Posted July 26, 2002
The Liberian tragedy continues, turning more deadly and tragically comical as days go by.
For almost a year, we have been saying that LURD was more an invention of Monrovia than anything else. The drama is going on, with its looting spree, its killing and devastation for hundreds of thousands of uprooted people who have lost their home and dignity, becoming beggars. After a year of repeating the same lie, playing on it and creating "war scenes", Taylor has almost convinced the world that there is a real and deadly war organized in Guinea and aimed at overthrowing him, with the help of Liberian dissidents.
After Gbarnga, the show moved to Tubmanburg, the city that LURD claimed just a couple weeks ago was to be their headquarters for a longtime. Last week, Taylor gave his men 72 hours to take the city. The battle went on for a few days, supposedly. The rebels had been in the city for more than a month. And all of sudden, after Taylor gives his orders, his troops, under the command of General Yeaten and Charles Taylor Jr. attacked the city.
LURD issues a first communiqué, almost risible if this was not about the life of innocent people. They claimed that Taylor had sent his troop in a pick-up that was ambushed by them. They claimed that Charles Taylor Jr. was wounded as well as General Yeaten. Did they seize the pick-up? They said they killed a number of soldiers. How did they know that they wounded these two people? If they did, how did Yeaten reappear healthy and in one piece, commanding troops to re-take the city? Why would Taylor attack a fortified town that has been under the control of the dissidents for a month?
Suppose all that makes sense somehow, because the most unrealistic thing seems to happen in Liberia, since that night, in 1980 when Sergeant Doe became leader of a revolution. The second set of questions has to do with the city of Tubmanburg after Taylor troops supposedly took it back. The first account from a general was that they killed some 100 dissidents, all of whom they buried except ten bodies that were left in the street for "show and tell". Anyone familiar with the NPFL will remember that they do not burry bodies, because every dead human being is a trophy to them. These are the same people who made checkpoints out of human remains. A few days later, the assistant minister of defense talks about some 400 rebels killed and claim that they have seized in the process 700 RPGs. Still only 10 bodies were seen. The walls were covered with bullet holes, like in Monrovia, after 1990 and April 6.
Does it make sense that a rebel war can look so much like a theatrical production, with both sides saying exactly the same thing as in an echo chamber? Monrovia always predicts that cities will fall and be re-taken and LURD always concurs. Why is there never an "independent" witness of any of the battles? When the NPFL was fighting a few years ago, it was never camera shy. It invited the press from all around the world to show its victories, by displaying bodies.
Another issue we have been writing about is that of the 60 blind people LURD said they had taken with them. They never said where they took them. They had invited someone from CAMERAPIX to prove to the world that they controlled territories beyond Lofa. Wouldn't it have been easier to let the international pressman see the blinds? Or may be LURD was never in Tubmanburg?
Why is it that LURD and the government never meet at the same place? LURD refused to show its face at the Abuja meeting but went to Burkina Faso where they were "extremely" well received by Blaise Compaore, according to witnesses, but the Liberian government did not show up. We remember that the Government went to Abuja but the only person who was there representing LURD said he is was there on his own. The explanation is simple: once they meet, they have to come to terms with the war and reach some type of agreement and stop the "war". And that would go against the plans of Taylor.
The war would continue as long as Taylor wants. For a man who was confined to a dusty city for seven years with limited movement, being President and having somebody to blame for all the problems of the country is a blessing.
A year ago, we wrote that Taylor wanted to convince the world that there was a serious war in Liberia to justify the failures of his regime. Last week, in the aftermath of the Ouagadougou meeting of the Liberian opposition, the French Foreign Minister thanked the President of Burkina Faso for its great efforts for peacemaking in Liberia and said that France was ready to take lead in forming the Contact Group to work with Liberians for the return of peace. According to the French Minister, Dominique de Villepin, the most urgent issue in Liberia today was to reach a cease-fire between Taylor and the dissidents.
While this is going on, the button of paranoia and fear is pushed to the extreme in Monrovia. Taylor said people want to eliminate him, referring here to his mode of operation in the political field. The search of the home of Dr. Tipoteh is a signal that nobody is beyond reach. The continuous detention of Hassan Bility and others is meant to tell everyone that "nothing will change", as long as Taylor is president. More people are arrested everyday. Taylor would play the card of the sovereignty to the limit. He knows it would take a longtime before any country decides to go after him.
Now the conference has been "postponed" because nobody would show up. It is hard to have a conference with oneself. But that is always a possibility in a case of acute schizophrenia.
As Taylor said in his press conference, there is indeed a "clear and present danger." What is clear is that not everyone is convinced that LURD has ever been near Arthington, Gbarnga or Tubmanburg. What is present is a regime that has ruined the country and is about to kill its soul.
Opposition leaders must keep the pressure and keep working, notwithstanding the contradictions, the apparent division and personality issues. These are human factors that would always be part of any group dynamics.
Another 26th is here. The country is plunged in darkness, hunger and blood.
But in a few houses, in Monrovia, there will be light, champagne and fireworks and plenty of food.