The Last Kick Of A Dying Horse: Responding to Woewiyou's Aspersions


By Samuel Ajavon

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 22, 2005


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As Liberians brace to go to the polls in electing their leaders, it is apparent that there are individuals whose only intention is to deprive Liberia and Liberians of distinguished and esteemed leaders who have a vision for removing the country from the dungeon of poverty, neglect, corruption and rot. One of such individuals is Thomas Smith a.k.a. Jucontee Thomas Woewiyou, one time defense spokesman of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), later Minister of Defense of the so called National Patriotic and Reconstruction Government (NPRG), and one of the closest confidantes of the former dictator of Liberia, Charles Taylor.

Mr. Woewiyou's diatribe against Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia's leading presidential contender with the Unity Party, was read with amazement and awe. The entire context of his letter borders on the formation of the NPFL and the schemes and machinations that accompanied the movement of that organization of which he also played a pivotal role. For obvious reasons, whatever went wrong or to be specific, whatever evil that the NPFL perpetrated against the Liberian people with the acquiescence of Woewiyou, has now become the responsibility of Ellen Sirleaf. It is important to address some salient points raised by Woewiyou.

First of all, Liberians who resided in country when the NPFL incursion began witnessed the horrors and abuses that plagued the society; actions that were carried out by those who had a constitutional duty to protect Liberians and elements of the NPFL as well. Because of the abuses of the former, Liberians in scores awaited the entrance of the NPFL to Monrovia and as such provided moral support for this organization despite being unaware of the abuses that were being perpetrated upon their compatriots in the rural parts of the country. For days Monrovians would gather around radio stands waiting to hear of the advancement of NPFL forces to Monrovia, or listen to declarations from Woewiyou or Taylor on the BBC Focus on Africa program. This morphed into the silent slogan of "let monkey come down", referring to the downfall of the Samuel Doe's repressive regime. There was a widespread swell of support for the NPFL until the horrors of their actions became apparent upon their arrival in Monrovia and its environs.

There was no doubt that Ellen played a significant role in the birth of the NPFL and made utterances that she has apologized for and termed "stupid". Nevertheless her utterances did not result in the death of thousands of Liberians as Tom claims, nor can they portray her to be the "commander-in-chief" as he asserts. This is because every Liberian knows that the NPFL was driven and controlled single-handedly by Charles Taylor the moment he captured territory in Nimba County and began his advancement to Monrovia. As such orders which led to the destruction of lives and properties were orders given by Taylor, as Taylor took orders from no one, especially owing to his many utterances prominent among which is - "the only rooster". As such Ellen could not have held the title that Woewiyou suggests.

An extension of giving orders in Woewiyou's view includes the onslaught on Monrovia by the NPFL during their infamous Operation Octopus in October 1992. Ellen had long before then broken her relationship with the NPFL, as a result of the excesses that had occurred at the hands of Taylor's blind attempt to seize power with the blood of innocent Liberians. Woewiyou was the Defense Minister of the NPFL and was responsible for the planning and execution of this operation along with John T. Richardson. He should be able to answer to the Liberian people for the suffering and loss of lives that ensued again in their unwavering attempt to grab power. But he now attempts to pass the buck, although his hand is in the cookie jar. Can he state what his role was with the NPFL when that operation was launched and how it led to avoiding the horrors, hardship and destruction that was carried out by foot soldiers under his control? Was Ellen in Gbarnga and giving orders at the time or is this just another lie from an associate of the devil - Taylor?

Another aspect of Woewiyou's aspersions has to do with the meetings he recounts in Virginia at the home of Taylor Major. One would be inclined to ask what Woewiyou's position at that meeting was. He obviously chose to remain silent on that and reports on Ellen's position. It is now evident that Ellen supported the acquiescence of power to the Liberian Action Party (LAP) following the overthrow of Doe, which may have been noble, since the Liberian people had been robbed of the mandate they had given to LAP at the polls in 1985. Sources at that meeting recount Woewiyou insistence that Taylor be head of the government, which was totally rejected by participants of the meeting. According to Woewiyou's account in paragraph two sub heading "Major's Involvement", having LAP ascend to the leadership in Liberia following Doe's removal from power "was a bad idea". This position clearly vindicates reports that he was an ardent supporter of the Taylor's ascendancy position.

This then brings into question his claim that he was "confronted with a Court Marshal of a life threatening nature for supposedly selling out the revolution in advance...." Even if Ellen had suggested to Taylor the decision reached at the meeting where Woewiyou participated, every Liberian knows that there is no mercy for those who present any threat or hindrance to the achievement of Taylor's ambitions. Certainly had Woewiyou towed a different line he would have been eliminated on Taylor's orders; friendship alone could not be a condition for mercy in the NPFL handbook or else Moses Duopu, and Samuel Dokie would all be alive today. That he was spared even though he tried to undercut Taylor is a fallacy. Why did he flee greater Liberia and seek imbedded ECOMOG protection when he fell out with Taylor and formed his so-called Central Revolutionary Committee (CRC)? Was this one of the many schemes in the playbook of Taylor to identify and eliminate opponents? No one expects someone to kill his friend. But more than that, it was Woewiyou in his press conference after his "defection" from the mainstream NPFL who accused Charles Taylor of being responsible for the deaths of Jackson Doe and Gabriel Kpolleh of the Liberian Unification Party. Today he places such blame on Ellen Sirleaf.

Let's go back and examine Woewiyou's logic in applying blame for the death of Jackson Doe. Those who schemed against Taylor which led to the death of another person are responsible for the death of that individual. If this is his logic, then it says much of his responsibility in the deaths of Samuel Dokie, Nixon Gaye; Cassius Jacob and others. It was a result of the treachery and scheming of Woewiyou in the forming of the CRC that caused the deaths of these individuals. We recall what happened to Nixon Gaye after he came to Monrovia and met with Woewiyou and others and returned to Taylor-held territory. The Dokie incident was a payback for the actions that were mainly orchestrated by Woewiyou, and it is he who should be apologizing to the Dokie family for the "stupid" ploy to create a cleavage in the NPFL which would have ultimately led to the downfall of Taylor. But one would, in another manner, interpret Woewiyou's action as a design concocted with the blessings of Taylor to eliminate the likes of Dokie and Supuwood had he (Supuwood) taken the same risk that Dokie took. In this case, Tom has an even greater predicament and burden to bear especially to those grieving families.

Everyone in Liberia knows that Woewiyou's break with Taylor was not merely to bring Taylor down, but another attempt by Taylor using Woewiyou to eliminate his enemies and expose the "duplicitous" claims Taylor had against ECOMOG, even though it was the very ECOMOG that provided protection for Tom. This is because even with the formation of his CRC, Tom still ventured into Taylor-held territories unharmed, while making strident accusations against Taylor particularly referenced in Stephen Ellis' book, The Mask of Anarchy. What happened eventually? Taylor and Woewiyou held a grand reunion party declaring themselves united again with one resolve: continual plunder of Liberia's resources. This was manifested in the turn over of yellow machines for logging that Woewiyou had brought to Liberia, that were confiscated by Taylor for "safekeeping", when those confiscated from Greater Diamond still remain unaccounted for, notwithstanding the shadiness of the deal with Greater Diamond and the South African, Nico Shaefer.

Moreover and considering Woewiyou's conspiratorial assumptions, where he portends that Sawyer's support for Ellen in the coming election was reciprocal considering Ellen's support for Sawyer to head the interim government that was formed in Banjul; in Tom's words "scratch my back, I scratch your back". But let's reverse this to incidents which occurred in Liberia involving Tom and Charles Taylor, to get a clearer picture of his "scratch my back" theory. With the vacancy in the Liberia Senate brought about by the departure of Charles Brumskine, Woewiyou vied for the seat under the banner of the National Patriotic Party - an offspring of the NPFL. This writer along with international staff of the Carter Center in Liberia observed the bye-elections in Grand Bassa County. To the amazement of our team, specifically in compound #2 and other areas, the NPFL structures were resurrected on the day of election. At one village at the rear of Fortesville the team witnessed the commander of the NPFL forces in the village, seated in the middle of the polling station in a rather intimidating manner; with tinted sunshades watching voters cast their ballots. At the end of the process, Tom was declared the winner even with protest from his opponent, Charles Johnson. The point here is after masterminding the scheme to eliminate Dokie and others, Tom is rewarded with heavy machines for his logging exploration and a seat in the Liberian legislature; this is more than "scratching my back"!!! Tom has a lot of sorry to say to a lot of families unlike Ellen. The Liberian people are only waiting for the time when the full puzzle will be put together and Tom began this initiative when he was quoted in Mask of Anarchy by Stephen Ellis.

Closing, Woewiyou's aspersions and mudslinging at Ellen Sirleaf is woefully belated. What Liberia needs now is prudent leadership and Liberians are beginning to see the qualities needed to move this country in no other than Ellen. What Tom has not realize is that the excesses that he and Taylor meted against Liberia have come to an end and a new day is in the making and a new reality especially for those who hold the view that violence and chaos is the only environment for their survival. Every Liberian is fully aware of the role of Woewiyou and Taylor in Liberia and the characters of these men: Taylor a jail breaker and Thomas Smith turned Woewiyou who was involved in theft at Ducor Hotel and escaped using mattresses as cushions to jump from the building and flee justice. Woewiyou has more to apologize for and his day in court is fast approaching which is his fear, except that he is now fetching for companions. Way to go Tom!!!

Finally, Liberians remember the selection process which occurred in Accra with the selection of the current kleptocracy. The scheme was to select an individual who was "neutral". This was a position that the NPFL fostered forcefully and fought desperately to keep Ellen from leading the country - one of its many tricks. The result was a lame duck candidate as exemplified in Gyude Bryant. One can readily pinpoint the massive failures, corrupt practices and insensitivity this group has wrought on the society; and it is the ardent intent of the NPLF to perpetuate this tendency and keep the Liberian people in misery. And it is amazing that some candidates are falling to this bait, if not part of the scheme. Neutrality has not benefited Liberia in no way especially in recent times, and the Liberian people can no longer be fooled. Neutrality is a position as it supports continuity especially if people are being repressed by a regime. In the case of Liberia, this means support for those regimes which brought untold harm and misery on the society.

The author is a Liberian who resides in the United States and is a commentator on Liberian issues. He has worked in government in Liberia and in the private sector as a Staff Associate/Program Manager at the Center for Democratic Empowerment.