading, tribally-bent elements toe this myopic line because that is the only case they can make.

When lawyer and veteran Liberian communications professional Kwame Clements expressed his interest to run for president two year ago, despite his intellect, all I heard from many of these tribally-bent campaigners who opposed him then was not whether he was truly qualified or experience, but that he was not Liberian enough.  The same has been said about my Cape Palmas brethren, the Verdiers brothers. James and Jerome Verdier who, out of love for decency and fairness, constantly advocate for fairness, justice and transparency have been branded by some people as not Liberian enough.  Like they have branded me, they accused both Marylanders as Togolese too.  The question is: when will this childish mentality stop?

This naivety is so embalmed in the mental construct of the tribal-sentiments campaigners such that falsehood has become a norm. 

During my recent visit to Liberia (July 2016), I visited a local food and café center to gush the views of fellow Liberians.  While there, I encountered a critic (a former employee of the Liberian ministry of defense) of defense minister, Brownie Samukai.  As the fellow informed us (his audience) about why he had issues with the minister, he remarked that “the minister is becoming rich by taking all the private security contracts in the country to please his foreigner wife.”  After he ended his remarks, I gently stood up and said to the group that while I did not know the details of what the gentleman was discussing, I knew one thing was clearly false: that the minister’s wife did not have a Liberian background. 

I told the audience that, in fact, she is my paternal cousin, and someone who is not only a highly trained physician, but did not need Minister Samukai to live a decent life.  While the audience’s view had changed on that one aspect, in spreading his falsehood, the critic failed to understand that the lady’s father is a Grebo man from River Gee County and a relative to (brother to my paternal grandmother) someone in the audience. Without this clarification from me, many there would have gone with the critic’s unfounded prophecy.  That is the kind of Liberia we have.  This is the kind of Liberia that my two young and intelligent daughters, born to a former Kenyan United Nations’ diplomat, stand to face when I am probably not alive.  This is why this mindset must not be encouraged.  This is why I am opposed to it now. 

In addition, I personally defended Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai in 2006 and 2011 when some elements in the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party were spreading myths that the VP is a Kissi man from Sierra Leone.  While this lore was deceitful, the campaigners had a clear intent: to foster phobia and odium.

In the same vein, I have heard people accusing the vice president’s current chief of staff, Sam Stevquoah (a decent and intelligent brother) as being a non-Liberian citizen simply because they (campaigners of tribal sentiments) intuitively believe that his ancestors are said to have Ghanaian heritage.  To them, nothing about Stevquoah’s qualifications and competence nor the invaluable services he is rendering to the Office of the Vice President and the Liberian people matters. What matters is the shallow view they share about what being a true Liberian constitutes. 

This display of tribal instincts must stop because if we do not stop this folly simply because it is not personally affecting some of us now, there will come a time that we will all be impacted gravely when it is too late.  As former Kenyan president Moi Kibaki once characterized it, tribalism is a cancer.  It can and has the propensity to tear a nation and people apart.  Therefore we, as Liberians and Liberia as a nation, should have no room for dizzy individuals who thrive on identity politics and the campaign of fear and hate.  

The reason is, these tendencies and form of discourse are the hallmarks of identity theories, and we all know that such views are dangerous to our unity as a nation and prosperity as a people.  We cannot build better communities in our country and a better Liberia by playing tribal and divisive cards that benefit no one, not even the campaigners themselves.

This is precisely why we, as Liberians, need to heed the advice of former U.S. president Barack H. Obama as he states in his book, Dreams From My Father: “It is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism.  I understand the tribal impulse, and acknowledge the power of tribal division. I have been navigating tribal divisions my whole life.  In the end, it is the source of a lot of destructive acts,” Obama maintains.   

Pope Francis VI also added his voice to the danger of tribal politics during a recent visit to Nairobi, Kenya when he said, “tribalism destroys a nation.”  The Holy Father stated further that: “Tribalism can be overcome with an open ear, an open heart and an outstretched hand to continue the dialogue.” Nothing more meaningful than this in building a better country.

Conclusion

In one of my policy and managerial level jobs in the west, I provide monthly labor market reports and analysis to executives, policy makers as well as lawmakers regarding the status of the state’s economy and the impact the current trend of public policy has on the lives of the people in the state and how that reflects nationally.

I have a foreign (Liberian) accent and they all practically know that I am a native Liberian citizen.  They don't ask me question which tribe I am or which country I hailed from, as long as I do not pose any national security threat and is not engaged in economic crimes.  They are, instead, interested in me telling them which industry sectors in the state’s economy gain or lose jobs in a given month, and why.  They are also interested in me telling them which occupations are growing faster and which are declining, and why.

In Liberia, we are more concerned about who is Kpelle or Krahn or Gio or Grebo or Kru or Mandingo. It is irrelevant and Liberians are not going to make a mistake in 2017 with this type political distortion. What does calling a candidate a Grebo or a Kissi or a Congo man or woman has to do with governing in the right way?

As a country, our electoral debates must be based on issues, dialogue, respect and visions for the future rather than identity politics and tribalism, which are pervasive, and can control a lot of our behavior readily, as well as have a greater potential to override our reasoning.  

Lastly, our failure to heed Kofi Annan’s adage about common assumptions and popular sentiments, Kibaki’s authentic portrayal of the menace of identity politics, and Obama’s guidance on the hazard of tribalism may divide us more as a nation more than bring us together as a people.  Knowing that the campaigners of tribalism and identity politicking will not stop nor go away easily, we must all make effort to stop ethnic politics now and in the future!


About the Author: Jones Nhinson Williams is a Catholic educated Liberian philosopher, a public policy, labor market information and workforce development professional, and advocate for strategic governance and refugees.

Kpelleh  Boy
Thanks for your expose which from my point of view is pro "Congo". We natives Liberians have been suppressed for many years by the Congoes. We were denied citizenship by the Americo Liberians. Look at the Preamble of the 1847 Liberian Constitution.It says "we the people of Liberia were originally inhabitants of North America..." thus, excluding the indigenous population that make up 95 percent of the population of our country. Besides Samuel Doe, most, if not all Liberian presidents have been congoes/Americo Liberians. These people have miserably failed to bring meaningful development to the country. Liberia, to them, is their personal farm. They loot the country and buy homes in America and Europe. They look down on the masses of our people for reasons we do not understand. Example is clearly seen in the Sirleaf's government. Most of the Congoes in her government bought homes in America with stolen money from Liberia. They have not shown themselves to be patriotic. They regard Liberia as a temporary home to steal from and to later retire in America. So for 2017, we prefer a qualified country man to lead Liberia so that the masses of our people can get some of the benefits of our natural and mineral resources which our congoes brothers sell in their raw forms to foreigners for paltry. By now if the congoes were serious about Liberia's development,given the many hundred years of their rule, they would have built factories that would have provided many jobs for our people. They would have also built manufacturing industries that would have helped the country industrialize. Industries such as, iron, steel,vehicle tires, clothing, matches, clorox, toilet tissues, rubber gloves, pepper, orange juice, grapefruit juice, etc. etc. All they have done is to join hands with foreigners to hurt us as a people. We country patriots are really hurt by these actions of our congo brothers. They have to change. Our people are dying everyday and are confused. That's why this 2017 election is important to us. We have decided that since we are in the majority, we will take a qualified son from among us, who has the experience, love of country, love for the people, not arrogant like most congoes are, to lead so that manufacturing plants and industries can be built in Liberia wherein we will have the opportunity to add value to our mineral and natural resources to help in Liberia's industrial development.
Kpelleh Boy at 12:19PM, 2017/03/28.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Warlord J.Nhinson Williams AKA William Hanson, neither "identity politics" nor "tribalism" is undemocratic, illegal, illegitimate, "dangerous" or unconstitutional! Most recent elections won by the Democratic Party in modern day Rome - The U.S. has been won via its vore value of IDENTITY POLITICS - mobilizing a coalation of population segments:women, African Americans, Young urbanites,gays, and environmentalists, while the Republican Party has been able to win elections via an uneasy coalation of bussiness elites, the White working Class, Young non-college educated whites, and social conservatives! SO, WARLORD NHINSON WILLIAMS AKA COMMANDO WILLIAM HANSON, YOU ARE A SHAMELESD LIAR!!!

MR. WAR CRIMINAL, WHAT IS DANGEROUS IS YOUR LAWLESS THINKING AND ADVOCACY OF ELITIST OR SELECTIVE DEMOCRACY IN WHICH ACCORDING TO YOU, NEITHER THE CPNSTITUTION NOR TRUE DEMOCRACY MATTER: HENCE, THE VOTES OF THE GRASSROOTS OR THE COMMON PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE COUNTED, AS EVIDENCED BY YOUR VERY STUPID SUGGESTION THAT THE CANDIDATE (GEORGE WEAH) WITH THE LARGEST GRASSROOTS FOLLOWING SHOULD DEPRIVE THE MAJORITY OF ITS PRESIDENTIAL CHOICE! So we ask you again: WHICH IS DANGEROUS? YOUR MINDSET TO NOT COUNT THE VOTES OF THE COMMON PEOPLE-THE MAJORITY OR IDENTITY POLITICS AND ETHNICITY WHICH ARE LEGITIMATE, MORAL, LEGAL, AND CONSTITUTIONAL, NATURAL AND POLITICAL PHENOMENA IN NATIONAL ELECTIONS? YOU BET THE LATTER IS THAT WHICH ARE DEMOCRATICALLY ACCEPTABLE ACROSS THE GLOBE, WHILE YOUR WAR MENTALITY IS BOTH UNACCEPTABLE AND DANGEROUS!
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 03:18PM, 2017/03/28.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Its CORE VALUE and not vore value.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 03:24PM, 2017/03/28.
sylvester moses
The very topic, “Liberia’s 2017 Presidential Election: the Danger of Identity Politics and Tribalism” signaled a thematic confusion, which is barely rescued at the eleventh hour by a sort of shrilly, yet, resonating appeal as follows: "we must all make effort to stop ethnic politics now and in the future”.

Indeed, one wonders whether the usually well – prepared Mr. Williams really factored in the meaning of “identity politics”. For if “identity politics” is the “tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad - based party politics", or “refers to political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify”, then our political template was invariably “identity politics” from 1847 to 1986 when inclusive broad – based party politics actually evolved, unbelievably, courtesy of “fools and idiots” of the PRC "military dictatorship".

Another glaring weakness of this piece is a flippant tone which tends to reprimand the victims of over one hundred years of various forms of discrimination, human rights abuses, denial of opportunities, (compounded by eleven years of bad governance under EJS) about their patriotic obligations.

Granted that Liberia won’t achieve our collective aspiration for peace and progress should citizens indulge in sectarian politics, the blame for its recent escalation ought to be laid at the feet of a micromanaging autocrat, EJS. She ignored the people – oriented political platform of her own party, yet persecuting leading partisans such as Senator Varney Sherman for reminding her in a 2013 Independence Oration delivered in Bomi County. The result of arbitrary rule through her politics of crisis, and vendetta was political discontent of the marginalized vast majority, and the inevitable widening divisiveness.

Finally, it is unsurprising that apart from Boakai, the ideal presidential candidates for the author are those which meet his elitist criteria. That for nearly a dozen years the most prominent elite of them all presided over one of the worst administrations never made him realize that there is more to leadership qualities than a twenty – page resume of well - packaged accomplishments.

Liberia has capable leaders. However, let the will of the people prevail in October 2017: No more cheating by NEC on behalf of anyone, even when the suggestion comes directly from the Iron Lady herself. And, lest we forget, Ivory Coast experienced a civil war over presidential elections.

sylvester moses at 11:04PM, 2017/03/28.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjalla
See evidence of WARLORD Jones Nhinson Williams aka COMMANDO William Hanson obsession with death and destruction over the rule of law and or democratic elections. HE IS INTERESTED IN SELECTION AS THEY DID IN GHANA AND CHOSE BRYANT RATHER THAN MAJORITY OPINION THROUGH NATIONA ELECTIONS.

An Interview with William Hanson, Senior Spokesman of LURD



The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 15, 2002





The war between the Taylor regime and the Liberian dissident group known as Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) intensified during recent days. There were attacks in Palala, Gbarnga, Klay, Tubmanberg and Arttington. On Tuesday, May 14, 2002, The Perspective (TP) conducted an interview with Mr. William Hanson, senior spokesman of (LURD), the dissident group that is waging war against Mr. Taylor to oust him from power.. Below is the interview conducted by George H. Nubo and Siahyonkron Nyanseor:



TP: What are the territories you control now?



Mr. William Hanson: We control Northwestern Liberia, and most part of Central Liberia - at the moment we are at the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia.



TP: What towns are under your control?



Mr. William Hanson: We control Klay, for example. We control Tubmanburg. We did some fighting in Arthington, but we have made tactical decision that is aimed at reducing civilian casualties. This is guerrilla tactics. We are trying to see how we can encircle Monrovia. Military diplomacy will not permit me to tell you where we are now.



TP: You control Klay, Tubmanberg, Gbarnga? Is there any other major town that is under your control?



Mr. William Hanson: Yes, [we control] Zeinzu, Palala and all those places.



TP: Who controls Bopolu?



Mr. William Hanson: We control Bopolu. [I am speaking] to you from there.



TP: What about Zorzor?



Mr. William Hanson: Zorzor is under our control. Those are places where we have civil administrations functioning very well. We have civil administrations in all those places.



TP: So, these are not ghost towns that you control?



Mr. William Hanson: They are not ghost towns - we have people there. But it is not the kind of population you would expect to be there [in normal situation].



TP: Why do you think that the civilian population runs away from you into Taylor’s territories instead of coming into your territories?



Mr. William Hanson: They do not run away from us. What they do is [that] they try to escape conflict zones because when ever we make some moves the ruthless ATU comes around and instead of facing us they will revenge or display aggression on the civilians. So, what the civilians do is that since they cannot approach us, they just go to Monrovia where the media organization is - to report how they have been treated by the regime. But when they come to our area, they live peaceful live.



TP: What is LURD’s agenda for Liberia? We have not seen LURD’s agenda. We have written to your office over five months ago requesting LURD’s agenda, but we have not received any response.



Mr. William Hanson: We have an agenda. The agenda we have is that we want to make sure democracy takes root in the country - respect for fundamental human rights also takes serious root. We want to make sure that all sectors of the country become developed in terms of economic empowerment, agricultural activities, infrastructural development, and medical care in all the counties. Basically, the main thing we want to do is to put in place respect for the constitution - where nobody will be above the law. So when people are corrupt, when they steal government’s money, they will be subject to the law - so that nobody will institutionalize banditry in the country… We will have powerful legal system in the country. When we have powerful legal system in the country, the next thing that will happen is that democracy will flow. Respect for fundamental human rights will flow. We do not have the authority to do all these things. To do all these things, we need the collective efforts of all of our countrymen and women. We want all Liberians to come together to form political parties, even including the ruling party. We want to see ourselves as a factor in anything to do with our country.



TP: Why can’t you organize yourselves into a political party to contest the 2003 elections instead of this approach?



Mr. William Hanson: It will never work. In the first place this is matter of survival and self-preservation as a people and as a nation. You are speaking of somebody who has no relation to the international community, who has outlived his usefulness. Realize certain key things: this man was not democratically elected. The so-called elections that we refer to as elections [1997 elections] happened simply because the international community, particularly ECOWAS, felt that since he had the military might, he should be given the opportunity to shape the affairs of the country - With a mandate to restructure the Liberian security forces so that he could provide security for the nation. He reneged on restructuring the security forces.



TP: Recently, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported some of the atrocities LURD has committed against the Liberian people. Can you comment?



Mr. William Hanson: In the first place, we don’t want to say that we are perfect. Our forces do make some mistakes because we are human beings. In a conflict situation, like the one we are involved in, there will always be mistakes. But we are straightforward on civilian protection. I want to say that the reports done by the two institutions were done professionally. We respect those institutions and their reports. But some of the things that were said in the reports were said because the general picture was not understood. Most of the atrocities are not caused by us, they are caused by the other group – the ATU group. That should be understood. Most of the atrocities are committed by the Taylor regime, which has the track record of committing mayhem and destruction. They tend to put the atrocities on our organization with the view of gaining public sentiments and international sympathy on their side.



TP: It is said that the begging of the year was a PR disaster for your organization because your organization took credit for Mr. Taylor’s gimmick. Could you comment on that?



Mr. William Hanson: We value the expression of individual’s opinions, because we cherish press freedom and expression of the mind. Those people who say those things, have the right to [do so] – that is their opinion. We do not want to say that we had PR setback at the beginning of the year.



TP: Was LURD responsible for the death of Emma Ross? Was LURD responsible for the death of Massaquoi? Was LURD responsible for the previous Klay attack. Sawmill attack?



Mr. William Hanson: The situation that unfolded in Klay is that LURD was responsible in sending its forces to Klay, but the atrocities committed and the general atmosphere created in that area was not by LURD. But we were there and we took charge for some time. On the issue of Massaquoi - Massaquoi was setup by Mr. Taylor to be assassinated. The helicopter came within our terrain, and we did shoot at the helicopter. So we assumed that we hit the helicopter. It may have been possible that our forces led to his death. At the same time, we just want to say that he was setup and he may have been killed by Mr. Taylor before he was even put in the helicopter.



TP: Some say that there were no bullet holes on the helicopter. So are you sure you hit the helicopter?



Mr. William Hanson: The international community and Liberians in general know that this man is a liar. He has lied to people before. He committed massacre in the past and said it was ECOMOG. He killed American Catholic nuns and said that they killed themselves. You know, and I know that Taylor is a liar so why should people continue to believe him.



TP: If you know that Mr. Taylor is a liar, then why take credit for the death of Massaquoi? Why take credit for the death of Emma Ross?



Mr. William Hanson: It is not the matter of taking credit, it is matter of saying that we were in the area when Massaquoi’s helicopter went there. We shot at the helicopter! How he died, we don’t know but we shot at the helicopter. He may have been killed before he was put in the helicopter.



TP: What about Ross?



Mr. William Hanson: Ross went within our terrain and an ambush was setup and he died within the area where the ambush was setup. In a military situation like this, whether it is true or not, so long your people were in the terrain - you will say something. Even if it is not true, some character of truth will be in it.



TP: ECOWAS has hit LURD with a travel ban. Are you stranded in Lofa?



Mr. William Hanson: We are not stranded. In the first place, we are disinterested in traveling to any place. One of the reasons why are engage in the struggle is that we want to remain in our country. There is a deficiency within the ECOWAS Secretariat in terms of conflict resolution. And once the international community continues to make people heads of major strategic [organizations] that are supposed to resolve conflicts, particularly ECOWAS – people who do not have the requisite moral value, there will continue to be some problem. It is unsettling that Chambas with all his education is at ECOWAS Secretariat and is being coerced by Mr. Taylor to do things that do not [reflect] his status as ECOWAS Secretary General and even as an educated person.



TP: Are you saying that Chambas is bias because of Taylor’s influence?



Mr. William Hanson: This is not the matter of him being bias, it the matter of him continuing what he started. He was part of the group that selected this fellow to become president of the country despite all his criminality. So, he just wants to continue what he started. And beside that, he has an alliance with certain groups that think what they are doing is the best thing to do within the region.



TP: This war (between LURD and Taylor’s forces) has been going on for at least two years. Are there POWs [prisoners of war] and if so how many?



Mr. William Hanson: At the moment, we do not have any POWs.



TP: Do you kill the enemies who capture?



Mr. William Hanson: No, we do not! They are our brothers. When they surrender to us we educate them politically, de-traumatize those who are traumatized and send them back to the front. And this is one of the main pools where we get our manpower from.



TP: So you turn the POWs into fighters for LURD?



Mr. William Hanson: Yes, an example the deputy chief of mission for the Gbarnga program is one of Taylor’s subjects who have been politically well-cultured.



TP: We recently received an e-mail from LURD stating that we should not give anybody an interview with the exception of you. Is there a power struggle within LURD?



Mr. William Hanson: There is no power struggle. In any institution, there is division of labor with hierarchy. If you are the Managing Editor and another man is the Editor, I think the functions are different… We have one spokesman, but there are others who may speak if they are positioned or recommended by the spokesman to do so. That’s why Joe Wylie, Bennie and others have been speaking because the spokesman, myself, used to recommend them so that we will give this thing a national character to make our people to know that we have people [from various] political sub-divisions of the country.



TP: Joe Wylie once said that LURD’s forces were not in Sawmill when they claimed that they were there. Did he misspeak?



Mr. William Hanson: That’s exactly what I was telling you. Wylie is the senior military advisor and the fact that he accepted to grant you an interview without getting the authorization from the spokesman, who supposed to send out information, he was expressing his opinion.



TP: The general view expressed by most Liberians that they do not want to replace one dictatorship with another. What is your comment on that?



Mr. William Hanson: The first thing as an institution, our focus is not on power. I just want to make that very clear. As a national spokesman, and one of the founding members of this movement, I am not interested in any state power. I am not interested in being in government or working for government. We are doing this thing as a matter of personal commitment to make sure that we have liberation of our country and people so that they will be able to enjoy economic development. There may be some people within the LURD who in their capacity as Liberians and educated people may be interested into taking government jobs as a matter of some constitution rights. So, I am not ruling that out. But what I want to say is that we as an institution have a focus. Our focus is to make sure that our country becomes part of the comity of nations in terms of development. So with that in mind, we will want to play a little role in any political arrangement that will replace Mr. Taylor. The only person we are after is Mr. Taylor.



TP: But Mr. Taylor is not the only corrupt person within the Liberian government - why just Taylor? If he is gone, the others will still be around. What about the legislature that gave him cart blanche. The ministers?



Mr. William Hanson: Our aim is to create a level playing field. We are not in the business of witch hunting. We are saying that this guy is using the presidency to institutionalize banditry not only in the country, but also in the entire sub-region.



TP: How do you go about replacing him. If LURD succeeds who is going to replace Mr. Taylor? Is there going to be interim government, or is it Konneh who referred to himself on BBC as Commander in Chief? Who is going to replace him?



Mr. William Hanson: The question of replacement is something that all of us - you and other Liberians- have to [decide]. It is something that [requires] the collective will of all Liberians. LURD will not take somebody and say you are the president. That is not the position of LURD.



TP: So are you going to get rid of Mr. Taylor today and then say there will be election tomorrow for the president of Liberia - to elect replacement for Mr. Taylor?



Mr. William Hanson: No that is not exactly what we are saying. We are going to call all political organizations, including the NPP party - all parties will be involved.



TP: Liberians are talking about war crimes tribunal for those who have committed atrocities in the country, including LURD. What is your position?



Mr. William Hanson: We are prepared for anything because our records are clean. We have nothing to hide.



TP: Thank You



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Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjalla at 05:01AM, 2017/03/29.
Sylvester Moses
Never mind that my comment was in response to the article of our very articulate author, and not a profile of his rebel or redeemer activities, I want to thank the usually thorough ZoedJalla for the backdrop. Ironically, though, what surfaces is a win – win for interviewee (Nhinson) and interviewer (the perspective) as each tried to gain publicity for LURD, and getting a scoop to inform anxious Liberians worldwide respectively.

Truth be told, if the excerpts were meant to tarnish Nhinson’s character, the attempt failed. Instead, they burnished his reputation as an educated man so unselfish that he would forego a life of ease to pick up arms against a political dispensation his group considered illegitimately predatory. Of course, President Taylor was duly elected, and his administration legitimate. Nonetheless, there were enough accusations of treasons to go around in our two decades of catastrophe, 1985 to 2005.

Sadly, since 2005 – 2017 seem like the age of betrayal of the marginalized vast majority, it behoves all of us to allow the ballots from an ethically – conducted presidential elections to determine EJS’s successor. Thankfully, on that score, there is unanimity among all shades of “impartial” opinions at home and abroad. In October 2017, we may face an existential moment. Remember, it can only be reversed by a perceptual rarity: the integrity of NEC.
Sylvester Moses at 01:15PM, 2017/03/29.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
MR. Moses,

Not to "tarnish his reputation" but to EXPOSE his evil-smelly FAKE PERSONALITY, COWARDICE, HYPOCRISY, UNDEMOCRATIC MINDSRT, AND UTTER DISREGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE AND THE RULE OF LAW!

Substantiating the above is his phony characcter of oresenting himself as Willuam Hanson when he is Jones Nhinson Williams! That is the height of falsehood and cowardice!!!

So, even "if the excerpt was meant to tarnish his reputation" such a telling debunk would be legally, morally, and justly, legitimate, and this is why he was never man enough to present his real make! Bortom line: The guy or such a fake personality does not qualify to Tell anyone about democracy! And what proved this is his recent admission that he prefers war to democratic election where warring factipns would select the national leader instead of national majority opinion through free and fair elections.

Lastly Mr. Moses, its good you Said "his rebel Group" and not the peple! since it long became Clear his rebel Group believed that the most appropriate means for them getting Jobs and Money was through their massive killing of the innocent.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 03:38PM, 2017/03/29.
Kou Gontee
Mr. William Hanson: "We are prepared for anything because our records are clean. We have nothing to hide."

Mr.Jones Nhinson Williams, how could you make such statement quoted above, when the reality or truth is that you were actually hiding your true identity?????? And worst of all, while giving people children guns to die for you and kill others!!!!!

Kou Gontee at 05:07AM, 2017/03/30.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Madam Gontee,

Warlord William Hanson also known as Commando Jones Nhinson Williams is simply one of those power-money-seeking hypocrites who hide their selfish greed and disregard for human life and the rule of law By EXPLOITING the wrongs of a given government within the political jungle of Africa. No decent o morally balanced character would ever be of such cowardice and hypocisy as is the case with warlord Jones Nhinson Willims aka Commando William Hanson.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 08:33AM, 2017/03/31.
Emmanuel F. Saingbe
Obviously, Mr. Jones Nhinson Williams, or William Hanson - whatever his namw is - is a confused man; however, there is something sinister to be discerned in his confusion. He is anti-Native Liberians; anti-Boakai; pro-Congua; pro-Cummings; pro-Brumskine.

But there is something important that I have to tell this confused man. We know our history; we know how we have suffered under Congo colonial rule; we know how the tiny group of corrupt ex-slaves have used our beloved country as their personal fief.

This is why our minds are made up and there is no stopping us now. Regardless of the machination of President Sirleaf, her Congua and their native flunkeys like this Jones Nhinson Willams aka Hanson Williams, on October 10 Native Liberians will use their vote and numerical superiority to to put an end to their humiliation by Electing Vice President Joseph Boakai as the 25th President of the Republic of Liberia.

Thank you!
Emmanuel F. Saingbe at 10:54AM, 2017/04/04.

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