Mr. Tom Woewiyu – Where is Your Apology?


By: Emmanuel T. Dolo, Ph. D.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 14, 2005


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I am responding to Mr. Woewiyu’s letter to Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for three key reasons. The first purpose is that his letter has numerous contradictions. The second driver of this response is to caution others against using Mr. Woewiyu’s claims for political purposes because such use presents several dangers. Lastly, I hail from Nimba County, where Mr. Woewiyu’s crimes took an unprecedented toll on our leaders and also adversely impacted the youth of this county. Hence, his account of the warring events in which he and others were engaged could possibly be read as the act of someone who genuinely cares about the lives of those Nimba citizens that were killed by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), thus generating an unwarranted backlash.

Let me note that I am not an apologist for Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Moreover, this is not an attempt to excuse Mrs. Sirleaf or others mentioned in Mr. Woewiyu’s article for their roles in the Liberian crisis. This letter is written to urge restraint on the part of Liberians who may want to ordain Mr. Tom Woewiyu, as a nationalist for blaming Mrs. Sirleaf for the crimes that he and many other cronies, not named in his article, committed against the Liberian people. The ploy that lurks behind his article has to be unearthed. Sadly, one cannot accomplish this task without enumerating some of his crimes, which too could incite feelings of restlessness and trauma in others. My hope is that readers will understand the basis for such an undertaking.

The most prominent inconsistency in Mr. Woewiyu’s letter is the seeming portrayal of himself as a “patriot” or “purist” of sorts who is chastising a wrongdoer and not a lead actor in the macabre crimes against humanity. Mr. Woewiyu asked Mrs. Sirleaf to apologize for her actions, and nowhere in his letter did he demonstrate a contrite heart or apologize for his role in causing the deaths of thousands of Liberians as the “foot soldier” of Mr. Charles Taylor and as a cold-blooded warlord. He also described Mrs. Sirleaf as a person with flawed judgment and apparently an egotist bent on selfish pursuits for political power. How can Mr. Woewiyu claim superior judgment and similarly collaborate with a person of supposed “flawed character” in effecting horrendous crimes against a civilian population, and yet still, want people to believe that his claim of “good sense” should be accepted? Mr. Woewiyu was not an innocent by-stander that was used by people who had direct control over his actions. Instead, he was the Defense Minister of the NPFL and thus, under military doctrine he must account for the actions of people who operated under his control and command. It is disingenuous for Mr. Woewiyu who commanded Mr. Taylor’s murderous gang of tugs in the heydays of the NPFL’s atrocities to be requesting others to apologize for their roles when he has failed to do likewise.

Here is another inconsistency in Mr. Woewiyu’s article that is worth noting. In 1997, when Taylor was running to be the President of Liberia and Mr. Woewiyu and other members of his sadistic cohort were running Mr. Taylor’s campaign, did Mr. Woewiyu demand that Mr. Charles Taylor apologize to the Liberian people? When Mr. Woewiyu became Senator of Grand Bassa County, did he apologize to the people of his home county, whom he and the NPFL subjected to mayhem and sustained agony? Why the double standard?

Is a Criminal Seeking Rebirth?
Mr. Tom Woewiyu is a criminal who is trying to gain a place in the civilized dialogue about the future of Liberia without expressing remorse for his cruel actions. Therefore, Mr. Woewiyu’s supposed change of heart or attempt to tilt the balance of Liberian politics does not mesmerize nor impress many forward thinking voters. Like a sieve, his ploy seeps and its contents reek of treachery.

Recounting Some of Mr. Woewiyu’s Crimes
At this juncture, it is critical to recall some of the facts. The historic city of Saniquellie (the cradle of African Unity), where in 1958, Presidents William V. S. Tubman of Liberia, Sekou Toure of Guinea, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, met to lay the foundations for the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which has now transformed into the African Union, was ravaged by Mr. Woewiyu and the NPFL. The NPFL destroyed the fabric of Nimba County by recruiting its youth, whom it inebriated with potent brain damaging drugs and converted them to fanatical killers. Across the Liberian landscape during the height of the civil war, there were accounts of dehumanized children gleefully kicking human heads around like footballs, with the likes of Mr. Woewiyu as coaches and cheerleaders. The NPFL militarized Cuttington University College (CUC) and damaged its infrastructure. Today, Monrovia and its environs function in utter darkness and without safe drinking water because the NPFL either destroyed or neglected all essential utilities and services. Outdoor bathrooms are now the norm and the stench of feces and urine have made the city of Monrovia a sanitary hazard.

Furthermore, Nimba citizens can summon up memories of the dreadful deaths of Jackson F. Doe, Moses Duopu, Stephen Daniels, David Toweh, David Dwanyen, Enoch Dogoleah, as well as Samuel Dokie and his family. All these deaths allegedly occurred at the hands of the NPFL. Recall the murder of other prominent Liberians, Putu Major, Gabriel Kpolleh, and Dr. Stephen Yekersen – all at the behest of the NPFL. It is also important to mention the death of Superintendent Daniel Grigsby of Rivercess County, including his wife, and children. Superintendent Grigsby refused to let the NPFL recruit children in the county to become child soldiers. He never relented in his contention that the NPFL could only recruit adults, and as a consequence, NPFL militants, under the command of Mr. Woewiyu, as Mr. Charles Taylor’s Defense Minister, publicly executed Superintendent Grigsby and his family to instill fear into the people of Rivercess. For these and many other deadly actions that Mr. Woewiyu and his co-conspirators carried out, Mr. Woewiyu does not have the moral authority to chastise anyone. For the NPFL to have used the gullible children of Nimba and Liberia in general as the “guinea pigs” for its lawless actions and to now start another psychological ruse for finding and occupying a place in the hearts of Liberians is to make a mockery of our wide-open wounds.

Holding Mrs. Sirleaf Accountable
Like all Liberians, Mrs. Sirleaf is not above the law. Mrs. Sirleaf must account for her actions in the Liberian or international courts. Mrs. Sirleaf’s political fate also lies in the hands of the Liberian voters who on the day of elections will pronounce their verdict. Indeed, Mr. Woewiyu’s diatribe or venom, no matter the veracity of some of his claims, comes too close to elections and has the potential to generate the kind of negative sentiments that caused the civil war from which the nation is recovering. To evoke the names of the leaders of my home county (Nimba) and the many other Liberians that were killed by the war that Mr. Woewiyu prosecuted without claiming responsibility for their deaths is a sort of snobbery and self-righteousness that is simply an insult that Liberians and Nimba County citizens in particular, must condemn in the strongest possible terms.

Disregard for the Feelings of Liberians?
It is not simply a disregard for the feelings of the Liberian people for Mr. Woewiyu to point fingers at others when his hands are stained with the blood of the Liberian populace? What if Mr. Charles Taylor were to start describing the gruesome acts that Mr. Woewiyu and other perpetrators committed? Would that be the basis for forgiving Mr. Taylor because he pointed fingers at Mr. Woewiyu and their homicidal friends? Does Mr. Woewiyu think that Liberians are so gullible that they will simply forget that he is a mere criminal and just that?

Seeking Sympathy or Vindication?
If the psychology that informs Mr. Woewiyu’s letter is to seek sympathy or vindication for his crimes, I urge him to think twice. Mr. Woewiyu and his other collaborators are in for a rude awakening. The deaths of my people – Liberians and Nimba citizens, at Mr. Woewiyu’s and others’ hands, deserve the fullest persecution by international and Liberian laws. While Mr. Woewiyu has enumerated some of his roles, we look forward to the gruesome details so that he can be locked behind bars for ever. But Mr. Woewiyu must remember that the children of Liberia and those of us committed to social justice will not relent in our collection of evidence to persecute him and all others involved in the murder of thousands of the Liberian people. His letter is just a tile in the mosaic of evidence being gathered against him and the rest of the NPFL financiers and warlords. Mr. Woewiyu should note that our people are jobless and roaming the streets; and widows and orphans are in abundance not by their own making, but in part, because the NPFL wrought war and devastation.

In an effort to make himself look clean, he is sticking a dagger into wounds that he viciously inflicted upon the Liberian people. Within Liberian traditional culture, in the wake of war, we settle the dispute and then conduct ceremonies to wipe the blood off the land. Right now is, therefore the time for healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness to take course. This is not to suggest that people like Mr. Woewiyu and others whose crimes include the remorseless murder and suffering of the Liberian people will not be brought to justice.

Danger of Using Woewiyu’s Claims for Political Gains
With merely a few weeks before elections, it is inappropriate to spew such venom which may spur negative responses similar to what provoked the civil war. I am also baffled by Mrs. Sirleaf’s competitors who may want to legitimize Mr. Woewiyu by giving credence to his allegations and using them for political purposes. I urge my fellow Liberians not to take the bait, and thus, denounce Mr. Woewiyu as a scoundrel who traded his integrity on the altar of greed and mass slaughter of his countrymen and women. We should not fall for Mr. Woewiyu’s cheap NPFL-styled propaganda. Would any candidate who uses this propaganda as a basis for winning the elections be willing to give Mr. Woewiyu unconditional presidential clemency and clothe him with state honors? To accept and use his propaganda now, will these presidential candidates, if elected, bring Mr. Woewiyu to justice later?

Finally, Mr. Woewiyu, if the Liberian people should elect Mrs. Sirleaf or another candidate as president, whom you do not like, would you go back to start another so-called bush war of “liberation” while misusing Liberian children as lure? The time of legal trial for all Liberians who violated laws in our country will come. When I ponder reference made to Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic and champion of African liberation during the decades of the 1960s as a “failed state,” I rail against people like you who caused our country to revert to the hunting and gathering stages of development. We are no longer susceptible to your shrewd maneuvers. Mr. Woewiyu, your new-found religion since the end of the war is well-documented. Hence, hear from the word of God. Like biblical Abel, the blood of Liberians is crying unto God from the ground. God’s justice does not sleep. “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again.”

The Author: Emmanuel Dolo is a Liberian Journalist who holds graduate degrees in Divinity, Economic Development, and Applied Research. His specialties include Refugee Mental Health, Youth Development Policy, Health Care Policy, and Organizational Development. He currently manages the Office of Equity and Integration at South Washington County Schools in Cottage Grove, Minnesota.