Grand Kru Senator Refuses To Answer Political Questions
By George H. Nubo

The Liberian Community Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA) had a taste of what transpires in the present day Liberian senate at the community monthly meeting on October 11 through the presence of Hon. Beatrice Nimely, senator from Grand Kru County.

At the time, the mass graves of those massacred during government raid on Camp Johnson Road were still fresh; blood from Madison Wion and others was still seeping through the pavement of the U.S. embassy doorway; and the the pews and floor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church were soaking with blood of over 50 innocent people killed in edifice by government soldiers. Liberians gathered at Mina's Place for the meeting to find out from the senator what has really happened in their country.

Senator Nimely is member of the Unity Party. Since she is not a member of the ruling party, Liberians had hoped and anticipated objective exchanges about the happenings in Liberia.

"It's a pleasure to be in Atlanta this afternoon. My trip is a private visitation to Atlanta. I'm traveling all over the United States, trying to get in touch with citizens from Grand Kru County to be specific. I will like for us to get acquainted with one another, open a line of communication..." to see how we can collectively come up with ideas to help the destitute Grand Kru County.

The senator then concluded by informing her audience that she would not entertain any political questions or questions that had nothing to do with her county, Grand Kru, because her visit to the United States was a private one.

But there are no drought of problems in Grand Kru. Like the rest of the country, Grand Kru has its share of problems. One of such problems is forced labor. Earlier, this year, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission reported the practice of forced labor in South Eastern Liberia, mainly in Grand Kru County, the county Hon. Nimely represents in the senate. Children between the ages of 6-12 have been forcibly and continuously used to work on plantations. Asked to throw light on the validity of the story, the senator replied, "as far as I'm concern - no. There is no forced labor in Grand Kru. Not that I know of. That issue was raised in the papers so many times. It got the concern of the international community, as well as the human rights [organizations], and so a group was dispatched there to ascertain the truth." According to the group's report, there is no forced labor practiced in the county. The senator said she would spent her christmas in Grand Kru to get first hand information, but she believed the report of the team sent to Grand Kru to investigate.The senator then reiterated her admonishment to her audience - limit your question "to the subject matter [Grand Kru]."

Asked if she could answer any question concerning greater Liberia, the Senator stated that she would not entertain any question on greater Liberia and she incredulously repeated that she would not entertain any political questions.

The senator was then asked if she only voted on Grand Kru issues in the Liberian senate, but not on national issues. And if she normally votes on national issues in the senate, why does she refuse to answer questions of national relevance. At this point, the senator agreed to answer "some" of the questions. But the damage was already done - the statement came a bit too late for many Liberians who attended the meeting, while some felt obligated to continue questioning the senator on the human rights record of the Taylor dictatorship.

On human rights issues, the senator said that there were no human rights abuses in Liberia. With respect to the brutal murder of Sam Dokie, the senator said, "the Dokie issue is still pending." This writer uncharacteristically yelled across the floor - what about free press? The senator surprisingly responded, "we already have free press."

In her meeting with citizens of Grand Kru, the senator seemed much more subdued and forthcoming. Perhaps feeling much more comfortable with familiar audience, comprised mostly of citizens of Grand Kru County, and attempting to make up for the damage done to her image earlier with the Liberian community by her refusal to answer national and political questions, the senator was quite responsive about the current political situation in Liberia, and discussed specific problems confronting Grand Kru County at this meeting.

Contradicting her previous statement to the Liberian community about the non-existence of human rights problems in the country, the senator acknowledged pervasive human rights abuses on the part of the police and other security forces in the country. She said that many of those who are now within the police force and other security agencies were former combatants [of the NPFL] who have had no real training whatsoever.

Responding to the issue of forced-labor practice in Grand Kru County, the senator intimated that there were still conflicting reports about such allegations which she could not confirm or deny. "I intend to visit the county to do my own personal inquiry and fact-finding," she said.

Commenting on the state of affairs of the county, she said the county's infrastructure was in ruins and was cut-off from the rest of the country. "The county is destitute, roads are closed, and there are no schools that are opened," she reported.

But, in a sad note of commentary, she said some of these problems could have been addressed if the Grand Kru Caucus comprising two senators and representatives were working together. She said the caucus was "divided" (she being the only one from an opposition party) and could not agree on a common program to address the problems faced by the county. Ironically, she said, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nyundueh Morkonmana, hailed from Grand Kru, and held such influential position, he showed very little interest in pushing through the agenda of the county.

The senator made a special plea to citizens of Grand Kru County residing in the United States to assist their county in its reconstruction efforts. She said the county was most in need of educational materials, farming tools and other material needs.

Citizens of Grand Kru attending the meeting with the senator agreed to organize themselves into an association to begin addressing some of the problems alluded to. Some of the Grand Kru citizens at the meeting, however, expressed their disatisfation with the way the senator "handled herself" during the larger community meeting.

It is sad and incredulous for an opposition politician to be afraid to articulate her stance on issues. But this is indicative of the prevailing reality in Liberia due to ruthlessness of Charles Taylor. This is what happens in a Banana Republic. "Not only fearing to be blacklisted, her statement that the Dokie's murder case is still pending makes me to conclude that she is not in touch with the issues and reality", quipped a former community official.

The senator, it appears, does not know her role. She was not appointed by Taylor and as such cannot be fired by Taylor. If the opposition politician is afraid to voice her opinion, you can imagine what the ordinary people feel. Criticizing some of the policies of government does not make one an enemy of the government. But in Taylor's Liberia, the legislature is a "rubber stamp.".