Whither Yaya, Conneh?

By Woplah Kambor

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

February 9, 2004

A stroll through the corridors of recent history shows the L.U.R.D. and its twin M.O.D.E.L. waxing pacific before and after Akosombo, leading the uncritical eye to view their professions of peace as better than a façade.

Albeit the warlords garnered concessions disproportional to their capacities, the tepid scaffolding of Akosombo seemed a bearable cost if Taylor could be superseded and peace purchased in short order for a nation rendered virtually Neanderthal by close to a quarter century of colossal ineptitude in public governance compounded by the evils of civil wars. Liberia’s tragedy has few equals in recent memory, based on the scales of horror and bestiality.

The warlords largely shaped the current government. Chairman Bryant was spawned and enthroned by the Akosombo compact . While it is ironical that L.U.R.D. and M.O.D.E.L. are now demanding that Bryant steps down, it is not surprising. This demand and related caterwauling by the twin sisters are logical extensions of their thinly veiled power grab . The ploy resembles one from Taylor’s playbook-talk peace, erect a peace with built-in first principles that make the superstructure tenuous, then stonewall and frustrate the vehicles of peace by blaming the head of the caretaker regime. With Bryant as a figurehead, the warlords did not envision diminished expectations.

We have been here before. Remember the N.P.F.L. bait and switch tactics? Remember the Amos and Charlie show? “This is dejavu all over again”, as baseball philosopher Yogi Berra would put it.

What the twins are crucially lacking or miscalculating in their arithmetic is an inclusive view of the landscape, the players and the preponderant psychology.

By the late 1990s, the N.P.F.L. was a unified entity, not a house divided against itself as the L.U.R.D. ; the N.P.F.L. had a solid Ivorian beachhead , L.U.R.D. has lost or weakened Guinean benefactors; the N.P.F.L. had a monopoly or near-- monopoly of the warlord turf , Conneh jockeys for supremacy with his estranged wife and with Yaya of M.O.D.E.L; the Brits and the U.N . were not as engaged in Sierra Leone as now. French military presence in Ivory Coast was relatively small; the U.N. had not committed a 15,000 strong peace keeping force to Liberia. Also American and U.N. efforts to halt the senseless bloodletting in Liberia were not as muscular as today.

On the psychic front, large swaths of the Liberian population were willing to give the N.P.F.L. power in exchange for peace ,seemingly, on any terms. Taylor entered Monrovia greeted by hosannas . Witness “you killed my ma, you killed my pa, I will vote for you “. Conneh was met by sticks, stones and angry mobs seeking nothing less than his scalp, when he entered Monrovia to confirm his triumph in Akosombo. Further, the huge potential of the Liberian civil war to trigger regional instability and breed terrorism did not figure prominently in security thinking. 9/11 changed this mode of security analysis.
Today , Liberians hold that the warlords have gotten less punishment than their sins deserve. Akosombo, according to this thesis, was a needless giveaway. The perception of L.U.R.D. and M.O.D.E.L. as power freaks wallowing in conceit is now prevailing psychological currency . This thinking deems Conneh and Yaya gripped by megalomania. Social psychology is not friendly to the twins. No wonder the warlords vigorously resist any attempt for a tribunal to probe war crimes .

What the twin sisters are up against is the formidable resolve of the Liberian majority, aided by American and international resources and goodwill, to build a lasing peace dictated not by senseless brutality or tribal politics. If Jacques Klein could succeed in Bosnia, so can he in Liberia, the theory goes.

Can Conneh and his philosophical soul mate, Yaya, afford to be indifferent to the handwriting on the wall?

Guys, fire your soothsayers; your voodoo priests have prescribed bad advice and bad medicine from an antiquated script. Wean yourselves from the discredited idolatry of power by savagery and demagoguery. Wage the peace or deal with the really high risk of political suicide. It’s improbably peace will be placed in a coffin again.