People's Power: Liberia VS. Philippines

By Abdoulaye Dukule

The Perspective
Jan 24, 2001

The submission by Wolor Topor was an interesting reading. It poses many problems and asks for solutions. Can people power move Taylor from power? One has to carefully look at what Taylor did in Liberia in the past eleven years and where we may be headed.

Rather than a coup d'etat like Doe, Taylor started what we might term an insurrection that not only overthrew the government but almost dismantled the social fabric of the nation. Liberians were removed from their land in masses, the administration was destroyed and social values collapsed in the face of hatred, violence, hunger, poverty and militarism. In 1992, during the October war, the NPFL troops took people from the areas they occupied on Bushroad Island and sent them behind "the lines". Hundreds of people were removed from their homes and forced to move up country.

For students of history, this reminds us of what Pol Pot did in Cambodia. By creating a massive displacement of people, Taylor was aiming at "creating" a new society as he sees it. Somehow, eleven years after the so-called "revolution," it has worked. If you go to Monrovia and walk down Broadway, you will wonder where you are. You will seethe changes in society. People you knew ten years ago are all gone. There is a new language. The business community is new, made of hustlers from Russia to South Africa and Lebanon. The youth has a new face. Most kids have never known what Liberia was prior to Doe and the war.

The political class has changed. The former prophets of change have now all turned to the sole cashman in the country. Dissidents have fled the country. The administration is controlled by men and women who are all devoted to one person, the same and only Taylor. The last voice of political reason, Amos sawyer has fled the country and joined others, former warlords, journalists or other members of the middle class. This mass exodus of the middle class leaves Taylor in absolute control of the country. Are there possibilities forming a political movement of dissent under these conditions?

The difference between Liberia and the Philippines is simply that there is a judiciary in the Philippines. That there is a structured middle class, a political system that holds together somehow and that the country did not collapse when Marcos was overthrown. The fact that Liberian middle class can easily find refuge in the US may be a cursed blessing for the country. Who in the Liberian Senate will introduce a bill to investigate Taylor or any of his men?

The Taylor plan is working. When elections time comes in few years, Taylor may be able to create one or two opposition parties, allow them to run and win some votes. And he will come out as a winner, with all the legal arguments on his side.

[Editor's note: Abdoulaye Dukule is former Counselor of Information and Culture, Embassy of Liberia, Washington, DC]

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