Is It Business As Usual Again?

By Beyan Samah

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

April 7, 2004

I am honoured and privileged as a Liberian to add a word or two to those recently written by our courageous human rights activist, Mr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, and other freedom-loving people of Liberia, who have chosen to fight for the welfare of our people. I wish to caution Chairman Bryant and members of his transitional government to stop playing with the minds of the Liberian people. I had mixed reactions when it was first announced that Mr. Bryant had been appointed chairman of the Liberian transitional government. Mr. Taylor, our common enemy, had been forced to leave Liberia for exile in Nigeria. His departure was a source of great relief as he was seen as a major obstacle to peace in Liberia. Taylor’s exit would mark the dawning of a new day in our country as Liberians strive to resurrect from the shackles of war and self-destruction. My reaction was partly based on my brief interaction with the Chairman while I was in Monrovia in 1999. Here is a man who hardly spoke nor greeted the “little folks” that he shared office space with. He could not entertain people receiving calls on his office phone even though it cost him nothing for such calls. He was the typical Liberian “big shot”, selfish and unfriendly, who felt others were not at his level. Basically my impression of the Chairman’s personality was that he was not a very down-to- earth person.

I understand that the Chairman has a degree in economics from Cuttington University and that he owned and successfully managed his own machinery company before his appointment as Chairman. As a scholar and a businessman he ought to be disciplined and exercise good judgment but this has not been the case. How can he ably justify the amount of money he spends purchasing luxurious cars for government officials, while ordinary Liberians live far below the poverty line. Why are our so-call leaders so flamboyant at the expense of the rest of the society? What kind of society do we want to leave behind for the generations to come? Already my generation has been robbed of the kind of society we envisioned while growing up. We dreamt of a society where one’s success would be measured based on the individual’s intellectual capability and moral conduct. A society where all Liberians would flourish regardless of one’s social and economic status. A civilian state as opposed to a military one, where all would be able to achieve their full potential. It is so disheartening that Liberians, in the 21st century, still find themselves living in the state of nature where might is right and the weak die at the hands of the strong.

How could he possibly justify the gratuitous entourage he brought to New York for the donor conference? This was not a regular diplomatic or state visit, but was to be a forum to raise money because our people are hungry. I was amused yet ashamed when I read the list of attendees which even included the Chairman’s wife and three cameramen/photographers. What did those folks contribute to the overall objectives of the conference? How do you convince others that your country is in need when its leaders are adorning themselves in lavish excess and turning every government visit into a laughable photo shoot?

These are very difficult times in the history of our nation. Liberians demand sound and prudent management of our already vastly depleted national resources. In this regard, Mr. Chairman, Liberians are asking you to kindly pull up your socks a little more or step down if you are not ready for the task at hand. We cannot afford to continue living in this mess. Liberians did not ask Taylor to leave only to be replaced with another Taylor. The only major difference I see between your regime and that of Taylor’s is that yours is not killing Liberians physically, but then again who knows what the future holds. I believe you have achieved some positive things in Liberia, but I also believe you can do better.