An Advice to Taylor's Supporters

By Bushuben M. Keita

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 7, 2002

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely." This time honored quote is being made manifest in Liberia every day. The more recent one is the arrest and brutal victimization of human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe and Mabutu Kromah, the brother of opposition leader Alhaji Kromah. I know the two gentlemen personally and I appreciate their plight since we have seen those things in action ourselves. Taylor has now managed to place such a firm grip on activities in Liberia that he believes that he owns the place. He proposes to accept only a certain kind of opposition - from those who are secretly working for him. What did Gongloe do to deserve the treatment he got? He tried to show that there were still some men in Monrovia who know how things should work. He dared to explain how the law says the country should be run.

According to Taylor, the only applicable laws are those he himself proposes. His law in simple form is "do not discuss politics and do not take part in political activities, do not discuss human rights and do not take part in human rights activities." Those who abide by this rule can live in Liberia without problems as many do. Those who seek to speak must either leave the country or be treated like Gongloe until they succumb.

As for Mabuto Kromah, arrested for speaking to his brother on the telephone, I can only say that worse is getting ridiculous. If, as Mr. Taylor has said, Mr. Alhaji Kromah is part of a presidential pardon and is not wanted by the Liberian Government on any charge, how can a telephone call between himself and his brother be an offense warranting an arrest? Not only are they saying that telephone calls to and from Liberia are being monitored in clear violation of privacy rights, but also that the government proposes to suggest who its citizens may talk to, hence my first quote. In Liberia, the power that the people cannot retain or exercise is assumed by their president. The constitution is now a mockery and there is no pretense at a balance of power. Liberia is Taylor and Taylor is Liberia.

My pity as usual goes out to the ordinary people of Liberia who continue to be betrayed by those who would lead them. Taylor, as an individual, cannot place such a stranglehold on the country as he has done. He must have accomplices acting as government officials, police and other paramilitary officials and military men. It is the collective coercive and administrative machinery under Mr. Taylor that is bringing suffering to bear on their own people and I can only say shame on them. How is it that the same people who claim to love democracy so much can support a tyrant and even justify his tyranny? For example, the present police director was a Chief of Protocol appointed by Alhaji Kromah who spent numerous hours excoriating the negative attributes of Mr. Taylor during those times. How is it that he is not only one of Taylor's most ardent supporters, but in fact the instrument of his callous disregard for the rights of the citizens? Is it for reward or fame, or does he really believe in what he is doing? When I think back to the time in Conakry when I saw him personally shining Mr. Kromah's shoes, I wonder whether that was not the hint that something was wrong with his politics.

But the behavior of Mr. Mulbah is representative of the general government in Monrovia. Young activists from the University of Liberia and Cuttington University College, who found fault with President Doe so often, cannot see anything wrong with Taylor because they have jobs. No president in the history of Liberia has ever been such a pariah like Taylor. He is condemned by the United Nations for criminal reasons-aiding and abetting murder and mayhem in neighboring Sierra Leone. His collaborators know this is true. They saw him recruit and train rebels for Sierra Leone at Gbartala base in 1991. But strangely, they find this acceptable. These people who prop up the government of Taylor are the real culprits. Tomorrow they will come up with all manners of excuses for why they could not leave or resign. They will want to be respected and join a new political arrangement after the government of Mr. Taylor is no more. Then they will try to differentiate themselves from the boss that they have followed so doggedly. These are the real scums of Liberia. Living well while the masses suffer. Banned from foreign travel but they are happy. Riding big cars on pot holes streets and yet they smile. Contend to advise the king while he supervises the ruins of his own people.

The day of reckoning will come when you will have to justify your presence on the Supreme Court bench when the rights of the people were trampled, when you will have to justify your presence in the legislature when you could not debate or criticize the intimidation and exploitation of your own people, when you will have to justify your presence in the government that the rest of the world has condemned. You can jail Mabutu or Tiawan on whatever trumped up charge you want, but your day of reckoning will come. Not all of the people will be fooled all of the time.

About the author: Bushuben Keita is a former Director General of the Liberian Broadcasting System. He presently lives in the USA.

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