The Truth About Forming Government In Exile

By Abraham M. Williams

When I first wrote in July this year about the rumors which were circulating within the Liberian community in the United States of America about the specter of forming yet another interim transitional government by certain sector of the Liberian community in this country, many of the leading characters who helped formulate that plan vehemently denied the allegation. Some accused me of trying to divide the Liberian community at a time when it was wrestling with the devastating civil conflict that was consuming Liberia, especially when Monrovia, the capital, and the political and economic bastion of the old elitist establishment was in flames. Others dismissed my assertion as mere propaganda from individuals who wish Liberia ills. Some people called me Liberian David Duke, who was simply bent on seeing the country go down the deteriorating slope to self-decimation.

Unfortunately many people misunderstood my intent. The effort here is designed to identify the culprits and their sycophants for our civil strife, and to do so in a language so concise in order to lay bare the underlying causes, contributing factors and the attitude of indifference which permeated our society for years. It's my hope that the views presented here will be thought-provoking; so Liberians can analyze our experience through the prism of realism.

Instead, many Liberians are entrenched in their old stereotypical mode, failing to make compromises and urge tolerance which are necessary to cope with this strange but unavoidable fact of our collective vulnerability. As a nation, Liberia faces a panorama of perplexing problems with no immediate solution in sight. All citizens must contribute to the solution process. A frank discussion of the various causes of the Liberian issue is a critical component of reconciliation, and such openness should not be viewed with disdain.

But while the flurries of denunciation were being made, especially by the leadership of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), plans were afoot in Washington, D.C., Beverly Hills, CA and Winston Salem, N.C. to put forward a well coordinated, detailed blueprint - a kind of programs of action - of how proponents of this strategy would implement their plan. As it turned out many of the Union officials and other Liberians, who have harshly denounced my assertion as divisive and pure propaganda without foundation, were deeply involved in formulating and facilitating the necessary modalities for this endeavor.

In their attempt to deceive and mislead the ordinary Liberian, the prime movers of this idea used a number of tactics and euphemisms designed to conceal their real intention from the average individual. In addition, they utilized some unfortunate circumstances and situations to advance and present their plan cloaked as national rescue initiative. For example, they seized the opportunity and took advantage of the situation when U.N. special envoy, Dr. James Jonah, stated that some "influential Liberians" in and outside Liberia believed the only way to save the country from the current violence was to place Liberia under United Nations' trusteeship. Shortly after that remark, some of the would be committed citizens called a meeting to examine the pros and cons of this and other issues. Understandably, many Liberians were eager to participate in this kind of discussion, since the matter had a great deal to do with the future of our nationhood. But many of the organizers were merely using the forum for intellectual purposes, because they have already predetermined the result they wanted. In other words, the gathering was merely a cosmetic exercise which had no substantive values as they had already decided on what to do.

When the group convened at the Georgetown University Conference center in Washington, D.C., on July 13-14, 1996, a number of interesting things happened which are readily noticeable as one reads the different presentations that were made at that meeting. During the meeting, the organizers put forth three main issues for discussion: 1) UN trusteeship for Liberia, 2) Liberian Constitution and 3) Formulating a plan to replace the existing council of state. The issue of placing Liberia under United Nations trusteeship, a hot topic which generated contentious debates among Liberians in the diaspora, was utterly dismissed as unacceptable by almost all Liberian participants. Meanwhile the task of addressing the constitutional issue was assigned to political activist Tarty Teh, who has consistently maintained that there is only one Liberian constitution, and it is that which the Liberian people approved during the constitutional convention of 1984. And veteran Liberian journalist Kenneth Best was given the responsibility of outlining the alternative plan which the proponents said would replace the council of state.

Apparently, nothing seems unusual about the individuals assigned these tasks. Both men have distinguished themselves as patriotic Liberians committed to promoting the concept of the freedom of the press in Liberiaas well as the rights of all Liberians to be equal under the law. The interesting thing about the assignments, however, had to do with the fact that Mr. Teh was both the author and presenter of the views he gave at the conference and more importantly, the document bears his name. However, the document which Mr. Kenneth Best read appeared to have been written by a team of individuals, probably including Mr. Kenneth Best, who deliberately decided to leave it anonymous. You might wonder what's the big deal about this? But this was not by mistake. It was done to conceal the identities of those individuals who conceived the idea of retreat to the past yet timid enough to face the Liberian public.

The document: A Management Team For the Republic of Liberia, which was a draft of a detailed political organization upon which they had intended to base their government, has some rather intriguing features reminiscent of Liberia's past political eras. In its introduction, the document stated that "since none of the previous systems of government has offered a solution to the crisis, it is necessary to consider alternative system of governance in the country in the interim period. It is proposed that a team of managers from all economic, social and technical fields be established to speedily address the issues regarding security (demobilization and disarmament), governance, repatriation and rehabilitation, leading to free and fair elections. The team should comprise men and women highly competent in their particular fields and possessed with impeccable reputations for integrity, commitment, hard work and patriotism."

The document was silenced on how it would purport to disarm, demobilize and encamp the various guerrilla forces, a task that has bedeviled and frustrated West African diplomats over the past several years. Besides, many question the veracity of purpose of the document, and doubt if, in fact, there was any commitment on the proponents' part, as they failed to offer any appropriate and comprehensive modality to the crucial element of disarmament. Instead, members of the True Whig party apparatus who constituted the main core advocates of this proposal made it seem as if the guerrillas were no problem to the peace process.

But this is consistent with the Americos' two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, they often, especially so in international forums, give the appearance of being interested in a peaceful, political resolution of the civil war; that they too want an immediate end to the violence which has gravely affected the peasant population and complete disarming of thevarious militias. And on the other, they support and encourage Mr. Taylor's effort to achieve power through military means, by dealing a devastating blow to the indigenous population. Diabolically, they have reasoned that if Mr. Taylor can seriously decimate the native population, then never again will anyone rise from that group to pose a threat to their rule. Simply put, they are bent on revenge and obsessed with power.

In reality, the proponents of this plan were attempting to forestall any genuine peace effort that could lead to free and open elections in Liberia. Their concern was based on two key interrelated issues. First and foremost, they did not want to have open elections in Liberia for fear that such elections will take away the only bargaining means from within their grasp, as the results of such elections, if sanctioned by impartial international agencies as being free and fair, would leave them with no plausible reason or pretext to engage in the kind of malicious destruction of the country and its indigenous majority population. And secondly, the fighting in Monrovia brought the war home for the first time for many of the advocates of violence in Liberia. Over the years and since the overthrow of the elitist minority government in 1980, many of these people have concentrated their efforts to doing everything within their means to regain power. They have financed and supported the war from its inception to the horror of many ordinary Liberians. And they have done so from the safe havens of the United States and Europe.

Throughout this ordeal, they have remained unscathed. Monrovia, which most of them regard as the country and which was the base of their economic and political power, had enjoyed relative peace since 1992 until last April when their agent and liberator Charles Taylor decided to hasten his seizure of power. Prior to April 1996, most displaced Americo- Liberians had hoped Mr. Taylor would swiftly take care of the heathens so they would return home.

In his attempt to seize power, Mr. Taylor woefully miscalculated by underestimating the strength and resolve of his enemies and as a result, Monrovia, which had been the bastion of his benefactors, was engulfed in flames. The burning of the city brought what it means to be at war to many of his supporters in this country and Europe for the first time. They saw their property on TV being torched and they could not do anything about it. They experienced the war as most indigenous Liberianshad done and continue to do. This was the primary reason why many of them attended the Washington, D.C. demonstration on April 26, 1996.

On August 2, 1996, THE PERSPECTIVE received a copy of the final document entitled: Project Restore Democracy To Liberia (PRDL). This document confirmed the accuracy of what I wrote about in the PALAVA HUT newspaper regarding the formation of a government in exile by a select few Liberians in this country.

In a letter to Liberians and friends of Liberia, the project director Mr. Thomas Q. Harris said: "The plan you are about to read is intended to end hostilities and turn over governance of Liberia to a Provisional Administration elected by Liberians. Liberians worldwide are ready to force an end to this seven-year war by holding elections outside Liberia and putting forth their choice of leaders. Sponsors of this initiative are committed to bringing together the resources needed to elect qualified, responsible Liberians who will organize and head a transitional government."

The proponents of this government in exile continue in the executive summary, ".....nearly 30 Liberians from across the United States representing many Liberian communities, individuals and civic groups considered the idea of electing in the United States, a new interim government." According to these committed Liberians, since "more than 13 peace accords disregarded by the perpetrators of the conflict, the Liberian people must be given the chance to choose who will lead them. Out of the deliberations following the June 8 meeting, Project Restore Democracy To Liberia (PRDL) was organized. The purpose of PRDL is to facilitate a process under which ordinary citizens can elect qualified Liberian leaders through an open democratic process; these elected representatives will organize and head the transitional government which will be responsible for the affairs of Liberia until a constitutional government is elected and inaugurated."

Out of the thousands of Liberians in this country who have been agonizing over their collective incapacity to effect a resolution to the civil strife, only "nearly 30" individuals considered the idea of doing something meaningful to end the war, by electing in the United States, a new interim government. The truth of the matter is this undertaking was not meant to be open to the general public. It was intended for sons of the pioneerswho were in the vanguard of restoring the oligarchy; and to use a selective few compliant African-Liberians to give it a national character.
When this issue first surfaced, shortly after special U.N. envoy Dr. James Jonah's remarks about putting Liberia under U.N.trusteeship, and the outcry it generated in the Liberian community, I received a copy of Mr. George K. Fahnbulleh's letter to the UN official, along with the name, telephone and fax numbers of Mr. Thomas Q. Harris. My source informed me that Mr. T. Q. Harris was the man who could provide details to a secret plan to form a government in exile. Also, my contact warned me that because of the sensitivity of the issue the fact the operation is Americos' restoration to power plan Mr. Harris was screening his calls and the people to whom he devolves certain information. I was taken aback by this admonition, an apparent contradiction, since I had read newspaper articles in which Mr. T. Q. Harris had given out an 800 number for any concerned Liberians, who wish to do something about the mayhem in Liberia to call.

Besides, in a publication for the Liberians for Peace and Democracy, it's stated that the organization had "asked Mr.. T. Q. Harris to assemble a coalition of leaders to replace the warlords and unify Liberia. He will put together a team of credible, competent Liberians who will vie for positions in the upcoming elections."

In view of this obvious inconsistency, I decided to call Mr. Harris. No one answered my call that Friday, so l left my name and number with a brief message, asking Mr. Harris to please call me back. When I did not hear from Mr. Harris, I called him again on Sunday morning and this time he was at home. I introduced myself, stated my place of residence and informed him of my reason for calling. Understandably, Mr. Harris was skeptical and surprised that I got his number. He asked me several questions as to what organization I represent, who was I and how did I get the number. After I answered those questions, Mr. Harris requested my name, mailing address and telephone number. And he advised me that he would put some document in the mail for my perusal, so I will know what they were doing. Then I asked him who are they? He said, he was working with ULAA, All Liberian Conference and various concerned individuals.

Since that brief phone conversation with Mr. Harris in mid June, I have not received any documents as he promised to send me. The leaders of both ULAA and All Liberian Conference denied any knowledge of a plan to form a Liberian government in exile. As I correctly stated in the PALAVA HUT, there is now tangible evidence that those community leaders not only had knowledge of the plan, they were active participants in its development.

Copyright © 1996 The Perspective

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