Liberia: A Victim of Modern Day Despotism, Terror and Tyranny
By Edward D. Kollie, Jr.
October 4, 2001
The American writer, philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau once said: "It is no man's obligation as a matter of course to engage in the eradication of even the most enormous wrong. But if he decides not to pay it his attention, he should not lend it his support." Simply put, Thoreau meant that society does not necessarily require that any particular person should fight to end a prevailing evil, but it will definitely frown upon him or her if he or she is responsible for creating and/or perpetuating that evil.
Some of the horrendous evil conditions that currently prevail in Liberia indeed have their origins partly in the country's past. The history of misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds, for example, dates back to the 1870s when British financiers granted Liberia its very first loan, which was in the millions of dollars. Liberian history tells us that some of those who went to Britain to bring back the proceeds from that loan never ever returned to Liberia. As a consequence, only about a quarter of the original amount of the loan reached the Liberian treasury. Those who lived through the Tubman and Tolbert regimes should be amply aware of the nepotism, rampant corruption and totalitarian practices that prevailed under those rulers.
However, the evils of the pre-Charles Taylor days pale in comparison to what we see in Liberia today since Taylor ruthlessly imposed himself upon the unsuspecting and war-weary Liberian population. It must be noted that it was with the aid of international collaborators such as ECOWAS, the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, Rev. Jesse Jackson, former US president Jimmy Carter and others that Taylor succeeded in his arm-twisting of the Liberia electorate. Indeed the proverbial saying "from the frying pan straight into the fire" came true for the Liberian nation and its peace loving people with the ascendancy of Charles Taylor to the highest office in the nation. Taylor has brought so much hell to bear on the country that Liberians, understandably so, wish they could go back to the pre-Taylor days. People are leaving the country in droves, by any means necessary and available. There is so much mass suffering and despair in Liberia these days that the average Liberian is just happy (and even sometimes surprised) to live from one day to the next. The capital city, Monrovia, has no electricity, no pipe-borne water and no working sewer system. Rusted and bullet-ridden buildings on the verge of collapse are home to disease-carrying rodents. The city's streets are so dilapidated that one finds it difficult to believe that Monrovia used to be a robust capital city of Africa's oldest independent nation. There is almost no viable national economy, resulting in a better than 85% jobless rate. The trickle of economic and financial activities (mainly through the Liberian Maritime Commission, the various logging companies and the Sierra Leone/RUF blood diamonds operations) that transpire in Liberia these days are under the corrupt, exclusive, nepotistic and thieving conglomeration of dishonest "business ventures" that have made Liberia what a prominent United States public figure referred to as CHARLES TAYLOR, INC.
In the midst of all this abject poverty, suffering and despair is a small elite group of individuals who drive some of the most expensive luxury cars in the world and live in fortified luxury homes (equipped with backyard tennis courts, swimming pools, satellite dish TV systems, personal generators, telephones, pipe-borne water and a working sewer system). They send their children to exclusive schools abroad and have their wives deliver babies in the most expensive maternity wards of some of America and Europe's best hospitals and clinics. This elite group of thieving and conscienceless men and women travel abroad to France, the United States, Taiwan and other places to receive medical attention while the masses of the Liberian people are plagued by malaria, the common cold, chicken pox, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other life-threatening ailments, without access to any medical treatment. Liberians have become refugees in their own country and Monrovians have been reduced to mere street beggars. There is the story about one of Charles Taylor's cronies/relatives who traveled to the US to purchase and take his more than $75,000 bullet-proofed sports utility vehicle (SUV) back to Liberia. What is amazing and nauseating about this story is that when this same individual lived in the US before Charles Taylor made himself "Thief Extraordinary of Liberia", he did not even have a decent job. However, in less than a couple of years after returning to Liberia and becoming part of Taylor's inner circle, he was able to travel to the United States of America and purchase, supposedly with "his own funds", a luxury automobile that even many hard-working well-paid Americans cannot afford. We have also read newspaper accounts of Charles Taylor and his followers-in-theft-and- terror buying luxury homes in Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, the US and other countries.
To add injury to insult, one account from Liberia has it that Charles Taylor spoke via telephone on a live call-in radio talk show in Monrovia and told the Liberian people that the luxury vehicles he and his criminal cohorts drive (on those completely run-down streets of Monrovia) were given to his (terror-reigning) government by foreign investors as a sign of their appreciation for the opportunity to do business in Liberia. And you thought the way investors are supposed to show their appreciation for the privilege of doing business in any country or environment is by paying their fair share of taxes. But then again Liberia is Charles Taylor's "Pepper Bush" and therefore he makes the rules and everyone who wants to stay alive and well better follow those rules! By all account, one could try very hard to count the number of foreign companies and individuals that have "significant investments" in Liberia and would come up with only the various logging companies which are rapidly and recklessly depleting Liberia's rich rainforests and the gold mining operations of US tele-evangelist Pat Robertson's "Freedom Gold Limited company which is based in southeastern Liberia. In fairness, perhaps we should add George Haddad, Talal El Ndine and Gus Kouen-Hoven to the list of "foreign investors" in Charles Taylor's Liberia. With such a short list of foreign investors one wonders why there are so many high-price luxury vehicles driven around Monrovia by Taylor's friends and relatives. Couldn't Taylor have prevailed upon those so-called foreign investors to donate rice, pharmaceutical drugs, textbooks, school supplies, and/or medical equipment to his government instead of those expensive luxury automobiles? After all, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that better than 90% of Liberian children of school age are not in school, that most of the population has hardly any food to eat on any given day and that there is an almost complete absence of needed drugs and medical facilities in the country. Now the world knows that Charles Taylor is not only a murderer and a thief but that he is also a pathological liar.
Charles Taylor's insatiable appetite for power and control has brought untold suffering to Liberia and the West African sub-region. The entire Liberian nation lies in ruins as a result of his seven-year war. There are countless Sierra Leonean men, women and children who are without limbs today as a result of Taylor's support and sponsorship of the barbaric Revolutionary United Front (RUF) which found hacking off the arms and legs of innocent defenseless human beings a leisure time sport in Sierra Leone. Guinea lost hundreds (if not thousands) of it citizens and many of its towns and villages along the Liberian border were burnt down to ashes, in no small measure due to Taylor's aggression. Even after his success in blatantly coercing the war-weary Liberian people into making him president during the 1997 presidential election, Charles Taylor has not found the courage and strength to rid himself of his evil tendencies. He has unleashed former members of his Small Boys Unit (SBU) and foreign mercenaries of the inappropriately named Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) on the people of Liberia. The Special Operation Division (SOD) of the Liberian National Police force, which is comprised of former murderers operating under the banner of Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), is also one of the media for administering terror in Liberia under Charles Taylor's rulership. This modern day tyrant and despot has succeeded in closing down all newspaper publications in Liberia which dared to openly expose his mismanagement and theft of the country's resources and his evil and barbaric adventurism within the sub-region. The Liberian ruler has effectively ridded the country of all viable opposition by using the ATU, former members of the SBU and SOD to intimidate and/or kill those who had the guts to speak out against his corrupt and conniving machinations. Those critics and opposition politicians who remain alive today live in exile in faraway lands.
This is the sad state of affairs in Liberia today, a nation that was once the most peaceful country not only on the continent of Africa but in the world also. And the culprit in this horrendous act of national destruction and decadence is Charles McArthur Taylor, a man who knows no shame and observes to acceptable standards of civilized human behavior. He is driven by an unending greed for personal wealth and power and will employ any means to achieve those ends. This greed for personal wealth and power has seriously robbed the man of the most basic virtues of good leadership, namely foresight, honesty and wisdom. Devoid of these fundamental leadership qualities, Taylor has resorted to the practice of classic broad daylight thievery, political deception and indescribable brutality. During his days in the United States some Liberians who associated with him thought he was a charismatic individual. However, those who could see beyond the surface of Taylor's masquerading behavior knew better. They sensed a high level of authoritarian, thieving, tyrannical and despotic tendencies in this evil, cunning and power-hungry man. To this date nobody knows how Taylor broke out of jail in the state of Massachusetts only to end up in the military training camps of Libya's alleged terrorist trainer and autocratic ruler Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi. Contrary to what the Liberian dictator and his henchmen will like for the world to believe, Liberia is a victim of the most chronic form of modern day despotism, terror and tyranny. Charles Taylor and his gang of mindless and unprincipled men and women should note that he who points one finger at others points four back at himself.