We Will Over All Prevail

By Edward D. Kollie, Jr.

The Perspective

May 2, 2001

There comes a time when even those who are not politically active must raise their voices and speak out against evil that has become so widespread and dehumanizing that it threatens present and future generations. The current situation in Liberia is a case in point. Nearly 22 years ago in the auditorium of Monrovia City Hall, a young man gallantly walked to the podium and gave a very eloquent speech.

In that speech he condemned the system of patronage, nepotism and corruption as it existed in Liberia at the time. He relentlessly criticized the government of William Richard Tolbert for its treatment of Liberians on April 14, 1979. That was the day when thousands of Liberians took to the streets to peacefully protest the unjustified increase in the price of pusawa rice, the staple food commodity. He spared no effort in referring to Tolbert's police force as a murderous machinery that needlessly shot and killed unarmed civilians on that forever-eventful day in April 1979. The speaker called on all patriotic Liberians who believed in the principles of democracy and freedom to rise and speak out against the injustice and corruption that had consumed the country. He was highly critical of the Tolbert regime for its record of suppressing political dissent, by brandishing opponents as communists and socialists and charging them with crimes against the Liberian nation, as a means of silencing them. The eloquent speaker also accused President William R. Tolbert's regime of squandering the meager resources of the country.

The speaker was none other than Charles Taylor, the man who is now wreaking havoc in Liberia and the West African sub-region. The occasion was the closing program of a one-week conference held in Monrovia by the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA). It was either in late December 1979 or the early part of 1980. In any case, it was not long after that conference that the April 12, 1980 military coup took place. As we ponder over the state of affairs in Liberia, there is a constant reminder of that speech Charles Taylor gave that day. And one keeps wondering what ever happened to the young man who said all those lofty things about democracy and patriotism and against patronage, nepotism, corruption, brutality against innocent defenseless civilians and the squandering and appropriation of the meager resources of the nation for the selfish good of a very few but extremely greedy individuals. Well, for one thing that young man grew older and for another it turned out that for evil, greedy and spineless individuals like Charles Taylor, words are indeed much cheaper than deeds. So while he stood at that podium and condemned Tolbert for the shortcomings of his regime, Taylor has by every measure outdone any evil William R. Tolbert committed against the people of Liberia, several times over.

After Tolbert was overthrown in the April 12, 1980 military coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, Charles Taylor became director of General Services Administration (GSA) in the People's Redemption Council (PRC) government. For those who want to trace the origins of Taylor's appetite for corruption and ineptness, I suggest that they start with his record at GSA. On several occasions when he was director, there were reports of Taylor soliciting and/or accepting bribes from Lebanese merchants who did business with the PRC government through GSA. Remember that Taylor was the chief purchaser for the Liberian government at the time. He was eventually removed as GSA director and transferred to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Transportation (CIT) as a deputy minister. Just about the time of his transfer to CIT, the PRC placed a ban on private foreign travel by government officials, mainly over concern that some government officials were using their official travel privileges overseas as a guise to illegally transfer or deposit public funds into their private foreign accounts.

It is said that in order for Taylor to leave Liberia during the ban, he intentionally spilled kerosene or a similar harsh substance on one of his arms, which caused blister like bumps or swelling of the affected tissue on that arm. He then used this situation as an alibi to obtain an exemption to travel to the USA for "medical treatment". It is said that Taylor presented a physician report to the PRC government that said the [self-inflicted] malady on his arm was potentially cancerous. The story has it that this is how Charles Taylor was able to leave Liberia. Upon learning that Charles Taylor had tricked his government, Samuel K. Doe sent his security forces to the Painesville home of Taylor, but all they found was a house that had been completely emptied of everything except portions of the carpet. Doe became very furious. He subsequently charged that Taylor had stolen Liberian government funds on previous occasions when he traveled overseas on official business. It must be noted that this is not an attempt to explain how Taylor became corrupt but rather to expose what perhaps were the first public manifestations of this man's evil nature.

Most Liberians, at home and abroad, as well as other observers of events on the African continent, had thought Charles Taylor would immediately cease his military operations after Prince Johnson and his forces captured and killed Samuel Doe in late 1990. The hope and belief was that Taylor was going to seize the opportunity that availed itself to show that he was truly fighting to bring democracy and needed social and economic changes to Liberia. Let us keep in mind that Taylor, on the onset of the civil war, had enjoyed the support of most Liberians for his unrelenting efforts to dislodge the corrupt and brutal regime of Doe. Had he immediately halted all military operations after Doe was killed, Taylor would have, without a shadow of doubt, established once and for all that he was indeed the leader to change the political, social and economic landscape of Liberia. To our utter disappointment, but not completely out of character for a man of his mind-set, Charles Taylor continued his carnage and chose to take all of Monrovia and the rest of the country by military means. Time always in the end makes things clearer and so we now know why Taylor did not stop the military option. For him it was either all or nothing. His drugged child soldiers, aided and abetted by mercenary soldiers, burnt and looted Monrovia and the countryside, killing thousands of innocent men, women and children in the process.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that even as the country lays in complete ruin and decay, Charles Taylor continues to consolidate and arrogate political and economic power to himself by any means necessary. His security apparatus, staffed with mercenary soldiers from the Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Gambia, South Africa and other countries, brutally kills his enemies (actual and perceived) and intimidates those he has not yet succeeded in eliminating or sending into exile. This man, like many other brutal and barbaric tyrants/despots who have come before him and those who currently rule in other African countries, has no sense of decency and civility. To him absolute power is the ultimate goal and any means used to achieve that goal is justified by the end result. It is in complete compliance with the nature of evil and heartless men that Charles Taylor is using neo-nazi white supremacists and former enforcers of South Africa's brutal Apartheid laws to loot Liberia. These henchmen kill and intimidate those who dare to speak out against the shame, misery and decadence Taylor has brought onto the Liberian nation and its people.

As gloomy and frustrating as the situation in Liberia looks today, there is hope just beyond the horizon. The hope lies in the knowledge that good always, always triumphs over evil. And if past history is any indication of what is likely to happen in Liberia and perhaps very soon, then we must trust that the end is definitely near for Charles Taylor and his band of greedy spineless brutes. Taylor, guilty as hell of sponsoring mindless and heartless men who amputated little baby boys and baby girls in Sierra Leone, will some day soon pay for his crimes. In Taylor's current state of mind, there may be an aura of invincibility. But it won't be long before this despot and modern day barbarian is rudely awakened into the bright corridors of justice to answer for his plundering of Liberia and destabilization of the West African sub-region. We must be mindful of the very recent history that shows that no matter how high and far murderous and barbaric regimes rise, they ultimately fall shamefully. It has happened in Liberia and in other parts of the world. You do not need to be reminded of Idi Amin Dada, Samuel K. Doe and Slobodon Melosovic, just to name a few. You can bet your last earthly possession on it, Charles Taylor's evil regime will be no exception to this rule.

In fact, every indication is that the disgraceful demise of the evil Taylor regime is just around the corner. Looking for indicators? Well, for one thing he has begun to go after some of his own followers and ardent defenders, meaning that the man does not trust anyone any more. For another, the national economy has become so nonexistent that even some of his foreign collaborators who used to stick around in sheer hope that things would turn around some day soon have begun to either exit the country or are contemplating it. Further, the word is now out on Taylor's evil doings in almost every corner of the world. Say the words "Liberia", "Sierra Leone" and/or "West Africa" in any part of the world and soon someone will tell you of the news story about amputated babies they saw on their television screen and how they heard that a tyrant named Charles Taylor was the chief sponsor of the barbarians who committed that evil act. For anyone who has doubts that this nightmare will soon pass and that the people of Liberia with come out victorious, you are urged to read the line from Liberia's national anthem which says "with God above our rights to prove, we will over all prevail".

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