Focusing On Hassan Bility Et Al - Where's The Justice!
By: James W. Harris
September 13, 2002
For various but nonetheless selfish reasons, some Liberians, both from the Diaspora and within the war-wrecked nation, are presently said to be attending a so-called National Reconciliation Conference in Virginia, near the battle-scarred capital city of Monrovia, that is being sponsored by the repressive National Patriotic Party (NPP) government led by Charles Taylor.
While the decision to attend the conference on the part of Liberians that are participating in it is indeed "personal" as well as their RIGHT, we wish to note, however, that their collective action in embracing the ruthless Taylor regime there is highly unconscionable, particularly, at this time when there are ongoing human rights abuses in the country!
With my fellow journalist, Hassan Bility (editor of the Monrovia-based Analyst newspaper) and others continuing to languish in the President's dungeons forcibly against their "will" incommunicado, I cannot imagine why anyone would want to take part in such a conference knowing that our compatriots are currently going through excruciating pains at the bloody hands of Taylor's dreaded security forces. I really can't!
Moreover, do the conferees truthfully think that this president, Charles Taylor, is capable of reconciling himself, not to mention the entire Liberian nation that he and others, like, former warlord, Alhaji Kromah, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Dr. George Boley, and a host of other "career opportunists", have divided so bitterly? If they really believe that, then I rest my case!
Frankly, no one can argue that Liberia does not need reconciliation, because it surely does. But reconciliation under the sitting President and his bankrupt NPP that has single-handedly caused the once stable country to completely collapse, thereby, leaving the "people's business" in the hands of international criminals, the likes of Sanjivan Ruprah and Sam Bockarie? Nope, nope!
But besides the known poor governance of the country by Taylor and his highly corrupt cronies, the government's ongoing brutality against its own citizens as demonstrated in the case of Bility, et al. is yet another compelling reason why all peoples of CONSCIENCE (especially well-respected Liberians) should have shunned the conference. I mean, if Taylor says that he's serious about reconciliation, then why in God's name hasn't he released Hassan to show "good faith", especially so, when the government has produced no evidence against him in a court of law? Or, simply, why has the brutal regime failed on at least two occasions to produce his (Hassan's) "living body" under the writ of Habeas Corpus that was filed against the Taylor government by a coalition of various human rights groups in the war-ravaged country? Just think about it! Does the government have something to hide instead? It must be!
Regardless of their ethnicity, social as well as economic status, etc., one would think that all Liberians would find compassion in their bleeding hearts and the necessary courage to hold together and vent their frustrations against this regime for continuously violating the Liberian people's RIGHTS by strongly refusing to cooperate with it, particularly so, when it (government) is not willing to change for the good of the country. But to the true nature of Liberians (complacent, indifferent, "it's not me!" attitude, etc.), nothing has happened in terms of forcing the ruthless Taylor government to set Bility and the others free - and this is a stinging shame. Really!
Instead, you have the same old folks, many of them responsible personally for the ongoing carnage in the country, parading themselves shamelessly before the so-called conference on national reconciliation, supposedly highlighting, what they say, are valid reasons for our nation's abrupt demise.
But isn't this despotic Taylor government that's sponsoring the ongoing conference there the SAME ONE that's deliberately continuing its repression against our compatriots unabated, particularly, our Mandingo brothers and sisters? Don't the conferees see something absolutely wrong with that?
Or, should we conclude (correctly) that they (conferees) are so naïve to the obvious - the Taylor government's wrongful incarceration of Bility and the others as well as the regime's determination to make life miserable for all Liberians - that they've decided to turn a blind eye? For me, they can do whatever they want, but they can't ignore the fact that Taylor is wrong for falsely detaining Bility and the rest without "due process" as called for under our present Constitution. It's plain WRONG - that's why we should bring maximum pressure to bear on this tyrannical regime.
I mean, sincerely, if there was any likelihood that the "election" of Archbishop Michael K. Francis, as head of the so-called conference would translate, if nothing more, into the overall improvement of human rights in the war-damaged country, I must say that I would be the very first to support him unconditionally. But it certainly won't, because President Taylor won't allow it! Period. This is a man that has proven himself to be very stubborn and violent through the years. Why do you think that he has NOT listened to the wailing outcry of both Liberians and the international community to release Hassan? The answer is quite simple - he MUST have it "his way" and this should be clear to everyone by now!
If anyone would ask me what my gut feeling is in regards to the Archbishop's "election" by Liberians attending the conference, I would say point blank that he's been used by President Taylor towards his (Taylor's) own selfish ends. Based solely on his records, it is difficult to see how any resolution that's derived from the conference would be implemented, particularly, the parts that have to do with security and basic human rights (which incidentally are two of the country's major problems today).
Even the Archbishop acknowledges this as he partly outlined in his recent speech to the conference. He said: "True Peace is JUSTICE [emphasis mine] in the simplest definition. Peace and Justice go hand in hand [like] Siamese twins. Where there is JUSTICE [emphasis mine] we will have peace in all its dimensions and where there is peace we presuppose [that] there is justice."
"When the [fundamental] RIGHTS [my emphasis] of every individual is respected, when we live in a society where there is respect for the BASIC RIGHTS [my emphasis] of all, where INJUSTICE [my emphasis] in all its forms is NOT [emphasis mine] the order of the day, then without doubt there will be peace", he said. So far, the Archbishop, who is otherwise a prominent advocate of human and civil rights in the war-torn country in his own right, is on the mark!
And then he went on to ask two very significant questions in my view: (1) "Why has Peace eluded us (Liberians)?" and (2) "Why don't we have Peace in our native land?" respectively. Good questions, eh!
Initially mentioning that he was in no way "over-simplifying [our] problems", the Archbishop then attempted to provide some answers to the above questions. He said: "There is a DEFICIENCY [my emphasis] in our meting out justice to the people of this land", adding, "It seems to me that we (Liberians) are so blinded [by whatever, that] we cannot see injustice incarnate - it is a pity [yes, indeed], because our consciences become so stifled that we do not have the moral "will" power or the political "will" power to act justly."
All of the above sounds beautiful but disappointingly, though, the good-ole Archbishop, Michael Francis, made no mention in his entire speech about the continuing gross injustice that Hassan and the others (mostly Mandingos) are presently being subjected to none whatsoever. And this is wrong, especially when Amnesty International (AI), among others, is undertaking a new campaign to force the failed Taylor regime to free our compatriots, or at the very least, produce their "living bodies" in court.
This leads me to respectfully ask the Archbishop, as well as, those that are attending the ongoing conference (which Taylor says would go on for the next ten years or so) some simple questions: Archbishop Francis weren't you and the others aware that my colleague, Hassan, is still in jail (or perhaps already dead) due to President Taylor's wicked dictatorship? Or, did you all just decide to ignore his plight?
Although the Archbishop still commands wide respect amongst Liberians, but he should know that many of us are dumbfounded by his decision to play an active role in this conference held by the criminal Taylor government that has completely lost its credibility [provided it ever had any]. He should immediately realize that Taylor would not hesitate to place all the blame squarely on him if nothing substantial should come out of this it - and he should not be surprise either!
Obviously, if Taylor is really serious about reconciliation and inevitably peace, he should immediately show his sincerity by releasing Hassan and the others. In addition, he should tell his numerous ill-trained security outfits to immediately refrain from further harassing our people who have already been traumatized by him in recent years.
It's about time that Taylor stop paying lip service and begin to match his WORDS with swift ACTION (like in freeing Bility and the others). It's only then that we would say, maybe, the man is now ready to finally abandon his evil ways and prepared to finally move towards real reconciliation. Until then, it is "déjà vu"!
Meanwhile, we'd like to appeal to all Liberians in this country (and even far beyond) to lend their moral, spiritual and material support to the upcoming rally in honor of Hassan and all other victims of the NPP government's continuing brutality.
Sponsored by a community organization here (US), it's scheduled to be held at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC, right off 16th Street, on September 16 [next Monday]. While most of us have grown up with members of the ethnic Mandingo group, an experience that many of us still cherish today, this rally is not only about them, but about US (all Liberians) as a distinct people, who want nothing more than to rid our dead nation of this despicable tyrant (Taylor and his likes), and restore those freedoms and liberties that the Liberian Constitution guarantees all of us (citizens).
As the matter of fact, one of my closest childhood friends (whose name I dare not mention here for obvious reasons) is a Mandingo. And frankly, our ethnicity, religion, etc., never made a difference between us because in our young lives we had seen our own parents live with each other in peace in the community; basically respecting one another, despite whatever differences they may have had. That's why we can say with some confidence that 'real' Liberians are those that would put their country first through their actions as opposed to just being a member of a particular ethnic group (indigenous or so-called Americo-Liberians).
It is only fitting and appropriate then that we lend our support to this much-needed effort to let the morally bankrupt government in Monrovia know in no uncertain terms that we definitely stand together (shoulder to shoulder) and won't rest until our compatriots are set free!