Sixty Blind and a White priest

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 27, 2002

It has been almost 10 days since LURD "captured" and lost the NPFL capital and "launched" attacks on the President's hometown and other places. During that time, the spokesman of the dissidents William Hanson spoke to BBC, claiming that his people had taken a white man, who he thought, could be Garry Jenkins, the priest who disappeared with the 60 blind people he cared for. He was not sure but as usual, took credit for the action and said the man was being taken to their "headquarters", Voinjama-The-Ghost-Town. On Friday (May 25, 2002), he said on BBC that the "white man" was in fact Father Garry Jenkins and that arrangements were underway for the Inter-Religious Council to take custody of the priest. What about the sixty blind people?

Mr. Hanson could not be certain because he lives in Abidjan, not in Voinjama where the LURD Commander-In-Chief Sekou Damate resides, nor in Guinea where Joe Wylie, the military advisor, Charles Julu and other high-ranking members of LURD live. He does not know. He probably does not know the extent of the complication he puts himself in. Because now, whether it is Jenkins or not, LURD has to produce a "white man" they claim to have abducted from Tubmanburg. Or was he told to say that they have a white man?

Beyond the priest, there are also the 60 blind people. What happened to them? How does a guerilla group, whose M.O. (modus operandi) is to hit and run, take 60 blind person along? Is everything supposed to be resolved now that the whereabouts of the priest are known? Liberian life continues to be the most disposable commodity in our national tragedy.

As usual, there was never any independent confirmation of the fight in Gbarnga. We would like to ask again a few more questions:

1. If the government lost and retook Gbarnga in less the 3 days, how is it possible that the bodies of the rebels strewn on the main street were decomposed beyond recognition?

2. If there were 100 bodies of rebels in Gbarnga, carefully arranged along the main road, how was LURD capable of staging another attack if they only have a few dozen fighters as they always claim?

Can LURD prove that they have an agenda different from that of the Taylor government? Whatever they did so far has not helped the cause of democracy in Liberia. They have given reasons to Taylor to implement a state of emergency, to crackdown on human rights activists, muzzle the press and carry on human rights violations that would have never been possible if it were not for "the state of war."

The lack of popularity of this war should have been a signal to LURD that it is fighting the wrong way.

"Chief" Cyril Allen went on the record to say that the NPP was not elected to kill displaced people. Nobody could have said it better. For once, the mercurial insurance agent turned politician makes some sense when he says that ECOWAS' call for cease-fire should be taken seriously. The government must come to its senses and understand that it cannot win this war. The issue is not about signing another peace accord with LURD but rather review its stance on every aspect of governance and make peace with the people of Liberia. Is Cyril Allen speaking for Taylor or is this another scheme of a schizophrenic political machine?

The problem is that one can never tell who Taylor would listen to: would the hardliners, the sycophants and bloodthirsty warmongers carry the day or for once, would he listen to the voices of wisdom, whispering to him that enough is enough? What Cyril Allen said contradicts the stand taken by Reginald Goodridge, who refuses any type of discussion with the "dissidents" under the pretense that democratic government all over the world never negotiate with terrorists. This government is not democratic and it shot its way to power, just like LURD is supposedly trying.

The fight between the NPP and LURD is one between evil and the devil, with the ironic twist that Liberians are more afraid of government troops than they are of the "rebels." In this fight, the loser will be Liberia and its people. The sooner LURD realizes this, the better it would be, because the guerilla movement- if it really exists - is offering to the Taylor government the excuses it needs to continue to suppress Liberians. More than anyone else, they are undermining other people's efforts to carry on a fight through the democratic process.

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