Where Are We Heading?
By Aboubacar J. Toure
December 5, 2002
I have heard lots of criticism regarding the pariah regime in our beloved country and I do agree with them. But none of the critics have come forward with a strategy that will spare the masses from touching the bottom of calamity. Many seem to favor the military options. I have pondered over what other solutions can help avoid arms confrontations to spare the common Liberians from being the belligerents’ punching ball. I turned the question around for million times. But there is no easy and painless solution. However, there is one that is harder, but much painless than the present solution (arms). We all know that for the past two decades, arms struggles have destroyed what our forefathers constructed since before 1822 (the arrival of ex-slaves on Bushrod Island) and afterward with the brotherly helps and sense of constructive nation building in which all Liberians could live harmoniously. We know that later on, native Liberians suffered from some social injustices at the hand of the oligarchy True Whig Party (TWP). But by the late 60s and through the 70s, we saw some positive changes due to the facts that some (both inside and outside the TWP) found it paramount that changes were needed for the social and economic developments, despite some ferocious opposition from the old-guards of the TWP.
Some of the achievements were building of more schools, hospitals and other infrastructures essential to the nation’s developments, most especially in the interior parts of Liberia. We also saw natives like the late Jackson F. Doe, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr., Mr. Gabriel Fahngalo, Alhaji Kromah, and Dr. Amos Sawyer, etc. joined the government. It was in the same spirit of national coalition that the late President Tolbert brought in Dr. Bangalee Fofana and Dr. Abraham Kaba from France to help implement the micro-agriculture and micro-credit programs. These were the culminations of a long collective effort deployed by the MOJA (Movement for Justice in Africa) and PPP (Progressive People’s Party). They were beaten, humiliated and incarcerated, but they persevered because they had a goal in which they fervently believed; which was the common good of all Liberians irrespective of their religion, ethnicity or sex.
I remembered the Task Force Police in Sanniquellie erupting and rounding up people like the late Samuel Dokie (Head of PPP Nimba Branch), clan and paramount chiefs rallied to their cause and being dragged to the prisons in Belleh Yalla and Monrovia. Their audacity led to public consciousness. But the achievements made by these movements were annihilated by the sudden 1980 military coup that brought to power the defacto PRC (People Redemption Council) with all their negative vices. Needless to mention the numerous human right abuses by the council’s members. But vicious and ridicule of all was the unequivocal approval given to the military Junta by our intellect for their egotist satisfactions. We know that Gabriel Baccus Mathews, Dr. Donzo, etc. were all cabinet members in the Junta’s regime. But those (Dr. Donzo, Tucker, etc.) realized that the PRC had ulterior motives left the regime after the brutal and barbaric execution of 13 cabinet ministers of the defunct Tolbert regime. But the likes of Gabriel Baccus Mathew remained until he was unceremoniously sacked due to suspicions that he used the PRC as a launching platform for his presidential ambitions. We all know about his sensational in and out and throughout the ten year reign of the Doe regime (PRC and NDPL). So it is no astonishment that he is part of a band (white collar criminals) bent on the pillage of our timbers and diamonds. Due to the human right abuses and 1985 fraudulent election, some Liberians in the Diaspora (Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Moses Duopu, Tom Woewiyu, Barney Green, Paul Harris, etc.) decide that arms insurgency was the only way to get rid of the Doe regime and many of us chanted: he monkey must come down. Since Christmas Eve 1989, Liberians have been deprived of all basic rights and reduced to destitutes. All the sweet promises by Charles Taylor and his cohorts turned out to be shams.
So, in retrospect, let us look at our nation’s political developments in the last 30 years. It was not through violence that we regained our basic civil rights. But through active civilism which guarantees our constitutional rights. What happened after April 12, 1980? Suspension of the constitution (which is the legal bounding tie between the citizenry and authority) and replaced by Military Decrees. The most dangerous of all the decrees was 88a, which made criticism of the PRC a capital offense punishable by death penalty. Those decrees were rubber-stamped by some of our politicians that were in the vanguard of the freedom movement (needless to name names). The PRC came as the nation’s savior with their demagogic motto: “In the cause of the people, the struggle continues.” But in true nature like all self-imposed regimes, they turned out to be wolfs in sheep’s skin.
Then came the so-called redeemers and patriots (Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia) to relieve us of our burdens. The first three months of their insurgence proved to be more disastrous than the Doe 10-years reign. Due to the NPFL’s massacre, ethnic cleansing, divide and rule policy and Taylor’s relentless uncompromising standce on dialogue. He and his rag tag butchers extended their mayhem into Sierra Leone where thousands of Liberians sought refuge and ECOWAS peace keepers where being gather for intervention in Monrovia. Taylor saw the intervention as an obstacle to his quest for the highest office of the nation. The incursion in Sierra Leone led to wanton detention of Liberians as they’re perceived as rebel sympathizers.
In order to assure our host, some eminent Liberians decided to establish a Refugee Defense Force made up of former AFL soldiers and volunteers (Liberian United Defense Force) to combat alongside local forces to dislodge the dissidents. The LUDF and Movement for the Redemption of Muslims (MRM) later merged to form ULIMO (United Liberation Movement) with the initial objective of forcing Taylor to the negotiating table. But internal wrangling for leadership of the movement led to savagery among them and self-inflicted casualties that was not endured against the common enemy: NPFL. The then Interim Government led by Dr. Amos Sawyer was fuelling the internal conflict and even went on to create her own force (Black Berets) for their own political ambitions. The creation of the Black Berets was a violation of the Banjul Conference which established the Interim Government and stipulated that the security would be provided by ECOMOG. Since 1999, we have seen the emergence of multiple rag tag factions taking their own people hostage and thus sending some hundreds of thousands into dilapidated refugee camps where many girls turned to prostitution and some boys become hardcore criminals. So we resorted to an eye for an eye.
How long will this cycle of violence continues? The various arms uprising never improved our lives, but put it in jeopardy. Doe killed 13 eminent ministers, D. K. Wonseliye, James Dokie, Capt. Robert G. Saye, Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, Charles Gbeyon, A. B. Tolbert and many more that were not accounted for after the Nimba Raid (1983), University of Liberia raid (1984), November 12 abortive coup (1985) and the student protest (1986). Gen. Charles Julu killed with impunity in Nimba and was appointed Executive Mansion Guards Commander for his blind loyalty to Doe.
Then came Taylor and his NPFL and they continue the savagery and wanton destruction of lives and properties that they were supposed to protect. Taylor eliminated all those he suspected of opposing to his leadership. He began with his own brother-in-law and ULAA colleague, Moses Duopu, Major Varnee Green, Jackson F. Doe, Gray D. Allison, Dr. Stephen Yekeson, Gabriel Kpolleh and numerous commanders of his then NPFL. Taylor commandeered the murder of Sam Dokie, Dr. Bangalee Fofana, Francois Massaquoi, Gen Prince Johnson (Commanding General of the AFL), Vice President Dogolea just to name a few, Let’s not forget atrocities committed by other factions like ULIMO (which I supported at the time), the AFL, INPFL of Prince Yormie Johnson and the LPC of Dr. George Boley.
I first joined UDF and later ULIMO for ideological reasons and ULIMO-K for ethnic reason. I must admit that it was unfortunate, but it made me to see things from different angles. We all at one time sided with one of the movements for either economic or ethnic reasons, and other Liberians did it as desperate life saving measures.
So after looking at the last 22 years of the state of our nation, there isn’t much to be proud of; and there is not one individual or group that is to be blamed for the parlous state of our country. Every fabrics of our society (Economy, Social, and Politics) is being consumed by corruptions, thus putting the nation on a perilous slope. We need to explore other avenues to bring these monsters to a dialogue. It is a painstaking process, but worth trying for the sake of Liberia. Taylor is a frail man today cut from the common man in the street by his entourage.
Since his election in 1997, how many internal tour has he made? I was back home in July 1999 and President Taylor was to attend the July 26 Independent Day Celebration, but he was scared due to rumors of coup from his own entourage. Finally, he annulled his participation at the last minute. A clique of individuals that have taken the entire country hostage in order to pillage its meager revenues. And as long as we continue to allow the likes of Gabriel Baccus Matthews, Cyril Allen, Reginald Goodridge, Victoria Reffell, Joe Mulbah, Sando Johnson, Tom Woewiyu, Daniel Chea, Paul Mulbah, etc., to decide the future of Liberia, we will only continue to retrogress. We must therefore encourage the actions by Archbishop Michael Francis, Kafumba Konneh, Bai Gbala, Dr. Kandakai, Cllr. Chea Cheapoo, Dr. Ben Roberts and human rights groups. Their action is not without painful price, but their perseverance has paid off in the past.
Today, almost everyone is talking about the 2003 Elections and the proposed July meeting among political parties. I fear it will become another smoke screen intended only for public relations. Opposition leaders need to iron out their differences for the sake of the nation. Let the interest of the nation take precedence over all others, because the ordinary Liberians are weary of the politicians’ demagogic attitudes.
Many of today’s political elites (regime & oppositions) at one time collaborated with the devils (warlords) and crossed carpet for egoistic reasons. Let the past be buried, as recriminations would lead to no positive achievements. At the end of these fratricidal recriminations, the only looser will be the Liberian people.
Therefore, I will suggest that a mechanism for reconciliation among Liberians in the Diaspora and those back home be put in place to clear any hindrance for genuine and lasting peace. Presently there are hundreds of thousands of Liberians living in dilapidated refugee camps across the sub-region, therefore, prior to any election, the suggestions listed below must be accomplished as they are the cornerstone to any lasting peace and genuine development of Liberia:
1. A Transitional Government of National Inclusion for at least 12 months to give ample time to put in place all necessary structures.
2. Revamp the security forces by downsizing the Army, Police, Immigration, NSA, and SSS; provide them with adequate training to render them professionally agile and competent, and disband the ATU and other unnecessary militia. Furthermore, recruitment must be based on strict criteria of the AFL, irrespective of sex, religion or ethnic affiliation.
3. Repatriation and resettlement of all refugees in the sub-region.
4. Creation of an independent Elections Commission.
5. Creation of a human rights commission comprising of jurists, journalists, religious leaders, Red Cross and other NGOs, with subpoena power.
6. Creation of financial and economic review board to coordinate between the various ministries and agencies, and also must have subpoena power.
7. Freedom of the press as stipulated by Article 15, Section a, b. and c of the Liberian Constitution, and equal access to public facilities by all eligible and qualified candidates.
The above mentioned suggestions are easier said than done, but with the will and wisdom of all of us, it can be made possible. In short, any future will have to put in place a viable economic system which will lead to social stability; as there can be no tangible social stability without economic stability and vice versa. And due to the lack of transparency, corruption has become the hallmark of civil society in Liberia. Liberia therefore needs an economic system that will favors the expansion of micro-enterprises which will enable both the decongestion of major cities and development in rural areas (sanitations, Education, agriculture, etc.).It is also the bounding duty of Liberians in the Diaspora to help with the social infrastructure (health, education, etc.) development through local NGOs. But none of the above mentioned is possible without the will and wisdom of all of us.
Moreover, the current rebellion by LURD (Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy) will lead to no positive changes. It is time we learn from our past and spare our nation from further mayhem. To conclude, there must be a consensus among the opposition both at home and abroad. They must go in with one voice and be ready to concede some grounds to the regime for face saving purpose in order to avoid any stagnation in the peace process. Forget our ego and strive for the nation. Let us be braved and give the future generation a better perspective of life. Finally, we are reminded by F. Nietzsche that “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he doesn’t become a monster”.