What the Warlords Say
By: Ezekiel Pajibo
December 4, 2003
The last weekend in November assumed a disquietude with the news that warring factions’ representatives walked out of a meeting with United Nations official at which time issues related to Disarmament, Demobilization Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) were to be discussed. According to press accounts, the various warring factions are contending that unless and until they scoop all the jobs they believe they are entitled to they essentially would not disarm. The response from the UN is very heartening indeed. According to the UN, the actions of the warring factions "demonstrate a total disregard for the welfare and well being ….of the 3.3 million citizens of Liberia who have suffered 14 long years…" This latest episode has, without a scintilla of doubt, laid to bare the claims that the war launched by MODEL and LURD was for democracy. If anyone ever believed these people, they now have the prima facie evidence that it was and always has been about power and the economic benefits to be derived from having political power. This has nothing to do with improving the material condition of the Liberian people and the nation. It has everything to do with how to get rich quick.
The foundation for this latest action was established earlier in the week, when it was reported that the leader for MODEL, Mr. Thomas Nimley Yaya, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, told an audience that his fighters would not disarm for a bag of rice or the US$300.00 per fighter that the UN has envisaged. He instead wants vocational education for his fighters. On the face of it, this seems like a benign statement but one needs to dig a little. The fight for democracy and justice, I have been told and accepted is carried out because one is of the conviction that these are principles and vision worth fighting for and dying for. Those who choose to engage in such struggles are not motivated by personal rewards or greed. Rather, they are motivated by love of country and love of the citizens. Our warlords would have none of that. First they have allotted themselves all the various Government agencies where money change hands, they have cornered the legislature, where they sit as royalty, now they want to hi-jack the peace process because they can’t get everything they want. It really does boggle the mind how greedy, callous and uncaring these fellows are. Someone once said that perhaps Liberia is the only country where cocks are fighting simply to sit on a lot of shit.
The attitude of the warring factions is beguiling. How can they live with their conscience? Just walk the streets of Monrovia, its dilapidation, decay, and destruction hit you between the eye balls. Its listless citizens walk as zombies in the streets. Simply taking a glimpse of these poor souls and the ruined infrastructure would make you want to cry, and or bury your head in shame. How can a country, so endowed become a wasteland? Why are our leaders so careless and care free, why are they so heartless? It appears as though blood does not course through their veins, their hearts are made of steel and their eyes blind to the suffering of our people. My heart bleeds for this country. Whatever happened to our conscience as a nation that we can lay waste to our country and continue to behave as though we are entitled to some reward?
Mr. Nimley Yaya wants his fighters to go to vocational school, yet they have razed to the ground buildings in areas where they fought and controlled. He would not accept a bag of rice or US$300, but his fighters are raiding villages, stealing food from people and conscripting unarmed and peaceful people as labourers to forcibly harvest their own rice for the benefit of his armed followers. They are shaking people down in South-eastern Liberia for as little as L$5.00. This grandstanding must stop.
It has to be made very clear that enough is enough. The violence that our people have been subjected to should be put in check. Those who want to parade themselves as our leaders must be made to understand that the Liberian people, in their generality should come first and foremost in any attempt to move the country towards durable peace. . The United Nations is not obligated to solve all of Liberia’s problems. If Mr. Yaya is sincere in obtaining vocational education for his fighters, he can impose a taxation on all the MODEL officials in the Government and establish a Trust Fund. Surely that will be enough money to pay the tuition for his fighters. If such a fund is transparent and its managers don’t have sticky fingers, I am sure others will chip in. All Liberians have a right to a fresh start. Now that these factions have agreed to stop fighting, they should start working for all of the Liberian people and not just their fighters, most of whom share their tribal kinship. Pushing that line will inevitably move the country towards ethnic polarization and would make reconciliation impossible. Our new leaders, just emerging out of the bush must take care as they try to govern the country towards a new political dispensation. It is not only fighters who have a right to education, be it vocational or otherwise. All Liberians have a right to education. As national leaders, warring faction officials in government are duty bound to respond to the needs of all Liberians. Were we not taught in our civics classes that "in union strong success is sure"?