Lofa, Money Grabbers and Jesus Christ
by H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr.
The recent fracas in Voinjama, Lofa County remains an enigma. The ruling clique, with its penchant for exaggerated fudge and political comedy has said that the town was attacked by invaders from neighboring Guinea. Many observers doubt this version and have intimated that there was a shoot-out between different security units over the right to control areas where money could be easily extorted from traders. Others feel that the incident was an orchestration by the clique to divert people's attention from the deplorable social, economic and political situation in the country. One thing is certain and that is the looters went about their vocation of maiming, plundering and killing as was done in Monrovia in April of 1996.
One can safely dismiss the accusation against Guinea as a desperate attempt by the clique to deflect the criticisms against it for becoming embroiled in the crisis in Sierra Leone. The government of Guinea has demonstrated maturity and responsibility throughout the Liberian crisis by not yielding to any provocation from the NPFL/NPP. Guinea, with its professional and disciplined army will not send a handful of disorganized boys to go on a shooting spree in Voinjama. What would be the purpose? Would it be to frighten the NPFL/NPP and the motley collection of mercenary units from the RUF/AFRC bandit alliance and the Ukrainian misfits who use Lofa County as sanctuary? This is highly improbable. One does not frighten ruthless thugs with a few stragglers. Guinean security services must know that opposition elements from their country are waiting in Liberia under the command of Gbago Zoumanigue and therefore if the Guineans are looking for a pretext to rout these fifth columnists, they would do so with much professionalism. The accusations against Guinea show the reckless behavior of the flamboyant nonentity who was given power in Liberia through the futile misconception of the late Sani Abacha.
In tandem with the accusations against Guinea is the one which deals with the ULIMO-K group and the suspicion that elements of this movement invaded Lofa County. It is known to all that this movement is paralyzed. The cadres have been abandoned by those who pushed them into battle alongside the NPFL/NPP in 1996. The leader of this movement periodically makes outlandish claims to attract attention and that is all. This movement does not have the resources, the manpower nor the commitment to engage in adventurism any more. It has suffered the fate of all movements without ideological clarity. The Guinean authorities know more about this movement and its chronic inadequacies and it is inconceivable that they would allow elements from this movement to compromise their security.
The other two possibilities--infighting among security units and orchestration by the clique--would seem more likely considering the background of the NPFL/NPP and the character of the rascal who heads this syndicate. The NPFL/NPP has a history of looting and inflicting mayhem whenever there is a need for quick wealth. From the inception of the banditry in December 1989, to the attack on Monrovia duped "Operation Octopus" in 1992, to the bloody skirmishes in the Capital in 1996, there is a pattern of creating chaos in order to loot and pillage. This shows the mind-set of Taylor and his venal inclinations. His primary objective is to make money, whether through blood, murder, dirty deals or fraud. Thus, one does not have to stretch one's imagination very far to see how the recent situation in Voinjama could have occurred.
The economy in Liberia has collapsed. The people are living in dire poverty. The clique cannot meet the basic needs of the thousand of gun-toting boys who protect the privileges of these greedy parasites. Gangsters and crooks have come in masquerading as businessmen when in reality they are nothing but unscrupulous carpetbaggers. The international financial institutions are not convinced that the clique has any meaningful program for economic reconstruction. The examples of national swindling -viz. the cutting and exporting of all timber resources by a few; the labor camps where the children of the peasants are press-ganged to work for members of the clique and their business partners; the shameless selling of national assets like embassies and passports to racketeers, and the brazen corruption and venality - are factors which have undermined international confidence in this macabre construction which goes by the name of a government in Liberia. Even the Libyans who were so generous with their arms during the seven year carnage have become niggardly with their funds. Against this background, we see the sending of hungry and desperate boys with guns to areas where the people are still struggling to rebuild their lives. These little boys, who should have been put in vocational schools are keen to get what their masters in Monrovia have achieved through brutal violence and trickery. Thus the people are at the mercy of these unruly boys. Taylor understands this only too well. These are his marauding disciples who are sent out for booty whenever he feels the need. The people of Monrovia saw this glaringly during the chaos of 1996 orchestrated by this little greedy thug. There were cases where he himself supervised the looting of supermarkets and the confiscation of private cars. Many of these cars were sold in La Cote D'Ivoire where the little rascal has business interests. In the recent case in Voinjama, the victims were the Mandingo traders who have been building up their businesses since their return from Guinea. Does one need to ask why this rampage took place in Lofa and nowhere else? If one does, the answer is simple: Voinjama is the place the Mandingo traders have decided to make their base because in the light of the insecurity in Liberia, they can escape across the border if there is a need.
Against the background of the sordid developments in Lofa, there have been pleas from many people in the country that they do not want any more violence. One can understand when poor and starving masses make such pleas. Poverty does not allow for reflection on political developments and thus the more destitute the people are, the more they have fanciful notions of deliverance be it through God, quacks or conmen. But there is another category of men and women who have made such pleas also. These men and women are educated; they are not poor and thus have the time and leisure to reflect on developments in this pitiful country. Have they investigated the situation in Lofa? Do they really believe that an invasion took place and that Liberian dissidents were responsible? We have our doubts about the honesty of these people. Some of them have become public relations officers of the regime. Others pretend to be neutral in the brutal terror which has been unleashed by the Taylor government since it took office in 1997, but in reality they are mercenaries of a different kind. They do not carry guns. They carry deception and propaganda to the outside world. These walking lies are the most contemptible because they sell their conscience for a few dollars. They are nothing but money grabbers who delude themselves that because they did not commit murder and mayhem, they cannot be condemned for receiving blood money. So is the logic of fools and schemers!
Those who yesterday condemned injustice in the name of a higher moral authority are today being sent on hopeless escapades by the butchers in Monrovia to attract financial aid from the international community. This is such a pitiful farce that were it not tragic for the country and people, it would be dismissed as a grotesque comedy. International aid agencies these days give out financial assistance depending on the caliber of the leaders of a country and the seriousness of that leadership. The days of dishing out millions of dollars to irresponsible buffoons like the Joseph Mobutus, the Jean Bedel Bokassas, the Idi Amins and the Samuel Does are over. The cold war has ended and there is no more use for such irresponsible lackeys. Thus the international financial institutions have devised new criteria for assisting all developing nations. Who is going to give financial aid to a regime where the leader wears suits costing ten thousand dollars (U.S.) a piece and engages in tawdry extravagance while his people scavenge for food like animals? Which responsible financier is going to recommend financial aid to a country where the leader and his cronies indulge in vulgar luxury while the hospitals remain cesspools of diseases, the war orphans have become street urchins, the survivors of the war have become beggars and the institutions of state have become private fiefdoms of thieves and Mafiosi? And then political hustlers are sent around the world to convince intelligent economists and financiers to aid Liberia and you don't expect people to question the sanity of the cocaine "sniffers" who now rule Liberia?
The stupidity of the ruling clique in Liberia is so glaring that each day this parasitic imposition remains in place, the deeper the nation sinks into paralysis. After ten years of banditry, one would think that this clique would crave stability in the sub-region. But because of greed, the clique has involved itself in the crisis in Sierra Leone. Liberia is today condemned by many as a destabilizing force in West Africa. Then there are the international criminals who now use Liberia as a safe haven, effectively turning the nation into gangster-country. The erosion of national confidence has led to the introduction of senseless terror to hold onto power.
Violence against the people is naked and callous. It is no wonder that we hear the refrain of "no more violence, no more war" from those who have been pushed down in the dirt by the terror-machine of the regime. It is scandalous and hypocritical to preach restraint to the victims of terror while the perpetrators of murder, butchery and mayhem are applauded and praised as symbols of order and decency simply because they hide behind a dubious legality. In most cases, the counter - violence of the people and their organized vanguard is always a response to the brutality and insensitivity of backward ruling cliques.
This regime of social degenerates, misfits and perverts is a thousand times worse than the Tolbert and Doe regimes. And yet the latter two were removed through violence simply because at some stage they relied on violence and not national confidence to hold onto power. No one has the right to prescribe to a people what method they should use in fighting injustice! Governments must rely on the willing consent of the governed and not on terror. Wherever the people are oppressed, history and justice demand that they react! Thus it is said: "The tree of liberty only grows when watered with the blood of tyrants." Some of our religious leaders have fallen prey to the cunning and deceit of Taylor. They believe him simply because they feel he has taken an oath on the Holy Book and is not capable of certain things. It is this kind of illusion that has been responsible for horrors throughout history. An evil man uses the Scriptures as he uses his fellow man. One only has to watch Taylor praying to realize that this rascal profanes everything he touches. He calls on God to use him as if the Lord in His Heavenly Majesty uses idiots and fools. The Scriptures say: "A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom. What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted. (Proverbs 10:23-24). Thus the cry of invasion and rebellion coming out of the mouth of this evil rascal will one day come true to haunt him and his cronies. The blood of the thousands they have slaughtered will drown them! This national calamity cannot go on forever. Our religious leaders must be the protectors of the weak and innocent who are persecuted and not allies of those who use strength to oppress and humiliate the people. One would have expected some religious leaders to have gone to Voinjama on their own and investigate the situation before commenting. Those who are shepherds of the Lords must thread the path of truth and honesty. Those who are the rightful followers of Jesus Christ are not known to be cowards.
The defilement of the name of Jesus Christ has gone so far in Liberia that Taylor takes pleasure in mocking the sanctity of the Christian religion. There are many hiding behind the Bible who encourage him in this act of blasphemy. Now he brings international scorn and mockery on the Nation by dismissing his officials for not attending a prayer meeting! In the absence of policies to alleviate the sufferings of the people, he comes up with ridiculous gimmicks to attract headlines around the world. He has attracted headlines not because he has impressed anyone, but simply because of the childish stupidity of the exercise. Why would any sane leader dismiss competent officials of a government simply because they keep away from a prayer meeting? What happens if these officials were working on critical matters germane to the welfare of the starving and wretched people? What manner of leader is this who dismisses people without inquiring as to the reasons for their absence from a prayer meeting? And to think that some of our religious leaders are blind to this insanity!
Every honest man/woman who sells himself/herself to this evil because of the economic hardship in the country defiles the spirit of Jesus Christ and the trust of the people he shed His blood to redeem. One cannot be a follower of the Lord if one is not willing to follow His footsteps on the path to Cavalry.
This country of ours has become a land of anguish and tears. We pray for men of courage and wisdom to protect the widows, the orphans, the poor and the downtrodden. As for us humble men who have chosen the path of exile rather than silence and connivance in the land of our fathers, we will take our prayers, our hopes and our defiance and fight for justice in the filament of the tyrant's lair.
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