Liberia: Don’t Let the Thugs Scare You

By Ezekiel Pajibo

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 22, 2003

On September 19, 2003 I got an email message from Vabolee Kamara whose email address was given as and the message was as follows "you will regret." I believe this was a response to an article I had written and published by The Perspective "Liberia: How to Make the Peace Deal Work" (September 19, 2003) I can only guess what the statement means and why Vabolee decided to threaten me. Of course I replied to the message and dare him to carry out his threat but there is something more ominous about the message and I recalled how the Doe dictatorship treated its critics. Mr. Vabolee’s threat is consistent with that tendency and a probable harbinger of things to come.

In December 1981 I, along with five other student leaders, was arrested and accused of treason. We were tried by the Military Tribunal, which during the reign of the People Redemption Council (PRC) was the last court of resort. We were all found guilty of treason after less than one hour of trial and without a defence counsel and sentenced to die by firing squad. Fourteen hours before the execution we were granted amnesty and released.

As part of the government’s method of investigation, I was taken out of my cell one mid-night at the Post Stockade and taken to Virginia, near Monrovia. During the sojourn I was blind folded and my hands were tied behind my back so tightly that I lost feelings in my extremities. When we arrived in the Virginia area, I believe it was the road to Bromley Mission, I was taken out of the car and tied to a tree and three soldiers (Whose names I know and included the head of the AFL G2 - the intelligence bureau) pointed their guns at me - in a mock execution style - and the interrogation began. The very phrase "you will regret" if you don’t give us the answer we are seeking was made. Essentially, the Doe Government was trying to get me to admit that the activities we were engaged in as student leaders at the time was instigated by Dr. Amos Sawyer, arguably the most important opposition figure to the Doe regime at the time. The PRC government was bent on trying to eliminate Dr. Sawyer and thought that I could be the vehicle to make that happen by becoming a "State witness" against him.

I told them truthfully that Dr. Sawyer did not have anything to do with what we were doing and that as free Liberians we had the inalienable right to make demands of the government especially since our democratic liberties were under attack and severely eroded and the state was proving repressive and corrupt. After several hours of ridiculous questioning, I was unbounded and returned to the Post Stockade. My colleagues were relieved to see me because they had thought that I was taken to be executed and they could be next…

I have not actually written about this incident before but the email message from Vabolee Kamara brought back those memories quite vividly. But I cannot be deterred. The level of destruction of human lives in our country pales in comparison to my ordeal in 1981/82. Mr. Vabolle Kamara and his irks need to understand that killing Liberians because of their political views will not prevent the democratisation of our country. I am reminded of the courageous words of Louis Lecoin who said that "If it were proved to me that in making war, my ideal had a chance of being realized, I would still say "NO" to war. For one does not create human society on mounds of corpses." So Mr. Kamara go ahead and make my day - there are three million Liberians now and I am just a little "Mwea Mwea", the country, its people and its desire for peace and justice is unrelenting, and your thuggishness will not prevent that from becoming a reality, for Isaac Asimov told us long ago that "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" just as [false] "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

About the author: Ezekiel Pajibo currently lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe.