Exploiting LURD's Military Gains

By Paul Japheth Sunwabe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted July 18, 2002

Once again, Liberia has imploded in another round of senseless civil war and thousands of Liberians are marching again into neighboring Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, where they will live in squalors and abject poverty until “Kingdom come”. In a May 2002 BBC interview, William Hanson, spokesman of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy [LURD] rebels pronounced a series of military success against the NPP Government of "Stone Age" Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. In that interview, Hanson noted that his group was after nobody else but President Taylor. "The only person we are after is Mr. Taylor,” Hanson told BBC Focus on Africa on May 5th, 2002.

But as Hanson and LURD try to get rid of President Taylor, the West African “con artist” is out to exploit the rebels’ success for political gains: “The arms embargo and the government's inability to fully cater to the economic and social well-being of its citizens warrant the declaration of a state of emergency…The state of emergency will be lifted only when circumstances which warranted this action are removed.” Those were the words of President Taylor when he declared “a state of emergency” and outlawed all political rallies in Liberia on February 8th of this year.

It is no secret that there exists in Liberia today a rebel force known as the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, LURD. In fact, the rebels and the Liberian Government have been at loggerheads since Taylor turned Liberia into his “personal property”, following the disgraceful ECOWAS monitored Liberian Presidential and Congressional elections of 1997. However, the imposition of a “state of emergency”, especially the banding of all political rallies raise serious questions about the oppressive Taylor regime’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law in Liberia. Pundits and some NPP partisans believe that President Taylor and his cohorts, particularly the upper ruling echelon of the NPP are using LURD’s presence to subvert the already dubious “Taylor-Liberian democracy”. It is now rumored in Monrovia’s political circle, particularly among a few intrepid college students that by invoking the “state of emergency”, Taylor wants to postpone the 2003 Liberian Presidential election indefinitely. This is so because Taylor is not confident that he will win the 2003 election. The rumors and apprehensions hovering above the political clouds of Monrovia are not totally unfounded. Belatedly, a minister of the NPP-led government who requested anonymity has been speaking about the state of affairs in Liberia to Freedom and International Justice Foundation; a Washington DC based multi-racial organization seeking social justice, democracy and economic reforms in Africa. According to the minister, President Taylor and the NPP have no intentions to host Presidential or Congressional elections in 2003. “If Satan ran against President Taylor in 2003, the Liberian people will select the devil over Mr. Taylor. It is that bad…the people have no faith in his ability to lead, but he is determined to keep this country in bondage” says an NPP Government Minister who spoke with dejection and angst.

In Taylor’s Liberia where free speech is banned and censorship is the national policy of the government, skeptical government officials are now agog to offer clandestine opinions on the deteriorating state of affairs in the country. So, the NPP Government Minister took full advantage of the opportunity granted him by Freedom and International Justice Foundation and went on denouncing his boss-dictator Taylor: “The Kakata attack was mysterious and disturbing… the same vehicle used by the attackers was the same vehicle used by the ATU when they claimed to have recaptured Kakata”.

This author is not surprised at all; Taylor is a master “con artist” who will use lies and dubious means to cling onto power. Note that during the early days of his war of avarice, he repeatedly announced military victories even when the evidence overwhelming showed that his notorious NPFL forces were under pressure from the combined forces of ECOMOG, AFL, ULIMO-J and, of course, Alhaji Kromah’s ethnic cleansing squad, ULIMO-K. Nowadays, Taylor is using the LURD rebel movement as an excuse to deny the Liberian people their constitutional rights. Everything that has gone wrong in Taylor’s Liberia is blamed on LURD. When the government failed to pay civil servants for twelve months, it was attributed to LURD’s presence in Lofa, Bomi, and Bong counties. Even the millions of dollars stolen out of Liberia on a weekly basis by Taylor and his carefully handpicked cronies, are all blamed on the LURD rebels. I guess the Taylor Government will also blame LURD’s forces for the death of Samuel Dokie, former Vice President Enoch Dogolea, and our innocent Krahn brothers and sisters who were slaughtered on Camp Johnson Road by Taylor’s ATU forces in 1998. Taylor’s lists of blame shifting are endless: LURD terrorists, an anti Taylor-international campaign led by the USA and Great Britain, the lazy Liberian people, the reputable Perspective Magazine, and Liberian-Americans. As far as Taylor is concerned, the mentioned organizations, countries and individuals are responsible for the economic ruination now commonplace in Africa’s oldest republic.

But Taylor has one major problem: he is a career liar. Nobody trusts, or believes anything the career liar has to say nowadays. Even un-repented Taylor-loyalists like Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Congressman Donald Payne are now fed up with Taylor’s insolence, says a US-Congressional employee. Besides, the NPP Minister saw it this way: “He has lied and deceived everyone… because of his lies, there are no more sympathetic ears out there for us. He promised to abide by the rule of law and reneged on his promise. We were going to end all ties with RUF, but that did not happen. Our NPP tragedy is Taylor’s notorious reputation. Believe me my son it is tough…some of us do not believe in the chief any longer, but our hands are tied.”

If Taylor’s own minister does not believe in his ability to tell the truth, then who will believe Taylor? I guess Cyril Allen, Lewis Brown, and Reginald Goodridge will. Taylor’s penchant for lies and his obsession with excuse are known internationally. As of late, the BBC, the Washington Post, and the Associate Press have all cast serious doubts on Taylor’s recent proclamation regarding the war along the Liberian-Guinean border. In a May 2002 interview with the BBC, Reginald Goodridge, the government’s chief propagandist told the Liberian people that LURD had suffered serious military setbacks in Lofa, and was on the verge of defeat. President Taylor himself told the world in early June that his gallant ATU [Anti Terrorists Unit] forces have encircled LURD and it was only a matter of days before the rebels were defeated. Again, June came and went by, but there were no NPP military victory in sight. In fact, James Brabazon of the photojournalism agency Camerapix tells us that LURD has been in firm control of Tubmanburg in Bomi Country since May 11. On the politically sensitive issue of harassment, intimidation, killings of innocent men and women, Brabazon asserts that LURD and the civilians residing in their control areas have very good relations. So, who exactly is carrying out the acts of terrorism that Taylor’s pathetic [allaboutliberia.com] likes to talk about? Well, the jury is still out on this one. So, this author will hold his peace until total peace and stability are restored to Liberia.

Bear in mind that I am in no way placating or supporting LURD. Rather, I am sharing light on the desperation of the pariah regime in Monrovia and its ability to exploit LURD’s military campaign for selfish political gains. The Taylor regime’s preoccupation with lies, excuses, and blame shifting is shameful, and bespeak of the political chicanery that lies at the heart of Liberian politics. Instead of denouncing LURD and holding the group responsible for the current Liberian conundrum, Taylor and his legions of evil should ask themselves the essential questions: what did we do wrong? How have we failed the Liberian people? Why have the ATU replaced the Armed Forces of Liberia? Why is Taylor’s personal security prioritized over the security of the Liberian people? What happened on September 18th 1998? Why did LURD resort to arm rebellion? And, of course, why does the international community hates Mr. Taylor? If careful attention is devoted to the above listed questions, than Liberia will be on her way to genuine reconstruction and reconciliation. But, Taylor will never travel down this route. As his minister stated, he is determined to bury Liberia in the abyss of poverty.

As James Brabazon indicated in his July 2nd BBC report, LURD is making steady and predictable military gains against Mr. Taylor and his ATU forces. But this does not mean that the end of Mr. Taylor’s rein of terror is in sight. In fact, many military analysts and practitioners of international affairs believe that LURD does not have the military capability to uproot Mr. Taylor. Meanwhile, Taylor is back at his old tricks: the detention of his political rivals, the incarceration of journalists, and the use of threats as tools of intimidation. As for the laughable state-controlled Liberian media institutions, they are now preoccupied with the dissemination of lies. Additionally, the criminal state-controlled media runs a cheap propaganda campaign for the convicted felon, con artist, turned President of the now bastardized Republic of Liberia. For the few intrepid Liberian journalists who do not support the notoriously refractory Liberian dictator, it is business as usual: false accusations, beatings, unwarranted arrests and intimidation. If you have been following the painful story of our dear brother Hassan Bility, then you know exactly what this author is talking about. What this means for Liberians abroad and at home, and the entire West African sub-region is that more troubles are ahead. As long as Taylor continues to deny Liberians the right to live, be freed in their own country, and to appreciate democratic governance, LURD will continue to fight. As long as the international community continues to allow Taylor to control the Liberian Maritime Program, cut Liberia’s virgin forest and sell the logs to France, China, and Taiwan, Taylor will have access to arms and other sophisticated projectiles that will be used to prolong his rein of terror in Liberia.

Events in Liberia do not have to follow this path. Liberians residing in Africa, Europe, and America can do a whole lot to help liberate our country. For example, those of us residing in the USA can push for a UN indictment against Liberian warlords for the crimes committed against humanity in Liberia. Such an indictment should take the Yugoslavian approach that calls for the indicted persons to be prohibited from participating in future political activities. Indicted Liberian warlords should experience similar fate like their Yugoslavian counterparts. However, if this will become a reality, Liberians must take the lead in writing the UN Security Council, the President of our historical friend, the United States of America, and sympathetic congressmen and senators, demanding a UN tribunal for Liberia. This has been done for other countries in the past, and it can be done for Liberia too. But, with our opportunistic political leaders and journalists bent on hosting conferences that only insulate and placate murderer like Alhaji G. V. Kromah, this call will fall on death ears. But this does not mean that those of us who are upset about the deplorable state of affairs in Liberia should abandon the struggle. Our determination and our voices can make a difference. Until we as Liberians can come to the realization that we need a tribunal to try Taylor, Kromah, Boley, among others, Liberia will never see genuine peace, security, freedom, and democracy. Worst of all, the nefarious and belligerent regime of Monrovia will continue to exploit LURD’s legitimate military campaign for political gains.

About the author: Paul Japheth Sunwabe is a co-founder and President of Freedom and International Justice Foundation; a Washington DC based political organization seeking social justice, democracy and economic reforms in Africa.

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