I Am Not An Official Of Lurd
By Harry A. Greaves, Jr.
February 21, 2002
I read a front page story headlined “Rebel Official Plans Secret Visit to Monrovia” in the February 18th edition of The Patriot, a rag published by Mr. Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party. The story claims that I am the logistics chief of LURD, and that I am “presently touring the West African sub-region soliciting support for LURD” in preparation for a trip to Monrovia “to hold talks with opposition politicians to solicit their backing for [LURD’s] military campaign”.
First off, I have never been nor will ever be a member, let alone official, of LURD. While I understand the frustration that drives such people to take up arms, I have said repeatedly and believe fervently that the solution to Liberia’s problems must be found in the ballot box, not through the barrel of a gun. When, in December 2001, I joined others in Minneapolis, Minnesota in launching the Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia (MDCL), we stated emphatically that our objective was to bring about change in Liberia through the slower, more painful but more realistic route of democratic elections in 2003. That remains my position. We will have elections in 2003, not because Mr. Taylor wants them, but because we, the Liberian people, will insist upon exercising our constitutional right to decide whom we want to lead us after 2003.
If we Liberians have learned anything over the past two decades, it is that warfare is not a solution. The Liberian people are sick of war and warlords. Twice in the last 20 years we have witnessed a change of government through force of arms---first in 1980, then in 1990---and each time the medicine has turned out to be worse than the disease.
For the benefit of my friends and family in Liberia and also for the Patriot, I would like to recount my activities of the past week. On Thursday, February 14th I was in Washington, D.C attending meetings at the U.S. State Department and other venues on matters relating to the 2003 elections in Liberia. On Friday, I drove to Trenton, New Jersey to visit my ailing father in the hospital. On Saturday, I attended a fundraiser for Charles Brumskine in Providence, Rhode Island, at which he informed us, to the accompaniment of raucous laughter, that he was now expecting a lawsuit from LURD for not turning over all the monies Charles Taylor’s sycophants had accused him of raising on behalf of LURD! On Sunday, I returned to my home in Atlanta, Georgia. Today, Tuesday, February 19th I am in my office in Philadelphia. Can my accusers please explain to me by what magical feat I was able to be on two different continents, separated by 6,000 miles and a gigantic ocean, at one and the same time? The fact is the last time I was in West Africa was July 2001.
None of the people who made up this story really believe it. Its real purpose is to intimidate me and keep me away from Liberia. Well, if that is the intent, the people who dreamt it up have miscalculated. They don’t know me. Those who know me well will confirm that I don’t scare easily. I will not allow myself to be frightened into staying away from Liberia. As for secret visits, that’s not my style. I will not sneak into the country. I shall come via the airport in broad daylight. And prior to coming I shall inform those close to President Taylor that I am coming.
I cannot end this rebuttal without addressing another charge laid at my door in this vicious story: namely, that I “played an active role in the capturing and subsequent butchering of Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, the late former Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia, during the 1985 invasion of the late dictator Samuel Doe.” In order to believe that, one must disregard certain historical facts.
Fact No.1: Edward Slanger, at the head of a group of AFL soldiers, claimed on television that they captured and killed Thomas Quiwonkpa. They paraded his body parts around Monrovia in a grisly, sickening ritual that Liberians will remember for years.
Fact No.2: The Doe government accused me and others of complicity in Quiwonkpa’s November 12, 1985 coup attempt. I escaped arrest but others were put on trial, and many were summarily executed. How could I have been for and against Quiwonkpa at the same time?
Fact No.3: Although I don’t have many heroes, Thomas Quiwonkpa goes down in my book as one of the few. He was the only one of the 13 coup makers, in my opinion, who had real character. Although I believe the coup was misguided, I respected him because he acted on principle, out of conviction. Whilst other PRC members were busy filling their pockets, harassing civilians, confiscating other people’s property, he remained true to his ideals and exhibited exemplary leadership. His was the voice (often the lonely voice) of reason and moderation within the PRC. He was a soldier’s soldier. He remained in his simple house in BTC and built barracks for his men and women. He took care of his people. And that is the true mark of leadership.
Lies and violence will not get us anywhere. The building of a better Liberia calls for all Liberians to work together. I have dedicated myself to that and I shall return to Liberia in due course to make good on that commitment, threats and attempts at intimidation notwithstanding, to work with others, to forge strong bonds and to demonstrate by example that we can do better, that Liberia does not have to be a basket-case, a pariah among nations.