Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Meets Liberians of Metro Atlanta
By George H. Nubo

The election of ex-warlord Charles Taylor, the man who launched the Liberian civil war that slaughtered over 250,000 innocent and hapless Liberians on July 19, has generated debates among Liberians in the U.S.A. One of such debates, according unconfirmed reports, has led to the stabbing death of Michael Kpor in Philadelphia, PA.

In Atlanta, which is the capital of the new south, the Liberian community was saturated with such debates about the recent elections in Liberia.

Meanwhile, some Liberians have threatened to retaliate against their relatives in Liberia by refusing to accept collect calls from home. Many, however, cannot understand the reason which led their folks to overwhelmingly support Taylor during the July elections. Others said they would no longer send money to their relatives.

I strongly disagree with this attitude because it infringes on the right of the people to choose their leaders. However, I can understand their frustration and disappointment.

The end of the Liberian conflict poses a different and serious problem for a large number of Liberians in this country. A group of Liberians who are covered by the Temporary Protective Service (TPS) could lose that protection. Under this program, Liberians who are neither legal residents or citizens of the United States are allowed to live and work legally in this country without immigration hindrance.

Some Liberians Are "Vexed" Over Taylor's Election

Most of the individuals are "vexed" or rather concerned the U. S. government will not extend that protection when the current mandate expires in April 1998. They fear they will be forced to return to Liberia.

As the prospect of being forced to go home looms on the horizon, the anxiety level of Liberians in this category, understandably, increases. And despite the inherent euphoria among Taylor's supporters in this group, many are not prepared to join him in his belt-tightening call for national sacrifice.

So when they heard that Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former presidential contender who challenged the former ruthless guerrilla leader, was coming to Atlanta, many were eager to meet her. Liberians wanted to know if Mrs. Sirleaf could make any sense out of the electorate's decision.

Mrs. Sirleaf came to Atlanta to extend her thanks and appreciation to her supporters and others in the metro area. Atlanta was one of regional centers across the country for the Johnson-Sirleaf campaign, during her bid for the Liberian presidency.

Addressing her audience which convened at the operations center of Mosley Park on the city's westside, Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf briefly commented on the election irregularities which prompted her party's protest.

It can be recalled that the Unity party filed a protest with election officials in Monrovia alleging, among other things, that ECOMOG soldiers took part in the elections by showing voters how to vote or whom to vote for. However, election officials dismissed the allegation.

Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who referred to her fellow losers as "comrades in sorrow" said that the effects of fraud would never be known, since there were nearly 2000 polling stations.

Prior to the July 19 elections, many pundits and political observers predicted there would be a run-off between Mr. Taylor and Mrs. Sirleaf. But, of course, the results prove the experts wrong. And many Johnson Sirleaf's supporters have not reconciled themselves to this bitter reality.

For her part, Mrs. Sirleaf conceded that she and her party - the Unity party - have no other alternative but to accept the results. She said her protest letter is now available somewhere on the information super highway (Internet).

In her discussion, the former U. N. official outlined the difficulties that she and other non-warlord candidates encountered during the campaign. She said the playing field was not level, but tilted in Mr. Taylor's favor.

Mrs. Sirleaf noted that those who had controlled territories and amassed personal wealth through exploitation during our civil inferno are now charged to lead our nation.

"Today they now have the responsibility to deliver their promises to the people, the responsibility to develop the country, the responsibility to restore the basic needs of the people, and the responsibility to meet international standards for accountability and democracy," the Unity standard bearer said.

However, her detractors consider Mrs. Sirleaf as an accomplice to Taylor's criminal enterprise which seriously affected the peasant population. Many Liberians consider her as one of the prime intellectual advocates, who traveled across the United States, frequented the international media to justify Mr. Taylor's deadly quest for power.

They argue that while the indigenous masses were being besieged by death perpetrated by Taylor and others, Mrs. Sirleaf and those middle class Liberians who wanted to reclaim power sought refuge in safe havens like the United States and Europe.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf & Sawyer Raised $10,000.00 For Taylor's War Efforts

In a rather surprising candor, Mrs. Sirleaf admitted that she supported Taylor in the initial stages of the civil war. She further indicated that she, Amos Sawyer, Tom Woewiyu and others raised at least $10,000.00 to assist Taylor in his quest to seize power.

But she also said as soon as she realized that the efforts were not going in the right direction, she opted to dissociate herself from Mr. Taylor. However, many Liberians question the veracity of that statement. For those Liberians who remember her activities in the mid 1980's say she's being disingenuous.

On the question of icon politicians like Baccus Matthews and Togba-Nah Tipoteh's abandoning the alliance, Mrs. Sirleaf said, these veteran politicians had no choice but to run. She said these people have never had the opportunity to test their popularity. So she was not surprised when they announced to take their case to the electorate. In fact, many people in Liberia wanted them to take a shot at what these politicians have been longing for throughout their adult lives.

However, she said there was a common understanding that the progressive forces would unite behind one candidate if there was a run-off. And for this reason, no politician caved-in to the so-called alliance.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Sirleaf and her "comrades in sorrow" will have to wait six years, perhaps longer, for another opportunity to test their political magnetic field.

Also, she dispelled the myth that has been circulating in some quarters, that had all the progressive parties rallied behind the alliance, its candidate would have won. That assertion is not supported by the numbers.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Sirleaf urged Liberians to be engaged in the political process. "Democracy is never won or lost by one event. It takes continuity of efforts, it takes persistence in achieving your results. Although we had two major shortcomings,... let us see that as the beginning," She told her audience.

Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was expected to return to Liberia soon. It's believed she and other politicians who hope to contest the next election to stay in Liberia to meet the residency requirement.

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