There are Men and there are Hustlemen and Scoundrels: The Case of Tom Woewiyu – Part I


By Ousman-Martin Tamba

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 20, 2005


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Truly, even in the face of the tragic circus currently playing out in Monrovia, many good things seem to be happening in Liberia these days. I am happy that many good people have been part of the national mosaic and social movement that has brought our country this far. For instance, people are beginning to take notice of the critical need for democratic elections and a vibrant exchange of ideas in the public arena and in newspapers rather than resorting to murder and intimidation as a means of making a point. This is good news, and even the crooks and scoundrels are taking advantage of the new found atmosphere, and are seeking attention and a re-entry into the political process. Crooks have a right to aspire, but we too have the right to stop them and call them on the facts and their records. Such is the case of Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, former Defense Minister of Charles Taylor’s NPFL, who has resumed his last minute cynical, dishonest attempt to fool voters.

A friend recently told me that Liberia never ceases to be a strange place to behold. He was right. The country is perhaps one of few (if any other) places on earth where mediocrity can be an asset; being a novice and lacking in credentials are critical requirements for leadership. Criminals are turned into judges, liars and hustlers are given the pedestal to speak and are taken seriously. If you don’t believe this observation, see who is trying to leap back into the political limelight once again, and you will get the picture. Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu of all persons. The sickening part of this tragic drama is that some people are taking Woewiyu seriously. In any serious setting, a witness like Woewiyu with chronic character flaws and an endless history and appetite for criminality, lies and scandals cannot be taken seriously under any circumstance. Such witnesses are dismissed with the collective scorn of society. The critical lens of justice and prudence demands nothing less. Involvement in the political process and public discourse is about character and credibility; and Woewiyu certainly has none. Don’t get me wrong. It is the right of anyone to take a clown seriously if that is what he so chooses to do. But many of us reserve the right also to lean back into the recesses of history and provide some clarity.

I became concerned about one month ago during the application and certification process of candidates for the up-coming General and Presidential elections in Liberia. One of the candidates angling for a slot was Tom Woewiyu. It was a sense of déjà vu, all over again. Tom was plotting a return to the Senate seat he occupied during Charles Taylor’s orgy of mindless brutality. Woewiyu’s maneuvers gave me the creepy goose bumps. However, I still felt some relief. For some strange reasons, I was happy that Tom Woew1yu was taking a break from his normal self and had arrived back to initiating exchanges in a civil context through political participation and expressing views in newspapers. He was no longer spewing endless vituperation and garbage on stolen airwaves, playing Defense Minister in the Nimba Forest, and shooting, killing and maiming people in those forest regions only to forcibly preside over the forest and loot the timber for personal pleasure. A thin veneer of civil order seems to be gradually forced upon him by the reality of time, and I am happy to see that.

To facilitate his scheme of returning to the political stage, Woewiyu recently resigned from the NPP for the second time in ten years, and publicly joined Togba-Nah Tipoteh’s Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD). He was slated to contest for one of the Senate seats representing Grand Bassa County. I was concerned because I knew then as I do now that the people of Bassa deserve better. Thankfully, Tom never made it on the APD ticket as the deadline for registration came and passed. Why? Tom was up to his usual self. He deceived Tipoteh, Marcus Dahn and company into believing that he could bank roll their campaign from the rich reservoir of his looted and ill-gotten wealth. In addition, he had promised to deliver the Bassa belt - Grand Bassa, Margibi and Rivercess Counties - to the APD. But like every fortune hunter, Tom quickly realized that the Tipoteh campaign was not catching fire and stood no chance of making it into the winning column. As a result, Tom left for the United States and has since been sitting on the fence, waiting for a winner to cast his lot with. Tipoteh, Dahn and the APD should have known better. No man gives what he does not have. And Woewiyu does not have any controlling influence in Bassa, let alone the capacity to deliver those constituencies. The APD had no business taking a proven liar seriously. The Tipoteh campaign is currently stuck in slow motion while Woewiyu sits in the United States dancing to the tone of a different master - the Varney Sherman Campaign.

It is worth noting that Tom pulled the same, exact trick on a very close friend of his during the 1997 Special elections. Tom Woewiyu encouraged Counselor Laveli Supuwood to join the Liberia Unification Party and vie for the Standard Bearer position of the Party. He promised Supuwood that he would galvanize all the financial support and other logistical requirement needed to deliver victory. Supuwood swallowed the bait and bought the lie. He joined LUP and won the party’s Standard Bearer position at a convention held at the Monrovia City Hall. After the pop and pageantry of jubilating for the victory, Tom skipped town. Supuwood was now the Standard Bearer, but there was no Tom Woewiyu. Supuwood was left holding the bag. Tom sneaked back into the fold of Taylor’s NPP. He re-joined the NPP looter cabal and subsequently contested and won a senate seat for Bassa on the NPP ticket. This is the history of treachery and deceit that should have guided the APD’s receptivity of Tom Woewiyu.


History has little pity for those who disregard its hard lessons. This is an immortal truth. So, we have an obligation to view and treat Tom Woewiyu and his kinds as the hustlers and scoundrels they truly are. This is the only way we can save the future Liberia from the predatory impact of their plunder. Tom has a track record of theft, violence, plunder, deceit, lies and treachery. Let’s go back to memory lane and take a look at who Tom Woewiyu truly is.


Tom Woewiyu (formerly known as Thomas Smith) emerged on the Liberian landscape in the late 1970s. During those days, Woewiyu was employed as a security officer at the Ducor Palace Hotel towering over Monrovia. Liberia was in critical need of foreign investment capital to keep the pace of economic development on track. President William R. Tolbert, Jr. invited a group of foreign Investors to Liberia to explore the investment climate in the country. They were lodged at the Ducor Palace hotel as guests of the Liberian government. Sadly, a rouge Liberian cop named William (Bill) Taplin was the SSS agent assigned to the guests as the security detail. Bill Taplin, who will later be known to Woewiyu and Taylor as the “god father”, was married to a niece of the late President Tolbert. He, therefore, had enough inside information to know that the visiting investors had some liquid cash to carry. This information was passed on to Tom Woewiyu who was the chief security on duty that night. Woewiyu then arranged the robbery with a known thief named Frank Chenoweth. On that fateful night, Chenoweth, under the guidance of Tom Woewiyu, broke into the investors’ suites and robbed both the investors and the hotel. Legend has it that he escaped the hotel premises by wrapping himself into a mattress and jumping down to safety. The hotel lost money, the investors lost money and confidence, and Liberia lost investment opportunities and potential jobs and economic growth. But Tom Woewiyu, Chenoweth and the God father were several thousand bucks richer, which was the only thing that mattered to them.

William (Bill) Taplin – the god Father – used his influence to arrange passports and visas for the criminals. The thieving trio fled the country for the comfort of the United States.

Woewiyu landed in the United States with his stolen bounty in hand and set up shop in the New York – New Jersey corridor doing business.


Reliable information abound that following the April 12, 1980 military coup, a former Liberian Justice Minister left Liberia to seek refuge in the United States. The Minister (name withheld) who is currently building a pent house in Monrovia was in need of exploring investment and other business opportunities in America. Through a mutual friend, the Minister was introduced to Tom Woewiyu as a fellow Bassonian and a self-made businessman running a thriving business enterprise in New York. The Minister is said to have trusted Woewiyu as a fellow Bassonian. On the basis of that trust, the Minister gave Woewiyu several hundred thousand dollars to invest on his behalf. Sadly, Woewiyu converted the money into his own, with no benefit accruing to the Minister. The Minister was frustrated and heart broken. Tom used part of the money to purchase a commercial building near Broad Street in the shopping district of Newark, New Jersey, where he ran a night club business. He later transformed the building into a tailoring, textile and apparel shop. To help him run and manage the tailor shop, Woewiyu traveled to Senegal and brought in two Senegalese to serve as tailors. So much for a man who served as Liberia’s Minister of Labor and claims to be a promoter of Liberianization and Liberian Business interests. He went to Senegal, not Liberia to look for tailors. The Minister still grieves to this day.


Woewiyu seems to have been making a killing out of the stolen bounties he had accumulated. He used a part of the stolen Ducor funds and the minister’s money to open a store in Manhattan, New York where he sold auto parts to mostly Arab merchants. I am told that it is through these Arab men that he got in touch with Libyan Leader, Muamar Ghadafi. Together they launch the program of destabilizing West Africa beginning with Liberia. No matter how many times Woiwoyu lies about it, the fact remains that no one from Liberia introduced him and Taylor to Ghadafi and the Burkinabes. His Arab friends did. It was through these Arab merchants with questionable links to shadowy Middle Eastern organizations that Woiwoyu and Taylor met the Libyan Leader. The Libyan Leader then referred them to a pro-Libyan army officer in the Burkinabe military named Blaise Compaore. Colonel Ghadafi was of the view that Burkina Faso was better positioned to be the launching pad given the country’s proximity to the West African theatre. Woewiyu and Taylor used their men to help Compaore murder the Burkinabe president, Thomas Sankara, in order to facilitate their plot. From this point, Liberia’s doom was sealed.


Tom Woewiyu’s role in the murder and pillaging that rocked Liberia is old news and does not deserve much emphasis here. It is his treachery and duplicity resulting to the death of so many people that cry out for attention.

Jackson Doe’s Murder

When Tom Woewiyu faked a breakaway from the NPFL in the early 1990s, much was revealed about the swindler and cold-blooded hustler he is. In one of his rambling tirades in the Liberian media, Woewiyu explained the circumstances leading to the tragic murder of the late Jackson F. Doe. In his explanation, Woewiyu placed himself on the murder scene. Tom Woewiyu explained at the time that when he arrived in Taylor controlled territory as Minister of Defense, he met twice with the late Jackson F. Doe – once in Buchanan and then on Harbel Hill in Firestone. At their last meeting, Tom explained that Taylor had sent him to solicit the support of Jackson Doe for the formation of a rival interim government in NPFL controlled territory. The interim government would be led by Taylor. Woewiyu went on to explain that the late Jackson Doe was uncomfortable with the idea and instead suggested that a sovereign national conference be convened where an interim government would evolve. Tom said he went back and brief Taylor on Jackson Doe’s position. One week later, Jackson Doe disappeared. He was never seen again. He was murdered. This is from the horse’s own mouth. Who killed Jackson Doe? Can Tom Woewiyu say with a straight face that he knew nothing about this cowardly and savage murder? Your guess is as good as mine.


Sometime in 1994, Tom Woewiyu, Laveli Supuwood and Sam Dokie broke ranks with Charles Taylor and formed the breakaway NPFL- Central Revolutionary Council (CRC). On hindsight, it is now evident that Woewiyu never actually broke away from Taylor. He simply hatched a ploy to dragged Sam Dokie and Laveli Supuwood into the jaws of Taylor’s death machine. The breakaway rocked Taylor’s NPFL to it’s foundation, and support was forthcoming from many sources. As chairman of the NPFL-CRC, Tom Woewiyu was given more than $250,000 (two hundred fifty thousand United States dollars) to raise an army using Grand Bassa as a base to finally dislodge Taylor’s NPFL. The money was given by a source that I find prudent to protect at this time. Tom Woewiyu obviously had no interest in such program. He took delivery of the money, squandered the funds and undermined the program and did not raise a single soldier. The result was the retreat of the anti-Taylor forces from Gbarnga and Charles Taylor’s murdering of hundreds of people including Cassius Jacobs and Anthony Gonkanu Maquinagbe, two sons of Nimba that were accused by Taylor of collaborating with anti-Taylor forces. Who gave Taylor this information? Your answer is as good as mine.


After Charles Taylor’s crooked election in 1997, family members and friends say Sam Dokie was resigned to living the life of a businessman. He reached a deal with a Ghanaian soft drink maker to import and distribute the Schweppes soft drink on the Liberian market. Dokie was targeting the holiday week of Christmas for the first consignment to land in Monrovia and the product launch was planned around that time. Tom Woewiyu tirelessly tried to convince Dokie that Taylor wanted him (Dokie) back, and that Taylor meant no harm for Dokie. Dokie is reported to have said that he wanted no part of Taylor’s politics and simply wanted to live in peace. Woewiyu pressed on to convince Dokie of Taylor’s good intentions, all along knowing that there was plot to kill Dokie. Fate and destiny were not on Dokie’s side. His niece was getting married in Saniquellie, Nimba County. He swallowed Tom’s assurance of safety and ventured into Taylor’s pepper bush. Dokie never made it to the wedding. He, his wife, sister, nephew and bodyguard were arrested by Taylor’s death squad near Gbarnga. The family was brutally murdered; bodies mutilated and burned in the most gruesome fashion, and remains disposed of on a rural dirt road in Bong County. Dokie’s death sent chill through the family, friends and all civilized people. It did not bother Tom. He never went to see and sympathize with the Dokies. For him, it was mission accomplished. Taylor could now trust him more. Dokie’s children sat there endlessly waiting for Uncle Tom to show his face and say sorry. He never came. Nelly, Samitha and the other kids narrate this story to this day.

With Dokie’s death, Supuwood took flight and left the country with the help of friends in good circles. While in Nigeria, the telephone rang one Tuesday morning in late February of 1998. The Abuja hotel receptionist transferred the call to Supuwood. On the line was a mutual friend of Supuwood and Woewiyu’s who happens to work for the National Security Office in Nigeria. For the purpose of this writing and to protect confidentiality, I will call the agent JJ. JJ told Supuwood that Tom Woewiyu had gotten wind of the fact that he (Supuwood) was in Abuja with Roosevelt Johnson and wanted to speak with him. JJ asked if he should pass on the number to Tom Woewiyu. Supuwood reasoned that if Tom knew that he was in Nigeria, then he could find the number any way. He told JJ to pass the number on to Woewiyu. Woewiyu called the next day and tried to convince Supuwood to go back to Liberia and make up with Taylor. He offered to mediate. Supuwood did not take Woewiyu up on the offer; and he’s alive today.


When Tom Woewiyu failed to lure Supuwood into Taylor death trap, he became focused on another mission. There is credible information that he then went on to inform Charles Taylor that Supuwood, Roosevelt Johnson and others were in Nigeria plotting to topple the Taylor regime. Based on this information, Taylor set his security forces into motion. They laid in wait for Roosevelt Johnson to return from Nigeria. Against the advice of a younger friend of Gen. Johnson, the ULIMO leader decided to return to Monrovia any way. Based on Tom Woewiyu’s information, Taylor had his Gestapo units in place. Taylor unleashed his dog of war. The tried to arrest Roosevelt Johnson. The result was the infamous September 18, 1998 massacre on Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia. By the US Embassy’s account, more than 500 civilians, including women and children were murdered in cold blood. The scars will not heal any time soon.


Charity, they say, begins at home. But Tom Woewiyu, the grand master of mud fest, has not been quite charitable to say the least. Some time ago, Mrs. Maude Woewiyu (Tom’s wife) was diagnosed with cancer. She succumbed to the ailment and died early last year. May her soul rest in peace.

When Maude got the doctor’s diagnosis, she flew to Liberia to get her husband’s support. She got none. Instead, Woewiyu was too busy concentrating on his live-in girlfriend and showed utter contempt for his wife. Maude left Monrovia heart broken and returned to the United States to fight her battle alone. Upon her return to the United States, Maude changed her living will designating her son as the sole beneficiary of any insurance monies. News has it that Woewiyu later arrived in the United States when Maude was terminally ill in an irreversible state. Tom did not care to see or comfort his wife in her last moment. Instead, information has it that he callously concentrated on writing another Power of Attorney on which the wife’s name was scribbled. This version of the Power of Attorney is said to have designated Tom Woewiyu, Sr. as the beneficiary of the wife’s life insurance policy. The money was all that interested him. Maud died; Woiwoyu took his version of the Power of Attorney to the insurance company, which declined to honor it. Woewiyu took it to court, but the court ruled against him. For once, he was in the land of justice. His dirty tricks did not work. The court ruled that the son was the legitimate beneficiary. But the saga was not over. Couple of weeks ago, Tom Woewiyu’s son was found dead. The family is swarmed with rumors as to circumstances and motive for his death. Who is the beneficiary of the son’s life insurance policy and the money he inherited as a result of mom’s death? That is the question many are asking.

Lies, subterfuge and deceit are the final refuge of a scoundrel. So true. That is exactly where Tom Woewiyu has been residing for the last two and half decades. The public in general ought to treat Tom Woewiyu and his likes as master looters and gun-runners who have ruined the Liberian society, and are now looking for another vessel to continue their plunder. Elections lead to all sorts of things. You know elections are around the corner when lies and the lying liars who tell them are brought to center stage. But we must not give Woewiyu and his kinds a hearing this time around. Throughout the times, his has been a life of common theft, political criminality, social malfeasance and cold blooded lack of compassion.

Tom Woewiyu and his likes will do well to understand that Liberia is changing. We have embarked upon a forward march into a brighter tomorrow. And as time goes by, there will be a roll call of men. And men will rise. We will see Juah Nimely; we will see the northern warrior called Yennehgo; we will see D. Twe; we will see Kollie Tamba; we will see Albert Porte; we will see William Tolbert; We will even see Samuel Doe; we will see Thomas Quiwonkpa. They will rise and raise their heads. They were men. Then there will be a roll call of the hustlemen and scoundrels. At the head of that line, Tom Woewiyu (AKA Thomas Smith) will rise to receive the collective scorn of society and the rebuke of history. Liberia does not need the Woewiyus of the world; they have nothing to tell us. After all, he is only a liar and a hustler. What else can I say?