Open Letter to Tim Siklo and LDI

By Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective

January 16, 2002

Mr. Siklo: I read with amazement and puzzlement your recent statement [Democracy Group Offers Initiatives for Action] published on behalf of your new group, Liberia Democracy Initiative (LDI). In the opening paragraph, you state that: “LDI intends to highlight critical issues as well as urge people to take decisive and immediate action aimed at bringing genuine peace and credibility to Liberia at home and abroad, respectively.” My concern is that you worked for the Taylor administration since its inception - (you probably worked for him or favored him since he was a warlord). When did you become aware of these “critical issues” you now intend to highlight?

It is clearly no secret that you were the Taylor administration’s top dignitary in the United States - second only to the ambassador. Rumors abound as to how and why you lost your privileged position. One rumor has it that you were fired when it became apparent that you would not be promoted to ambassadorship, you began to support a subversive group (was it the LURD?) that was advocating an armed overthrow of the government. Another rumor has it that you lost your job because you simply fell out of favors with the new ambassador. Is either of these versions true? If neither is, don’t you think you owe the Liberian people some explanation before you embark on your new aspiration to save the country?

Clearly the goals stated by your new group are noble and could help restore some degree of sanity and lawfulness to our beloved country. But for your own good, some issues related to your credibility need to be questioned. After all, you have been a public figure for sometime now. Until quite recently, you were deeply entrenched with the ruling party, the Taylor administration. Now, you propose a new advocacy group embarked on undermining your old boss. How did that transition come about? Is it through deeply felt and genuine convictions or are you just being a political chameleon - changing colors for expediency?

You make a momentous charge against the Taylor administration, when you write: “The administration’s primary focus was on building its paramilitary and security forces… Again, as an insider, isn’t it logical to assume that you knew and supported these policies for over four long years? When did this become horrendous and unacceptable strategy? Don’t you think these poor Liberians whom you are about to save need to know more about how you had a change of heart, Mr. Don Quixote?

Subsequently in your statement, you level another serious charge: “The Taylor administration continues to allow gross human rights abuses and systematic killings of opposition politicians, like the Dokies, by security forces.” Again, please do not perceive my line of inquiry as a personal attack on you; that is far from being my intention. I am raising these grave issues as a concerned citizen politely quizzing a former public official who is about to take on the serious responsibilities of public-issue-advocate. The question is when did you become aware of these “gross and criminal” abuses? When security forces killed the Dokies, as you allege, you were then an insider of the administration. Would it be safe to assume that you knew what you know now? If not, when did you come to know this?

You correctly point out the sufferings of the Liberian people, the economic and political repressions and deplorable conditions under which they live, the inability of the government to pay salaries and provide the necessities of life. Yet until very recently, you were proud to work for this same government. Your sudden change of heart reminds me of a classic Liberian tragedy. We all know the story of Mr. Baccus Matthews who raged, huffed and puffed against the Tolbert Government. The Liberian population was a captive audience, eager for some political awakening. Mr. Matthews went on ranting until the masses came to clash with the government. Sadly Mr. Matthews did not mean to go that far. He was quoted recently as saying: “I did not mean to bring the government down. They owed me some money I was trying to collect.”

The point I am trying to make here is some Liberians are dismayed that they were naïve to listen to empty rhetoric to stir them into action. Eventually they paid a serious prize. These Liberians have not given up on the political process as an ultimate means of problem solving in the long run; they are just a bit skeptical. On the other hand, there are those Liberians who are so cynical as to dismiss any political movement as meaningless because they have been betrayed so many times by people whose personal agenda were their only political motive.

Mr. Siklo, your statement asserts: “There are many documented cases of official corruption, academic dishonesty and incompetence, economic mismanagement and monopolistic business practices, gross political and human rights abuses, and violations of the constitution. Journalists, opposition politicians and other democracy advocates are targeted, threatened, harassed and killed by government security forces.” This is a very powerful statement. The question becomes, ‘how does LDI solve these tremendous problems?’ You simply propose that: “In order to bring about peace and stability to Liberia, LDI urges all Liberians to take decisive and immediate action in demanding that the Taylor administration abides by some key initiatives.”

If the matter at hand were not so tragic, this proposal of yours would be laughable. Instead of creating all these toothless paper tigers, why don’t we all give the good old Liberian Community Associations our support? As I proposed earlier, our intention should be to revitalize The Liberian Community Associations in the Americas (ULAA). ULAA should be the appropriate forum in which we come together to address issues we hold dear. Coming together in ULAA does not necessarily mean the silencing of diverse points of view. We should be honest and adamant in encouraging diverse and pluralistic views. But it will be the ultimate badge of maturity to have one national organization through which we speak.

So Mr. Siklo, since your intentions are to speak for the Liberian masses and to seek redress for transgressions against them, while don’t you present your proposals to ULAA and work under her umbrella to further your cause. The next logical question is ‘is ULAA capable under its current leadership and operational format to accommodate these professional and quasi-professional groups? The Answer is ULAA is ours. It is only as strong or weak as we make it. You are the power. We are the power. ULAA is waiting for change. When the time comes ULAA will have no choice but to accommodate change.

Thank you for the space allowed.

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