Victims Elected As Co-Chairs, While Little Girl Rises To Occasion
By A Correspondent
August 29, 2002
MONROVIA, LIBERIA: Two victims of the Taylor regime's brutality (with impunity) during recent months have been elected as co-chairs of the ongoing Reconciliation Conference that's presently being held near here. Those elected by Liberians that are attending the conference were Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh and Cllr. Frances Johnson-Morris, respectively.
It can be recalled that Dr. Tipoteh's home was recently searched illegally by the Taylor government's security apparatus, while Cllr. Johnson-Morris was arrested, stripped naked and thrown in a jail cell with harden criminals. But despite the ongoing abuses of citizens' rights here, coupled with the state of emergency and clampdown on the local press, these two individuals have agreed to co-chair the so-called Reconciliation Conference, notwithstanding.
When this newsmagazine, the Perspective, conducted a survey last week of key opposition figures in the Diaspora regarding the conference, they collectively pointed to the ruthlessness of the Taylor regime, particularly, the illegal search of Dr. Tipoteh's home and their (opposition's) own security, as reasons why they decided to stay away from it. Moreover, they certainly didn't want to be seen as being a part of Taylor's charade that would take the country nowhere in the end.
This has led many Liberians here to ask suspiciously: Do these people (the conferees) believe, somehow, that Taylor would allow a conducive electoral atmosphere in the country in which a candidate could possibly defeat him (the incumbent) in a "free and fair" election? They say it would be very naïve to think that the Liberian people would be sufficiently free to vote for a candidate of their choice over Mr. Taylor in light of the present reality on the ground, pointing quickly to the existing state of emergency in the country and the unlawful detention incommunicado of journalist Hassan Bility (editor of the Monrovia-based, Analyst newspaper) and others, who were still languishing in jails here. Yet, other Liberians have also cited the conspicuous absence of veteran human rights lawyer, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, who is currently in the United States, as well as other prominent local Liberians from the conference, as a further lack of interests in it.
It's a foregone conclusion here that a conference under the auspices of Mr. Taylor was doomed from the very start. The problem in Liberia is Taylor himself almost everyone here admits! No matter who presides over a conference like the one that's currently going on, there has to be the political "will" for the outcome of such a conference to be fully implemented, everyone agrees. Some observers opine that since Taylor is not prepared to do the minimum for the people of Liberia, then what was the point in allowing us to be hoodwinked repeatedly into his scheme of things?
Other Liberians, however, feel that Dr. Tipoteh and Cllr. Johnson-Morris had no other alternative but to attend the conference and accept the will of the people attending the conference. They stated that not doing so would have been considered by the ruthless Taylor regime as anti government or anti reconciliation.
At the conference, a little girl named as one Brenda Arzoaquoi, a 10th grade student of the SDA school, also spoke on behalf of the youths of Liberia on the topic: "Don't Squander What Belongs To Everyone." No sooner had little Brenda started her presentation when she bravely hit the nail squarely on the head.
She said, "Mr. President, conference participants, indeed, we have gathered here today to truly find ourselves. We should therefore remember the past, for it will show us the path to a bright future ahead and hopefully allow us never [again] to repeat what has happened in our nation over the past 22 years. Hatred, envy, selfishness, lawlessness, jealousy, greed, disunity and mistrust, all of which has led to the destruction of our national fabric." Well, could our present dilemma be described any better? Surely not!
Many Liberians are now beginning to ask: How can we be talking about reconciliation when one man, Charles Taylor, controls the entire resources of the country today at the expense of the rest of society? They observed that income (money) from the war-torn nation's logging industry goes directly into the pocket of Mr. Taylor just like funds from the long running maritime program and other revenues generated from various sources.
Because of this kind of selfish and "unconstitutional" practice, they (Liberians) contend that Taylor should first reconcile with himself, before even thinking about reconciling with the Liberian people. And then, he should make an open apology to the nation for the numerous atrocities that he has committed and continues to commit up to this very day. Secondly, they strongly believe that he should immediately allow the resources of the country to be equitably distributed so that education, health care delivery and other basic social services may be addressed. The problem is: Is Present Taylor ever going to be prepared to do just that? Obviously, the answer is an emphatic NO based on his immediate past and present records.
As I'm writing this piece, there is a front page story in the Inquirer newspaper of today (August 28, 2002) which reports that members of the Mandingo tribe, who were working at the Free Port of Monrovia, are being summarily dismissed 'en mass'. Not surprisingly, this is happening at a time when a so-called reconciliation conference is taking place right under our noses. This begs the troubling question: Don't the Mandingos, like any other ethnic group in Liberia, have the RIGHT anymore to work any where in the country? That is the unsettling question!