George Klay Kieh - Former LPP Officail Resigns
By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
It was in February, 1997, during the monthly meeting of the Liberian Community Association of Georgia (LCAG), I overheard a Liberian proudly telling his friend about George Klay Kieh's resignation from the Liberia's People Party (LPP).
Kieh's apparent resignation from the Liberia's People Party was of significant benefit to this gentleman, who had fun narrating the "news" with such enthusiasm that it got my attention.
Not believing what I overheard, I contacted Kieh immediately after the meeting to confirm what I thought was only a rumor. Speaking to George Klay Kieh by telephone, Kieh was quick to acknowledge his resignation, but "will not make any public statement now so that the Liberian People's Party will not blame me for the potential negative impact my comments might have on the party and its involvement with the alliance between the political parties," Kieh said.
However, Kieh added that "certain individuals asked that I make no public declarations. I am going to respect their wishes and abide by that trust."
During that brief but exclusive interview I had with Kieh, he noted, "the Liberian People's Party is going no where because the party has now become a conduit for Togba-Nah Tipoteh and Amos C. Sawyer's political aspirations. I will not allow these people to use me."
"I have been talking to people here (USA), and Liberia in order to organize an alternative political movement for social change. He called his new movement Campaign For Freedom, an alternative movement for justice Kieh claims the Liberian people want. The movement, Campaign For Freedom, was launched immediately after the July 19 Liberian elections by Kieh and a handful of LPP members. Others call it a think-tank group, some call it a political party which is Kieh's primary initiative to seek the Executive Mansion.
George Klay Kieh, once a student of Tipoteh and Sawyer, attacks his former mentors, and blames them for the reasons behind his resignation from LPP.
But during the festivities marking Liberia's 150th Independence Anniversary, Kieh informed me that he was ready to mail me a copy of his long awaited letter of resignation. The absence of such a letter led to speculations among political observers.
It's believed in political cycles that Kieh's resignation is the latest symptom of power struggle within the Liberian People's Party among Kieh, Tipoteh and Sawyer.
However, in his 3-page letter of resignation dated June 23, 1997, Kieh stated that the following reason prompted his resignation:
"My decision at this time was precipated by my utter disgust and disappointment with the manner in which the leadership of the parent party in Liberia was conducting the affairs of the party. Specifically, there is total lack of respect. Consequently, the parent party is governed on the basis of the whims and caprices of the national chairman (Tipoteh) and his coterie of supporters.
Particularly, during the last two months, our dear LPP has been systematically destroyed by personal quest for power, greed, opportunism, factionalism, the lack of respect for our treasured traditional values of individual and collective commitment first and foremost to Liberia and LPP as an institution."
In conclusion, Kieh writes " accordingly, it is with sincere regret and uttermost pain that I inform you of my resignation as a member of the Liberian People's Party, effective the date of this letter. Although, I am leaving LPP, I believe that its cherished traditions, values and norms that have bastardized and wantonly violated by the centurions of self-aggrandizement and opportunism can continue to serve as the guide to all that I do.
George Kieh's departure is a major setback for the party because he was a shrewd and eloquent defender of the party policies. The Liberia People's Party is at a crossroads, not only is it struggling to define its role in the post Samuel Doe era, but the party must find means to sustain itself.
Meanwhile, critics contend that Kieh's ambition and greed for power propelled him to resign because he feels that Sawyer and Tipoteh will stand in his way for a very long time. They point out that, few years ago, Kieh called an emergency meeting of LPP/USA members for them to consider breaking away from the parent party, but fell short of having his wishes endorsed at the emergency meeting held at the Morehouse College. Critics also consider his resignation transparent: he wants to remotely control LPP/USA via his so-called think tank group and at the same time disassociate himself from the party's blunders.
Kieh's letter of resignation requires some explanation, probably in another article. He resigned from the party in January, 1997, but his letter of resignation was dated June 23, 1997, about a week after The Perspective carried my article about his resignation. Not only that: in the letter he cited incident that took place between April and June (1997) as the particular reasons that precipitated his resignation. In fact, he claims that he only suspended his activities in January.
Whether Kieh's detractors want to believe it or not, he did play a key role in both the formation and the dark days of the Liberian People's Party. And that should not be overlooked.
James Kpanneh Doe, a colleague and former chairman of LPP/USA, puts it succinctly. "George Klay Kieh will be missed because he contributed significantly to the struggle for democracy and social change in our country. It is unfortunate that Kieh, after having helped build an organization which has been in the forefront for social change, will now opt for other opportunities at this time."
While the always cautious James Kpanneh Doe applauds Kieh's "significant contribution to the struggle for democracy and social change in our country," he however questions Kieh's political maturity and assails him for blaming Tipoteh or even Sawyer for his resignation.
"During my many years of political activism, I find it quite unusual for an individual to quit a political party he invested so much into because of a problem(s) that the individual has with others within that party," Doe added.
"However, one will resign from a political party over ideological or policy differences. But from what I understand, it appears that Kieh's resignation seems to be a personal thing with Tipoteh and Sawyer," Doe concluded.
While it is true that George Kieh has taken the heat for a personal decision he had to make, the Liberian People's Party can also be blamed for the degeneration.
Known satirically in political circles as the party of Ph.D's, some "intellectuals" with advanced academic credentials within the LPP believe wholeheartedly that by virtue of their advanced degrees in Political Science, History, Economics, etc, they are god-sent for the Liberian presidency. That scenario is naked arrogance and does not hold an iota of truth.
On the other hand, LPP members tend to clone their mentors so much that they often imitate their way of speaking, walking, hair styles, and perhaps their eating habits.
Things got terribly out of control for the Liberian People's Party during the days preceding the Liberian presidential elections of 1997.
During that time, many LPP members including George Kieh were endorsing presidential candidates of other political parties.
The self-serving attitude of George Kieh, Amos Sawyer, Alaric Tokpa, Dusty Wolokollie, Gregory Bass, Commany Wesseh, and others did not only cost LPP the 1997 Presidential election, but destroyed the party, as members overtly and covertly endorsed candidates of other political parties while undermining the presidential aspirations of their own party.
Acting out of political expediency rather than convictions and loyalty of party, some of these long-time LPP members, hoping to ride the cocktail of the winning presidential candidate crossed party line for possible future government jobs - "gravy seeking."
George Nubo, co-founder of the Atlanta based Perspective magazine remarked bluntly. "Those people who are running between political parties are simply behaving like prostitutes going to bed with many men. They have shown their true colors and shouldn't be taken seriously anymore. One cannot continue to claim to be a member, for example, of the Liberian People's Party, on one hand, while preferring to endorse or sit in strategy meetings of other political parties. I understand Dusty Wolokollie introduced Tipoteh at the Alliance's Convention, but voted against him for Wotorson because Wotorson promised to make him his running mate. When Wotorson selected Alaric instead of him, he left Wotorson and endorsed Ellen."
Amid all these distractions, will the Liberian People's Party ever survive as a serious political party? "Sure!" quipped Mansuo G. Bouquia, chairman, Southern Region, LPP.
"The Liberian People's Party is now going through a period of transition. Not only will the party survive, it will get stronger. The actions of some of these opportunistic elements are not only stupid, but also detrimental to the party," Bouquia asserted.
Boniface Sarwieh, Vice President of the Liberian Community Association of Georgia, and a member of LPP said, "the Liberian People's Party is going through the emotions of time. For the party to survive and be taken seriously, members will have to stop the bickering, stop undermining one another, and start addressing the needs of the Liberian people."
Currently, LPP is clearly on the road to self destruction. The party has lost its direction and needs a new attitude and a new captain to steer it back to the days of old when the LPP and United People Party (UPP) were once the conscience of a broken and dysfunctional nation.
For LPP to bounce back and be taken seriously, the party will have to listen to the cry of the Liberian people and act quickly. This means less rhetoric, and finding practical and achievable solutions to some of the problem.
This will require putting together an aggressive plan of action which will advocate participatory democracy; affordable schools and a health care system accessible to all Liberians, affordable housing; a sound economic package and a clean and sanitary environment.
These are what the Liberian people deserve at this time. They are not interested in another "talking head" political movement as George Klay Kieh have suggested.
Anything short of these demands will be considered rhetoric as usual.