Liberia is Counting on America


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 3, 2003

As the crisis in Liberia escalated to a devilish level once again - as people died and others became displaced and cramped in unhealthy quarters and the threat of epidemic diseases became imminent - the calls came again. They came from diverse sources such as European and African governments, editorials of major US dailies, former American government officials, international humanitarian agencies and the United Nations as well as from Liberians of all persuasions, including the victims themselves. The call was simple: "America must not abandon Liberia now. Liberia needs America and America must not fail to act to save the country."

For a brief moment, it seemed President Bush was about to wave the magical wand as he broke his long silence on the matter. He raised hopes greatly by uttering a few simple words: "President Charles Taylor needs to step down so that his country can be spared further bloodshed." Those few word revived a spirit of jubilation among the suffering masses who took off dancing in the streets of Monrovia. The words also sent tremor and heartbreak among the Taylor inner circle who accepted them as an ultimatum. Though under UN travel ban, some of them are said to have fled the country. That goes to show the power of a few words when uttered by the right person.

As quickly as hopes had been raised, they were dashed once again when the official word from Washington became pessimistic. An article appearing in the Boston Globe over the weekend said: "The US government plans no military intervention in the war-ravaged African nation of Liberia until President Charles Taylor resigns or is driven from power..."

President Taylor, indicted earlier by a UN Special Court for crimes against humanity, has already said he has no intention of resigning. And driving him out of power would complicate the situation even further. To have President Taylor driven out of power by the dissidents fighting to overthrow him is not a preferable option. As much as Liberians would like to see Taylor leave, hardly anyone is spreading a red carpet to welcome the two rebel groups, LURD and MODEL. The statement from Washington left us with a most terrible dilemma.

Then there are those skeptics who wanted us to believe that President Bush only said what he did to temporarily appease us Africans. After all, it was pointed out that President Bush was speaking at a banquet for African businessmen and investors where the issue of oil exploration off the West African coast was under consideration. Could it be that the Super power was only following the trail of super profits?

As we began this week optimism returned and we learned that the matter was still been given serious consideration. Pressure built as UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan and others repeatedly appealed to have the US re-examine this issue. And they did.

As this editorial goes to press, CNN and other major news networks have quoted President Bush as saying, "We have to explore all options". He also said, "One thing has to happen: "Mr. Taylor needs to leave the country... In other for there to be peace and stability in Liberia, Charles Taylor needs to leave now". That sounds like music to our ears and we hope this time US commitment will follow those words.

Even Charles Taylor sensing that the sleeping giant may have finally wakened reportedly said: "I'm not sure if asking the democratically elected president to leave is the solution, but I will leave". And as he leaves, we'll like to remind him that the UN issued indictment still stands; no man is above the law. Mr. Taylor must come to grips with the reality that he has lost any leverage to bargain. He will be a fugitive until he is arrested for his crime; that's what he deserves.

So once again, on behalf of the suffering masses of Liberia and citizens of the West African sub-region whose lives have been destabilized by the gangster of Monrovia, we appeal to America to do the right thing. Liberians will remember you for it.

The Statute of Liberty says: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free...." The tired, poor and huddled masses of Liberia say thanks for the invitation, but they'd prefer to stay at home. Just help them get rid of the monster.