I agreed to the idea of a national conference to
be held in Monrovia (I strongly advocate that it be
held in the various county headquarters as well) before
the October elections because I believe it is critically
important. Primarily, it will help to foster national
unity by giving the majority in Liberia (literate
and non-literate, urban and rural) the platform to
articulate their pain, their hope and their fears.
This platform was basically what the two recent conferences
in the United States attempted to accomplish. In Liberia,
our elders in the villages, for instance, can give
us their perspectives on how we arrived at this sad
state of national destruction in our history and what
can we do to prevent a reoccurrence. Moreover, a national
conference is an opportunity for the vast majority
of our people in Liberia, who were unable to find
refuge in the United States and Europe, to partake
in the debate on critical national issues like abuse
of power, education, social equality, and a war crimes
tribunal. Again, these were some of the very topics
that the two recent conferences in the United States
addressed. A national conference in Monrovia, Gbarnga,
Buchanan, Sanniquellie, etc., gives the same opportunity
to the majority in Liberia to freely express themselves
like their fellow countrymen and countrywomen did
in the United States. The Liberian conference will
complement those that were held here, not compete
with them. Lest we forget, it was the majority (who
did not attend the conference in the United States)
that remained in Liberia throughout this terrible
ordeal. They were the ones who physically endured
the rape, the murder, the hunger, and the sorrow.
And they, like us living abroad, have a right to tell
their story. Because there is no indication that such
a conference is being organized in Liberia prior to
the October elections, I agreed to sign the petition
for a national conference in Liberia. Let me now address
Dr. Dolo's critique.
Dr. Dolo characterized the call for a conference as egotistical "selfishness" (p.2). In fact, his main contention is that those who called for the conference are motivated by self-interest: the sub-title of his article is "Dictatorship of Self-Importance." Yet, in his nearly four-page tirade, Dr. Dolo did not give a shred of evidence to prove his incendiary charges. He failed to show, for example, how calling for a national conference makes us absolute rulers or a "dictatorship;" how advocating for the conference makes us "selfish;" how the conference would confer prestige on us; or how a national conference will personally benefit the signatories. On page 3, he accuses those calling for a national conference of having "ulterior motive," but did not provide any proof, not a jot to support this brazen charge. For Dr. Dolo, it was simply sufficient to use innuendoes and unproved assumptions to impugn our intentions. The logic of his main argument that the signatories' call for a national conference in Liberia is a selfish one is puzzling: "They have no capacity to host this conference or ensure that its results are implemented," he writes on page 3. But the signatories themselves conceded that they have no authority to hold the conference. Essentially then, they are asking any neutral group with the credibility, the resources, and the wherewithal, to host the conference (e.g., UN and the European Union). Where is the "selfishness," the "dictatorship," and the "self-importance" on the part of those calling for the conference? Some of the signatories may choose to attend a national conference in Liberia, which is not sufficient reason to insinuate that they are selfish. I certainly will not attend due to obligations here and the high cost of going to Liberia.
There are many contradictions in Dr. Dolo's argument. He wonders "what objective would a national conference serve this late into the elections." The petition clearly states that the goal is to "avail our people the opportunity to speak their mind on the national crisis in light of past experience and future aspirations" (the letter is posted on theperspective.org, June 6, 2005). What objective did the conferences in the United States serve, the conferences that Dr. Dolo suggests were a success? Is it not selfishness on our part to claim (after holding our national conferences in the US) that the majority of Liberians do not deserve to have a conference also? There is ample time to organize one. In another section, Dr. Dolo indicates that because "societal problems are complex" attempts to resolve them must be "inclusive, holistic, and equitable" (p.1). And yet he condemns the effort to organize a conference in Liberia that will include the majority of the population (the very "inclusive, holistic and equitable" approach he advocates above).
Dr. Dolo makes it very clear that he and some of the signatories have different views on national politics and policies (p. 2). This is perfectly acceptable. I certainly do not share some of the views that other signatories hold on national issues, and they may not agree with some of mine. Nonetheless, I hope we can consider each situation on its own merit and not on past actions that may have no relevance to the current problem. My concern was how a national conference would empower the majority of our people who have always been disenfranchised. In my mind, it would foster national unity, give the majority a sense of national direction, and for the first time, make them actual stakeholders in the political process. They can then cast their ballots in October with confidence and hope. Therefore, whatever policy or political disagreement I have with Dr. Elwood Dunn or the other signatories is beside the point. What matters the most is the merit of the proposal and its usefulness to Liberian unity. To refuse to consider the merits for a proposed national conference because of personal differences with those who proposed it is tantamount to the mother, who sneers at the dirty water her baby is bathing with, and decides to throw both the baby and the water away.