Clowns, Hoodlums and a Naked Emperor
By Abdoulaye W. Dukule
November 20, 2002
But the crux of desperation surfaces when Taylor says: "We want the US to come and exploit our oil... We don't have other allies other than the United States... I said to Washington, bring back the US military mission... Bring back the Peace Corps volunteers." Does the president sound eager for recognition? "George Bush senior called for a kinder, gentler America. We would like a kinder, gentler policy on Liberia from Washington."
For those who did not follow our national politics in the past 6 years (How time flies), in the first years of his regime, and basking in his sea of impunity, Taylor liked to say that Liberia would never submit to any foreign powers. He was very vocal when situation started to turn around in Sierra Leone, accusing Britain of neo-colonialism and launching slaps on the United States. His mouthpiece for political issues, NPP Chairman Cyril Allen went as far as threatening to arrest the US Ambassador. And it went on and on. Twice, Taylor made lavish preparations to come to the US and hoping to visit Georgia, Mississippi and Illinois and twice he was told that he can come to the UN but only in the 25 miles-radius around the UN, like Castro or Kaddafi if they came to New York. Each time, he felt belittled and flew to South Africa and then Libya, as if to prove that others are receptive towards him. And he kept flying to those countries until they too, told him that he should give them prior notice so that they may provide him with a presidential welcome... In diplomatic terms, that means, "Stay away."
Now the president of Liberia has come full circle. To let America hear his cry of desperation, he paid US $310, 968 (three hundred and ten thousand nine hundred and sixty eight American dollars) to publish four pages of tears and ramblings in The Washington Post. Some where in those pages, Charles Bright the Minister of Finance is proud to have released the January 2002 salary checks in October 2002 and promised to do more. At the rate of L$50 to $1 as stipulated in the same paper, the cost of these pages would amount to L$ 15,548,400 (Fifteen million Five hundred Forty-eight thousand and Four hundred dollars). This total is almost equivalent to one full year salary of the entire national work force, a million or two more or less of Liberian dollars, according to figures provided by the same Minister of Finance Bright in the same advertisement (LD$18 million). But when one adds the money paid to those who prepared the advertisement and the commission for lobbyists and others, it all comes to about US $500, 000 (Five hundred thousands US dollars) for four pages of revealing stupidity! With that amount, Charles Bright could have paid the salaries of the 45,000 government employees for one full year, give them bonus for Christmas and save some change for the University of Liberia and buy some aspirins for JFK. But this is just half of the story - Taylor pays $300,000.00 yearly to Jefferson Waterman International (http://www.theperspective.org/jwi.html) and another $300,000.00 was paid to Herman Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, to fix his "image problem." Cohen's work with Taylor ended and he has since cut off links with him.
The money for this folly came from the Oriental Timber Corporation, (OTC), the ogre that is swallowing Liberian rain forest at the speed of lightning, the National Port Authority (now NPA-Buchanan is exclusively under control of OTC for the US $5million paid to signatories in 1999), the Bureau of Maritime Affairs, the company that buys fresh cow meat for Urey's crocodiles, the Central Bank of Liberia, the home of Elie Saleeby, who gave up a job at the World Bank for his own bank, the national Oil Company of Liberia (in search of American takers) and the Inland Logging Corporation, the Taylor Pepper Bush.
Sando Johnson is known for his erratic verbal outbursts. He is like the pit bull that is launched on attack whenever the regime seems to be facing an embarrassing situation. He would say anything about anyone, as long as he is guaranteed a seat in the House of Impunity. Last year, just about this time, the NPFL sent him on a tour in the US and when he returned home, he went on the attack, calling everyone opposition member as "backers and financiers" for armed LURD. But he got his marching orders from the top because this was is not the first time there are accusations of misconduct against the clergy. The Honorable Minister of Information, almost a year and half ago made the same accusations. Not that Sando is too much an idiot to find such ideas he is simply following a pattern of character assassinations well common in our national politics.
It would be a dangerous simplification to view Sando Johnson, Cyril Allen or Martha Washington as simple bullies who run their mouths on anyone who opposed the NPFL regime. They are part and parcel of the politics of fear. Taylor has played this game on and on for many years. The killers of Dokie are still out there in Monrovia. Taylor shed tears on the corps on the Dokies but condoned their killing. A few people were arrested and released after six months. The people who almost killed former interim president Amos Sawyer were never arrested. The former chief justice, who worked along with the chief of police in the same transitional government was arrested and humiliated. Nobody was ever arrested or blamed. Journalist Hassan Billity was arrested because the Ministry of Information fabricated emails in his names. No trial. No remorse. No explanation. This pattern of "idiots going on a limb to do stupid things" is the only policy the NPFL knows. It would stupid of Liberians to think that these were coincidental bad occurrences they are part of a calculated, idiotic and criminal enterprise.
In this long and foolish advertisement we referred to earlier, Taylor says, "We repealed legislation that limited free speech." The issue is not to repeal an unjust law law, but to enforce existing laws that protect human rights and dignity. The government of the NPFL can clamor about repealing decree 88, but the fact remains that no government in the history of Liberia has arrested, brutalized, sequestrated, intimidated or tortured so many journalists and human rights advocates as the NPFL government has. Liberians now find themselves missing Doe! A law is but a few lines in a book. Enforcement is the key issue.
Sando Johnson is not one of the hoodlum he is merely a thug. He was a thug in 1992 when drugged and drunk, he was thrown against ECOMOG with an army of child soldiers to kill, rape, destroy and burn anything they encountered. He certainly never had dinner at the Urey Ranch or a drink at the Chief Cyril Allen Farm. Definitely, he never was invited in the studio of the Minister. He is probably allowed a free drink and a free room for his escapades at Hotel Africa, but he is no more than a pit bull. He is however part of a policy. He is an instrument of a policy of violence that knows no limit.
The real hoodlums are those who pocket the big bucks but never say anything. They are the ones who dress the emperor every day, putting words in his mouth, making sure his needs are all catered to and going by their business. The day emperor falls, the hoodlums will run off to Abidjan or Ghana and wait until things cool down to return and serve new masters. The Sando Johnsons would be killed in the process. Unlike the clowns, the hoodlums never show their face, they are way too smart. Like all the people who made Doe look o bad, they will survive and enjoy their millions.
The biggest problem in Liberian politics is that we have dealt with the NPFL in political terms rather than in criminal terms.