The Folly of Charlatans
By H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr.
April 19, 2001
The tragedy of West Africa must be seen in the willing acceptance of its frivolous and opportunistic elites to take for granted the lies and prevarication of any charlatan who comes masquerading as leader, liberator or pundit! This has its genesis in a political culture that places more emphasis on forms and symbols than on substance and deeds. Against this background, we see some of the most ridiculous political misfits asking for a postponement of the sanctions against the Taylor regime without a critical look at the travesty of governance in Liberia which brought this about. It is most often not out of ignorance or selfishness that we hear these comments, but out of sheer attachment to a simplistic notion of black solidarity and the trust in the honesty of a "leader in authority."
This pervasive indulgence by the political elites in blind loyalty and attachment to a colleague in authority no matter his/her orientation has produced in many social contexts the extreme variant of political idiocy that streamlines human thought processes by brainwashing and propaganda. From this irrational genuflexion to the endorsement of genocide, terror and barbarism is a short leap. In most cases, religion, tribalism, racial prejudices and crude xenophobia propel the Will and thus limit the ability to think critically. Within this context, barbarity, despoliation and murder are explained away as necessary instruments in defence of black nationhood. Masses of men and women, exposed to the vagaries of brutal nature through backwardness, disease and dehumanising poverty accept explanations and endorsement of genocide from the elites without any qualm. This is made easy by the worship of elitist education by the masses. They see this socialization - with its pretences and haughtiness-- as a holy grail in the clutches of the chosen few. Thus, arrogance, conceit and hypocrisy are paraded as attributes of this tawdry manipulation of the people's innocence.
The debate over the imposition of sanctions on the criminal gang that wields power in Liberia showed the reckless insensitivity of many leaders in West Africa who hold their own people in thraldom. Their opposition to the immediate application of sanctions had nothing to do with the Liberian people but to the perception that an African leader was being victimised for unsubstantiated charges. This brand of dishonesty has more to do with a guilt complex than naivety. The UN Report had named Mali, The Gambia, Bukina Faso and one or two others as accomplices in the sordid scheme of trafficking in blood diamonds. The feeling was thus created that the exposure of Taylor and his subsequent punishment would open a floodgate of reprisals against the many shady figures in West Africa who strut their flamboyance with the blood and miseries of the people of the sub-region. It was this simple factor that led to all the righteous indignation and nationalistic outbursts from the hired savants of the black tyrannies who darken the walls of the United Nations Building.
The fact that the Liberian people were living in misery and under the bloody fangs of a notorious criminal did not convince those who see exploitation and pillage as only factors of imperial dominance. This slanted view of history has been responsible for the emergence and acceptance of some of the most grotesque nonentities who have drenched the continent with the blood of innocent people. From Idi Amin to Charles Taylor, we have witnessed the callous indifference with which many leaders in Africa treat the plight of African people. This political amnesia, criminal and dishonest, has been the one factor that has turned Africa into a killing field with the tacit endorsement of those who don the garments of democratic respectability on the continent. An example would be the tomfoolery that allowed Idi Amin to emerge as Chairman of the Organisation of African Unity(OAU) while he and his thugs were slaughtering the people of Uganda. Those accepting this macabre joke were claiming to be democratically elected by their people. In other words, respectability was conferred on a mass murderer by those who supposedly accepted the principles underlining the rights of man and the dignity of the citizens. Another recent example is the crowning of the leader of Togo as Chairman of the OAU after he was named by the United Nations as a culprit in the sordid trade in diamonds and guns for UNITA in Angola. This is an African country that has bled for the last twenty-five years and its people subjected to the most horrendous atrocities because a tribal chief, who was once an agent of the Portuguese colonialists, wants to be crowned maximum leader! And there were those in the international community who supported him in the past as there are some who support him now!!
In the case of Liberia and the sanctions debate, some of the leaders of West Africa pretend that they understand the suffering of the Liberian people better than the people themselves. They pontificate that the banning of the exportation of diamonds, timber, etc. will affect the Liberian people and thus the UN should allow Taylor and his thugs to have access to those resources. The fact of Taylor's criminal activities in the sub-region, his unconscionable exploitation of the Liberian people and the callous disregard for any elementary principles of justice in Liberia means nothing to these men who preside over wretched and distraught people in their own countries. Their dishonesty follows the tradition of that collective perfidy that has made Africa a continent of refugees, homicidal maniacs, rapacious tyrants and lethargic masses waiting for any opportunity to engage in rampage and looting.
The prostitution of the Liberian state, the wholesale banditry now turned into state policy by a criminal thug and his cronies, the brutal suppression of the people and the dishonour done to the patrimony of a once proud people are of no relevance to many of the leaders of West Africa simply because they themselves are guilty of much of the crimes of Taylor, though on a smaller scale. Leaders who shoot their citizens when they demonstrate peacefully do not care about Liberians being brutalised, exploited and turned into labouring slaves. Presidents who preside over their countries like drill-sergeants, suffocating the intellectual growth of the people and turning their nations into veritable casinos for the profit of shady characters both local and foreign will not care if Taylor mortgages the future of Liberia and its people by depleting the rain forest today for quick profit and trading in blood diamonds from the ravage land of Sierra Leone. This unholy alliance in the sub-region is the scandalous outcome of that political perversion which has seen rascals and political tricksters crowned as leaders of the African people who still dally in the Middle Ages while the rest of the world moves into the century of robotics and cybernetics.
Liberians understand better than the high priests of deception that the imposition of sanctions will force the Taylor clique to vacate the seat of power and allow the people the opportunity to begin to rebuild their lives. The clique is incapable of providing any meaningful form of people-centred development. Its interest has always been narrow simply because it is a greedy caste of loafers and strays. In most societies, men of honour, when confronted with allegations impinging on their integrity will gracefully leave office and fight to clear their names. We have seen two recent examples in Peru and The Philippines. But in Liberia, these thugs who hold power do not understand honour. The UN Report is damaging enough but criminals are not known to change with the revelation of their crimes. We have heard the oft-repeated lies from Taylor and his cohorts so often that most Liberians are embarrassed by the shameless posturing of these congenital liars. It is said that for men who kill and steal, lying is child's play and thus we are aware of the mindset of the common rogues who took power with the connivance of the dwarfish dictator of Nigeria.
Sanctions must be imposed, not only for the sake of stability in the sub-region, but primarily for the future of the Liberian people. At the moment, only criminals and the modern day buccaneers from Eastern Europe benefit from the exploitation of the timber and other resources in Liberia. The imposition of sanctions and the threat to prosecute all known hustlers who have profited from blood diamonds will make Liberia less attractive to the international criminals who now see it as a safe haven for their shady activities. Also, sanctions will loosen the bloody fangs of the notorious rogue from the meagre income that is derived from timber. This petty thief, who plays president while stealing, lying and killing like a psychopathic hoodlum, must be further isolated from the international community and thus present his people with the spectacle of being ruled by a man who is derided simply because he is a cheat, a conman and a despicable nonentity. This could embolden a forlorn people and send the appropriate message to those who care passionately about the national patrimony.
In the meantime, the charlatans who masquerade as leaders of African countries and would have us believed that they care more about our welfare than we ourselves and thus push their scandalous agenda of saving their doomed friend must be told in no uncertain terms that Liberians know what is best for them. The folly of these charlatans will be exposed by our people who have a history of struggle of 181 years behind them (1820-2001). The destabilisation of the sub-region should be the concern of the leaders of West Africa whether or not some of them are responsible enough to understand this simple fact. The advancement of our people on the other hand is our responsibility as Liberians and thus we say: we, ourselves, alone, will rescue our citizens from the dark miasma of tyranny, banditry and oppression.