Echoing Sounds of Dissent (Editorial)
April 6, 2001
Various voices within Liberia and outside are now resolved that Liberia's current political and economic paralysis is firmly linked to policies of abuses, theft and plunder instituted since Charles Taylor became president. With this, despite the unprecedented level of repression, voices of dissent are multiplying, some coming from within the President's once loyal and ever- cheering team. We believe this is a healthy sign that despite all the odds, all is not lost in Liberia's search for speedy recovery from the current insanity as fear and cowardice give way to courage and integrity in diagnosing the malaise and therefore opting for sustainable solutions.
In this crucial soul-searching, one of the few living reminders of Liberia's respectable past, T. Ernest Eastman, recently stunned many critics when he laid bare his vision of Liberia and its current pitfalls. Speaking on the topic "How Can Liberia improve her image?" he vindicated the international community and critics for Liberia's self-earned pariah status, and instead pointed to misguided policies of the Taylor team buried in theft, export of regional wars, and continued human rights abuses. Eastman urged Liberians never to bestow respectability on the country's roaming crooks or use them as role models. Denouncing prevailing "opportunism and dishonesty", he said Liberians should "make honesty and integrity the litmus paper to test the caliber of people we take as leaders and role models."
We commend Mr. Eastman for this redeeming frankness, for Liberia's current problems are tied to the fact that thieves and mass murderers have been elevated to political positions to the detriment of the country. The song "You killed my ma, you killed my pa[but] I will vote you", summarized the level to which the country, ruled by the seasoned crooks protected by the wretched, has sunk.
Disagreeing with the frequently used and redundant excuse of an alleged international conspiracy against Taylor and his crooked regime, Mr. Eastman said, "I am not aware of any; if there are, then something is wrong with us here and not outside." He said what any true patriot would have known ever since, and that is that "without an independent and critical voice, a constructive, brave and forward-looking media, the efforts of peace and justice cannot be amplified and used to mobilize our citizens and youth who must become part of the process if it is to be sustained and made irreversible."
This experienced diplomat who has been operating within Taylor's fold since the war, graphically and eloquently repeated what many foreigners and Liberians have been saying for over a decade: "If Liberians discontinue to allow the dishonest and the shameless to triumph; if Liberians discontinue to allow the abusers of our rights to be the role-model and if we stop admiring them in our society; if we stop allowing them to stamp upon our principles and if we stop allowing opportunism to prevail; dishonesty must be condemned and our people must insist that dishonesty must be condemned and our people must insist that dishonesty be punished and that Liberians must insist on honesty and integrity to become the badge of honor in the society..." If injustices of the past are not to be repeated, he said, "We must consider new ways of doing things, new habits of dialoguing and participation, new attitudes of self-reliance that will contribute to socio-economic reforms and new policy directions."
In a rather modest appraisal of the cancer of mass theft, plunder and sanctioned corruption prevailing, Eastman noted: "There is a perception of corruption that is believed to have spread throughout our society, it is hardly openly spoken of, but the common man seems aware of it and, I am told, is inaccurately advice about it, this is another political disease that must be exposed and the spreaders punished that the world will see."
Directly hinting at Taylor's strong-arm policies against critics and opponents which have continued to unprecedented levels since the Abacha elections, Eastman warned that: "The culture of impunity must stop and the rule of law prevail, and not that of patronage and force prevail over the vulnerable and the weak."
He said the academic community, churches and mosques, professionals of trade unions, of the arts, and communities of ordinary Liberians "stability and respectability, Eastman said peace and justice are the concern of every Liberian and "in that manner, it will be nurtured day by day, not by the hands of a few, but the hands of all especially students and the youth with unyielding courage."
Here we hear a voice of reason swallowed by voices of doom and darkness. Eastman is indicating to us that one can be a part of a thieving and plundering team and yet honorably differ with it in a courageous manner.
Eastman, who now serves as chair of a laughable group called the "Charles Ghankay Taylor Institute for Historical and Strategic Studies", said image building will encompass the integration of ex-combatants, including "former members of the revolutionary army and former members of the armed forces into society, "while at the same time dealing with the question of the displaced population, the returning refugees, the unemployed and the homeless Our utterances have not been good."
Such echoing voices of dissent provide hope that far from expected, fear and sycophancy cannot defeat a people's will for freedom and development. There is hope, for defeat of tyranny and ineptitude needs more voices as Eastman's and many others.