Hint to the Wise....

By Abdoulaye Dukule

The Perspective

July 13, 2001

Observers of Liberian politics may have read two news items in the past two or three days. The first one to surface was a press release by the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA). With its customary brilliance and nonpartisanship, the Liberian journalists put forward a series of recommendations to advance the cause of peace in Liberia. The second news items was penned by Honorable Jeff Mutada, Assistant Minister and the so-called new guru at the Ministry of Information talking about the disintegration of LURD, the armed dissident movement that has been waging some kind of war in Lofa. He quotes the President of the Liberians in the Washington, DC area as saying that LURD members were divided and therefore the movement was about to collapse.

These texts are both politically charged and each proposes to Mr. Taylor which way to go. If he wants to salvage himself and Liberia and the sub-from the nightmare, if he has found any wisdom in spending his nights in his hometown (Arthington), away from the noise and insecurity of Monrovia, he would listen to the ALJA proposals. These proposals in a way summarize the steps he should have taken when he first came to power, in 1997. He could have easily made peace with the rest of Liberia and he was given a chance to do so.

The proposals also take into account the (free of charge) advises Mr. Taylor was given throughout the peace process. Mr. Taylor should have known that to live in peace in Monrovia and to govern adequately, he needed to make peace with the rest of the country in general and with those who held power for ten years during the Doe regime. Thinking that locking up Bai Gbala and other Krahn leaders under false pretenses and killing a few hundred more on Camp Johnson Road would solve the problem could only be conceived by the deranged minds that conceived Octopus Operation in 1992 and the April Fracas in 1996.

Freeing a few prisoners now, at the occasion of the 154th birthday of Old Lady Liberia would not bring peace if that gesture is not part of real policy or reconciliation. There are rumors that the President would let go some of the people he has unjustly imprisoned during the last four years. We welcome the gesture but he has to go further and repair the damages he caused all along. We welcome the gesture but Mr. Taylor should not expect any pat on the back, because he had no reason to put these people in prison in the first place, so it is hoped that he would apologize to them and pay them reparations for the time spent in prison, and being humiliated and tortured everyday.

Mr. Taylor needs to put in place a real national reconciliation process. So far, the attempts he has made in this direction brought no fruit. His first attempt was to appoint Mr. Alhaji Kromah to chair the national reconciliation commission. This was an irony. How can a warlord, a person who was party to the conflict and the destruction of Liberia chair a national reconciliation? Who would he reconcile with whom? As far as the great majority of Liberians are concerned, Mr. Kromah and Mr. Taylor are one and the same: people who were bent on destroying human life and burning the country down to fulfill their blind personal ambitions. In their attempt to fulfill their ambitions they unleashed terror and fire power on people and destroyed many lives. They both need to ask for forgiveness.

Therefore, putting Mr. Kromah at the head of a national reconciliation commission was like bringing a hyena in a herd of sheep to make peace. As far as his second choice is concerned, Honorable Victoria Reffell, for God, the Lady must have many qualities but impartiality when it comes to Mr. Taylor is not one of them. Politics is also personal at times. Honorable Reffell, past spokesperson of the NPFL, the movement that presided over the destruction of Liberia and the killing of hundreds of thousands of mostly innocent people, cannot be a peacemaker. She needs our forgiveness and she needs to come forward and face the truth commission, just like Alhaji Kromah, Tom Woewiyu, John T. Richardson the mastermind of Octopus, and all others who have benefited and continue to profit from the ascent of the NPFL to power.

We have spoken at length about the need to restructure the armed forces and the security apparatus in Liberia. Here again, ALJA makes a strong point. Mr. Taylor missed the boat in 1997. He could have kept ECOMOG on the ground and go ahead with total disarmament. Dismantling the NPFL would have made him a better president in a way, if at least it meant that he would not have to create so many layers of security around him, because he can't trust no one. By keeping the NPFL armed, Mr. Taylor locked himself in a state of paranoia. His own state of anxiety is compounded by the paranoia of the fighters who have to live with victims and families of victim of their mayhem. This is why he has to rely on mercenaries. How much did we pay for the 200 Burkina uniformed men who arrived in Monrovia last week on board Air Burkina?

Mr. Taylor can offer to Old Lady Liberia a gift of peace and reconciliation on her 154th birthday. But many doubt it, because of the propensity of the NPFL leader to make irreparable mistakes. He would certainly make another stupid mistake by thinking that LURD is falling apart. LURD is just a symptom of the real war. He may defeat LURD or LURD may collapse because of its own internal divisions but for the majority of Liberians, that is not really the issue. The great majority of Liberians don't care about LURD. The great majority of Liberians don't give a tooth about who sleeps in the Mansion or who rides the biggest car on Tubman Boulevard. The greatest majority of Liberia don't care about Joe Wylie or Charles Julu or any other warmonger. Liberia does not need any set of warlords. Therefore dancing around because LURD may be falling apart is just sign of stupidity, because as long as there are so many unhappy Liberians in exile, there will be dissidents, armed or unarmed. Mr. Taylor should therefore try to make peace his duty. Liberians want peace. The peace to go to their farms when they want. The peace to conduct business in their own country. The peace to work and get paid a decent salary for their efforts.

In 1997, Liberians had hoped that after giving Mr. Taylor the prize of the presidency, he would be contended and leave everybody alone. But then, with role models like Kaddafi, Abacha and Blasie Compaore at the time, he had no reason to act with decency. But who knows, after four years of blind dictatorship and bloodletting, maybe he would salvage himself. War crimes tribunal or not, he would face justice, sooner or later.

As we approach the birthday of Old Lady Liberia, it is hoped that Mr. Taylor would see wisdom in the proposals of ALJA and play blind ear to the words of his propaganda machine, who is only trying to survive. We just want to say that there is no cyber warfare going on against Mr. Taylor and his regime. It is Mr. Taylor who is waging a war against the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone and Guinea. And Mr. Taylor can bring peace, not aboard Air Burkina but under the palaver hut. The problem is in Monrovia and there are solutions to every human problem. The tens of thousands of Liberians in exile, including many former staunch supporters and friends of Mr. Taylor cannot all be wrong. At the rate things are going, Liberia would soon become an island lost in the darkness. It is still time to salvage it.

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