The Liberian Democratic Future
· P. O. Box 2824 · Smyrna, GA 30081 ·
(770)435-4829, (404)761-2874, Fax (404)257-1047
April 10, 1998
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr
930 East 50th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60615
Dear Rev. Jackson:
Since your appointment as President Clinton's special envoy to Africa a few months ago, Africans here and on the continent have not only considered this as a strategic move, but have taken a great satisfaction in the fact that this would provide a real opportunity to spotlight Africa, which has been long ignored and neglected by American foreign policymakers and political establishment.
Your appointment as Special Envoy could not have come at a better time when the continent is beginning to receive an unprecedented attention, and deservedly marks an important turning point. Given the tradition from which you've come, as a perennial civil rights advocate for African-Americans, other minorities, women and the underprivileged, and your longstanding relationship with Africa, we believe, gives you certain sensitivity and understanding of the plight and struggle for democracy, and all its inherent tenets that most African countries have yet to achieve.
Your recent visit to the continent during which you engaged the rulers of Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia for improved human rights conditions, democratic reforms, and increased freedom of speech and the press, was indeed remarkable. We believe this kind of engagement, which brings pressure to bear on these regimes whose records are replete with undemocratic practices and human rights abuses, must continue.
We recalled 25 years ago, you visited Liberia, and since then you have had a special interest and affinity for the Liberian people, a greater awareness of their situation. Your most recent, Feb. 12th visit enabled you to renew your ties and seek a much deeper understanding into the Liberian dilemma, which plunged the country into seven years of civil war.
Without delving into the causes of this war, Reverend Jackson, a few points would be necessary to be made here to set the record straight. First, the Liberian civil conflict which began in 1989 was only a culmination of a long- brewing and simmering crisis which had its roots in the founding of what is now Liberia. A "settler-supremacist" mentality, and the determination of a privileged few to control and suppress the majority African population was the bedrock upon which the oligarchy sustained itself. Secondly, the war and subsequent special elections in July 1997 have only helped to sharpen this divide. And, sadly, the current regime has failed to create the necessary environment to bridge this deep-seated animosity.
With this background, we wish to register a few concerns on your proposed "Reconciliation" Conference scheduled to be held in Chicago, April 17 - 19th. We strongly believe this conference is premised on several "false starts" that clearly undermine its intended purpose, and would only contribute to further deepening the divisions that already exist amongst the Liberian people. We want to raise with you the following concerns:
1. We believe that a conference on "Reconciliation" must have as its paramount objective the purpose of healing wounds which have been broken as a result of the evil wicked men perpetrated against people of goodwill. Therefore, the evildoers and their agents of death must admit and confess to their wrongdoings in order to receive forgiveness from the victims. This admission of truth not only invites forgiveness, but also allows redemption of our sins from the omnipotent. These words taken from 1st John 1:9 are apt to the Liberian situation. He said: "...If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness..." We wonder, who are those that will be confessing their sins at your conference?
Rev. Jackson, the process of reconciliation and reconstruction for Liberia must take place in the towns and villages in the country, not packaged in America and exported to Liberia. No grandstanding, marathon call-in spectacle in the United States can substitute for the face to face engagement between the perpetrators and their victims. Such a process must include all the former warlords, not just the Taylor government or its surrogates.
Having alluded to the "settler-supremacist" scourge that reigned Liberia for more than 130 years, coupled with the physical violence of the war, surely does provoke a sense of urgency for reconciliation, so that Liberia can begin to address its human and economic development problems. We are, however, extremely doubtful whether a conference on reconciliation in the United States can achieve the desired objectives when, in fact, those that are actually affected, both the "victims" and the "predators", are all in Liberia. If there is any parallel or model to draw from, the South African experience would be apropos to the Liberian problem.
2. Granted, the need for Liberians everywhere to begin an honest dialogue and national conversation on the root causes of the war and search for solutions that would heal our wounds and souls. However, it's our considered judgment that the planning of your conference lacks the kind of broad-based participation necessary to make it successful. The numerous social, cultural and regional Liberian organizations in this country have not been adequately engaged to get their input in organizing such an important conference about the future of Liberia.
In addition, the absence of other relevant parties, such as the other former warlords and a live satellite message from President Taylor, makes your conference nothing more than a scheme designed to promote Taylor and his repressive government. It is an affront to all Liberians that President Taylor, who has refused to make genuine efforts to promote reconciliation at home, is slated to lecture your audience on the importance of healing national occasioned by his virulent adventure to seize power.
3. Rev. Jackson, it is historically inaccurate to assert that the Liberian dilemma began 18 years ago. The historical truth is that our crisis pre-dates 1980, and is rooted in the early formation of the Liberian state which goes back to the 1800's when the nation was founded. Seemingly, members of the former Liberian oligarchy who, by and large, contributed to our problem, now want to absolve themselves shamelessly from their failure in doing the right thing to the African-Liberian majority. This is the "false start" we are referring to, and the pervasive intellectual dishonesty and revisionist history some Liberians and their American collaborators want to reconstruct. This does not augur well for reconciliation, Rev. Jackson.
Please convey our appreciation to President Clinton and the government of the United States for all the humanitarian assistance the U.S. gave to Liberia during our civil conflict.
With sentiment of our esteem, we remain;
Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor
Chairman, Liberian Democratic Future
Abraham M. Williams
Secretary, Liberian Democratic Future
President William J. Clinton
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Ambassador Rachel Gbeyon-Diggs
Rep. Maxine Waters, Black Congressional Caucus
The Inter-faith Commission
Press Union of Liberia