Of "Control" and "Conspiracy"

By: James W. Harris

The Perspective

September 1, 2001

In their desperate attempt to divert public attention away from the main issues facing the repressive regime of Liberian President Charles Taylor, some of his staunchest supporters are now wasting no time in pointing their accusing fingers at the international community, particularly, the United States (US), for what they call, trying to "control" him (Taylor).

They also want the Liberian people (whatever is left of the fleeing population) and the world to believe that there also is really an international "conspiracy" against Mr. Taylor and his National Patriotic Party (NPP) government.

But just how they may have arrived at these theories is beyond reason. Yet, some people could definitely take these allegations against the US seriously, and to them I say wait until they hear this one ­ "Mr. Charles Taylor today resigned 'voluntarily' as President of Liberia in order to save his suffering nation!" Of course, the latter is false as we all know and so are their theories of "control and conspiracy."

And apparently, the beleagued President himself almost came close to publicly sharing their beliefs when he recently told a live state-organized local radio talk show in Monrovia that: "While his government exercises constructive engagement in the governance of the country, it is not in any way prepared to take orders from any member of the International Community."

But look how Mr. Blamo Nelson, President Taylor's cabinet director general, put it recently in an interview with the local Poll Watch newspaper: "We cannot be arrogant on this issue concerning our relations with the United States but America must now realize that what it did to past leaders of this country [Liberia] by telling them what to do and what not to do will not work with the Taylor led administration because Taylor is not prepared to be possessed."

The paper further quoted Mr. Nelson as saying that: "The notion that America controlled past Liberian leaders so it should control President Taylor is unacceptable and not nationalistic."

I mean, what are they talking about? I certainly hope that they are not casting their blame on the US and others unjustifiably for the Taylor government's ineptitude and dismal failure to solve the country's many chronic problems as it had promised to do during the 1997 elections. Wasn't his NPP government "elected" to bring about "positive" changes to Liberia? I Thought that's why it was "elected" for ­ to bring development (electricity, roads, schools, etc.) to the country. Evidently NOT!

Not surprisingly, Mr. Nelson and other Taylor supporters, or even the President himself, seem to be finding it very difficult to sell their twin theories of "control" and "conspiracy", because it is just hard to believe without "credible" evidence.

As the matter of fact, if the US were interested in "controlling" Mr. Taylor, as his supporters would want Liberians to believe, it (US) would have no problem doing so. In fact, Mr. Taylor would have now been in a cell next to Panama's former strongman, General Manuel Noreiga. But the simple truth is that the US doesn't want to "control" him ­ that's why President Taylor and his "business partners," posing as so-called "patriots" and "nationalists," are succeeding in continuously exploiting the Liberian people and then repressing them brutally with impunity.

More than that, it is absurd to say the least, for senior Liberian government officials to make such careless remarks instead of taking full responsibility for mis-managing the country's resources, especially in the last four years after this government was supposedly elected by popular vote.

What Mr. Nelson and others should know by now is that it is one thing to criticize the US of, say, supporting whatever sanctions are presently in place against the Taylor-led NPP government, but it is completely another when it comes to accusing the US outrightly of wanting to "control" Mr. Taylor.

Being the most powerful country in the world today, the US does not need any excuses or justification to "control" someone like Mr. Taylor that already has a very damaging record on things like human rights, press freedom, etc., if they really want to.

In other words, if the US ever decides that it wants to "control" President Taylor, even now, there is nothing on earth that could possibly stop it, not even international outcry, not to mention the remnants of his (Taylor's) rag-tag rebel forces or much dreaded Anti Terrorist Unit (ATU) that are still terrorizing the Liberian people. That's the harsh reality of our times!

But as it has done throughout Liberia's history, the US prefers to look the other way, leaving the country's already "traumatized" population at the mercy of President Taylor and his criminal partners. That's why many Liberians have instead looked up to international organizations, like, the United Nations (UN) for leadership and help.

Even with the UN arms embargo in place, the Taylor government is still being suspected of defiantly moving military-type weapons back and forth in the West African region. You can then imagine what the situation would have been like today without the embargos and sanctions. I honestly hope that the UN won't fail Liberia at this time.

In a rather revealing article entitled: "Liberia: A Casualty of the Cold War's End, Mr. Reed Kramer, managing editor of Africa News Service, described what was going on within the US administration when Mr. Taylor started "his" war which eventually turned Liberia upside down: "As fighting escalated in early 1990, the Bush administration faced a serious conundrum. Western European and most of Africa looked to the United States to take the lead in seeking a peaceful resolution of the Liberian crisis, since the country's history bears an unmistakable 'made in America' stamp. But senior administration officials, determined to limit US involvement in what was viewed as a 'brush fire', rejected the notion of inherent American interest or responsibility." And so, it is clear from this description that the US absolutely has no interest in "controlling" Mr. Taylor as they are falsely alleging. It shouldn't surprise any one either to find senior officials of the current Bush (George W.) administration thinking along these same lines today as Liberia continues to be engulfed in a bitter war in the North of the country.

This explains exactly why Sierra Leone is now faring far better with the help of the British, their former colonial master, compared to Liberia that is slipping deeper and deeper into trouble partly due to the US government's indifference to the bloody Liberian conflict and its early decision not to get directly involved in the country's crises. And so, there actually is no "conspiracy" against the Taylor government on the part of the US or any other group. It is exactly the opposite!

Some Liberians suggest that if there was ever a "conspiracy", it was against the tolling Liberian people that are continuously forced to flee their homeland in great desperation. Others even point to the way in which Mr. Taylor "allegedly" broke out of jail in the US shortly before launching his vicious war on Liberia with Libya's Col. Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's help as another example of "conspiracy" against the Liberian people and state. Or did the US justice system just go to sleep on this one?

Granted that we take President Taylor's and Mr. Nelson's remarks seriously, and even putting that aside, they would still have a lot of explaining to do concerning the NPP government's inability to lead Liberia out of its current crippling crises.

Mr. Nelson and others like him should be reminded that by "blindly" supporting the Taylor regime, they are doing their country more harm than good. By remaining silent or mute when it comes to serious issues that are presently facing the country, like, individual freedoms; harassment of the press, false imprisonment without due process; institutionalized corruption, among others, they are performing the most "unpatriotic" and "un-nationalistic" acts of any kind.

They should be cognizant of the fact that history will not judge them kindly for their cowardice and insensitivity to their nation's plight.

Relative to the distressing situation that currently grips Liberia, the simple but hard truth is that the Taylor-led NPP government has done very little or nothing at all to reasonably improve the lives of ordinary Liberians. That is the source of their problem - not the US or anyone else as they would want us to believe. And for this, they cannot blame anyone but themselves, because no amount of finger pointing or false accusations can change this reality.

Likewise, no amount of finger pointing or false accusations can explain the shortfall of about 100 million US dollars "unaccounted for" timber revenue that was generated by the Liberian government in the year 2000, according to Global Witness, an international activist human rights group. Money that could have been used to otherwise help the poor Liberian people. If the Taylor government disputes these figures, they're welcome to open up their "books" to the general Liberian public for scrutiny and/or verification. That would sure help to quiet some longstanding rumors about the NPP government's secretive financial dealings.

For those that can remember, during the elections of 1997, the NPP government campaigned on popular themes, among them, the promise to return the country to pre-Doe time, meaning, stability, job opportunities, "reasonable" press freedom, etc. In various speeches at that time, Mr. Taylor and his party also promised to introduce new programs and expand on existing ones aimed at addressing the full range of problems facing the country that he had wrecked. His promises included providing the basic social needs of all Liberians and rehabilitating his former fighters or war veterans, among others.

Disappointingly, four years later, the majority of Liberians remain in abject poverty, while Mr. Taylor and his cronies in Monrovia enjoy the highest standard of living and then some. Now, what does this wide and well-known discrepancy in living standards between the Liberian people and their so-called "elected" officials, which is the crux of the war-torn nation's problem, have to do with American "control" or international "conspiracy"? None, absolutely none! And the Liberian people know it!

From the way things are going these days, Liberians may just want to consider going back to those 'good old days' when "America controlled Liberian leaders" as Mr. Nelson alleges. Compared to now, those days certainly were better, much better! If the Liberian people were asked if they are better off today than they were 10 or even 20 years ago, they'll tell you straight up, NO! If anything, they're surely worst and lacking the basic necessities of life.

But far from there being a "conspiracy" by the US or others to "control" Mr. Taylor as some in his circle of influence may wrongly believe, the main problem with him and his NPP government is their persistent criminal conduct - nothing else; and that's the simple truth. To believe otherwise is to believe in fantasy and illusion.

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