Disclaimer or Reckless Disregard for the Truth?
Reply to Dr. William Allen

By Emmanuel T. Dolo, Ph.D.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 20, 2005


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Is it sheer naiveté or naked stubbornness that drives some people to think that they can repeatedly exploit others without their targets one day standing up firmly to scold their perpetrators? This question applies to Dr. William Allen, perhaps a proxy for some of those who signed the proposal to host a national conference in Liberia. Dr. Allen characterized my criticism of the idea as an “inflammatory rhetoric” although he made no effort to dispute my arguments about timeliness, inconsistencies between the suggested purpose – unity and the disunity sowed by some members of the group and the utility of a conference, when the track record shows unimplemented results of previous conferences dating back to 1990.

Readers should keenly note that once a person is at variance with those who tout themselves as the “political and cultural elites,” there is a tendency for them to either directly attack their critics or solicit a hire hand to employ their choice strategy. They cry foul, spew labels, then wish, that their response would distract from the truth. Unfortunately, in this case, I have decided to expose Dr. Allen’s strategy and call it “bluff.” The same person that charges me with uttering “inflammatory rhetoric” equates me with an “impulsive mother” bent on throwing out the “baby with the dirty bathing water.” Is equating me to an “impulsive mother” a civil tone? I leave that decision to our readers.

There are obvious gaps in Dr. Allen’s comprehension laid bare by his clear guilt-ridden self-defense. He argues that the purpose of the proposed conference is to foster national unity. Aged wisdom declares that “Charity begins at home.” How can a people who were unable to forge unity and adamantly organized two separate conferences amidst outright harsh exchanges, with one of the signatories to the proposed conference at the core, say that they are apt emissaries of unity? If they were unable to negotiate a compromise with Liberians in the US, what guarantees do we have that they will not repeat the pattern in Liberia? Would Dr. James Teah Tarpeh again lead a revolt and urge others to bolt from the group as they did, if he is not made the Chairman of the steering committee? Or would Tarpeh resort to disrespectful conduct because he is unable to influence participants to accept his ideas? Is the culture of division and venomous utterances, which these “opinion leaders” pretend to scold, in which the two conferences in the US were immersed, the seed that this group wants to sow in Sanniquellie, Gbarnga, and Monrovia - Liberia?

Dr. Allen also claimed that I attempted to “throw the baby away with the bathing water.” If the baby is the proposed conference, then Dr. Allen failed or refused to absorb and understand the contents of my article. I wrote:

“…national conference is a fertile soil for citizens to cooperate and forge alliances, but they only serve sensible purposes when the facilitators are viewed as having legitimacy and moral authority in the eyes of their countrymen and women. More so, the processes and solutions evolved must translate into real life changes for people to validate the method.”

I acknowledged the value of a national conference nonetheless; I established benchmarks for hosting this event. That is not an outright denunciation of the method, but a request for outcomes and deliverables. In my particular specialty of applied research, we seek ways to deploy resources productively and strategically position institutions to be good stewards. Efficiency gains rather than hallow promises are our preoccupation. That is why, compared to Dr. Allen, my tolerance level for ineffectiveness is extremely low, and even much lower for abuse of public trust.

More practically, do I not have the right to doubt the honesty of a group of people some of whose record of failure spans more than 20 years? Is it not appropriate to draw reasonable inference from the patterns established by these individuals for not seeking the best interest of Liberians? Should rebuke for repeated self-indulgence at the expense of the poor and illiterate be couched as lustrous affection; merely to create a veneer of “civility” especially when it concerns the vulnerabilities of an excessively exploited population?

In addition, Dr. Allen failed to answer the issue that I raised about the untimely nature of the proposed conference. Dr. Allen may not be aware that this aspect of my dispute is not unique. One of those invited to participate in this project who refused to sign the document on nearly the same grounds, which I based my article upon is a former University of Liberia Professor of Sociology. This source who currently teaches at a US institution of higher learning wrote me an email immediately following the publication of my article. The email described why the source agreed with me and noted concerns about the merits of the proposal. Remarkably, this source, that I did not know prior to my writing and have not met in person or otherwise wrote:

Dear Dr. Dolo:
I do not think you know me. I just read your article in The Perspective and, to a very larger extent, I agree with you. I was one of those invited to join the group as you can see from the adjoined correspondence. It is interesting that some of your observations are consonant with some of my reservations and observations and so I thought I should share my observations and reservations with you. As you may have noticed, I did not sign the document but my concerns are real and serious. The direction that the Nation is taking troubles me deeply as I see us going down the slippery slope into a free fall. I too am saddened by the fact that Mydea and Teah could not submit their personal ambitions into the larger good of the Nation.

The source then attached emails that were exchanged with Dr. Elwood Dunn. Here are excerpts of the source’s admonitions to Dr. Dunn, which you and your associates did not adhere to, although I am assuming that you were privy to these “reservations and observations.”

….I think, it is a little too late in the day to have a conference or forum like this. We are almost in June and by the time you settle the logistics – where to meet, who to invite, what broad topics to cover – and send out invitations and people to make travel arrangements, we are almost at the end of July or early August. This will not give us ample time to discuss broad policy issues and translate them into implementable programs to educate the politicians and inform the general public….

The same source wrote:

…Who should constitute this forum? Already politics and campaigning are in high gear and lie man say, there are 2.5 million Liberians who want to be president and they are all over the map….How do you prevent them from using the forum as their soapbox? How do we sort out their peculiar agendas from true national agendas? How do we make sure that some of them do not hijack the forum and we become pawns in their game?…

The source finally wrote:

To add to our problems, the Teah and Mydea power grab and tussle had not helped our cause as many have pointed to our disunity and seen it as our wanting to jump into the job fair.

Is Dr. Allen aware that a colleague expressed these concerns and they were ignored? Are there any reasons why selfless motives should be ascribed to some members of your group? Is Liberian history not replete with occasions during which some of these people promised, even pledged that if they were given the helm of political power/authority (pre and post 1980) they would not follow the footsteps of government officials and dictators that they criticized and vilified, and yet did not fulfill their promises and/or pledges? This notion that when the actions of certain Liberians are call into question, then they or their supporters cry - foul (inflammatory rhetoric) is a cancer on our quest for democracy that needs to be removed by less than kosher conversations. What is more toxic than some people posturing that they are immune from criticism?

As a social scientist, my charge is to study the patterns of people’s behaviors and draw objective lessons from them. That being the case, why wouldn’t I conclude that based on the history of disunity and sheer conceit demonstrated by some of the names on the list, this is a selfish pursuit which would not realize the results that Dr. Allen anticipates? I should note that my article was not about the gaping differences in substance and style that I have with some members of this group on how to solve our national crisis. But if the thesis of my article is rooted in the inconsistencies in their rhetoric and actions and the utter fraud that some of these signatories have perpetrated on the Liberian people is being inflammatory, I will accept Dr. Allen’s charge. But then again, walking in lockstep with a “wayward” crowd has never been my suit. Dr. Allen, needs to be reminded that given the repeated missteps of some members of this group, the results have been mistrust in the ability of these “opinion leaders” to bring about meaningful change. Liberians have graduated from apathy to outrage and verging on offering stinging rebuke to some members of this group if the patterns of behavior decried in this paper do not change.

I have profound regard for Dr. Allen, but where we differ is how to treat our supposed “elders” whose public record is tenuous at best, if not fraught with massive letdown. Record that: I separated those among this group of “opinion leaders” whom I deemed were “well-meaning.” You may have been considered to be in that category, but what is frightening is that a historian has yet to decipher the cunningness that rendered our nation a ghastly place of massacre.

Notably, I welcome dissent or any critical analysis because I believe that this is the basis of honest and fair scholarship. Anyone should be free to express their opinion on my creative works and vice versa. It was in this spirit that I contacted Dr. Elwood Dunn, a representative of this group and informed him of my doubts and disagreement about the proposed conference. I then indicated to him that I would write a critique of this idea. He even said that he had planned to invite me to participate in the project, but noted that my busy schedule caused him to shy from the decision. I informed him that I would have declined. We ended that conversation politely. Was that an act of a person with malice bent on inflaming the mind of the public?

I recall that in the past, some signatories to this proposal bitterly criticized the members of the True Whig Party for repressing opposition, stifling free speech, and limiting decision making to a small group. From all indications it is clear that some of these signatories have succeeded those whom they criticized. Sadly some of the very old ways of the maligned True Whig Party are emerging within some intellectual circles, where, when colleagues fail to march in lockstep, they get treated as being inflicted with political leprosy and are therefore relegated to an intellectual Belle Yalla (notorious concentration camp infamous for the repression of political dissidents in Liberia). The spirits of Liberians have not dampened in the face of harsh realities imposed on them by their self-serving counterparts, some members of this group included. They have been daring and are unafraid of their strategies and purposes whatever wraps they are contained. The time has passed when Liberians abstained and give victory to dictatorial tendencies or dictatorship itself.

It is important to remind Dr. Allen that there are a growing number of Liberians who are tired and can no longer tolerate the kinds of gamesmanship to which some members of this group have resorted over the years. I urge Dr. Allen to read the scores of articles and speeches made by Liberians in Liberia and around the world setting 21st century standards for leadership. Should Dr. Allen avail himself of these emerging trends, he will realize that the school of thought that he espoused is fast becoming extinct in contemporary Liberia. As a historian, it will do him well to wake up and observe the fast changing pace of our times. Indeed, there is a difference between motion and progress.

About the Author: Dr. Emmanuel Dolo is the Coordinator of the Office of Equity and Integration at South Washington County Schools in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. He can be contacted at edolo@theperspective.org