Disappearances, Denials & Doubletalk
By Tom Kamara
April 12, 2001
The omen of uncertainty around the presumed execution of Milton Teahjay, former deputy information minister and media consultant to Charles Taylor, sacked for "acts inimical to the security of the State", is unfolding with ugly rapidity. Earlier commenting on Teahjay's fate, Taylor announced that, "One of those bent on destabilising Liberia has been arrested while attempting to leave the country secretly." One of the President's Police sources confirmed his remarks, revealing that, "All that I can tell you right now is that Teahjay tried to leave the country in a suspicious manner, so he is being held by the State security for preliminary investigation."
With justified and mounting fears over Teahjay's whereabouts tied to past incidents of Taylor's executed opponents, the President dispatched his security team to search for a man he earlier announced was arrested for "secretly attempting to leave the country." His Police read the code of deception in the now familiar play of how opponents are eliminated with cover-up, and swiftly changed their story. Police Chief Paul Mulbah suddenly claimed that Teahjay, who he said was just in Police custody, was now a "free man", at liberty to move around at will, that is if he is alive to move at all. The Police further said they had searched all their prisons, and investigated all other security multiple outfits with the verdict that they could not have the man they are now searching for in the wilderness. Taylor, who had just zealously yelled having a man "bent on destabilizing the country," called a press conference from which PANA filed the following report:
"He (Taylor) said if Mr. Teahjay was wanted by the government, he would have been arrested when he got to the border. President Taylor said Mr. Teahjay, as a free citizen, has his rights to free movement or to leave the country at any time.
"Adding that no one will deny him of his rights, he asserted further that Teahjay is not a criminal neither has he violated any law therefore, he has no reason to fear. 'Milton is a young man that I like very much and I have demonstrated my care and respect for him,' the Liberian Leader indicated".
The contradictions and signals of a terrible omen are glaring and worrisome. In one breath, Taylor says the missing man is a criminal, "bent on destabilizing the country" and arrested for opting to leave the country "secretly". In another, he throws praises on his one-time loyalist defender, saying the Government never wanted him in the first place. This is a classic criminal doubletalk that points to another chapter of gruesome summary executions and a naïve attempt to cover-up. But doubletalk to conceal executions is not new in Taylor's household, and there are several examples.
Just a few months ago, the mercurial tyrant personally vowed to arrest Opposition leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after he personally charged her, and others, with treason. "If Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf comes here, I will arrest her. Y'all know me... Charles Ghankay Taylor... I don't joke... My word is good," he ranted in a highly emotional tune as his believers clapped. The truth is that Mrs. Sirleaf was drawing more and more crowds on her periodic visits to sewer-plagued, poverty dominated Monrovia, and this mass show of support as a protest to Taylor's failed presidency, frightened the dictator, leaving him with no option but to bar her from visiting her homeland by slapping her with treason. But with changing conditions in an ungovernable country, we now have a different set of rhetoric meant for the gullible:
"If Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf wants to talk to me I am here. Anybody wants to talk to me I am ready. I am President of all of them, whether they like it or not. If they come to see me in a respectful way, I will see them. If you want to come home, we will give you all the security."
Taylor, a man who signs international peace treaties and later disputes his witnessed signature was quick to add: "I do not guarantee security in the Republic of Liberia, the Constitution of the Republic does that. Once we all follow it (Constitution), we are all fine. We are all subject to the law, even my very self is not above the law. I don't want to be an imperial President. This is a country of laws and not of men If you think you can hide, we will show that you cannot hide. We will get you even in your mother's womb"
If there are any doubts about Taylor's idea of the law, they are cleared in his 1996 remarks prior to his enthronement as president. This man parading the "law", his "law", said before burning down Monrovia in chasing ethnic Krahns:
"They are writing 'Angels of Death.' Look, I am no Angel of Death and I am going to prove it in this town. I am very serious, me, Charles Ghankay Taylor, I will prove that I am no Lord of War and I am no Angel of Death. If you don't respect this presidency, you'll respect it or I am going to lock horns with some people here one on one. They think ECOMOG here to support their nonsense and their talks. ECOMOG will not stop me. It's almost reaching now that we will make sure that different processes; due processes of law maybe, and in some cases, the laws of the jungle to bring things under control in this town. You know Charles Taylor, we will straighten things out".
With clearer evidence of his atrocities difficult to deny,
he is now wooing his opponents in preparation for the worst.
"If Dr. Tipoteh [a leading Opposition figure] did receive such letter threatening his life, it is illegal and deserves investigation." He said his government will not condoned threats. "Unlike others that have run away from Liberia and made false claims, Dr. Tipoteh has remained in the country contributing to the rebuilding process."
If only Taylor knew he has overused his platform of deception, and that his credibility is over, except for like-minded men around West Africa. According to reliable sources, Teahjay was arrested and executed by a team of four Anti-Terrorist Unit men who, reports say, were immediately executed in an attempt to erase evidence. But Taylor's misfortune is his mouth and the grandstanding of his Police in announcing their now ingrained Gestapo tactics. Upon arriving in Liberia from Taiwan, he immediately told the faithful that Teahjay has been arrested, an announcement confirmed by his Police, and this, more than any other fact, proves he has Teahjay and must produce him. If not, the only conclusion is that he has executed a man who so lavishly believed in him to the point of declaring that, 'Taylor has done no wrong and committed no crime in Liberia."
Evidence of the overuse of this strategy of secret executions followed by cover-ups is abundant. In 1998, several officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia, all mostly ethnic Krahns, were bundled and taken outside Monrovia, severely tortured and riddled with bullets, according to the US Department in its Human Rights Report for 1999. When it became clear he could not conceal the executions, Taylor justified them by insisting that the men had attempted to escape from the high security Post Stockade. Along with the officers, over 300 ethnic Krahns were gunned down , prepared for butcher by Ghanaian ECOMOG soldiers who had thoroughly disarmed them knowing Taylor's butchering plan. Again, the warlord's excuse, which many in Monrovia gladly accepted and justified, was that the Krahns posed a threat to his national security. The presence of Krahns in Monrovia left him in terrible fear because of the indiscriminate manner in which he annihilated them for over seven years and now. Over 18,000 Krahns were driven from the city via intimidation and secret execution of their leaders.
These executions, prevalent after the 1997 elections, only followed the pattern of planned and Taylor-ordered executions accompanied by carefully crafted denials as evident in the butchering of Samuel Dokie and three members of his family, Vice President Enoch Dogoleah, and before them dozens of prominent Liberian politicians, including Jackson F. Doe, Moses Duopu, Stephen Yekeson, etc. In the case of the Dokies, Taylor said if the Americans have not found John F. Kennedy's assassins, Dokies' killers would remain a mystery. In all cases of summary executions, Taylor disclaimed knowledge of the killings when, according to inside sources, he in fact ordered them. His one-time Defence Spokesman Tom Woewiyue now Senator, says he left Jackson F. Doe in Taylor's personal care in Harbel, Firestone in 1990, only to receive news that the man had been executed. Taylor denied he had any knowledge of the crime.
No doubts, some Liberians will find reasons to justify Teahjay's presumed death, just as they found multiple reasons to justify the mass evictions of hundreds of people around the area warlord Taylor selected to live when he arrived in Monrovia. If Liberians could sing, 'You killed my ma, you killed my pa [but] I will vote for you", they will justify any horror committed by the "democratically elected government".