The Conspiracy of Silence and Inaction
Emotionally wounded by the trauma of seven years of factional fighting, and abandoned by a regime incapable of providing adequate programs for rehabilitation, the Liberian populace decided to keep quiet and internalize its pain. Survival instincts and indecision which are hallmarks of our national upbringing, impelled the public to support all sides of the violence. This devious national behavior sent the wrong signal to each wicked warlord that his action was in the national interest.
The failure to be courageous in opposing these depraved men proved deadly for the population as manifested by the outcome of the conflict. The factions killed thousands of civilians in their virulent besiege of the country. Yet our people have not learned the lesson that "power concedes nothing without demand" and complacency only enhances the hands of the tyrant.
Today in Liberia, the people have resigned themselves to the unfortunate fate of compliant subjects to the overwhelming might and absolute rule of the reprobate Charles Taylor. The voice of the people, which should have been the voice of God, (Vox populi, vox Dei) has been muted. The nation is gripped by fear and intimidation, and the national spirit weakened and demoralized by hopelessness as Mr. Taylor acquires and usurps more power to the detriment of democracy.
But while Taylor rapidly escalates this mutilation of democracy, the Liberian public, political parties, and other civic organizations have steadily drifted into a more dangerous conspiracy of silence and inaction. They have failed to speak out against the evils of society and the continued brazen abuse of power by the Taylor government. There is no credible voice of conscience in Liberia today. Instead, the people have become accomplices of the Liberian dictator by their reticence and disengagement, thus contributing to the regime's political overreaching.
The Perspective has observed with poignant disappointment the deafening silence in Monrovia in the face of blatant disdain for life, and contemptible disrespect for democratic values. For instance, when former Taylor's loyalist Sam Dokie and family were ambushed, killed and their bodies decapitated by Taylor's security agents, the Liberian people remained conspicuously silent and decidedly detached. There was no vehement outcry from religious institutions or a united condemnation by the political parties.
Benjamin Yeaten, the man who ordered the Dokies arrested never appeared in court to testify. During the trial, he was kept out of sight, practically housebound at Taylor's mansion from where he directed the notorious Special Security Service (SSS). There are reports that link Mr. Yeaten with the death of a leading Nimba county citizen during the war. And today in Monrovia, he is one of fearsome individuals within Taylor's inner circle.
And in a stunning display of arrogance and contempt for the sanctity of the constitution, the regime orchestrated a show trial in which the government created phantom perpetrators, and ceded to itself the task of proving the subjects innocent. In this grave travesty in Liberia's jurisprudence and a miscarriage of justice, Taylor realized then the vulnerability of the citizenry and his own wicked ability to manipulate events without any opposition.
Emboldened by the impotency of resolve and submissive posture of Liberians, Taylor decided to move against ethnic Krahns on Camp Johnson Road in what is known as the September Massacre of 1998. The Krahns had made the ill-fated decision that by congregating in a section of ravaged Monrovia would give them some sense of security. They were deadly mistaken. In a callous contempt for life, Taylor sent in his death squad, headed by his son, Chucky Taylor, to liquidate the Krahns. His forces, armed with rocket propelled grenades and other weapons of terror, menacingly and deliberately gunned down unarmed civilians, mainly Krahn supporters of former guerrilla leader D. Roosevelt Johnson. Again, the opposition political parties as well as other presumed voices of reason chose silence and inaction over courage.
Moreover, as signs of his failure to effectively deal with the country's problems became apparent, the Liberian ruler is becoming more eccentric. God is now directing his actions. He seems more and more like a man in need of psychiatric help than international economic assistance. His rhetoric is now shrouded in bellicose tone, often blaming his perceived enemies for his failure. And as a tactic of diversion in most totalitarian regimes - and Liberia is no exception - the cause of failure often rests elsewhere.
Earlier, Mr. Taylor decided to purge one of his former confidants, Sen. Charles W. Brumskine, from the leadership of the Liberian Senate. Taylor, who relishes the imperial presidency, had concluded that the independent-minded Brumskine was no longer a team player, thus a threat to the dictator's autocratic rule.
Of course, The Perspective recognizes the right of the National Patriotic Party, like all democratic organizations, to choose its leaders. But soon after the controversial purging of Sen. Brumskine, the notorious security forces began stalking his every movement. And amidst all this, President Taylor issued so-called assurances laced with implicit warning to Brumskine not "to put Bassa people against the rest of Liberia..."
In addition, The Perspective received information indicating the Brumskine and Associate Law Firm would soon be dissolved. According to credible sources in Monrovia, Brumskine and Associate, which is among the best and prestigious in the country, is being dissolved due to "political pressure" which is being mounted on the clients of the firm, thereby rendering it insolvent. This tyrannical way of forcing people into submission is not only dangerous, but also runs counter to democratic practices.
But as Taylor pursues his strategy of eliminating dissenting voices which is intended to stifle competition of ideas, and impede a healthy political environment, the opposition parties surrender their relevance by the collective failure to demonstrate leadership. They have kowtowed to the dictatorship as shown by their obvious silence on such critical national issues.
Why do we need opposition political parties when their leaders do not have the guts to condemn cold-bloody killings such as Dokie and family, and the cowardly elimination of Krahn civilians on Camp Johnson Road? And what good is an opposition when most of its leaders cannot muster the courage to speak out publicly against the resurgence of the vile, monolithic, one party state?
To remove this absurdity from the sublime to the ridiculous, the opposition has become Taylor's agents. It stands worthless as Mr. Taylor chips at every aspect of democracy, in his desperate effort to restore the old political order of ruthless, undemocratic, minority supremacy.
Clearly, the restoration of Liberia's perilous past should alarm all Liberians. It was the diabolical, inhumane, corrupt characteristic of our past that gave impetus to the popular overthrow of the elitist government in 1980. Yet the reactionary Taylor is determined to restore that insidious hegemony. And so far he has succeeded mainly because the citizenry has given in to war-weariness and antipathy to politics, while the sterile and self-serving political cults have lost their raison d'etre.
Webster's New World Dictionary defines opposition party as "a political party opposing, and serving as a check on the party in power." In a broader context, the opposition is to make sure that the ruling party abide by the laws and live up to the dictates of the constitution, as well as provide for the general welfare of the people. And as a general rule, the opposition should be poised at all times to provide alternative programs and policy which would ameliorate the lot the citizens and advance pluralistic democracy.
The idiotic refrain by some slick self-serving politicos of succumbing to every Liberian dictator under the guise of being patriotic and loyal opposition is absurd. Holding the ruling party's feet to the fire to make sure it conduct national polices within democratic framework, providing a set of alternative solutions amenable to the people, and being patriotic and loyal are not mutually exclusive. Our patriotism and loyalty should be to the state, not to some all assuming tyrant.
But recently, a group of opposition politicians was dispatched to the United States and Europe to engage donor countries about the economic assistance to Liberia. They claimed they came on this mission on their own, ostensibly, because of their love for Liberia and deep commitment to serve its people. Their real reason, however, was to serve their own interest. Every Liberian knows that most of these politicians depend on Charles Taylor for pocket change and daily meal in Monrovia. How dare they think we are that gullible to their little charade!
No doubt, these ingratiating politicians did not realize that no messengers can convince donor countries to help Liberia. The world community had very much outlined what Liberia must do as a condition for economic assistance. Instead of wasting time and money, the opposition ought to call on the regime to meet the requirements of the donor countries. Those requirements are in the best interest of our people, and will help strengthen democracy.
Meanwhile, the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) - an umbrella Liberian organization founded in the United States to advocate democratic changes in Liberia - has fallen in the hands, and run by stooges of the Liberian bandit. Like their counterpart, the so-called opposition parties in Monrovia, these Taylor's ULAA surrogates rationalize the regime's dismal human rights record and brazen abuse of power.
These Taylor's apologists usually blame organizations such as the Liberian Democratic Future, publisher of this magazine, and others for the precarious economic inactivity in Liberia. They have turned a model watchdog organization into a bastion for Taylor. And afraid of being thrown out of power, they have refused to hold elections. The much despised Union leadership has used Taylor-like tactics to stay in power. It now serves as one of many links to Mr. Taylor's network in the United States. The Union's abandonment of its core principle and siding with the enemy of democracy gives credence to the assertion by Joseph De Maistre in his Letter that "Every nation has the government it deserves."
Similarly, most Liberians who took part in demonstrations to bring our plight to the fore in 1970's and 1980's had become disenchanted and disengaged. Some are disillusioned and fed up with the corruption of ULAA, the manipulation of its charter to benefit its leaders and the overall distrust of Liberian politicians.
All in all, our people have given in to apathy and cynicism, and chosen complacency and content. They are now part of the conspiracy of silence and inaction. They have lost their sense of commitment. Most importantly, they have waived the future of our children to this pickpocket and fugitive from justice.
But while these self-serving Liberian political hustlers try to conceal the regime's ruthless crackdown and polish Taylor's image abroad, the bandit continues to fabricate episodes of coup attempts to overthrow his regime. Recently, state-inspired terrorist groups staged what appeared to be a dissident incursion into Voinjama in which scores of people were killed. Several properties were looted and vehicles belonging to relief agencies stolen and taken to Monrovia. Again Taylor, chief master of chicanery, blamed his former partner-in-war, Alhaji G. V. Kromah for the incident.
However, most people believe Taylor and his security apparatchiks concocted the scheme to continue the strategy of holding the country hostage to fear and intimidation. And, many think this might be the prelude of implicating yet another group of people for possible treason or sedition charges or elimination. The modus of operandi is typical Taylor's, a zealot of hyperbole, skillful in magnifying insignificant incidents as a backdrop for a more, sinister political objective.
As he ponders and plots strategies for his next victims, gutless Liberian opposition politicians have become conduit of Mr. Taylor and his government. It is difficult to tell the difference, if any, between the killer regime and the nominal opposition. And sadly, the Liberian people, scarred and demoralized by the war, are left in agony without a voice of hope.
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