"I'll Use Dogs to Hunt
By Tom Kamara
December 8, 2000
A fascinating development in Liberia is that it is coming to terms with insecurity of the individual as a fact of life and a precondition for peace. "We want peace" was one of the hymns popular amongst disciples of candidate Charles Taylor during the 1997 elections with the hit "You killed my ma, you killed my pa (but) I will vote for you" as an unequivocal indicator of the willingness to accept terror in exchange for "peace."
The result is that some sort of Faustian peace now prevails. Since no one is safe, no one can complain. Friends and foes are falling apart as interests and objectives change. That Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, a former interim president who has been one of the few closet advisers to President Charles Taylor, can be flogged so mercilessly by paid thugs, is a clear message of the revolution devouring its children; no one is beyond the reach of paid thugs. "I will use dogs to hunt dogs", Taylor said following his election. Indeed the dogs are at work. There are therefore no surprises in the current wave of terror.
Taylor and his team are benefiting from the ingrained Liberian mindset of "me, myself, and I." Indications of the spread of terror against individuals suspected of being against the regime have been clear from the onset. Hundreds of imagined or real opponents have been "erased", to use the word now familiar with Taylor and his cronies. But the disappearances were accepted and justified because many of the victims were faceless unknowns.
When a group of former Ulimo-J fighters were kidnapped from Roberts International Airport and certainly "erased", Taylor concealed their death by planting a story that the men had reappeared in The Gambia. No one bothered to demand their physical presence as evidence that they were alive. After all, they were only Ulimo-J fighters, worst so Krahns, one of the condemned tribes that has been presented as Liberia's problem.
Alhaji Kromah of Ulimo-K has been shouting in the wilderness that a number of his followers arrested by the government have been killed. No one cared. No one bothered to ask questions. After all, they are only Mandingoes from Guinea, now Liberia's problem.
Dozens of bodyguards of the late Vice President Enoch Dogolea were reported arrested and executed following reports that the Vice President himself was savagely flogged and rushed to an Abidjan clinic where he died. No one in society cared. The President later appointed key opinion leaders, including church leaders, to investigate the circumstances under which the man died. He promised an autopsy to refute credible claims that he killed the man, but since then, there is no autopsy. The team of "wise men" investigators has not met. There is a 24-hour security posting on the man's public grave, the kind of security he did not receive when he was alive. Monrovia sources say Taylor's hoodlums fear the body could be exhumed by "enemies" for a secret autopsy.
A faceless man, who was a bodyguard to exiled opposition figure J. Laveli Supuwood, was hauled from his home at midnight while wailing for neighbors' non-available help and executed. His body was left in front of the house. Government promised to "investigate." The case was closed. No one cared. He was only a former fighter.
One of the key rebel commanders, the Krahn Mana Zekay, was executed in his neighborhood on allegations that he was an armed robber. Monrovians were happy even if there were clear indications that Taylor and his team feared such individuals in their midst and therefore killed him in cold blood. No one asked questions. Society was now at peace.
An employee at the Ministry of Finance was executed in his house because, according sources, he knew too much of the plunder instituted at the ministry by the President's cronies. No one asked questions. Another lower ranking official was publicly executed by Police, but there were no questions. There was normal business.
The body of a man was found in the ceiling of the Executive Mansion. The President's men said the man was electrocuted, but credible sources said otherwise. He was executed on suspicion of being an enemy. No questions were needed.
The major highlight in this culture of terror established during the war was the execution of over 600 Krahns, (the US State Department conservatively put the figure at 300) in September 1998. Many of the victims were women and children. The President's son commanded the troops that mowed down babies and women in heavily crowded Krahn neighborhoods. Monrovians were happy. Some opinion leaders, including church leaders, justified the killings. Roosevelt Johnson, the Krahn leader Taylor and Alhaji Kromah wanted to execute in 1996, should not have returned to Liberia, some said. Liberia was now the estate belonging to Taylor and his Americo-Liberian cronies. They decide who lives there. During the mayhem, 11 top Krahn military officers were arrested. Taylor satisfied Liberians when he said the men had attempted to escape. The US State Department said the men were arrested, taken on the outskirts of the city, tortured and executed.
State-sponsored crimes that the President frequently "condemns and promises to "investigate" but never include the execution of the Dokie family, four of them, by his bodyguards,; Madam Nowah Flomo, a women's pro-rights activist, etc.
The lucky ones in this campaign of terror were many. Journalist Al Jerome Chelly of Radio Monrovia narrowly escaped a kidnap ring organized by one of the President's henchmen, Cocoo Dennis. He later fled the country. Another journalist, covering the funeral of the Dokies was kidnapped and severely flogged. He later escaped following threats they were coming to "erase" him. Journalist Medina Wesseh, wife of Commany Wesseh who was hospitalized after the President's thugs severely flogged him, escaped rape after she was beaten. She fled the country. A vocal commissioner for the now dysfunctional state National Human Rights Commission was arrested by Police and severely beaten upon the orders of the late notorious Police Director Joe Tate. He fled the country. The director the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Kofi Woods, disguised himself with the help of foreigners to escape death following a brief visit. He fled the country and can never return.
These executions and disappearances are the ones occurring in Monrovia. Executions and disappearances in rural Liberia, where the President's security forces are lords unto themselves, are hardly reported. Dozens of Mandingos were tortured to death, forced to swallow broken bottles, by the President's security forces. When Mandingo students at the University of Liberia asked questions, the only ones to do so, they were accused, to the satisfaction of most, of fomenting "Islamic fundamentalism" in country that is a virtual Libyan colony.
But it is the hypocrisy covering this unmitigated terror that is troubling. For the sake of the record, one must provide examples. Dr. Sawyer, now the best known victim who now admits that there is peace in Liberia to be consolidated and that the country is not prepared for investment, has gone on record for previously making the following statements. 1) Human rights are not perfect anywhere, so no need to make noise about violations under Taylor, 2) Public security (during the reign of notorious Police Director Joe Tate) had improved, 3) Condition of Liberian children were not abnormal since conditions of children all over the Third Word were the same, 4) Taylor is not responsible for the abuses, but those around him, 5) Those depicting Liberia as a society ruled by terror are "gutter politicians not on the ground" to know the realities, which are totally different.
Dr. Sawyer said he did not know who organized and directed his flogging and looting of his offices. But said it was "well organized." Mr. Wesseh, his Executive Director of his Center for Democratic Empowerment, on the other hand said: "I know Taylor is behind this. Let him come and finish me. All I know this country is not for one person. Everything has an end"
Thus as friends fall apart, we may never know who actually sent the thugs to flog a former president if the victims themselves do not know. What is clear about the flogging is that it is just a glimpse of the unveiling of a well thought out plan that began during the war with the elimination of key African-Liberian politicians and professionals: Jackson F. Doe, Moses Doupu, Cooper Teah, Stephen Yekeson, the Cuttington linguist Dr. Saa Wongoh, Rep. Patrick Biddle, the Toweh brothers of Nimba, opposition leader Gabriel Gbolleh, and several others were all targeted not only because of their politics, but because of their origin.
In private conversations, Taylor's Americo-Liberian operatives such as Reginald Goodridge Pierre and Cooco Dennis have indicated they intend to settle more scores with those who caused the interruption of their dynasty in 1980. Exiled Senator Cllr. Charles Brumskine, as a loyal member of Taylor's team prior to the election, warned, "We must never forget the1970s and 1980s. We want out country back." The agenda is made evident by policies followed by actions. Yet, there are those Liberians who see "division" when such an agenda is discussed. They would prefer a culture of silence as this agenda is completed. By then, there will be no one to ask questions. There are enough native thugs for the final solution. Taylor said he would "use dogs to hunt dogs."
Once hypocrisy remains the norm, even after Taylor is "erased"
from the scene, there will be no security. The Sawyer flogging
confirms the truth that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
That's collective efforts against such abuses are needed even
if one is a temporary beneficiary. It could be your turn, and
there are enough dogs to hunt you down.