Freedom's Flame: It's Growing!

By Alvin J. Teage

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 10, 2002

Alvin J. Teage
In almost every other race of animals each individual, when it is grown up to maturity, is entirely independent, and in its natural state has occasion for the assistance of no other living creature. But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren... He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. [I]t is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater... good ...which we stand in need of. [Generally] It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776).

Democracy-in-action has never been the exclusive act of one person. The tree of history teaches us that the road to freedom has been a long and rocky ride for most nation-states. Said another way, when faced with the evils of their time, patriots from their respective nation-state united their minds and made personal sacrifices for their national interest. This shows that there are precedents for the issues confronting Liberia.

As Africa's oldest republic, Liberia should have one of the best democracies that others could look to for guidance. However, as you are aware, democracy-in-action was (arguably) short-lived in Liberia. This is unacceptable because Liberians are gifted; therefore, think of what could be achieved with democracy-in-action: every inhabitant within our borders will have full and equal benefits of the constitution and laws of Liberia; no person shall be above or below the law; and, within reason, every Liberian will live life as he or she sees fit. This could happen in a reasonable time, but we must work together because Liberia is bleeding.

The recent acts of human rights abuses being committed against Liberians from the Mandingo ethnic group can come as no surprise to those who have been watching the flagrancy with which, Charles G. Taylor is dismantling Liberia's constitution. But it is still distressing to see Charles Taylor ignore the teachings of democracy and subject Liberians to violent human rights abuses, simply because he wants to prolong his rulership.

Less than five months ago, the world saw with dismay the catalog of terror Charles Taylor's agents inflicted on Counselor Tiawan Gongloe; however, Liberians in the Diaspora took no collective action to cage Taylor's madness. Now Taylor is repeating the only thing he does best: terrorizing our sisters and brothers. But thanks to the brave works of a few individuals, the world has learned the names of four of Taylor's recent victims: journalist Hassan Bility, Ansumana Kamara, Mohammad Kamara, and Sheikh Sackor. These Liberians are being illegally detained and tortured by Charles Taylor; this is unacceptable!

Because of Taylor's ruthless record, one cannot help but ask: how many other illegally detained and tortured Liberians the world has yet to learn of, and who is going to be Taylor's next "unlawful combatant"? When Charles Taylor uses words like "unlawful combatant" to describe an obviously noncombatant Liberian, he is really announcing his continued crusade to capitalize on the covers of sovereignty, which allows him to accomplish by deception what he could not achieve by lawful means. So how many Gongloes, Bilities, Kamaras, and Sackors must fall victims to Taylor's games before Liberians in the Diaspora take collective actions!

In these trying times, any effort by a Liberian or group of Liberians geared toward leading us forward should be supported. We are, therefore, encouraged that the National Civil Right Movement has organized a September 16th demonstration outside the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC, to call more attention to the violent human rights abuses being committed against our people. We are further encouraged that this demonstration will comprise Liberians and friends of Liberia who believe that it is important for freedom lovers to take collective action against criminals the international community sees as "government officials".

On the other hand, we would be careless not to address an issue that has crossed the minds of a few Liberians: "This looks like an ethnic issue, so it does not affect me." This line of thinking is terrible. Human rights abuses committed against any Liberian should not be viewed as such. Know that in matters concerning the conducts of Taylor's rulership, the NPFL-NPP only sees one "tribe"; its membership comprises Liberians Charles Taylor views as a threat to his rulership. For example, if one studies our recent history, one would see that a few Liberians were once positioned to act against officially sponsored abuses that were being committed against other Liberians. Rather, they connived because they believed the victims were from different tribes, or because the evils were not at their doorsteps. Well, just look around and you will see a few of these Liberians; they are refugees just like us. The message to be learned therefore is: one sure way to experience the reciprocal-touch of evil is to sit and do nothing when human rights abuses are being committed against another Liberian. Moreover, to see the violent human rights abuses being committed against our brothers and sisters as anything other than a Liberian issue would encourage Charles Taylor to continue his gamesmanship with our people's lives. But unlike his yes-men, we cannot condone Taylor's regime of lawlessness, where an individual is only protected if he or she has relations with the NPFL-NPP.

So given the inherent danger associated with inaction, we will attend the September 16th protest outside the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC, but not as representatives of a specific ethnic group. Rather, as Liberians who are fed up with the human rights abuses being committed against our Liberian brothers and sisters. As a result, we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others knowing that we are not only protesting for Hassan Bility, Ansumana Kamara, Mohammad Kamara, Sheikh Sackor, and other illegally detained Liberians, but also:

· For that Liberian girl who instead of being forced to sell her innocence just to feed her family, should be focused on her education;

· For that Liberian boy who instead of fighting Taylor's war for profit, should be focused on his education;

· For that elderly Liberian woman who instead of being in a refugee camp, should be in her house enjoying the fruits of her labor;

· For that elderly Liberian man who instead of spending wet nights in the bushes, should be in his house spending time with his grandkids;

· For that Liberian who instead of going to bed with the pain of hunger, should have access to affordable food;

· For that Liberian who is paining because of an untreated, common illness;

· For that Liberian child in the Diaspora who has yet to see Liberia because of Taylor's madness;

· For that Liberian in the Diaspora who worked hard to climb the Liberian ladder only to have it decimated;

· For the 10,000 plus Liberians who are having sleepless nights wondering whether President George W. Bush would grant an extension of their Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) by September 29, 2002.

· For the lives being lost, the subhuman conditions facing our people, and the dreams being denied;

· For that...

Just think about it: would Charles Taylor treat Hassan Bility, Ansumana Kamara, Mohammad Kamara, Sheikh Sackor, and other illegally detained Liberians differently if they were from the Liberianada ethnic group? We owe it to those at home and future Liberian generations to see to it that every Liberian has the right to freedom, regardless of ethnic affiliation. So, although the past months have brought distressing reports of violent human rights abuses, the exodus of Liberians, international disrepute, and other acts chiefly because of Charles Taylor's lawlessness and a lack of firm actions by the opposition, our shared resolve for freedom and democracy must remain.

Moreover, Liberia is the only home we have, so we cannot allow the Light of our life to be covered by darkness. Accordingly, as you free your schedule to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others on September 16, 2002, outside the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC, let me conclude with some of the patriotic words brother Nvasekie N. Konneh wrote to me in January of 2001: "Despite all that have gone wrong, let's keep the flame of resistance growing so that one day our nation will be truly liberated and delivered."

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