Two Liberian Educators Take Chairman Bryant to Task on the Lifting of Sanctions

By Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 17, 2004

Two Liberian educators presently visiting the country from the United States have seriously criticized the recent efforts by the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Mr. Charles Gyude Bryant for the United Nations Security Council to lift the sanctions on Liberia.

The two are Dr. Syrulwa Somah, Associate Professor of Occupational Safety and Health at North Carolina A & T University in Greensboro, North Carolina and Mr. Theophilus Bettie, a former chairman of the Student Integration Movement (SIM), a campus based organization of the University of Liberia.

The Security Council imposed sanctions on Liberia in May 2001 during the brutal regime of former President Charles Taylor. The sanctions were imposed on Liberia's diamond and timber. Liberia has been under UN arms embargo since 1992 during the regime of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), which was then headed by Dr. Amos C. Sawyer.

It was during 1992 Mr. Taylor launched his infamous "Operation Octopus" on the capital but was beaten back by the ECOMOG, the West African Peace Monitoring Group.

The UN imposed sanctions on Liberia was due to the Taylor regime’s involvement in both gun running and diamond smuggling in neighboring Sierra Leone, which the Taylor regime has denied.

Responding to callers on Radio Veritas talks Show "Tropical Issues" held 14 June, Dr. Somah and Mr. Bettie supported the decision of the Security Council for maintaining the sanctions on Liberia, on the grounds that the transitional government is not a legitimate government.

Speaking separately, Dr. Somah said the transitional government has a specific mandate under the comprehensive Accra Peace Accord on Liberia, which mandates the Gyude Bryant Government to lead the nation to a free, fair and transparent elections, come 2005.

Dr. Somah, who is also an author, told his listening audience that it is the legitimate government arising from the 2005 elections that will be the one mandated to advocate for the lifting of the UN sanctions on Liberia and not the transitional government.

Additionally, the Liberian educator who is based in the United States revealed that Liberia is blessed with abundant natural resources, and as such, these resources should be used for the benefit of the Liberian people and not certain individuals.

For his part, Mr. Bettie accused the transitional government of being corrupt and mismanaging the funds accrued from the meager resources. The former student activist lashed at the Bryant government for purchasing expensive vehicles and spending huge sum of cash on foreign trips, when the government cannot meet up with it obligations to the people.

Mr. Bettie supports the action of the United Nations to maintain the sanctions on the country, adding that the "caretaker" government is corrupt. When questioned, if he was willing to take up position in the Bryant's government, the former student activist said "I will never work in such a government that is characterized by rampant corruption”.

He further boosted that at one point of time, he was approached and offered a lucrative job within the government but he refused.

Meanwhile, Chairman Bryant said that his mission to the UN headquarters, during which he met with the Security Council on the lifting of the sanctions on the country was not supported by of members of Council. However, Chairman Bryant said he is optimistic that the sanctions will be lifted, adding that within 90 days, a team from the UN is to visit Liberia to assess conditions.

During his recent trip to New York, Chairman Bryant appealed to the UN to lift the sanctions on Liberia, on grounds that his government was in dire need of revenues from the diamond and timber industries to maintain stability.

Although the UN said that there has been no major violations of the sanctions, members of the Security Council said peace in Liberia was still fragile and that the conditions for the lifting of the sanctions were yet to be addressed by Bryant's government.