Theory Of Conspiracies
By Abraham M. Williams
As the reality of the government failure begins to sink in, many of its officials have been engaging in a subtle but persistent chorus of conspiracy theory. Administration functionaries have been hinting over the past few months that there is an international conspiracy against the Taylor regime.
The contention is that the world community dislikes Mr. Taylor so much so that it is willing to punish the Liberian people for electing him president. Proponents of this theory have argued that the international community would have provided developmental assistance to Liberia had someone else won the 1997 special elections.
For his part, Mr. Taylor has acknowledged the awesome, difficult task that he must face as president. In a speech marking the first anniversary of his election, he admitted that his first year in office was a failure. But instead of accepting full responsibility for this poor performance, he expressed his disappointment with the international community, accusing donor countries of mere promises and no substance. Since the president made those remarks, some of his apologists have seized every opportunity to echo this sentiment, blaming Taylor's failure on others.
On a visit with his family in Atlanta recently, Mr. Freddie R. Taylor, Jr., (no relation to the president) director of National Security Agency, underscored the inability of government to receive foreign assistance. He attributed this difficulty to obtain foreign aid to the "international hatred of one man, Charles Taylor." He accused the international community of punishing Liberia because of its dislike of Charles Taylor.
In a Washington Post interview on Jan. 22, 1999, Liberia's Ambassador to Washington, Rachel Gbenyon-Diggs, is said to have lamented the fact that the U. S. Defense Department has yet to send an assessment team to evaluate Liberia's security apparatus and there has been a delay in implementing a "security rehabilitation program" that would train security agents and provide judicial and human rights education. "This is where we are, and I see that as a major drawback," the ambassador said.
Then on Jan. 25, 1999, Deputy Minister of Information J. Milton Teahjay, who was dispatched to London to rebut criticism of Liberia's support to the Sierra Leone rebels, picked up on the same theme. Speaking at a news conference in London, Teahjay said, "What is happening is an international conspiracy to try to subject Liberia to international ridicule." He added, "We don't have the resources to get involved in prosecuting a foreign war, so all these allegations... are intended to diplomatically isolate Liberia."
He accused London and Washington of "leading a campaign of disinformation, misinformation, deception and propaganda." Tough talk!
Similarly, in an attempt to absolve the regime of any responsibility for Liberia's dismal domestic and diplomatic woes and the destabilizing image in which the country is being perceived, Labor Minister Tom Woewiyu blamed local human rights groups of giving Liberia negative image abroad. Mr. Woewiyu accused the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of painting a negative image of government. He cited a joint report by the JPC and FOCUS, alleging forced child labor in Liberia, as a basis for the UN Anti-Slave Commission to summon Liberia to appear during its session in March.
But in fact, all this carping and blaming others for Liberia's problems are simply a distraction for government's lack of clear- cut strategies, let alone defined realistic solutions, to the dire, multi-faceted and daunting tasks caused by the civil war. And the regime's inability to attract international support is due in part to the criminal manner in which it came to power; its persistent obsession with anti-democratic measures as a means of entrenching itself in power, and the government's stubborn insistence that no one should be held accountable for atrocities of the civil war.
Obviously, President Taylor has not realized that the primary responsibility of rebuilding Liberia rests with him and the Liberian people. It was he who planned and executed the destruction of the country, using death and brutality that unless he was allowed to rule he would raze the country into oblivion.
No doubt, there were other like-minded Liberians who joined his diabolical, mindless, sinister orgy of destruction which has thrown Liberia back several decades. But now that Taylor has achieved his ultimate quest, which was ruling Liberia, he seems rather incapable of providing workable solutions to the problems.
Washington and other western capitals are unlikely to focus too much attention on third world intra-state carnage such as the case in Liberia, nor are they terribly eager to embrace infernal war criminals such as Charles Taylor and his regime of lethal brigands. In essence, the end of the cold war has devalued the strategic importance of these governments brought about by military imposition.
Instead, the prevailing world sentiment is to bring these blood- tainted characters to justice via war crimes tribunals, that would examine their conduct and mete out proportionate penalties to these human vultures, who rose to power at the expense of human life.
As long as Liberians continue to delude themselves by indulging this wishful thinking that there can be genuine reconciliation without justice, by allowing ruthless killers to escape the consequences of their actions, and conferring respectability upon these scamps, Liberia will and ought to be shunned by the international community. Any attempt to dismiss what these people have done to Liberia and minimize the effects of their mischievous deeds by advocating reconciliation without accountability would set a dangerous precedent.
No Liberian can earnestly say with confidence that the apparent peace or temporary cessation of violence is built on solid ground. Various cleavages abound which have not been adequately addressed. And unless Liberians are bold enough to confront these entrenched, political and ethnic aspirations in a manner that is fair and equitable, Liberia is just buying time before the next violent eruption.
So far Taylor is repeating the mistakes that President Doe made in almost the same manner. Like President Doe, Taylor is using the limited resources to build a vast security network for his personal protection. He has erroneously equated presidential safety with national security, squandering millions of dollars on numerous paramilitary units, creating a false sense of security.
His regime has not inspired international confidence because of several key issues, which are of serious concern to the world community. One of those issues is corruption. Here Taylor himself is the drum major, leading his band of pirates enriching themselves at public expense.
Shortly after taking office, Taylor indicated that monies given him by foreign governments while visiting other countries are his personal funds, not the state. Not only did he believe this corrupt notion, but he actually put in place a misleading scheme of dual state financial management.
On the one hand, there is a national budget which outlines the spending priorities of a government seriously starved for funds, paying civil servants the equivalent of US$5.50 per month. This is the depiction that has been crafted to convey the stark and difficult situation in Liberia. But this pitiful portrayal of dire financial and other conditions, which is accurate to some degree, is not the full story.
While ordinary government employees struggle to survive on this miserable compensation, Mr. Taylor maintains a separate budget for himself and his senior loyalists. It's from this off- budgetary secret account that Taylor and his cronies support their lavish lifestyles while most Liberians struggle to make ends meet.
Meanwhile, a disturbing financial irresponsibility has surfaced in Monrovia, which clearly underscores the level of corruption and financial mismanagement. The Ways, Means and Finance Committee of the Liberian House of Representatives has uncovered that 20% of revenue resources is not reflected in the Taylor's US$64 million budget for fiscal 1999.
According to the discovery, 11 ministries and agencies of government are collecting taxes/revenue which are not remitted to the Ministry of Finance. Instead, these agencies maintain separate accounts- a sort of mini budgets- unknown to the Ministry of Finance and the public. This is a powerful incentive for corrupt bureaucrats indeed!
And despite the repeated assertion that Liberians should do everything to strengthen "our fragile democracy", there are no independent democratic institutions in Liberia which can outlast a particular regime. And like Doe, Taylor has begun to consolidate power not by nurturing and promoting democratic institutions, but by investing in military and security apparatus.
Beside corruption and obsession with security matters, Mr. Taylor has exhibited a disturbing knack of other dictatorial tendencies. Often, he believes the laws of the land don't apply to him or if they do he does not really care.
For example, when he detained the notorious bandit, Isaac Musa, for unexplained reason, and when a writ of habeas corpus was issued for the government to show cause, Taylor invoked the frivolous claim that Musa was not subject to the constitution but to a military code of justice. This was a clear attempt to subvert the constitution.
Unless there is a dramatic change to directly tackle the fundamental underlying issues of human rights, war crimes trials, genuine reconciliation and good governance, Liberia could be headed for chaos.
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