A Rejoinder to Harry Greaves and Harry Yuan’s Response to My “Open Letter”


By Tarloh Munah Quiwonkpa

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 23, 2005


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The purpose of this article is two folds: (a) to address the concerns of Liberians who have questioned my motivation for daring to raise the issue of my husband, General Thomas Quiwonkpa’s death during an election season, and (b) to extend my thanks and appreciation to the hundreds of Liberians who have expressed their sympathy to the Quiwonkpa family through emails and phone calls, and who have also expressed their support for our cause. I equally want to thank the few emails I received from individuals who have questioned my “motivation and timing”. I believe that they are entitled to their opinions about my motivation. People have the right to their opinions, that is the rationale for the freedom and democracy Liberians are agitating. I respect their points of view. I also want to thank the Liberian people for their steadfastness over the years despite the tremendous difficulties they have encountered in their quest for social justice, the rule of law and a pluralistic society.

It has taken me this long to publicly raise the issue of my husband’s death because Liberia has been in total chaos over the years. Which authority would I have turned to for answers to my questions? It also took me this long due to my desire to obtain a decent education that would enable me to reasonably pursue answers to my inquiries. Most importantly, it took me this long because I had to juggle with the demands of raising a son in America, working a full time job, going to school full time, and caring for the rest of my family members in Liberia.

I decided to raise the issue of my husband’s death during this election season because the “enterprise” was a political event. Liberia is currently going through a political process therefore, I believe this is the best time to raise the issue of Thomas’s death. Some of the major participants in the 1985 failed attempt to dethroned Samuel Doe are currently vying for public office or actively supporting others for the leadership of Liberia. Since they have failed to contact me directly, perhaps, they would provide answers to my inquiries to the Liberian people.

The suggestions by some people that I am being used by certain politicians to derail the political campaigns of presidential aspirants in Liberia are an imagination. First, I am not a supporter of any of the presidential candidates in Liberia; second, I do not intend to endorse any of the presidential candidates. My motivation for speaking out now is pure and simple. I am simply seeking answers from the people involved in the failed coup about my husband’s death. What would the people questioning my motivation do if they face the same adversity? Would they continue to sit silently without seeking answers? I beg to differ.

Mr. Harry A Greaves, Jr. claims in his email to me, which he sent a copy to The Perspective for publication that I met him on one or two occasions and I did not raise the issue of Tom’s death with him. My encounter with Mr. Harry A. Greaves, Jr. began when I was invited by Ms. Nohn Kidau to a program organized by a group known as the Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia (MDCL) sometimes around 1990 or 1991. After the program, Liberians were invited to meet the speakers, which included Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Mr. Harry Greaves, Jr., among others. We formed a line to meet the guests. When I approached the guest table, Ms. Nohn Kidau introduced me to Mr. Greaves as General Quiwonkpa’s widow. It was my very first meeting Mr. Greaves. He did not show any sign of special interest toward me as Quiwonkpa’s widow. He asked me for my name and I told him that I was Tarloh Quiwonkpa. I also shook Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s hands. She also did not say anything to me. I strongly believe Mr. Greaves and Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf should have said something to me at that time. I believe it should have been their responsibilities to at least console me or contact me at a later date to talk tell me what went wrong. Mr. Harry Greaves and Mrs. Sirleaf were key players in the failed attempt to overthrow the Doe regime. At minimum, this is what I expected from the both of them.

Instead, Mr. Greaves indicated in his published email that everyone made mistakes including Quiwonkpa. What an arrogant statement! Is this how you address someone who is simply asking questions to find out what led to the death of her husband? Mr. Greaves response was also insensitive. Yes, Tom made mistakes and they caused him his life. One of Quiwonkpa’s mistakes was they asked him to kill Doe and others during the process of the coup and he refused. Therefore, they abandoned my husband, which ended his life. What sacrificed has Mr. Greaves made for the Liberian people? Why did he not come at the moment in time when I met him to inform me about the mistakes Tom made? His reasoning that he did not want to discuss the issue of Tom’s because of its sensitivity is callous. Mr. Greaves also said in his email that if I need to know what went wrong, he would tell me if our paths cross. I am not looking for private answers to my concerns anymore. I waited for twenty (20) years and did not get any answers from any of the major players. What Mr. Greaves and others need to do is to publicly tell the Liberian people what went wrong and their roles in it.

The Liberian people need to understand that Samuel Doe and Thomas Quiwonkpa were not the primary cause of the political problems in the 1980s. There were active participants on both sides who pitted both men against each other for their own political aggrandizement. Some of these players are again running for public office in Liberia or supporting other candidates. I believe these people are only interested in their political viability. They would do anything to survive politically.

I have made several attempts to contact Mr. Yuan over the years and each attempt proved fruitless. I traveled to Rhode Island for a Nimba conference that Mr. Yuan unexpectedly attended. I told him that I wanted to talk to him. He informed me that he would talk to me at the end of the program. After the program, I did not see Mr. Yuan again. This claim can be substantiated by living witnesses. In addition, I listed the help of numerous persons including Mr. Kolonko Luo, the man who accused General Quiwonkpa of involvement in one of Doe numerous concocted coup plots, (Luo apologized to me and the Quiwonkpa family for falsely implicating Tom in an attempt to overthrow Samuel Doe), and the former Liberian vice president and interim president Moses Blah to contact Mr. Yuan. I even gave my home phone, cell phone and work phone numbers to Mr. Luo. I asked Mr. Luo to give my phone numbers to Mr. Yuan to no avail. I decided to go public with my open letter when Mr. Luo informed me that Mr. Yuan was scheduled to travel to Liberia. It was then that I wondered why Mr. Yuan does not want to talk to me? I concluded that it was time to publish my open letter that has been one and a half years in the making.

I will continue to seek answers from Harry Yuan, Harry A. Greaves, Jr. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Amos Sawyer Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. and others about what went wrong. If these people refuse to provide answers to the Liberian people, I will publish the information I have gathered about their roles in the 1985 attempted coup to overthrow Samuel Doe in the book that I have been researching.

I am admonishing the Liberian people to be careful whom they elect as our next president. A leader should have a value system that the Liberian people would follow. In any democratic electoral process, the values of the politicians are important consideration in making electoral choices. If a politician who participated in a process that left four children fatherless and a widow to struggle for survival does not have the courtesy to console the widow, what does that tell you about the politician’s sense of judgment or concern for his/her people?

On behalf of the Thomas Quiwonkpa family including Kou Quiwonkpa whose whereabouts is not known since the 1985 failed coup, Thomas Quiwonkpa, Jr., and Jlateh Quiwonkpa both currently in Liberia, whom I have been trying to resettle to the United States, Yormie Quiwonkpa and others, I again thank the Liberian people for their moral support. I will continue to pursue answers to my questions until I find answers. If anyone feels otherwise, I am sorry. My mission has just begun!

About the author: Tarloh Munah Quiwonkpa can be contacted at Quiwonkpa@comcast.net