US$300,000 Per Year PR Contract Signed With
By Our Staff
March 28, 2001
A US$300,000 per year "plus reasonable expenses" PR contract "for an undefined period," has been signed between a Washington firm, Jefferson Waterman International, and a Liberian-based mining company, AmLib United Minerals. But our Liberian Government sources say AmLib United Minerals is a conduit for President Charles Taylor.
Contract documents indicate that Nathaniel Richardson, a brother of John T. Richardson reputed to have organized the 1992 bloody war on Monrovia code-named Octopus, which left tens of thousands killed when Taylor attempted to seize the capital and install himself President and millions of properties destroyed, heads the AmLib Minerals. Five American nuns were killed in the process as Taylor's Libyan trained rebels reined terror on the city, then the only safe place in the country manned by West African peacekeeping troops.
In 1996, JT Richardson admitted that: "What the journalists have failed to point out is that this time, unlike previous fighting in Monrovia, the civilians have not really suffered... In the past, fighters would rip out people's intestines and use them to string up roadblocks, or cut off people's heads. This time there has been none o that."
A representative of the firm, Ken Yates, in an interview with The Perspective, however said that the contract is not a PR contract and that it was signed between a company known only as RDV and Jefferson Waterman International. But documents received by The Perspective from US Department of Justice list Jefferson Waterman International of 140 K St. NW, DC 20005, not the RDV, as the "Registraint." The name RDV does not appear anywhere in the Justice Department contract documents.
"We are Jefferson Waterman International. We have a number of international clients - variety types of businesses and some governments. We do variety of work for clients. That is all available at the Justice Department which is true for any company like ours", Mr. Yates said.
Under further questioning, he denied the contract was an indirect PR contract, but added, "Liberia has an image problem here. No it is not an indirect public relations contract at all. We have a direct contract with RDV Corp. No, we do not work directly for the Liberian government. We work with them! But what we are doing - we are helping (as we can) Liberia in terms of its communication problems but as part of the contract with the American company".
According to the contract signed by Charles Waterman and Richardson dated 31 July 2000, the American firm has undertaken to "advice above-named Principal (AmbLib Minerals) on diverse matters related to political, economic, commercial relations with the United States; registraint will consult with US Government officials and members of Congress as well as the media and academic and public policy institutions in strengthening relations between the US and Liberia."
"It is difficult to see what interests a jungle-based mining company using underpaid workers under a tyranny has with American Government, US academic institutions, and ties between Liberia and America. This is just one of Taylor's pet project to siphon money needed for water, electricity, schools, and other necessities, embassies are closing down, and yet such amount is spent on uselessness. The best PR is how you govern, how you treat your people, and not how to pay an image that does not exist. When you send thugs on university students, spearhead the disappearances of opponents and sponsor regional rebel groups and still believe you deserve an image as a democrat, then you have problems. I can only hope that our President realizes this, but can he?" asked a dissatisfied minister under anonymity.
The contract commits the American firm to: "Report orally
and in writing all legislative and Administrative actions of interests
to the Principal. As requested, contact in person or by phone,
or letter representatives of US Government, media or private sector
individuals as indicated in periodic dissemination report filings,
to communicate the Principals objectives in the US. Communicate
with the Government of Liberia, as appropriate, and as requested,
to discuss polices and to advance the Principal's objectives.
Contact in person, by phone, fax or letters, representatives of
the US media and academic institutions to organize educational
program to advance the interests of the Principal."
Taylor has previously signed a series of PR contracts with American firms and individuals, one with former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen. Some success stories include the dropping of charges against Taylor for escaping from a Boston prison, but his planned US visit following his election was aborted following a series of protests by human rights groups, including representatives of the five American nuns butchered by Taylor's rebels in 1992.
Since coming to power, Taylor, who recently announced, "We have lost the propaganda war", has spent millions on improving his image in the US from where he escaped from prison to launch a bloody war that saw 250,000 killed, amassing enormous personal wealth in the process. There are reports that Taylor spent millions of dollars on image building on individual Americans. But despite this huge PR expenditure, ties with Washington remain sour primarily because of his involvement in Sierra Leone and regional destabilization resulting in hundreds of thousands of refugees and regional economic collapse as drugged child soldiers and thousands of amputated people roam.
During the 1997 presidential race, Taylor campaigned on an anti-American platform, repeatedly warning that he would resist the imposition of an American "stooge" (Opposition leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf) on the Liberian people against Libya's and Abacha's Nigeria's will. His repeated allegations against Washington for allegedly plotting to impose its candidate led the US embassy to issue denials of backing a particular candidate.
But in a recent letter to Congressman Ed Royce, chair of the House Sub-Committee on African Affairs who has indicted Taylor for abuses and regional destabilization, the ex-warlord now says, "It is still a mystery to me what the source of the reversal in US-Liberia relations might be. I do recall the cordial relations that existed between the State Department and I as leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, NPFL. There might have been some misunderstanding of a number of events that occurred for which my revolutionary movement might have been unjustifiably blamed The dis-information campaign, coupled with outright lies is the brainchild of some officials of the Clinton Administration".
Initial optimism for normal relations between the US and Liberia flared after the 1997 election, mainly due to the proximity of key African-Americans and other Democrat to the Taylor regime. President Clinton unsuccessfully pleaded with Taylor to maintain West African peacekeeping troops as post-war guarantors of internal and regional stability. But Taylor rejected the plea, insisting Liberia is a sovereign state, and "There is no small president and big President" in reference to Nigeria. Persistent reports of diamond smuggling, gunrunning to back Sierra Leone's rebels, along with internal repression, led the Clinton administration to impose a travel ban on Taylor and his officials. Taylor, too, reciprocated with a travel ban on American officials (Lifted a few weeks after) as his officials took turn on local radio shows to denounce Washington. Deteriorating human rights environment created more strains between the two countries, with Taylor warning, "Don't push us to have to say no to you."
The US State Department, in its human rights report for 2000,
indicted the government on a series of abuses, including summary
executions, disappearances and horrible prison conditions.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, once sympathetic to Taylor's cause, in closing down his pro-democracy offices in Liberia, lamented:
"Much to our dismay, Liberia is a country where reports of serious human rights abuses are common, where journalists, human rights organizations, and political activists work in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, and where there is little political space for meaningful democratic debate. Instead of being used to improve education, infrastructure, and development, Liberia's resources have been diverted toward extra-budgetary uses. In addition, it is increasingly evident that Liberia's role in the conflicts of the sub- region has been a destructive one".