A Response to ALiMUSA's Report

(Issued by the Tarpeh-led Steering Committee)


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 11, 2005

March 6, 2005

Rev. Robert Mawlue Karloh
Executive Director
Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Commission

Dear Rev. Karloh:

We wish respectfully to acknowledge receipt of your Commission’s Official Report on the mediation efforts undertaken by your Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, and to inform you that we have given careful study to same. The views set forth below reflect the results of our deliberations and the resolve of this Body.

We are disappointed, Mr. Executive Director, not only by the conclusions which are set out on the Report, without any justifiable reason, but more importantly, at the distortions, misrepresentations, and undisguised biases which formed the bases for the conclusions you communicated. Although we had been informed of your close association with members of the other party to our differences, and had been alerted to and experienced the bias you demonstrated even in the initial stage of seeking to bring members of the Steering Committee together, we had believed that both as Ministers of the Gospel and in the supreme interest of our beloved country, your Commission would have divorced itself of the prejudice growing out of your relationship to the other party and demonstrated to the two groups the required level of impartiality and objectivity in mediating the differences between them. We had hoped, perhaps beyond hope itself, and had prayed that you and your Commission would see and show full appreciation for the blood and tears shed by our people and the greater need of our country, and divorced of petty politics, would thus show objectivity and genuineness in bringing unity to our purpose and to the patriotic goals we, the parties, had originally agreed upon for addressing the needs of our country and its war-devastated people. In reviewing the Report of your Commission, we have come to the conclusion that we were wrong in that belief, that our hope was misplaced, that we had erred in placing our faith in your Commission; that we were remiss in retaining a vision that you and your Commission would not betray the trust we had so wholeheartedly extended. It pains us that that the Commission, the people we put our faith in, has brought into question its credibility and failed to demonstrate its competence to resolve the differences between the parties.

In the Report, the Commission states “that the mediation process has reached an impasse” and that this was occasioned “by the unwillingness of the Steering Committee headed by Dr. James Tarpeh to negotiate in good faith”. The Commission is wrong, both in its conclusion and in the basis outlined for that conclusion. The Report sets out what it says constituted the lack of “good faith”. Firstly, it states that the Tarpeh group “undermined” the binding power of the resolution evolved during the mediation “summit” in Silver Spring, Maryland by asserting that “their representatives were not authorized to commit [the body] to any resolution that would be binding.” We are bewildered by the deliberate distortions of the facts by you and your Commission, and we are prompted to wonder as to your motive and that of the members of your Commission for such deliberate distortions.

You will recall, Mr. Executive Director, that the representatives who were sent to negotiate for our Steering Committee informed the mediating team from the onset that they were not empowered and did not have the authority to make any final and binding decisions for the Committee and that any conclusions reached at the meeting would have to be taken to the Committee for its approval and endorsement; that you virtually coerced them into accepting that any agreements concluded at the meeting would be binding on the Committee, under the guise of eliminating the need for any further or subsequent travel; that you undertook that coercion without according to our delegation even the common courtesy or decency of allowing them to make contact with their principals, either for opinion or advice on whether to accept or present alternative proposals for consideration in contrast to those advanced by the other party or by the mediators. Your insistence on a binding commitment from our negotiating team at the meeting --- an insistence that required that they exceed the authority granted to them and of which your Commission had been informed---and your characterization of the “proposals” advanced by you and our other brothers and sisters as “resolutions” were not only unethical and a breach of the faith we had placed in you and your Commission, but it defied the art of mediation, and it brings into question whether you and your Commission have any appreciation of the rudiments of the process of mediation. Moreover, given the manner in which you have conducted the process and the posture of your Report, we do not believe that you would have acted similarly had Mrs. Mardea Karpeh-Reeves been absent from the meeting. The Report asserts, for example, that you encountered problems from the Karpeh-Reeves group which “provoked unhealthy exchange”. Yet, you did not attach any importance to those acts, which had the propensity to only engender further discords between the parties and make the mediation process difficult.

We had agreed to participate in the mediation efforts proposed by the ALiMUSA Commission because of our genuine desire to resolve the differences that had arisen in the Steering Committee of the All Liberia National Conference and work together with the ULAA-led Mardea Reeves-Karpeh group. The hope had been that your Commission would have pursued the process in a God fearing manner, manifested professionalism in your dealings with the parties, and shown objectivity. Unfortunately, the process engineered by you and the members of your Commission, the methods applied, and your use of different standards relative to the parties have significantly diminished our confidence in your Commission’s ability to function as a true and effective mediation organ. In showing that lack of objectivity, you and your Commission have done great damage, once again, to our country and our people.

We note also, Mr. Executive Director, that rather than assuming the posture of a mediator to facilitate an understanding of the differences which led to the break-up of the original ALNC group, and working diligently to arrive at a common ground, you and your Commission chose to ascribe to yourselves the roles of advocate and judge, determined to impose a one-sided solution on our differences. Clearly, any independent observer, apprising himself/herself of the differences between the parties, is bound to reach the conclusion that you and your Mediating Commission chose to advance the grievances of one party and evidently ignored the grievances of the other. The following examples will confirm the bias that you and your Commission exhibited in this process:

(a) Your first “resolution” required an apology from our Chairman because, according to you, our brothers and sisters were offended by his abrupt departure from a teleconference, but completely disregarded the acts of insult, abuse and incitement that the other party directed at our Chairman and other senior leaders via the internet and at teleconferences. Your Commission now belatedly acknowledges the wrongdoing in your final report but failed to address the impact of those acts or to even see them as “bad faith”; notwithstanding, the other group continues to perpetuate such negative acts during the attempts at seeking a resolution to the differences between the parties. How, may we ask further, could a good faith Commission determine and proceed to have the position and responsibilities of one of the disputing parties defined but insist that the responsibilities for the position assigned to the other party be left to future events? Should not the responsibilities of both positions have been defined? How could you and your Commission expect, in light of what has already been said, that we would accept such a scheme which was utterly so biased. Where does the sense of impartiality lie? Or was this a scheme to set our Committee up for further unprovoked “Internet Attacks”?

(b) Your Commission ascribed as evidence of our lack of “good faith” a continuation of the Town-Hall Meetings that were approved and commenced by the original ALNC but ignored the deliberate and active efforts of the other party to prevent the holding of the approved Town-Hall Meetings that were designed to give Liberians in the Diaspora an opportunity and forum to peacefully assemble and discuss the current status and future of their war-torn and ravaged Country. Or was this an effort of yours and your Commission to accommodate and/or further the goals of the ULAA-led ALNC as evidenced by the ULAA President’s travel to Liberia, his meetings held with government officials, the press conferences held, the negotiations pursued and conducted for a ULAA-led ALNC Conference, and the many other actions that were being pursued on behalf of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the divide. Further, why was it so difficult for you and members of your Commission to understand that the situation in Liberia is evolving into a different and difficult dimension with each passing day? How could your Commission fail to appreciate the need to obtain the opinions of our people throughout the Diaspora in time to have any meaningful impact on the evolving situation in Liberia? Could the Committee at any point not use the results of the Town-Hall Meetings when the differences are resolved? And why, after the announcement of the activities conducted by the ULAA President in Liberia, the Commission chose to ignore same? But more than all of the foregoing, at no time did our Committee agree or resolve that it would give up or sacrifice the outcomes of such crucial Town- Hall Meetings or cancel those meetings, already scheduled, especially when the other side was proceeding with its own programs, including the ULAA President’s mission to Liberia. Notwithstanding, is it not conceivable, at best, that when we shall have resolved our differences, that the results of the process pursued separately by the parties could then be consolidated to serve the common good of Liberia. We must take care, Mr. Executive Director, that mediators such as yourself and your Commission, do not destroy our faith in our own institutions, and cause us to show a preference for non-Liberian institutions that may show greater objectivity in resolving differences between and among Liberian groups, and who will not play politics with the lives and future of the Liberian nation and people.

(c) In your apparent determined effort to accuse us of “bad faith”, you and your Commission state that our Committee had undertaken but failed to respond to the Commission’s resolution “within forty-eight hours of its receipt. You will recall, Mr. Executive Director, that you had determined to present to the parties an oral statement of what you claimed were “resolutions” reached at “the summit”. We had requested that in view of the fact that as many of our members were hearing for the first time what you professed to be binding obligations on the parties, the alleged “resolutions” be put in writing to be deliberated upon by our Committee so that the appropriate action could be taken thereon, especially as you had been informed from the onset that our mediating team was not empowered to bind our Committee, and that such a binding obligation would require expressed approval of the Committee. You will further recall that although you had promised that the report would be forthcoming within a few hours on the same day, we had to implore you on a number of occasions into producing the report, after several days had passed. Was this an act of “bad faith” on your part in not circulating the Report at the time you promised? Further, Mr. Executive Director, you had also promised that the more recent report, the subject of this response, would be forthcoming on Saturday, February 12, 2005 in order that we would have the opportunity to study the same and be prepared to make informed contribution to the Sunday meeting scheduled by you. That report was not forwarded to us until Sunday, February 27, 2005 - just before the meeting was scheduled to start. Was that an act of “bad faith” by you and/or your Commission? It could be so characterized, per the standard asserted by you in your “Official Report”. But more than that, your delay in submitting the “Resolutions” document to us had the effect of forcing us to reschedule our meeting with you to a time when the maximum number of participants could be secured. How could you conclude under the foregoing circumstances that our convening and deliberating a response to you, especially in light of the delays caused by you, was an act not demonstrative of good faith? Could we suggest, Mr. Executive Director, that you revisit the manner in which you seek to mediate amongst parties; otherwise, you could only further erode the already tarnished credibility that you have brought upon your Commission.

(d) Finally, Mr. Executive Director, you suggest that we postpone the holding of the All Liberian National Conference for two months to allow for time to resolve the differences. We note that your suggestion corresponds with the program announced by our brothers and sisters in the ULAA-led ALNC – especially since the return of the ULAA President from Liberia and his announcement of a timeframe that is similar to the one proposed in your esteemed “Official Report”. Have you and/or your Commission given thought to the lack of any utility in holding the Washington Conference on Liberia two months from now to be followed by the one being proposed to be held in Liberia? Or did your Commission chose to ignore the fact that time is of the greatest essence and that we would have become irrelevant to the critical issues that are confronting and hurting our people and our country? Or was the suggestion advanced only to demonstrate your further bias in the matter? We hope, Mr. Executive Director, that as you seek to engage parties in mediation processes you and your Commission would endeavor to exhibit the virtues of objectivity, impartiality, openness, honesty and integrity as well as a deep professional appreciation of the goals and process of mediation, all of which are so vital to any solution to differences amongst disputants.

Most disappointing for us was that you and your Commission chose to ignore completely the fundamental issues that ignited the differences between the parties; the issues did not surround a personality contest between our Chairman and Mrs. Reeves-Karpeh. Indeed, at the time that the differences emerged, the two individuals (Dr. Tarpeh and Mrs. Mydea Reeves-Karpeh) held separate positions in the Steering Committee, Chairman and Secretary respectively. The differences involved whether the Committee would become an extension of ULAA or be an independent body of Liberians and Liberian organizations seeking to address the issues confronting their nation, with no intent to use the efforts as a political platform for people seeking to position themselves for elective or appointive political positions, as had been the case in the past and as we now see emerging with a new list of prospective vice-presidential candidates appearing on the Internet. We know how in the past when a few persons have used such well-meaning efforts, as the one we had embarked upon, to achieve their personal political ambitions that have had disastrous consequences for our country and our people. This is why we had determined, at the onset, to avoid having that course repeated. Moreover, our endeavor was one that had its own history, evolving from the efforts of numerous organizations. Indeed, it was agreed from the onset that the operations of the Steering Committee would be independent of any single organization and that it would not be a launching pad for any individual or organization’s political ambitions. How could you and your Commission not recognize the attempt to compromise the independence of the Steering Committee as a point of fundamental difference? How could you and your Commission fail to demonstrate the foresight in seeing that the various Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) which ULAA sought to subordinate some members of the Steering Committee and the Conference to its effective organizational control and thereby compromise the independence of the original Committee and the National Conference, was a fundamental breach of the original understanding which gave birth to the original ALNC and an important point of disagreement? Yet, when you announced the so-called “resolutions” from the “summit”, you omitted completely to make mention of this fundamental difference or to advance any solution thereto. You acted as if this difference did not exist. We recall that even when you were reminded of this difference, you simply uttered unintelligible responses. It was later, as an afterthought, that you said that all arrangements made were not valid, whatever that may have meant.

A second point of difference within the Committee was whether the Committee, contrary to its original intent, would remain a close body of a few persons, some of whom we suspected, but whom we now know, had political ambitions, or be expanded to involve the participation of all Liberians in the Diaspora – especially Liberian professionals and opinion leaders as well as heads and representatives of major and productive Liberian organizations and institutions. We were of the view that the greater good of the country would be properly served by the involvement of all Liberians in the process. Our brothers and sisters of the other group held the contrary view. The disaster and nightmare to which our country and people have been exposed remained a constant reminder of what the consequences can be when a few persons ascribe to themselves, to the deliberate exclusion of the participation of the mass of the people, the right to determine the destiny of our country. Yet, in your “resolutions” you neither addressed the issue nor advanced any compromise for consideration of the parties. How could you and your mediator colleagues ignore that critical issue and not seek a resolution of this difference?. How could the parties operate with such fundamental differences remaining outstanding? Could you and the members of your Commission not see a further recipe for discord, acts of disrespect, further insults and ultimately, disaster? Or were and your mediating colleagues more interested in the form and rather than the substance of genuine unity? We had expected more of your Commission, Mr. Executive Director. Our expectations were no more than anyone would expect of a group of professional mediators, if the mediation process was to avert bringing disappointments to ideals and purposes sough to be achieved by the parties.

A further point of difference between the parties was whether we evolve ourselves into a legitimate body or remain a loose-extension of ULAA and the launching pad for political ambitions. We were informed that we should solicit funds, undertake projects for the mobilization of the requisite material and financial resources holding of two All Liberian National Conferences in the USA and Liberia, and do all of the other things and acts which legal organizations and institutions do. Notwithstanding, we were expressedly forbidden and constantly reminded by ULAA’s representatives and sympathizers on the original ALNC as well as senior ULAA officials who were not members of the original ALNC not to engage or evolve ourselves into a legal institution or entity – because according to them they did not want or need “any new organization”. Some of us were not prepared to expose ourselves to the violation of any laws of our host country. We could not feel comfortable, for example, soliciting funds in the name of ALNC, but have said funds deposited into the accounts of ULAA or its affiliated bodies and controlled by such bodies. We were not prepared to be a part of such deceptions and bring further ridicule to our society. Yet, the Commission did not see this as an issue to be addressed. Moreover, nowhere in the Commission’s “resolutions” are there set out any basis or justification for resolving matters as it, most unfortunately, tried to do. In view of the foregoing, we can only conclude that either you and your Mediating Commission lack the requisite professional knowledge or familiarity with the rudiments of mediation and conflict resolution or you have consciously and deliberately taken the unexamined side and mission of the ULAA-led Mardea Reeves-Karpeh group.

Notwithstanding the above, we continue to hold the view that we as Liberians must remain open to engage each other in dialogue, if we are to have any hope of achieving our long delayed national aspirations. In this light, we remain open to all initiatives that can restore our unity of purpose and oneness of goals. We view the need to reconcile differences with our fellow compatriots as a critical and meaningful objective and we will commit all necessary resources to accomplish this goal – provided they are rooted in the respect for the sanctity of understandings reached amongst us as well as based on the principle and respect for the rule of law. We hope that others would have and demonstrate a similar resolve.

Very truly yours,

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