The Crucial Road Ahead
November 25, 2000
Liberia's tortuous road to peace and stability is once again made more uncertain by repeated military attacks launched by dissatisfied and marginalized groups and the regime's lack of interest in reconciling the deep wounds and scars left by the war. Intolerance and arrogance of power have become dangerous tools in the hands of a government believing in violence as political virtue. President Taylor, accused by his own colleagues of running a one-man show, has warned against any popular, peaceful uprising, vowing that "Liberia will not be another Belgrade". This statement, coming from a man who led one of the brutish private armies in recent African history, means that he is prepared to order his brutish security forces to mow down demonstrators to protect his presidency. Liberians must be prepared to call his bluff and end his arrogance. Taylor's warning means that in his "democracy", only the Government has the right to pour its backers into the streets to demonstrate against opponents. We believe this, and many more of his acts, is a recipe for continued violence and terror in the quest for rights for which 250,000 were killed and the economy ruined.
Mr. Taylor and his cohorts are making it abundantly clear that peaceful assembly, except in their interest, is forbidden in their democracy. They are leaving no room for consensus-building and peaceful means for political contests. More and more, they are telling us that Liberia is once again their private estate on which they determine who eats and who goes hungry, who dies and who lives. For centuries, this oligarchy endured. It can endure no longer.
Mr. Taylor's pronouncements, backed by his policy of divide and rule, greed and graft, leading to increased international isolation for his regime's destabilization schemes, are causing the gradual death of Liberia. Thus the path ahead in demanding democratization, prudent use of national resources, an end to policies that have transformed the country into pariah, is fraught with difficulties requiring men and women of integrity and courage to confront. We believe that not all Liberians are prepared to face this rising Evil.
We believe all Liberians, dreaming of the same vision, a country in which all will live without fear of political, religious or ethnic persecution, must unite with one giant step, one purpose that ignores private agendas. But we are aware of the fact that the path to unity is difficult. There are just too many Judases in our midst, too many Liberians chasing the few dollars available only to the chosen few. The imposed poverty has created so many people willing to serve the Dictatorship without consideration of national interests. Men of purpose and integrity yesterday have become stooges in the hands of international criminals. National pride is blurred by the quest for personal survival and interest. Yesterday's slogans of power to the people have been replaced with power to the Almighty dollar. Men have lost their sense of nationalism.
Thus the regime's infiltration machinery is being cheaply oiled. Its tentacles of disunity are everywhere, as we saw during the war and the so-called elections. This is why we urge Liberians organizing to arrest this national decay by being mindful of these strategies. If not, failure is assured.
As Liberians meet to undertake a united giant step for democracy and therefore socio-economic development, we suggest the following short-term objectives:
a. The Formation of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate
claims by members of the House of Representatives that dubious
laws are being passed without the knowledge of the House on key
resources in the country.
b. An investigation into allegations by members of the House of Representatives that the President is running a one-party state,
c. Insistence that present rulers declare their income and sources of their wealth,
d. Investigation into report of the criminilization of the Economy and the presence of dubious foreign operatives in the country
POLITICS & SECURITY:
a. Insistence on a Commission of Inquiry to investigate political
murders, including those of Samuel Dokie and his family, Vice
President Enoch Dogoleah whose promised autopsy report has not
been given, Madam Nowah Flomo,
b. Demand the full implementation of the Abuja Agreement that ended the war, particularly its security provisions on the reorganization of the Security Forces,
c. Demand and work for an end to the regime's monopoly of demonstrations and peaceful protests,
d. An end to the intimidation of the media and the reopening of Star Radio. An investigation into looted state communication equipment that now form part of the President's private media outlets, along with an investigation into financial sources of the President's media complex.
e. Insistence on the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity.
f. Bringing comprehensive pressure and influence to bear on countires, such as Libya and Burkina Faso, aiding and abetting the Taylor regime.
a. Insistence on the rehabilitation of the current Elections
Commission to include members of the Opposition and International
Observers agreed by the Commission's new members,
b. Removal of untrained "security forces" from the streets.
c. A covenant disqualifying any candidate engaged in political violence,
d. Scrutinizing non-Liberian funding of candidates and political parties.
e. Pushing for the removal of provisions within the constitution which are impediments to the holding of free, fair and inclusive elections.
We believe that the Conference should set the stage for an elections environment that removes the element of violence, intimidation and political arrogance of the ruling clique. Without addressing these concerns and more, we believe entering the 2003 elections will be to the advantage of the dictatorship. Lessons from 1997 must be learned. Courage must be taken from the people of Yugoslavia, the Ivory Coast, and elsewhere. The alternative, we believe, is continued terror and anarchy.
Issued this 25th day of November, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
(Editor's note: The Liberian Democratic Future is a think-tank, democratic and research organization devoted to Liberia and Africa's democratic future)