The Year 2002 in Liberia
By Abdoulaye W. Dukule
January 2, 2001
The year 2001 was very eventful in our country. The greatest event of course is the imposition of the UN travel ban sanctions on the entire government of our country for the first time in our history. The New Year opens with a new list of the same travel ban. The President, the Vice-President, The Minister of Foreign Affairs are all confined in Monrovia. Extended state of claustrophobia and paranoia can lead to madness.
The great winners of this 2001 are Counselors Marcus Jones and Ishmael Campbell, the lawyers who stayed in jail and suffered martyrdom until the dictatorship freed them. They refused to apologize to a House that is but a shadow of kleptomaniac gang that calls itself government. Clemency of the president, say papers in Monrovia.
The palm of stupidity goes to Cyril Allen, the Con artist turned politician. After his schemes in the 1980s, he is now the spokesperson of the NPP. His head is always in the clouds and he blurs out stupidities and then he dashes out thousands of dollars to each newspaper to carry out his inconsistent parleys. He knows no difference between communism and capitalism and accuses one or the other for the ills of Liberia. He said that in 2003, the government will fire all corrupt officials. That sounds good. But who would fire him and his boss? He is an embarrassment to even the NPP. Taylor should get rid of him. We really don't care how.
The best picture of the year is of course the one of the president canning his daughter on the desk of the teacher at her school, in the presence of all to see. A picture is worth a million words.
Why LURD may not be a good replacement for Taylor and his gangs. They want everybody to be disarmed when they reach Monrovia, except 3,000 of their men who would maintain security. I say no, thanks. Because someone still has to prove that LURD fighters are different from the ULIMO and NPFL fighters who set Monrovia on fire in April 1996 or that Charles Julu has become a different person since his days of PRC/NDPL. No thanks. Besides, we still have to know who is really behind LURD. We see press releases on the web and we hear people on Radio-Monrovia in London (that would be BBC). But who is that leader? I don't want to see another gang of 3000 bloodthirsty gun-totting teenagers roaming the country and pretending to have liberated us from Taylor. It sounds too much like Taylor claiming credit for freeing us from Doe. Don't some of you miss Doe and his stupidity today. Or does anyone remember when people dance in the streets when Master-Sergeant Samuel said that he came to redeem Liberia from 100 years of autocracy? Don't some of you miss Tolbert and his corrupt family? No, thanks LURD, we have learned our lessons. It seems very improbable that Guinea would let them reach Monrovia, anyway.
The other wrong solution would be a military coup with a corporal or a general taking over Liberia and taking us again on a long ride. Whoever comes through the guns would have to be removed through the guns. There might not be anybody to shoot the last person in line. President Tubman did well for himself. He created a presidency that was so powerful that it only rivaled the powers of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, his good ol’ friend. The Liberian presidency is so rewarding that those who got near it want no other job. This explains why every politician wants to be president and Taylor would not let anyone near the throne as long as he is alive.
After Taylor accused Guinean President Conteh of harboring and aiding Liberian dissidents to stay in power, one can expect fireworks at the next Mano River Summit, if it ever takes place. Conteh will not meet Taylor, that's for sure. If such a meeting was to take place, where would it?
Taylor and Abacha of Nigeria had something in common. They don't use banks. They like to keep stash of cash. After Abacha died, his family tried to take some of the money out of the country. They filled suitcases with US $100 notes but were stopped before they could get on the plane. Taylor believes in cash and stones, as in diamonds. He has lot of it in his various mattresses and safes. There is a bunker under any of his houses filled with cash and diamonds.
Did the Speaker attempt to impeach Taylor? That could have been the source of his troubles. He was almost thrown in jail for stealing government money on the pretense of travel. We all heard about the problems with his degree from Columbia University. And everything evaporated overnight. There is a good reason why he did not go to Burkina Faso to attend the parliamentary meeting. At the time, Blaise was looking for possible alternatives to his pal Taylor. Dumping a friend is no problem for Blaise. He dumped and buried his childhood friend Thomas Sankara. Never mind that he wants to build a memorial for him. Taylor too wanted to build a memorial for Samuel Doe. But that was for Nancy who really didn't care that much for "Sammy" by the time he died. As for the Speaker, the fact that his name is not on the travel ban list issued by the UN could come back to haunt him. In Monrovia, those who are off the travel ban list are all suspects.
As if they didn't have enough work in Monrovia, Ministers and government officials and the few business people left in Monrovia now have to travel to Artington to meet with the president. Claustrophobia is getting to the president. He used to travel from Monrovia to South Africa and Libya in the same breath but now all he can do is enlarge his perimeter around Monrovia. I propose that he extend his perimeter to Lofa and build a mansion in Vahun. While there, he can also build a memorial for the Senegalese soldiers his child soldiers butchered in 1992. At least, if General Guei had managed to stay in power, the two could have traveled back and forth between Monrovia and Abidjan. The Ivorian president has no sympathy for rebels.
Anyone remembers Wilton Sankawulo? He was professor of English at the University of Liberia and speechwriter for Samuel Doe? Alhaji Kromah and Charles Taylor hired him in 1995 to head the Council of State II. He is now resurfacing in politics, calling on Ellen and Sawyer to stop badmouthing the government. He quotes Churchill, saying: "democracy is not the best form of government but the best we got." Like Tubman said...
How low can one sink. I wonder if Sankawulo ever built that road he promised to his old neighborhood in Monrovia. He was the only man in history to make Abacha laugh in public when he said that he had left ECOMOG base to move to Taylor's house because Taylor was the kindest man anyone could find. Mr Sankawulo continued: "I have no aspiration for seeking political office. Mr. Taylor's enemies have engaged in a massive propaganda campaign against Mr Taylor to destroy him. I've been accused of being a stooge and being in Mr. Taylor's pocket - Mr. Taylor is a generous man. I remain a political ally of Mr. Taylor for security reasons because during the April 6 incident, it was Mr. Taylor who protected me. Taylor is a military giant, ha ha ha". This was in Abuja in September 1996 and that was his last speech. Later that day, he cornered me and asked what I thought of his speech. I told him that he had just lost his job.
A friend asked me how I could tell that education at the University of Liberia was sub-standard when I said Dr. Ben Roberts had just sent about 1000 semi-literate kids in the street. I was there in 1998. I took over Joe Mulbah's journalism classes when he traveled. I had to make up the notes, buy paper and make photocopies for the students. I had to buy chalk on Broad Street. I had to bring a stack of paper for the students. There were no textbooks and Joe Mulbah was lucky because on his travels, he managed to buy a few books. Half of the kids in the classes had no chair. The lucky ones had to carry their seats from one building to another. There was no light and teachers were not getting paid. Of course, there were always a few nicely dressed people who paid young kids to carry chairs for them from one class to another. The library was in the same state it was in when we cleaned it in 1991, removing human remains and burned books. Evening classes met only for twenty minutes. Call that a university?
The President said he never promised to bring light and water to Monrovia. Of course, it was just campaign speech. We won't hold it against him. Politicians have to make promises to get elected. He blames the international community for not giving him the money. What happened to all the money from Taiwan, Libya and OTC? I heard he is about to drown OTC, with Baccus Matthews along. If I were Baccus, I would move into one of those villas in Abidjan. Falling kings take as many heads as they can. The warning goes for Fred Bass too. He knows too much about the president nightly escapades.
The NPFL had some good men and women, if there could be any people in a rebel organization. Momolu Sirleaf, my cousin, was the only one brave enough to tell Taylor in Abuja in 1996 that he had no choices but go along with the decisions ECOWAS took on Liberia and that everybody was not for sale. He lost his job to Monie Captan, who got there through his mother and the daughter of Grace Minor. Grace Minor is the most influential person in the government and Monie Captan is our Minister of Foreign Affairs therefore whatever happens between them is a national issue. Others say he represents Lebanese interests, but that's not true. His real first work for Taylor was to serve as public relations officer for General Bowen who, at point, accepted Taylor's offer to lead the Council of State.
There was Lavela Supuwood, the human rights lawyer, now a refugee in Guinea. Amara Essy, the current secretary general of the OAU and former minister of foreign affairs of Cote d'Ivoire once said that if there were three people like Suppuwood in the NPFL, something good could come out of Gbarnga. Unfortunately, he left and was replaced by Francis Garlawulo. Mr. Garlawulo was recently in the US. Though he did not meet with Liberians residing in Atlanta, he claims to have told them to be patriotic like the Americans. Mr. Garlawulo also claims that he briefed Liberians in Atlanta about development projects undertaken by the Taylor regime. Many Liberians in Atlanta say perhaps all this happened in Mr. Garlawulo’s dream because there was no such meeting.
There was Agnes Taylor. I remember her from the University. She was so sweet and so smart and with her eyes on the ball. She had a plan for the NPFL and dreamed of a different type of Liberia. Grace Minor managed to kick her out of the Taylor Mansion and bring in Victoria Refell. Taylor himself said that people like him cannot marry women like Agnes. "The lady is too smart, too independent and too strong."
There was Samuel Dokie. Mandingo people didn't like him much because he killed so many of our people in Nimba when he headed NPFL death squads in Lofa and Nimba villages in 1990. He was a confused man. The day before the trip he would never return from, we met for a drink in Monrovia. I thought he was now taking a big risk by coming home and traveling up the country. He said that he had received assurances from "the Chief" and that they had a meeting planned upon his return from Nimba. I reminded him that a year earlier, in his room at Mamba Point Hotel, he had told me that either he kills Taylor or Taylor would kill him. He said: "Well, Duke, I can't spend my life running. I spent the best part of my life running. Now I am tired, this is it for me. If Taylor thinks he can gain anything by killing me, let him go ahead."
That was the NPFL we knew but the new one with the Cyril Allen and others? I remember the first time Cyril Allen attended a meeting. It was in Cotonou. He was chain smoking and Brownie Samukai threatened to beat him up if... He took a sit in the back of the room. The next time I saw him, he was head of the National Investment Commission. He had his head in the clouds, as usual.
The cases of two former African presidents come my mind as I write this. Macias N'Guema was president of Portuguese Guinea. He got himself voted President-for Life. He was always locked-up in his house, hardly going anywhere. Whenever he called cabinet meetings, it was for his ministers to come and listen to him speaking for two hours. He liked young and younger girls. Ministers kept their wives and daughters out of sight. His nephew overthrew him. After a few months with doctors treating him, he admitted that he had no idea how sick he was. He had an acute form of malaria that causes delirium and he smoked marijuana all day long.
The other example is Kabila. He was in the bush, fighting on and off for decades. He rendered services to all "liberation" movements in Zimbabwe, in Angola and was even in Liberia during Octopus in 1992 and was stationed in Kakata. He too loved young and younger women. He loved new clothes and cars. He loved diamonds and cash. He carried a lot of it everywhere he went. His collaborators kept their wives and daughters out of his sight. He signed contract with companies before becoming president. When he was shot, nobody missed him.
In April 1990, at the first inter-factional meeting in Lome, Togo, Taylor said that all he wanted was to be president for one day. Of course, once he gets in the chair, you would have to kill him. Sawyer told him that the presidency of Liberia belonged to the people of Liberia and that he should go to them to earn it through the ballot box. He said that he owed lot of money to lot of people. Sawyer said all that could be taken care of, if he went along with the ECOWAS peace plan. He asked Sawyer how much he could pay him to step aside... the meeting broke up.
We have a serious problem. The issue is not whether we need a new leader or not, but rather if we need a new national structure so that we never ever again have to deal with a president like Tubman, Tolbert, Doe and Taylor. We need deep structural changes in our political system. But first we have to move from here.
The problem we have had so far is to look at the problem of Taylor from a political standpoint. This is a matter that belongs in the criminal justice system, or the mental health system. I don't advocate war crime tribunal because that involves the UN, Carter Center and ECOWAS, etc. A simple Criminal A court in Monrovia for murders on Dokie and family, rape and murder on the nuns, first degree attempted murder of Sawyer and Wesseh, rape of as many girls as we can get to come forward and theft of national funds. Why would we want to spend $40 million to put a gang on trial? That money could help us get water and electricity and a new constitution where the president does not have the power to appoint superintendents and assistant ministers.
From the religious aspect, Christians know that Taylor and his gang break every single one of the 10 Commandments. They lie. They steal. They kill. They commit adultery. They cheat. The list goes on. The Muslims know that if Taylor stays for another term, he will house some of those bogus religious sects in our mosques. He has made a mockery of all the teachings of the Poro society, regarding honesty, respect for life and the environment, commitment to human goodness and respect for the elders.
Charles Taylor said he did not beat his wife Jewel Howard currently in the US for medical reasons. He said they are very happy together and that she only has a minor heart problem. She has had a heart problem from the day they got married. But we know Taylor abuses women. We all saw a picture of him humiliating his daughter in public. If he could cane his daughter in public, he could well get his wife spanked publicly just as he did it with his Vice-President Dogolea. Humiliating people is a way for him to show his strength. That may explain why Samuel Dokie and his family were sodomized before being butchered and barbecued. In a year or two, we will do an autopsy of the remains of Dogolea and find the truth about his death. We will also look into the death of Dr. Fofana ... DNA.
If Blaise Compaore and Mohamar Kaddafi can give up Taylor, so can we. Don't feel guilty or bad if you supported him at some point, we all did. He fooled many but we must not let him fool all of us all the time. We are better than this and we can do better than Taylor and his gang of thieves and murderers.
The year 2002 is about a choice. We must choose between Liberia and Taylor. Those who still love him should know that the country can't afford another year like 2001.
Happy New Year! God Bless Liberia!
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