Beware: TWP 1979/1980 Shadow Hangs Over Liberia
(A National Security Reflection)

By: James Thomas-Queh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 15, 2017



Among my many predictions here, I said that Senator George Manneh Weah could create the “macron effect” – that 39-years old young man – Emmanuel Macron – who turned the tables on the French political Establishment to become the elected president of France last may. Well, from our current orchestrated political stalemate, it has been firmly installed in the minds of the majority population (including even the staunchest supporters of VP Boakai) that the popular Senator has already won the election – and come what may.

And frankly, the precipitated countless missteps by the Senator’s adversaries speak volumes. First, everyone had expected the Weah camp to throw the first stones and burn down Monrovia, but that was not the case. Then soon Brumskine, Boakai et al were constraint to acknowledge that these elections were the most peaceful than anyone had ever expected. For me, this very civic attitude of the voters and public signifies two things: that the democratic culture is taking roots, and second – that despite the gross imperfections of our electoral process known to all, the people were pleased and satisfied with the results: Weah-Boakai run-off – in which, democratically, each still had a chance to become the elected President.

But the most astonishing, disconcerting and against any rational thinking (at least my view),  VP  Boakai,  the “most wisdom, humble, experienced, intellectual, etc” - instead of mobilizing immediately his troupe and supporters – suddenly made a 90° u-turn to align himself with some of those eliminated - Brumskine, Urey and Cummings -  to break the tempo of the popular enthusiasm, stall and undermine the electoral process; thus creating an unnecessary anxiety, uncertainty and wariness in an extreme fragile nation.

And mine you, this same  NEC made  Hon. Boakai the VP for 12 long years; its commissioners appointed by his government and party, and still have the fullest support, trust and confidence of his party’s standard-bearer emeritus – President Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf. So tell me,  why was VP Boakai  unable to persuade Brumskine, Urey and Cummings to rally to him as Senator Prince Johnson and MOVEE did for the CDC; so that should he become President they could reform the NEC that his Unity Party government has left dysfunctional for 12 years? But no, he could not; their egos, contradictions and individual interests are incompatible and supersede our national interest – to say the least.

Oh, when Cllr Brumskine won triumphantly against the CoC law just before the elections, I was the first to applaud him, and even projected him high in the second round. So he knew perfectly the weaknesses of the NEC before and after the elections since they are an integral part of our chronic national problems.  And I think the attempt to further exploit the situation to his advantage (under the disguise of respecting the rule of law) at such a crucial moment - not only it is disingenuous, but also a dangerous national security gamble.

How The TWP 1979/1980 Shadow Hangs Over Liberia?

We observe that there is a profound calm and silence while this electoral crisis is being prolonged indefinitely. But you know, we say in France that there is always a calm before a thunderous storm.  So, this calm and silence may take us back almost 40 years when, at the approach of the first-year anniversary of the April 14, 1979 bloody “Rice Uprising”, G. Baccus Matthews of the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) transformed his movement into the first opposition political party of our generation – the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) in January 1980. In just few weeks to the anniversary the leaders of the PPP were arrested and jailed for treason, and the new party banned without any valid justification.

Suddenly, the aspirations of the masses for a change through democracy evaporated. In an absolute disappointment and silence, they only murmured questions and sought for credible answers, but to no avail; then soon rumours and conspiracy theories spread like wildfires. On April 12, 1980, the military coup d’état ended the suspense. 

Today, and like yesterday, the disappointed, frustrated and anxious youths are murmuring for quick answers to the many “What ifs…” What if the election is annulled or the Supreme Court should order a re-run?   What if Senator Weah’s 38% votes get on the streets to demand some explanations? What if at the end Senator Weah is perceived as being deprived of his victory? What if…

For the fact that the principal actors today (Boakai, Brumskine et al) are also witnesses to all those past events, I only want to replay briefly that first tragic political film; show how it fits into the present, and rewind our old won out memories on the national security danger it imposes.

In the beginning, Tolbert (after the long 27 years of an autocratic rule of Tubman) ascended accidentally to power in 1971. 34 years later (after a military rule, followed by a devastated civil war), Ma Ellen too was elected accidentally in 2005. Both presidents were part and parcel to the national situation that brought them to power.  For all the reasons already known, both presidents never enjoyed the fullest support of their party stalwarts; and worse, they were also disconnected from their grassroots’ bases.

Notwithstanding, the change of the national leadership in both situations was always accompanied by a renew hope and high expectations of the masses – jobless youths that have accumulated since Liberia’s demographic implosion and exodus of rural migration from the 1960s. Tolbert inherited a passive, discipline, home-trained, but wary generation; Ma Ellen took over a generation of war, gun culture, violence, drugs, indiscipline and all our other chronic societal ills.

As both presidents approached the 10th year in power, their respective generations soon realized that their situation has become worse and even more precarious than before. They see the same minority clique gravitating around power, enjoying themselves, and while the masses are drowned in extreme poverty. Then in both cases the youths become restless, want a drastic change, put their trust in a charismatic figure or figures as their leaders, and prepare themselves to shake-up the Establishment at any given opportunity.

In 1979, Liberia had a single party – True Whig Party (TWP); today our country is a pluralist, democratic society. But in both instances the reaction of the ruling elites in confronting their adversary representing the masses has been the same. They ganged up in any way or form to resist relinquishing power to the people.

The first major challenge in 1979 was the April 14th “Rice Uprising”; the most serious threat to Ma Ellen was the 2014 Ebola epidemic. In the two settings, we have witnessed the reputation of the national security forces being damaged and questioned for a situation and conditions that were not of their makings, but squarely the fault of a dysfunctional government. Thus, such incidents usually leave a profound sentiment of injustice and ingratitude on the minds of the service men and women vis-à-vis the ruling Establishment.

No wonder, on April 12, 1980, a military coup d’état awakened our nation.  In addition to some of the factors already mentioned that precipitated this event, there was also the suspension of the first democratic mayoral election in Monrovia that should have taken place around the end of 1979. Like today, the politics was polarized between the TWP on the one hand, and the “Progressives” on the other. It was a foregone conclusion that the progressives were paused to win overwhelmingly. But the ruling Establishment could not stomach that prospect – a Pandora-box that could have given the state power to the “Progressives” in the presidential elections that were scheduled for 1983. And if democracy was not foiled, and the “Progressives” had had their chance to lead, perhaps our national tragedy would have been avoided.

Today, what makes it even more dangerous, insane and incomprehensible is that only a very small clique of elites – egos and self-interests driven- have closed their eyes on the social realities to perpetuate the same business-as-usual. They have convinced themselves that “Liberians want no more war”. And of course, our people want no more war; but no one can stop another bloody military coup d’état if these elites are resolute to frustrate and deprive the people of their democratic choice of president.

Look where we are - the political polarization of yesterday has reached the same point today. Because over the mortal remains of the ruling Unity party, Brumskine-Boakai et al have formed a nebula which I equate to a new TWP, but without any constituent.  At the other end is the CDC of Senator George Manneh Weah – a sort of G. Baccus Matthews and the PPP, “progressives” with a massive popular support. And like yesterday, any attempt to hinder a CDC’s victory will have the same tragic consequences sooner or later.

Because as in 1979/1980, today the army and police are young and inexperienced, underpaid and inadequately equipped; so, they are poor like the majority of the population. As a result, their hearts are naturally on the side of the masses. Never mind the Ministers (living in their mansion bunkers for self-protection), generals and legislators who assured us constantly that the security forces are neutral and loyal to the government. That is a false assurance because if it is perceived that the Establishment is deliberately manoeuvring to deprive the people of their rights or gets into a permanent state of crisis, the army will definitely intervene to put in some order (and God knows that’s not my wish).

Conclusion: I believe the presidency of Senator George Manneh Weah will guarantee more our national security, national reconciliation and peace. On the one hand, not only the fact that the Senator is extremely popular and genuinely patriotic, but also very humble, inherently charismatic, smart, intuitive, discipline, determine, team/fair player, generous, non-tribal and non-demagogue – all attributes of the leadership necessary to mobilize a nation and people in quest of renew hope and direction. Additionally, by his choice of a vice president, the senator has demonstrated his extraordinary audacity as a true peace Ambassador. He is sending us a strong signal to look up ourselves in the mirror and stop our hypocrisy and deceit. Ellen or Taylor made and enriched all those who pretend today to be afraid of their shadows. What a shame and ingratitude.

An appeal: Should senator Weah win this election, I appeal to us all to help and work with him in honest as we have done with Madam Sirleaf despite our political differences and disappointments; so that Liberia continues to move forward to consolidate national reconciliation, sustain peace and national unity.

In a troubled, unpredictable world, LIBERIA is our unique heritage. Let wisdom prevail for our common good.



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