Keeping Hassan Bility in the Spotlight

By James W. Harris

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 16, 2002

There is absolutely no doubt that our country, Liberia, would have to undergo a wholesome or thorough “reconciliation process” before it can finally move forward towards any kind of ‘real’ recovery (please note that I said “process”). I sincerely believe that many Liberians share this view too!

But the big question is: reconciliation under whose guidance? It certainly can’t be under the guidance of those, who, in the first place, have foolishly plunged our once peaceful country into its present state of chaos. Obviously not! Reconciliation amongst whom - themselves? The same folks that are responsible for the country’s current ordeal?

More besides, how can the “pariah” National Patriotic Party (NPP) government, led by Mr. Charles Taylor, even talk about reconciliation at this particular point in time when it is, in fact, continuing day after day with its ‘scorched-earth policy’ of brutally repressing innocent [until proven otherwise] Liberian citizens there with impunity? I guess, because he can safely get away with it!

With my colleague, fellow journalist, Hassan Bility, and many others, wrongly languishing behind bars in several of the President’s dark death chambers or probably dead already by now, one would think that the regime would be sensible enough to set them free, or at the very least, produce their ‘living bodies’ in a court of ‘competent’ jurisdiction as the nation’s Constitution – which he (Taylor) incidentally took an oath to abide by -requires.

Or, should Mr. Charles Taylor’s defiant refusal to listen to the huge outcry of Liberians and the international community for JUSTICE by producing their “living bodies” under the Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by the local non-governmental group there, the National Human Rights Centre of Liberia, be interpreted as him (Taylor) being above the laws of the land? What else should we say!

But what hurts the most is the fact that he has not done so – brought them before a court or set them free! And what makes this particular situation more bizarre is that the international community, especially, the United States (US) and the United Nations (UN), two entities that could “definitely” do something about Hassan’s plight if they really wanted, have apparently shown the lack of resolve to compel him (Taylor) to do just that for seemingly strange reasons.

In this case, the fact that Hassan and the others are of the ethnic Mandingo group or Moslems is really irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. What is relevant here, though, is that their God-given and Constitutional rights, as full-fledged Liberians citizens, are being trampled upon ruthlessly while the whole world watches. Isn’t that something!

And the saddest part about it all is that our country may most likely continue to go down this ugly path of self destruction for the foreseeable future, if only we were to consider seriously the ‘integrity’ and ‘character’ of some of the people whose names were listed recently by the shameful so-called Organizing Bureau of the Liberia National Conference on Peace and Reconciliation to engage the bankrupt government at its forth coming conference in Monrovia later this month.

Reading more like a “WHO’S WHO” amongst Liberians that have in one way or the other contributed to their country’s present appalling condition, one surely doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that such a conference, which would obviously bring together the “same old folks” that are responsible for our nation’s complete collapse, is destined to fail just like the rest. Why? Because many of the so-called 270 “stakeholders” [whatever that means to Liberians], who were invited by the brutal regime to attend it, are in fact no different than their host - Charles Taylor. And Liberians know it!

What such a conference would accomplish at best is to bring together old friends (old “tired” comrades) who may have initially planned and successfully carried out their carnage against our people and country. Therefore, the only likely reconciliation that could result from this conference is that President Taylor may finally ask for their forgiveness for “out-smarting” them and thereby seizing the presidency, but without giving them anything worthwhile in terms of power sharing. And how would the ordinary Liberians, like Hassan and the others be reconciled? More punishment and continuing denial of justice, even while their pending conference may be going on!

It can also be said safely, based on our recent history, that the outcome of the upcoming conference that’s being sponsored by this “undemocratic” and heartless NPP government would be just like the others that ended lately in Bethesda, Maryland, USA [Liberian Leadership Conference (LLC)] and in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso [Liberian Leadership Forum (LLF)], respectively, with old friends basically patting each other on the back and congratulating one another for surviving their stooge, Charles Taylor, thus far.

Overall, Liberians should immediately realize that their once proud country is now in deep, deep trouble. And as such, they need to begin to expose these ‘sellouts’ for just what they are - “political bandits” that would let nothing stand in their way in their selfish quest to continue looting and plundering our vast national resources, including, our virgin forests, for personal gains!

Have you realized that many of them haven’t even said anything substantial or taken any real course of action in terms of calling on the morally bankrupt NPP government to immediately release Bility and the many others? If they are making any efforts in this direction, I’m surely not aware! Are any of you? Then please fill me in on this, because I certainly won’t want to be seen as not doing my homework!

In the same light, we must commend all those that have acted bravely in one way or the other to express their disbelief and anger at the Taylor government for stubbornly denying our fellow Liberians their irrevocable rights under the law.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think that a Liberian or anyone else that’s worth his or her salt would attend such a fake event – I really don’t - not when the whereabouts of my colleague and the others are still unknown. Else, that person should definitely expect to carry a grave moral burden for the rest of his or her entire life for condoning Mr. Taylor’s excesses, except he or she doesn’t have a conscience!

If anyone would ask me to give my frank opinion about what I think we should do about the unfortunate situation that Bility finds himself in today, I would quickly say, first, give Mr. Taylor and his repressive government another week or so. Then, if he doesn’t do anything, begin to galvanize popular or grass root support amongst the masses, starting from us here in the US picketing the Liberian Embassy in North-West Washington, DC, - “PEACEFULLY of course.

If that too doesn’t work, then we’ll be obliged to solicit the support [moral, personal, etc.] of our ‘more powerful’ friends [whoever they may be], to ensure that pressure is constantly being put on the ‘rogue’ NPP government to either accord JUSTICE to our compatriots or face the consequences of their INACTION. But we must remain logical, calm and peaceful every step of the way so as to avoid our collective or individual actions from being misconstrued as those simply of hoodlums or do-nothings (Taylor and his blind supporters would love for Liberians at home to think “wrongly’ that most of us in the Diaspora are doing nothing for ourselves, but meddling in “his” business).

Whatever the situation is, though, Mr. Taylor and his crooked government MUST realize (and soon) that they either have to live by the letter of the law, in this case, Chapter III (Fundamental Rights), Article 19 of the present Liberian Constitution, which states CLEARLY that: “No person OTHER THAN (I emphasize, OTHER THAN) members of the Armed Forces of Liberia or of the militia in active service shall be subjected to military law, or made to suffer any pains or penalties by virtue of that law, or be tried by courts-martial.”

This is in fact a law that they had all sworn to uphold diligently or be consigned continuously to isolation and disgrace. I mean, the law is very clear on this and only people that just don’t understand the law or those that have deliberately chosen to ignore it would argue otherwise.

But no matter what it chooses to do, the sitting ‘undemocratic’ regime in Monrovia cannot hide from the fact that it would be held directly accountable and/or responsible for whatever happens to Hassan and the others that are in their care. They can also rest assure that the issue of his inevitable fate as well as the fates of others would never go away, no matter how long they try to keep them away physically from their people (immediate relatives and the general Liberian public) or deny them JUSTICE.

More importantly, Mr. Taylor and his cohorts should be made to know that RECONCILIATION and REPRESSION are not the same nor can they live side by side! It has to be one or the other.

For us, we’ll continue to keep the light shining very brightly on his brutal regime as well as anyone else that are bend on denying Liberians what they “rightfully” deserve - justice, peace, security and stability. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to pray for Bility and the rest.

Also, we’ll keep trumpeting their cause as long as JUSTICE is being denied them, ensuring that this regime never succeeds in permanently keeping the lid on this one. For, unlike the sitting government in battle-scarred Monrovia, it’s our moral and patriotic duty to be our “brothers’ keepers”!

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