"Opposition Welcomes State of Emergency", a Rejoinder

By J. Bartee Tubah

The Perspective

February 13, 2002

It is understandable if some of us are wrong some of the time. But it scares the living day lights out of me to see a large number of us ignore empirical data of relevance and get something wrong at a critical juncture. Not only is a large number getting it wrong, but a large number of presumably the best political minds in the country. News emerging from Monrovia states that the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) welcomed cautiously Charles Taylor’s declaration of a “state of emergency due to the prevailing circumstances in the country”. This statement represents the position of several opposition political parties. Take note of another statement. The Kpelleh Language of Bong County makes a different kind of declaration: “A bird that sits at the tip of a tree branch desiring earnestly to fly only needs a little bit of breeze under its wings to cause that bird to launch into the air”. To the observer, it appears like the bird would not have flown had it not been for the breeze that blew. Only the unsuspecting observer makes that determination.

The application appears crystal clear in the Liberian situation regarding the Taylor state of emergency. Sooner or later he was going to declare it. Only a little bit of excuse was needed. This time LURD was the breeze required to launch the state of emergency. To unsuspecting observers like the CPP, the action is welcomed. In other words, the CPP understands and accepts Taylor’s action. How can a group of political minds demonstrate such naïveté? I know one of the questions you may be contemplating is what, Mr. Smart Guy, would you have us to do? The man (Taylor) has got to defend the civilian population from the harm of war. The problem with this civilian defense reasoning is that it underscores the shortness of our, perhaps I should say their memory - the memory of the CPP. I ask them this, when did Charles Taylor become concerned about civilian lives? Is this not the same Taylor who intentionally prolonged the civil war long beyond reasonable length just to ensure that he got the upper hand to take the presidency? Where were these politicians? Or do they not remember? More than 250,000 lives were destroyed in Taylor’s initiated war. What level of protection did he extend to those people? Better yet, fast forward to now, since he became President, what notable development has he undertaken to advance the welfare of the civilian population? Have the civilians who have worked gotten paid? Are the roads paved? Is the country electrified? Yes, I know that his compound and those of his associates are fenced and electrified. Is the drinking water safe? Does the University of Liberia have a functioning science laboratory? What about chairs for students? Are human and constitutional rights protected? Did Sam Dokie and family get a fair trial? Is there aspirin for a sick child? Don’t bother answering because I know the answers. I know that the bird flew not because the breeze blew, but because it wanted to fly at that time.

The CPP statement gets better. The statement expressed the “hope that the action would not be for witch-hunting, but one executed within the framework of the Constitution”. Are these people serious? Where have they been for the past decade? Please have someone wake them up. Better yet, have someone read to them the latest news coming from Liberia since the state of emergency was declared.

My absolute favorite is “they continue to welcome the Government’s intent to hold a National Reconciliation Conference”. If by now they surmise that my thoughts are pessimistically skewed, they probably are right. I happen to think that if these politicians want to remain dry, they need to stay out of the rain. If they must walk in the rain, they must take a raincoat or an umbrella. If they walk consistently without protection in the rain, they will get wet consistently. There is therefore no reason to blame the rain. For the rain is doing only what the rain does best, to get things wet. There is another way to look at this matter if they cannot relate to the way just stated. If a snake bits you twice, be cautious around a shaking bush. If, however, the same snake bits you twice, flee if you see a worm because that snake might be in disguise. I don’t have the patience to go through the records, but search the empirical data and you will find that Taylor cannot be trusted. He is a smart man, don’t get me wrong, but trusting him is not a smart thing to do. Seek and you will find the numerous times he signed, not have someone sign, but he signed documents leading to the cessation of violence during the warring years and he turned around and renounced all. He uses these conferences and meetings to buy time to implement his protocol. He does not understand negotiations, and compromise, to him, is a weakness. These concepts are contrary to Taylor’s nature. I do not advocate war; neither do I support the conflict currently in northwestern Liberia. I understand that the real victims are those not fighting or being fought. The real victims are the ordinary Liberians from whom peace has been hijacked since the rice riot in 1979.

What then must we do? I support incessantly keeping Taylor’s feet warm, if not hot. According to remarks he made while still using Gbarnga as a rebel base and the seat of his Government, Liberia has all the human and natural resources it needs to develop itself, and that we did not need any outside help. Now he is the Supreme Being in Liberia. He wanted the National Strategic Commodities Act, which gives him total control over all of Liberia’s resources for all generations. He did not get it, but he took it. That is an awesome responsibility without any checks and balances. So Taylor has the ability and the resources. Let him do the job. No excuses. You can attend all the conferences physically possible, but what good is it if the resolutions arising from them stand no chance of being honored? You don’t have to listen to me, look up the records.

The way to take Taylor to task is not to go to war with him because if necessary, and it is necessary to him, he’ll fight to the very last living man and child in order to preserve his power. It reminds me about a Liberian story concerning a spider. It states that once a spider was charged, judged and found guilty of a crime. His punishment was death either by drowning or by fire. The spider cried out to the best of its ability pleading for death by fire. The judge reasoned that if the spider wants death by fire, it must dread death by drowning. Therefore the judge decided to assign the punishment the spider appeared to dread - death by drowning. Naturally, the spider was pleased internally realizing that there is a way out. All along, the spider wanted death by drowning because it provides an escape to safety. The LURD effort plays in Taylor’s backyard. It gives him the excuse to circumvent responsibility for the failures of his Government since his election. By stating that he does not want war is to affirm that war provides him an opportunity to clean house.

The best way to take Taylor to task, I think, is to keep the pressure on him in the international arena, consistently holding up his record to the world for public scrutiny. People need to know what he did as a warlord. The world needs to know how what he said as a warlord and later as a politician jive with what he did and does do. His human rights and constitutional rights violations records need to be made public. His record as President needs to come under scrutiny. The pressure does take its toll. We must push forward for elections as scheduled. The United Nations must be brought into the picture to oversee the election process because Taylor’s record does not give him credibility to conduct a free and fair election. This is the way to handle Taylor. If Taylor did half of what he took the Presidency to do, LURD would have no ground to draw fighters to their cause. The Liberian people are not stupid. Human endurance reaches, eventually, a critical mass after which nothing matters. So let the CPP revisit the drawing board.

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