The Ongoing Pursuit of Liberty and Freedom in Liberia

By Rufus S. Berry II

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 8, 2002

I am filled with feelings of passion and frustration when it comes to the ongoing pursuit of liberty and freedom in Liberia. Once again, I am reaching out to the Liberian people through this article calling for action. It is unbelievable that after more than 150 years of independence, our own political leaders have stolen our freedom, and God only knows whether we will ever win it back as long as Charles Taylor is head of the republic. By asking for the suspension of all political activities on April 29, 2002, approximately eighteen months before the election, Mr. Taylor used the same tactic that he once found deplorable during Samuel Doe's reign, to choke the voice and rights of the entire nation.

During Mr. Taylor's 1991 Nightline interview, he said, "Let the skeptics in the [United States] State Department test me, and they will find out that I'm truly committed to no other process, than the one that allows the people to decide their own destiny." I could not agree with Charles Taylor more, however the United States State Department is not his constituent. Charles Taylor is corrupt and incompetent! The Liberian people elected him as their President out of fear so that the country's deadly civil war will not continue.

Mr. Taylor was given the chance to carry out the policies he declared during his march to Monrovia but has since failed the Liberian people. He stated that he had no intention of becoming another African dictator, yet he is more concerned with his personal aggrandizement, than with building credible democratic institutions. He has failed to exhibit any trustworthiness that would enable him to be a useful resource to the Liberian people. He continues to attack opposition political parties, their leaders and civilians, except his ruthless collaborators and the military elite. He has banned free press, depleted the country's resources and (replace run up with accumulated) huge debt by financing wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He then went on to denied his involvement for the mess he has caused, and blamed the West for not providing him assistance.

Moreover, Mr. Taylor has all but completely destroyed the country's public education and health facilities, notably the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, which was once the most reliable and prestigious Medical Center in western Africa.

On the other hand, during his quest for power, Mr. Taylor described himself as an ordinary civilian driven by the desire to cleanse the political process. As a result, many Liberians hoped he would become the country's savior, and in his Nightline interview, Mr. Taylor stated, "This is just an ordinary civilian uprising, this is not a military coup. This is not a military situation, but ordinary people uprising trying to bring fairness and justice." If this was the case, how is it possible that the Liberian people have been denied free-press, judicial and economic improvements? Since Mr. Taylor ascended to the presidency he has upheld few of the promises he made, thus utterly failing the Liberian people.

The United States, the country that was responsible for the creation of the modern republic of Liberia, has warned Mr. Taylor on numerous occasions to respect the rule of law. However, the U.S. is currently so focused on its own war on terrorism and the unrest in the Middle east that it has been unable to assist with the necessary reform in Liberia.

Unless Liberian citizens take action to counter Taylor government's widespread corruption and destroy his immoral regime, Liberians both at home and abroad will never be safe or free. Liberians as well as the United States must pressure Charles Taylor to resign, or not to seek re-election in 2003. As Mr. Taylor stated in his Nightline interview, "Washington could have pressured Doe to resign. Liberians are disappointed because they feel that the United States could have taken a more active role." Well, I am appealing to the United States to pressure Charles Taylor to resign. Liberia needs the U.S. to support the civil and human rights of Liberian citizens and to bring an end to the rampant corruption and deception that has characterized Mr. Taylor's years in office.

Liberia has suffered under a string of self-seeking, brutal and corrupt leaders, from William Tolbert to Samuel Doe to Charles Taylor. But I continue to hope and pray that God will give us a leader who has the country and its people at heart. I pray for a leader who will facilitate the reconciliation process. I hope for a leader that is fair and just. As Liberians, we must be united and speak with one voice as we pursue liberty and freedom. We must stop being our own worst enemy, by alienating the best, brightest and most progressive citizens. After a brutal civil war in which more than 250,000 lives were lost, we are still divided over ethnic affiliations. At a time when African Americans are connecting with their African heritage, we are doing everything humanly possible to divide ourselves.

My fellow Liberians, if we unite we can build a nation with strong judiciary, economic, and educational systems. But if we remain divided we will become another illustration of the black race's inability to govern itself. We must continue to pursue liberty and freedom for all Liberians. I close with this pray!

I beg you mighty God to guide Liberia.
We are weak, but you are mighty.
God of justice, you hold us with your powerful hands.
You are our strong deliverer.
Be our strength and shield.

About the author: Rufus S. Berry II is a Liberian and a Financial Analyst for a Silicon Valley Firm in Northern California.

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