Are we there yet?

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 3, 2002

Like a sadistic duo of a bloody ballet, Taylor and LURD, the pair of our national tragedy came up with conciliatory declarations, opening the door to the possibility of peace. Taylor said that the government is not opposed to a ceasefire and didn't seem to exclude a new intervention force, if conditions are right. Haven't we heard that before? After so many broken promises, one can wonder if things would be any different this time around? Taylor has had the benefit of the doubt many times and used it carelessly.

Taylor had a good chance in 1990, when the first cease-fire was signed in Lomé. He blew it because he was not handed the leadership of the interim government. He was still regarded in Liberia and in many places as a national hero.

In 1992, he had another chance at peace, the best he could ever get. We were in Geneva at the invitation of Houphouet Boigny. Five West African presidents traveled and witnessed Taylor sign a peace document. Senegal had just accepted to send troops at his request, with the intervention of Former President Jimmy Carter. When he returned to Gbarnga and to everyone's biggest surprise Taylor went on the air and said he never signed "that document" and that throughout he had the impression of being "kidnapped" and was praying to return home safely. He added they brought the document to him, he refused to sign it, concluding that "West African presidents are capable of anything," therefore some body falsified his signature on the paper. He said all along, he was scared for his life.

Other dates and other peace accords would be signed and flushed down the toilet. After each failed accord, another monstrous head popped out in the war. ULIMO came in Sierra Leone and pressured NPFL and we had to return to Geneva and then to Cotonou to sign the famous July 26 1993 peace accord, where Alhaji Kromah, Amos Sawyer and Enoch Dogolea sang the national anthem. President Nicephore Soglo of Benin could not hold his tears. It was the most grandiose signing ceremony. There were more signing ceremonies to come. After each one, there was a new beginning of the war. At the end of it of all, we met again in Abuja in 1996, after the April fracas when ULIMO and NPFL combined their forces to burn down Monrovia. Taylor at the signing ceremony: "I started this war. If you all give me a chance, I will end it..."

We are back at it again. No counter-Taylor movement has ever lived up to its promises. Now comes LURD, the most elusive of all. After the suitcase warring factions of the mid- 1990s (CRC-NPFL, LDF, etc) we now have the cyber-warring faction. They said they have "elected to reduce and, or halt [their] military operation." This does not say much. Reducing their military activity from what to what? And when? They say they will talk to anybody except Charles Taylor, the "sole problem for the region." Either they are naïve, or they think Liberians are dumb. How can they fight someone and not want to talk to that person? If there is to be a cease-fire, they will have to talk to Taylor. Short of that, they just have to go unseat him. They once said that they would talk to the Vice-President or any member of the government. That's a smokescreen if there has ever been one: talking to anyone from the government means talking to Taylor. Moses Blah or Daniel Chea cannot say or sign anything that Taylor does not want to sign. Furthermore, they give Taylor a chance to do what he enjoyed doing so much during the long years of negotiation.

There are certainly many respectable people in LURD and there are people who have and continue to support them and they certainly have a reason to be angry and fight. But this must be shown in what they say and do everyday. LURD must not think that being opposed to Taylor constitutes an agenda or a guarantee of respectability. Fighting a tyrant becomes a heroic act only when it is part of a national aspiration. The unfortunate thing for LURD is that Liberians have come to be wary of liberators. They came too late and they are doing too little. If guns could fix Liberia, Doe would still be president.

LURD wonders why people have little or no expectations from what they are doing. They have nobody to blame but themselves. For example, two weeks ago, they claimed to have taken Gbarnga, they said they went into the President hometown and destroyed military barracks, they said they were moving towards Monrovia and now, where are they? They said they are at BF Goodrich, an abandoned rubber plantation! In the process, tens of thousands of people were displaced, hundreds were killed, properties destroyed. In the end, Taylor is very comfortable in Monrovia. Where would they go next?

The most dramatic aspect of this whole Gbarnga - Tubmanburg is the fate of those 60 blind people "supposedly walking towards Voinjama." Since the catholic priest was found safe, everyone seems to have forgotten about the blind. A few more casualties in our deadly saga, 60 blind people we seem to have already forgotten.

With its inconsistencies, fuzzy strategies and undefined agenda, LURD only added to the national nightmare and provided Taylor with ammunitions. Liberians do not want another warlord and LURD should not expect anyone to believe their claims that they are doing all this to liberate Liberia. In the past 20 odd years, Liberians have seen their share of liberators.

If LURD is tired, they should just fold their tents and leave Liberians alone. There is no shame in giving up an un-winnable fight. Especially when it saves innocent lives. Enough is enough!

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