Men and Women of the Liberian Press: War Heroes
By Abdoulaye W. Dukule
Posted July 30, 2002
The Friday, June 29, 1999 edition of The News newspaper quoted Charles Taylor as saying: “I will take the press to court if they offend [me] as an individual.” To many, this was somehow a signal that Taylor would not touch the press, no matter what. That, as in other civilized countries, he would take people to court if he feels offended. It also meant that journalists spreading lies about him would be sued for slander but not jailed, tortured or killed.
Taking journalists to court to defend their stories and give reason for what they write was such a noble idea. But as everything noble, it came to die with time, because in the Liberia of Taylor, noble causes don’t survive. Lies, corruption, humiliation, suppression, etc., all in the name of greed are what work. People of truth cannot survive.
People who stand for dignity and honor cannot survive in Taylor’s Liberia. They perish or are chased out. This July 26 in the United States of America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the northern plains to the southern tropical forests, hundreds of thousands of Liberians celebrated their country’s 155th anniversary, with nothing to show for. Soccer games, beauty contests, family reunions, basketball tournaments, church services, every social occasion imaginable under the sun was organized to make Liberians feel at home, to share the occasion, to remember home. From Rhode Island to Los Angeles, from Atlanta to Seattle, communities rivaled with pomp, trying to outdo each other and every event was attended by the thousands. Young and healthy Liberian men and women, filled with knowledge and wisdom. Old men and women, some in wheel chairs. Babies, teenagers and adolescents, many speaking with an American accent, some imitated the lifestyle of the hoods they live in. Liberia has moved to America and there is no doubt about it.
“It is just like home,” said a friend. “Everybody is here, friends, family, everybody, except I wish we were at Cooper Beach and not here in this public park,” she added. Of course something was missing. We are not willing immigrants. Therefore, the more we tried to make things look like home, the more we missed home.
This story about War heroes, is not however about the hundreds of thousands of Liberians who fled poverty and oppression, it is about those whose lives where everyday in danger, those who dared to look the tiger in the face and spoke the truth. War heroes of Liberia have many faces, but they have two primary functions: they protected the truth, they look behind the smoke screen, they resisted the temptations of fast money and easy jobs. They put their lives everyday on line, sleeping in various places at times and skipping meals, going hungry and thirsty, always seeking the truth.
Our war heroes did not make money. They did not steal from the people. They did not empty the national coffers before running into exile. They did not rape or kill. They wrote. They spoke. They looked and they could not be silenced in the face of the truth.
Liberian war heroes are those who, from the first day of this war of genocide and ethnic cleansing that started in 1989, never kept quiet. They took pictures of the NPFL “liberators” slicing the throats of thousands of people because they belonged to a certain ethnic group or religion, that is the definition of ethnic cleansing. They took pictures and wrote about the Doe death squads that targeted and killed anyone belonging to another party or to certain tribal groups. That’s genocide. They followed Prince Y. Johnson, the man-turned-into killing machines that butchered people as if they were flies. They wrote about LPC in Southeast Liberia where drugged children were given cutlasses to dismember innocent citizens. They wrote about the two arms of ULIMO in Cape Mount and Bomi and Lofa, torturing and extracting the hearts of living humans and locking dozens in containers. They wrote about corruption in all places.
The war heroes of Liberia fought bullets with their pens. From The Inquirer to the Analyst, from the New Democrat to The News and on the air at ELBS, Radio Veritas, Star Radio and elsewhere, they exposed greed and political crime. They shone light on the truth behind every political appointment. They saw and showed the truth behind the death of the thousands on April 6. They made us understand the deaths of Dokie, Enoch Dogolea, Chief of Staff Prince Johnson, Dr. Bangaly Fofana, just to name a few.
Our war heros include the human rights defenders in Liberia who decried the prevailing human rights abuses and corruption in the country. Hats off to Tiawan Gongloe, Samuel Kofi Woods, James R. Torh, etc.
Our war heroes went to jail. They were tortured, blackmailed and intimidated. But they remained undaunted. They remained faithful to the secret oath taken to uphold the truth and defend the rights of the oppressed people of Liberia. Some, to stay alive, left and found refuge in this country, in West Africa and in the many refugee camps where Liberians are surviving.
On the occasion of this 155th national anniversary, it would be befitting to recognize our colleagues. And to say a prayer for the peace and survival of those still trapped under the claws of the sanguinary clowns reigning over the land. It is befitting to say a word of prayer for Hassan Bility, our brother and colleague, wherever he may be. For our friends still struggling to shine some light on the truth of the evil that is slowly destroying the soul of the land. It is also befitting to say congratulations to Abdulai Dukuly and Musue Haddad for the great recognition they received for their great work for the truth and humanity of Liberia.
On the 155th birthday of the Land, we would want to say thanks to all those who stood for the truth and say a word or prayer for those who lost their lives at the hands of evil. We must not end this tribute without mentioning the other side of this heroic battle, the men and women in the law and human rights organization, without whom many more would have perished. They deserve their own piece.
May God Bless Liberia War Heroes, our men and women of the PEN!