Issues In Perspective
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

When one criticizes the Taylor administration for many of its undemocratic actions, some Taylor's loyalists contend that his government is legitimate. But legitimacy is not our problem in Liberia. Every advocate of democracy recognizes the legitimacy of the government but questions its disregard for citizens' right. Reminding his critics that Taylor was elected democratically is irrelevant at this point.

What is important and dear to every Liberian's heart is for Mr. Taylor and his associates to practice those democratic principles and ideals for which he fought. And Taylor is no stranger to many of us who question his method and rule of governance. We criticize Taylor because there is a record of actions which forces us to speak out against some of his militaristic policies.

During the heyday of Liberian student activism in this country in the decades of 70s and 80s, Taylor, along with many of his leading advisers, was in the leadership of that movement. At that time, we felt compelled to challenge the undemocratic, elitist establishment in Liberia since we had the privilege of living in the United States where we were experiencing democracy in action.

From our collective desire to open up the political process in Liberia, thereby extending the many benefits of pluralistic democracy to all citizens, the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) was organized. Charles MacArthur Taylor, Nyudueh Morkonmana, Blamoh Nelson, Tom J. Woewiyu, Tamgaba A. Jangaba and many other Liberians were pivotal players in ULAA'S formation. I mention these men because of the roles they are now playing in Liberian government, and the contrast between the advocacy they pursued then and the policies they now support.

As active observers of the American political culture, we were inspired by the way in which the American political system operated, especially the principles and objectives of its constitution.

In this connection, we found ourselves advocating for the same principles and objectives for our country, Liberia - freedom of speech, of choice, press, civil and human rights, etc. To this end, we entered into a covenant with the Liberian people at home to serve as their voice in advocating for these same fundamental principles. In this covenant, we promised the Liberian people that whenever the opportunity was made available to us, we would promote and safeguard their rights. We also promised to protect their freedom, so that each Liberian would fully exercise his civic duty without hindrance.

Among other things, we also assured our people that our effort would guarantee economic probity (utilizing the natural resources to the benefit of the entire population), and minimized corruption, abuse of power and nepotism. In addition, we promised to provide the leadership that would bring about improved health and educational systems and hold our leaders to high moral standards.

President Taylor and some of his aides were at the center of this national political struggle, in which we challenged the government to change its policies for the benefit of all citizens.

And as fate would have it, members of this unique elite group now found themselves administrating the affairs of Liberia after 24 years of advocating for participatory, visionary democracy. Today, they have become the new leaders of our beloved country. How they got where they are is another story. However, our concern here is whether our colleagues are living up to the covenant we established with the Liberian people on April 21, 1974. The facts on the ground suggest otherwise.

It is in this regard that some us are making it known to our former colleagues that those who established standards for others to live by, must be willing to do the same. One should not advocate for a thing that one is not prepared to live with.

Taylor has a special moral responsibility to do more than the usual post civil war efforts of establishing stability, resettling refugees, revitalizing the economy and promoting reconciliation. He must do these things with fairness and equity, bearing in mind that the people he and others promised in their covenant deserve and expect better.

As a member of the vanguard which took previous Liberian regimes to task to improve the lot of the people, I cannot remain silent while President Taylor reverts to Liberia's old undemocratic practices.

In fact, it's incumbent upon all veteran Liberian political activists to point out any policy that has the potential of hurting our chances of real democracy. We must consistently remind the president that he has special obligation beyond those of previous leaders to deliver on the promises he made in the past. Every political activist of the past two decades also has a moral duty to hold Taylor's feet to the fire.

That is why the "Thou shall not speak the truth and you shall be rewarded for your good deals", which has become the Liberian government's 11th commandment will not do. This effort of branding every critic an enemy of Taylor is ludicrous, and a disservice to the president. Taylor does not need the blind and deceitful advice that his predecessors received. That kind of self- serving attitude brought us to this point.

Perhaps, it is important to refer Taylor and those who are trying to shield the president from criticism to this passage: "To create a framework for the intelligent examination and discussion of issues relating to the welfare of our people as well as for the presentation of responsible collective views and opinions."

These words are guiding pillars of the quest for democracy in Liberia, and the foundation upon which the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) is based. And Taylor cannot shun his responsibility under this covenant.