By Our Staff
April 9, 2001
The Sam Dokie/Enoch Dogoleah paradigm of secret police executions followed by state denials, is covering the fate of Milton Teahjay. Taylor announced Teahjay's arrest immediately after his arrival from Taiwan. The Police confirmed the arrest. Hours later, the same Police said it had no information of Teahjay's arrest by the Police or any other security agency in the country. But unconfirmed reports from Monrovia say the controversial former Deputy Minister of Information, has been killed by a team of 4 members of the presidential Anti-Terrorist Unit. Reports said the killers were in turn killed.
Upon arrival from Taiwan, Taylor announced the arrest of a man he once said defended him more than himself, saying "Government had arrested one of those bent on destabilising Liberia while attempting to leave the country secretly." The Police immdeiately confirmed the arrest and added:
"All that I can tell you right now is that Teahjay tried to leave thecountry in a suspicious manner, so he is being held by the State security for preliminary investigation", PANA reported, adding that, " Taylor, however, said the government had nothing to do with the politician and would therefore release him and 'send him home.' Police chief Mulbah further told journalists Teahjay was a free man allowed to move freely, and that he (Mulbah) would personally escort Teahjay out of the country if he wanted to.
Despite these initial statements, the Police soon disputed their own version of the man's story. Police Director Paul Mulbah told the BBC he had no record of the Police arresting Teahjay or of any other security agency arresting him. He said he had searched all police stations in the country without finding the man. This, in effect, is a death announcement with several precedents. Teahjay brother told journalists that he had seen his brother Milton Taehjay since they left Sinoe. Precedents of such cases abound.
When The Perspective contacted the Ministry of Information to comment on the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Teahjay, we were transferred to the Public Affairs Division of the ministry. Mr. Butler (who called himself director of the division) said that J. Milton Teahjay had never been arrested by the government. When asked by The Perspective as to whether he and the Police Director were contradicting President Taylor who had earlier stated that Mr. Teahjay had been arrested for attempting to leave the country secretly, Mr. Butler said the president was misinformed. He further stated that Teahjay and his brother, Patrick, returned to Monrovia, and since then Mr. Teahjay has gone underground.
When Opposition politician Samuel Dokie, along with 3 members of his family, including his wife, was arrested, Taylor was the first to announce that the presidential bodyguards who arrested and executed the family had fled. Taylor first denied his men arrested Dokie and his family. When eyewitnesses, including reports from conventional police, revealed that the family was arrested by members of his bodyguard unit clearly following his orders, the President story fell apart. A farcical trial was staged and all the accused acquitted.
The death of his Vice President Enoch Dogoleah followed a similar pattern. It first emerged that the man had fallen suddenly ill. He was rushed to Abidjan where he died. The truth is that according to reports, the man was severely flogged on suspicion of masterminding an alleged palace coup. Amidst several allegations that Taylor ordered the man's execution, the President banned discussion of issue, threatening to arrest even a taxi driver permitting the subject in his cab. He promised an autopsy report to vindicate himself and named a commission to probe the man's death. But the commission never met, according to reports, due to lack of funding.
Several other deaths of less important people follow the identical
pattern. In some cases, the Police simply charged the executed
men of being armed robbers.
Taehjay's turn came after he accused the Government of indiscriminately depleting the forest in his home area Sinoe. Threatened for challenging the logging companies, Teahjay sought to flee the country before Taylor's arrival. A man he once so admired and vindicated for any crimes others believe he committed when he launched his war in 1989, Teahjay may have feared the worst if Taylor met him in the country. It was a sad case of a marriage turned sour, for Teahjay, who recently blamed "politicians" for inciting students at the University of Liberia to stage a solidarity meeting for four imprisoned journalists just released, was amongst the most eloquent defenders of Taylor's killing spree.
If such a man can be executed as reported, then who is safe? Taylor answered that question just before the Teahjay's reported death:
"If they (opponents including armed dissdents) come to see me in a respectful way, I will see them. If you want to come home, we will give you all the security," quickly qualifying his remakrs by saying, "I do not guarantee security in the Republic of Liberia, the Constitution of the Republic does that. Once we all follow it (Constitution), we are all fine." "We are all subject to the law, even my very self is not above the law. I don't want to be an imperial President. This is a country of law and not men."
Anyone familiar with Liberia knows that the President is the law, and the current clash between Taylor and his cronies only amplifies this.
Dismissed from high-standing post in which he and his boss (Joe Mulbah) accumulated telephone bills of over US$300,000 through simply transforming their offices into telephone booths available to the highest bidder, Teahjay had decided to challenge Taylor over sharing the benefits of the disappearing forests, thus awakening the tyrants' anger. Out of job, out of grace, Teahjay initially fell on the "Liberian people" for support.
But the Liberian people, whatever that means, had no force in stopping Teahjay's alleged death. Prior to his alleged death, Teahjay claimed the car the Police had seized was a personal donation from Taylor and not a government property.
Teahjay's anger, which led to his reported death, was that the forests in his home Sinoe County are disappearing without the accompanying benefit for his people. He therefore threatened the requisite action to redress this wrong, and this was taking his case to Taylor, a president who has drafted a law giving him the sole power over the forests and other natural resources. Indicating that he was convinced the depletion of his forests was something Taylor did not know, Teahjay played into the hands of an angry Taylor who has repeatedly declared that the forests, some of his main sources of income, are his presidential "pepperbush". Those who question his hold on the forests would therefore be chased in their "mothers' wombs."
Teahjay, like many Liberians, must have misunderstood Taylor immensely. He once told confidantes that Taylor is the kindest man he has known. His adulations were not without tangible indicators: a satellite television disc, a jeep, periodic envelopes containing US dollars as enticement to heighten the justification of horrors and theft, all convinced Teahjay that, indeed, Taylor was the kindest man he ever met. The problem is that he failed to realize or acknowledge Taylor's sources of money in keeping such kindness rolling, which were the forests, along with Sierra Leone's diamonds.
The parochial and endlessly opportunistic nature of Liberian politics based on master-servant dichotomy can be seen in the fact that all was fine until Teahjay began to see the imbalances. If indeed this eloquent defender's death is true, then it confirms the terror of the Liberian presidency with sycophantic followers and not people of quality.
Joe Mulbah, a rebel information minister who became Information Minister in the "democratically elected government" has set-up a crude public relations entity, with Taylor obviously underwriting the costs. Difficult to gain credibility, his "poll" gave the loathed Opposition leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf a heavy lead if elections were held now. But most know there was no poll conducted. The game was to get Taylor's attention, and few weeks after putting Ellen Sirleaf ahead, the Taiwanese donated computers. Then came another story announcing that Liberians in the US have decided to enthrone Charles Brumskine President. For "credibility, it is useful to downgrade the sponsor periodically so that if he is upgraded tomorrow, there can be fewer questions.
Christian Herbert, one of the firebrands of the rebel National Patriotic Party, now left in the cold in the sharing of loot, indicted his party for failing to meet promises and compared with a communist party with benefits for the few while the majority lives in abject poverty.
T. Earnest Eastman, who Taylor saved from instant execution during early days of the war, and has since remained loyal, recently denounced crooks in power:
"There is a perception of corruption that is believed to have spread throughout our society, it is hardly openly spoken of, but the common man seems aware of it and, I am told, is inaccurately advice about it, this is another political disease that must be exposed and the spreaders punished that the world will see."
"If Liberians discontinue to allow the dishonest and the shameless to triumph; if Liberians discontinue to allow the abusers of our rights to be the role-model and if we stop admiring them in our society; if we stop allowing them to stamp upon our principles and if we stop allowing opportunism to prevail; dishonesty must be condemned and our people must insist that dishonesty must be condemned and our people must insist that dishonesty be punished and that Liberians must insist on honesty an integrity to become the badge of honor in the society" If injustices of the past are not to be repeated, he said, " We must consider new ways of doing things, new habits of dialoguing and participation, new attitudes of self-reliance that will contribute to socio-economic reforms and new policy directions."
One can only hope the reports of Teahjay's exceution are false. But on past developments, the indicators of truth are too many. Stand by for more reports as events unfold.