On My Way to Accra
By Abdoulaye W. Dukule
When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to Ghana for the Liberian peace talks, she said I was taking a risk. When I wrote to my friend and colleague Tom Kamara of the New Democrat and asked him if he would be in Accra, he said he thought it was waste of time, because he said, "I don't trust Ghana." The former Speaker of the Transitional Government and Former minister of Information, Honorable Morris Dukuly said that it would be "an exercise in futility because Ghana and Nigeria have done everything they can to make Taylor president and maintain him there... It would be a waste of time," adding that we have been involved in this process for too long to understand the position of everybody. He doubted that Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was Chief of Defense Staff under Sani Abacha, would do anything different from what his boss did in 1997.
Fear for personal security in Accra, mistrust of the venue and lack of confidence in the negotiators, it all makes sense. And in the game, one of the players has his back against the wall and would spend any amount of money for his survival. Morris Dukuly said one thing all Liberians know fairly well: that ECOWAS, notwithstanding what we call the sacrifices it made for us, has deceived Liberia too many times and they are again plotting with Taylor to give him a relief. "They expect Taylor to change his nature but that won't happen," added Morris Dukuly who said he would not attend the talks if Ghana were moved closer to Minnesota where he lives. "I don't trust Chambas, I don't trust Ghana and I don't trust the Chief negotiator… This is a foolish attempt because a leopard cannot change its spots. The only way Taylor negotiates is to have his back against the wall, with nowhere to go… The only language he speaks is that of violence. He cares about no one and does not care about Liberia."
I agree with my friend who worried about my security in Accra where General Alfred Glay was killed with total impunity. I agree with Tom Kamara who can't see how anything good would come out of Akosombo with Nigerians and Ghanaians serving as negotiators in Akosombo because it was on the same site where Liberians were held "hostage" in 1994 by Ghanaian negotiators and forced into signing a series of deals that favored Taylor in every way. I remember being in that same town, in 1994, negotiating on behalf of the civil society. Our passports were taken from us and kept at the airport. We had no access to international telephone lines that would have allowed us to contact Monrovia when we needed to and we could not leave the compound. Our rooms and personal effects were constantly searched. Kojo Tsikata, advisor to Jerry Rawlings in the presence of Mr. Chambas, now Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, threatened the head of our delegation, Counselor Philip Banks. We were kept out of negotiations that were meant to decide the future of our country… We were barred from speaking to the press and it took Conmany Wesseh's personal contact in Accra to get us on BBC and denounce the military junta Rawlings was trying to impose on us.
Now, we are going into the Lions' den. The same players are on the scene. Can we survive it?
For one thing, the politics in the sub-region has changed. Mr. Taylor needs to salvage himself. The realities of the Liberian conflict have changed, because of its ramification and its negative effects on the whole region. ECOWAS has done nothing but arranging peace talks since Taylor sprung on the scene in 1989. The future of close to 200 million people has been high jacked for 13 years so that one man can have his way!
Taylor is where Mobutu stood when the central African governments decided to finance a rebel movement and kick him out. Taylor is where Idi Amin was when the world stood by and allowed the Tanzanian troops to topple him. Idi Amin now lives happily in Saudi Arabia, with wives and children! Taylor is now where Noriega was when an American Commandos picked him up and brought him to justice into the US to face charge on drug running like a common criminal. Taylor stands where many dictators stood when nobody in the world dared to lift a finger and speak in their defense.
Taylor is now going into his last peace talks. Nigerians and Ghanaians can help him find an honorable exit. The NPP can survive him. There is a possibility to avoid a bloodbath in Monrovia. Nimba and Grand Geddeh can make peace as they started this weekend in Washington, DC. They are many young people in Taylor government who can render great service to a free and democratic Liberia where we all live in peace. But Taylor knows he has to go!
This is why I am going to Accra. We all want to say goodbye to Taylor. Maybe, ten years from now, he could come back, and live quietly in Monrovia, grow cassava and potato greens on his farm and play with his grandchildren. Because Liberians are a forgiving people and even Chucky Taylor could run for Mayor of his hometown as Ugandans allowed the son of Idi Amin to run for a position at the last elections.
I am going to Accra because I know that Washington, Paris, London, Abidjan, Conakry, Freetown, Ouagadougou and Tripoli want Taylor out of the presidency of Liberia now and right now. I am going to Accra because I believe that Liberians would, for once, put their differences aside and salvage their country.
As far as Ghana and Nigeria are concerned, they would do what all Liberians want. The burden should not be on Taylor to find a way out of the crisis. He fought Doe, ECOMOG, ULIMO, LPC, and IGNU and now he deserves a rest. And we hear that Morocco is open to offering him an exit. We hope he would take the opportunity. Of course, he was ‘democratically elected" but he would not be the first elected president asked to step aside for the good of the country. If Richard Nixon did it for America, Taylor can do it for Liberia. Am I being naïve? Of course, I am too naïve to be scared! Accra, here we come!