Nailing the Messenger
By: M. Tarnue Mawolo
February 19, 2001
Today, in Taylor's Liberia, common sense is bastardized with appalling ease, while truth no longer has value. For these people, shooting the messenger kills the message. So goes their logic. Such is the essence of the President's "Big Dream" nation. So, true to form, defenders of Charles Taylor came trooping to the United Nations Security Council's meeting recently, blazing with rage and accusing every body but themselves for Liberia and West Africa's nightmare- a tragedy clearly engineered and prosecuted by no one but the Taylor Government itself.
In the classic Taylor campaign of deception and truth twisting, no one is spared. Not even this writer. After a recent article questioning the shameless doublespeak of OAU Secretary General, Salim Salim, with respect to sanctioning the Taylor regime, this writer made the list for Taylor's attack machinery and media gurus who are currently having a field day spewing trash in the NPFL controlled media in Monrovia. But in all fairness, such attacks aren't as important as is the future of Liberia and the sub-region. The ranting and wrangling of these agents of a boxed and discredited regime was expected any way, and is simply a sideshow.
This week was the time for the Americans. The US Embassy in Monrovia got more than its fair dose of the now familiar Liberian presidential diatribe and shameless vituperation. Taylor accused the Embassy staff of feeding Washington with lies about Liberia, thereby strengthening the case for the inevitable sanctions that have now been put off for two months. The embassy fired back. The president is a street gossiper. That is the fact.
In grade school bible lessons, one is taught that Jesus was the son and messenger of God who was tried and crucified for the message he carried. That was two thousand years ago. But with the facts on hand, it seems only the years separate the Taylors of today from the Herods and Pharaohs of yesterday.
Rather than look to themselves for answers to their self-inflicted quarantine, Taylor and his minions are seeking scapegoats, screaming that enemies of the nation are busy plotting Liberia's downfall by "demonizing" its patron leader, Charles Taylor. Baloney, indeed! But this line of argument, begun weeks ago, was just the beginning of a well-financed Taylor campaign of deception that was bound to take on sub-regional and cross continental dimensions and gain the interest of swindlers in Europe and dubious politicians in the West African sub-region.
Hearing my friend, Monie Captan, speak recently at the United Nations complaining of an international conspiracy to demonize Taylor sent me reeling with laughter. He could have won a joke contest. But then again, this is no fun matter. For God sake, how can any one demonize a demon any further? Monie needs to tell us how.
By all accounts, government by gossip and subterfuge is now the biggest and only game that flourishes in Monrovia town today; and has become an enterprise on which opportunists and hustlers are feeding lavishly. Nothing strange here, though. Where there is a chilling lack of leadership and integrity, such attitude cannot be a surprise, and one cannot expect anything better. For Taylor and his minions, the marching order is simple: commit crimes, perpetrate mass murders, ruin the lives of a whole people, then throw out lies, deny the facts and blame everyone but yourself for the trouble. This is their mantra. But people of commonsense will disagree with such falsehood.
Truth be told, why will anyone need to invest much precious time in waging a so-called smear campaign against the Taylor government, when Taylor himself is engaged in a full time enterprise of smearing and soiling the country's image? Everyone knows that as long as he has himself, Taylor needs no additional enemies. One thing is clear, though. These outbursts by the Liberian government are nothing but excuses for failure. The Taylor government is simply trying to shoot the messenger in order to divert attention from the message itself and blur the facts that demand to be told.
In this case, the fact is plain and simple, and the message is clear. Ever since he unleashed his murderous foray on the people of Liberia and the country's neighbors, Taylor has been known to be the prime architect of plunder and misery. No doubt about it. There is a well-documented prima facie case to uphold Taylor's guilt in any court of law or public opinion. That he and his henchmen are the agents and distributors of anarchy and apocalyptic proportions is a self-evident truth needing no further proof. Doesn't Taylor know that throughout his campaign of mischief the international community has been watching and keeping score, and needs no further "misinformation" from Taylor's enemies to form an opinion on this matter? "What you sow is what you reap". So goes the saying.
Who needs to be told that Taylor's NPFL is a grouping that brings together conmen, thugs, thieves and hit men into a conspiratorial and brutal outfit. For years, they have operated outside the boundaries of law and invested heavily in anarchy and political murders as a means to the acquisition of power and the actualization of their megalomaniac appetite. Conscientious humanity, therefore, did not need a lecture from Taylor's so-called "detractors" to come to the inevitable conclusion that cruelty is the tender mercy of the brutal cabal Taylor leads. But having bought his way around a few low life diplomats, Taylor now lives in his own world with a mistaken belief that the international community is basically comprised of fools and compromised individuals. God forbid, if the Salim Salims and Kouyatehs of the world were all there was, Taylor would perhaps be right. But he is wrong. There is much more to the world than meets his eyes.
In the interest of truth, one only needs to take a look at a brief catalogue of the NPFL exploits to confirm my views and testify to the Taylor regime's status as an international outlaw and a rogue outfit.
1. In February 1990, NPFL forces ambushed and shot an American missionary who had devoted much of his life serving the inland mission in Tappita and the people of Nimba County generally. The missionary bled and died of his wounds.
2. In 1992, Taylor, using one of his many diversionary ploys, lured the international community into expanding the ECOMOG force in Liberia to include troops from Senegal. The international community led by the United States obliged. The Americans financed the inclusion, and the Senegalese came. The then ECOMOG Field Commander, Gen. Bakut, was naïve enough to deploy the Senegalese in the isolated heart of Taylor's rural wasteland. When it became clear the Senegalese could not play his game, Taylor forces engaged them in a brutal gun battle in the provincial town of Vahun, Lofa County. When the dust finally settled, seven Senegalese peacekeepers were murdered and their corpses carted away in body bags to be delivered to grieving moms in Dakar. Taylor did nothing but justified his men's murderous spree and callous disregard for international norms.
3. In October 1992, missiles and rockets singing "Taylor" rained death and destruction on Monrovia. In the suburbs of Gardnerville, NPFL forces under the command of one General "Octopus" stormed into the terrified confines of an orphanage run by the Catholic Diocese of Monrovia. There they abducted, tortured, rape, murdered and decapitated four American Catholic nuns and a Lebanese Businessman who had earlier fled the war from Bomi County. The nuns' only crime was to have volunteered to serve the needs of kids whose parents' bodies laid and rotted among the corpses Taylor had earlier left in his wake. The Nuns' willingness to serve those most in need was their sole undoing. As an anecdote, I will say that I learned calculus and my appreciation for mathematics grew in part because, in college, I took a course in and read the calculus text written by one of the dead American nuns. Taylor is yet to account for the circumstances leading to the murder of the dead Americans under his watch.
4. In September 1998, while pursuing rival warlord, Gen. Roosevelt Johnson, Taylor's forces, in flagrant breach of international law, opened fire on the American Embassy compound hitting at least two American servicemen, wounding one critically.
5. In 1990, two Nigerian journalists on reportorial duty in Liberia had their rendezvous with destiny when they encountered Taylor's NPFL. They were arrested, detained and subsequently executed. Needless to mention countless other West African nationals that were murdered in similar manner because the "papay" wanted their countries to pay for their intervention in the Liberian conflict.
6. While the fire he lit consumed Liberia, Taylor manufactured a brutal rebel outfit known as the RUF and launched them into Sierra Leone. What happened in Sierra Leone bears an exclamation mark. A trail of amputated children and a destroyed nation, to put it mildly. When caught in the international criminal conspiracy of gunrunning and diamond theft, Taylor denied his support for the RUF and demanded evidence. All along the proof was right there in Taylor's front yard. Real RUF power lied in Monrovia. It is from there they got their marching orders. When the sword of sanction swung above his head, Taylor capitulated and let the evidence out of the bag. He announced that his government was severing ties with the RUF, and was closing the rebels Monrovia office, which previously few knew existed.
As for the Liberian people themselves, their story needs no telling. Society is now captive to the armed strangle hold of an international criminal outfit; every semblance of the rule of law has taken flight as the Supreme Court and its Justices transform themselves into a trial court of original jurisdiction to serve the capricious appetite of an imperial President. In the streets of Monrovia and around the country, the decrepit and deteriorating physical structures clearly mirrors the ruined spirit of the population itself. Hopelessness and fatal resignation rules the day, and one can only bemoan the obvious decay.
On his way to the Presidency Taylor caught and murdered every African Liberian politician and person of consequence he could lay his hands on. Jackson F. Doe, Moses Duopu, David Dwayen, Richard Flomo, Stephen Daniels, Patrick Biddle, Stephen Yekeson, etc. were all murdered under Taylor's watch. After gaining the presidency (aided in part by some West African states who are now calling for the postponement of sanctions), Taylor's terror machine then decided to pursue those they missed on their way to power. Taylor threatened to chase his enemies into their mothers' wombs. Sam Dokie's mother was spared the post-natal surgery. Taylor chief security, Benjamin Yeatan, did the job. Dokie, his wife, sister and bodyguard were arrested by Yeatan and detained at a local police station in Taylor's former rebel headquarters. Twenty-four hours later, they were murdered. Their decapitated bodies and charred remains were dumped on dusty farm roads in the heartland of Taylor's rural Liberia. The murders were never caught. Today, they roam the Streets wearing badges of honor and seeking their next victims.
On camp Johnson Road in Monrovia, Taylor grew uncomfortable with having the Krahns as his neighbors. The President's zone of comfort demanded better than that. One Morning, he launched a barbaric onslaught. By the US State Department's account, he murdered over three hundred Krahn men, women and children (more than any number of people Milosevic killed in any single Kosovar community).
It is foolhardy to imagine that while all this happened, the international community was not paying heed and had to be told by exiled politicians.
I do appreciate the fact that living in Taylor's neighborhood is a risky business. I was there and I know it. In Taylor's "pepper bush", it is safer, cheaper and all too tempting to blame the advocates of sanctions for Liberia's woes rather than hold Taylor accountable for his crimes. This way you are guaranteed another day's meal and get to keep your head on your shoulder. But the stupidity comes when Taylor and his handlers go on thinking that all through their mindless escapade, the international community was fast asleep and not taking notes. What a joke? International law, my friends, has a long reach and its memory is everlasting. Perhaps it is Taylor and his propaganda gurus that have been caught napping, not the international community.
For these followers of the Goebel school of propaganda and falsehood, it is perfectly safe to lie and distort. But the danger comes when the liar begins to believe in and live by his own lies as Taylor's men are now doing. The fact is no enemy advised or helped Taylor in the commission of his numerous crimes. He should, therefore, prepare to serve his term alone rather than blame others for his predicaments. Shooting the messenger doesn't always help. Guess what? After all is said and done, one will see that truth is truth and the message lives on.