Happy Anniversary, NPFL!

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective

December 24, 2001

It was exactly 12 years ago that Liberians and West Africans came to believe that a group of Nimba warriors led by Charles G. Taylor was launching a revolution to liberate Liberia from the military dictatorship of Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe. In certain quarters in Monrovia, people danced and sipped champagne. As the war moved towards the capital, it became evident that the killing spree and destruction of property of "Chucky" and his evil army was not just targeting Doe and his men, but would kill and burn everything on its way. The rest, whatever happened to the “good intentions” and dreams that started the "revolution" has since been buried under ashes. No Christmas has since been the same in Liberia.

After 12 years of killing and destruction, it seems that we are far from seeing the end of the tunnel. In 1989, many thought that Doe was so bad that anything would be an improvement. Now it is hard to imagine the difference. Again, there is another war of liberation going on in Liberia. Unlike the NPFL war, this has not attracted scores of teens and has not gained much popularity with the people. The reason for the skepticism is simple: Liberians are weary of "liberations". Doe proved to be much worse than Tolbert. Taylor made Doe look like an angel. And who knows what the new group is bringing?

This is about the NPFL and its 12 years of existence. The leaders would be proud of their accomplishment. Breaking from jail in US and becoming President ten years later? Only in Liberia!

From a mere 60 trained men, the army grew into a wild bush fire that overtook the whole country and in a matter of six months, defeated an army that had received close to $500 million dollars in American aid money.

The NPFL attacked on December 24 1989. By July 1990, Taylor was in Monrovia. Nobody believed in Doe by the time the war broke up. His army was demoralized and his political circle was corrupt. Nobody wanted to die for him. There was nothing but greed. And the regime fell like a paper castle when all its leaders ran away, securing their families in Maryland or Philadelphia. Today, those who made Doe the mad and corrupt leader he had turned into are the same ones today working under Taylor. They have managed to create the same atmosphere of lies and deceit, finding a friendly ear in a man who has now reduced his political ambitions to low personal greed. Together, they have managed to create a fertile ground for international banditry, where money laundering, arms and drug trafficking have become the way of business while human life has turns to be the most disposable commodity. This is about the NPFL anniversary...

Blaise Compaore has shifted? The greatest debate now in Liberian political circles - at least on the web - is about Burkina Faso. As usual in our politics, there seems to be very little analysis. I read an opinion piece by Brother H. Boima Fahnbulleh in the New Democrat. He seems upset about the fact that Liberian opposition is seeking help from Blaise to undermine Charles Taylor. Nobody can tell for sure if the Burkina President would really distance himself from Taylor. But one thing is certain, his national interests command him to take a new look at Liberia. If this distance weakens Taylor and takes him somewhere where Liberians get the best out of him, it should be welcome by all Liberians. Nobody has the monopoly of solutions in the Liberian crisis and anything that makes us move forward should be welcome. This is again about the NPFL anniversary...

Brother Boima makes a good point about Taylor. He knows how to use lies. One of the greatest lies of the Liberian war was about the relationship between Houphouet Boigny and Taylor. Taylor made everybody believe that Houphouet was his mentor. This was believable from a Liberian perspective, because of the close relationship between Houphouet and the Tolbert families. The fact is that Houphouet never met Taylor before the first meeting of the ECOWAS peace talks in Yamoussoukro.

Others in the Houphouet entourage worked with Taylor and made lot of money, facilitating his movements and even recruiting former soldiers for him. The prefect of Danane who worked closely with Taylor later became the Minister of National Security in Cote d'Ivoire while Robert Guei became Chief of Staff of the army. Boima is right in saying that Houphouet was old and he was also ill.

When the war started, the Ivorian government approached the US government to find out what they knew. For every one in Cote d'Ivoire, Doe was an American ally and therefore nothing serious could happen to him. Ivorians were told by the US embassy that the matter was watched closely from Washington and that it would be contained in Liberia. Cohen went to Abidjan and re-assured everyone that the crisis would be contained and that there would be no spillover in Cote d'Ivoire. There was a powerful pro-Taylor lobby at the time working the corridors of power in Washington D.C. In March 1991, the first African -American/African Summit of Dr. Sullivan was held in Abidjan and brought together every leader of the Black American community. Not a single word or speech was made about the Liberian war. Taylor manipulated IGNU with that lie because it prevented IGNU from attempting any constructive engagement with the Ivorians.

I went to Burkina Faso twice and met with President Compaore during the IGNU days. He did tell me that he would never let Taylor down. He said that Taylor was like a brother to him and that no matter what happens, he would help him. If he can help him personally and stop providing political help, so much the better for Liberia.

The man to convince in all of this would have been Kaddafi of Libya. It would have been a good thing if Brother Boima had added to the Sawyer/Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf efforts by going to Libya and talk to the Colonel. According to Kaddafi, long before Taylor, he had dealt with Boima. Instead of criticizing efforts by others, every one should try to weigh in where they can to end the nightmare. The problem in Liberian politics is - we have so many “experts” but a very few persons of actions...

It has been a long nightmare. Twelve years of killing and destruction. Twelve years of lies and manipulation. Now the anniversary will be celebrated somewhere in Monrovia, with champagne while the rest of the country goes to bed hungry.

Mr. Taylor, when briefing the Nigerian President, spoke of the killing and raping of the Liberian children. After 12 years of NPFL, can we count the dead and raped and put an end to it? Let's talk about rape. A grown man forcing himself on a 13 or 14 year-old girl that is rape, according to our laws. Let's talk about rape, Mr. President...

Liberian fighters in Sierra Leone are asked to return home. In 1993, in Cotonou, the IGNU delegation leader Philip A. Z. Banks made the point that unless the Sierra Leone crisis was dealt with at the same time we were solving the Liberian issue, the war would continue. The UN delegation, led by Gordon Summers said that they would take care of RUF.

Twelve years of NPFL. J. Bernard Blamo died here and was buried by friends and family. Former president of the University of Liberia, former minister of education, former minister of foreign affairs, an honorable man. On the day of his funeral, on Saturday December 22, there were four other Liberian funerals. So he did not get all the crowd and honors he deserved. He was buried however with honors, by those who loved him the most, family and friends. He sure would have loved to be buried at home. Well, since we all live here now, in this new part of Liberia, thanks to the NPFL. I still think we ought to all buy lands somewhere south and hold our own free and fair democratic elections - because there can be no free and fair elections under Charles Taylor in Liberia. Keep dreaming! On that, I agree with Brother Boima.

I was at the airport last night to meet a friend. I met another friend while waiting for the Ghana Airways flight. He thinks we should talk to Charles Taylor and tell him that nothing would happen to him if he decides to just leave the presidency and retire... I laughed and my friend asked why. "Taylor is not that stupid," I told him.

Air Burkina is bankrupt now because the Liberian government owes them so much money. Well, Blaise, you look for it. Taylor got out of jail, nobody knows how. He tricked every one, from Accra to Ouagadougou to Tripoli and now he his president. Lasse, manager of a small hotel in Abidjan, who provided rooms and service to Taylor and his men still has the gold watch Taylor gave him... The president still has to go back and redeem that watch. Air Burkina can wait... This is about the anniversary of the NPFL.

No more checkpoints in Monrovia? Watch out for the guy on the roof...

Counselor Wesseh, of the Liberian Mission at the UN died a few weeks ago. He is one of hundreds of people representing the NPP government around the world and not getting paid. How does this Taylor-man get people to work for him without paying them? What's wrong with us? Is this nationalism or what?

Theodore T. Hodge wrote here about a week ago, asking "Whose side you are on?" And wondering why Liberians don't revolt and throw the NPP regime out. Simple. Remember the rice riots of 1979? People have been deceived so many times, they are tired trying. See where Baccus Matthews is now? About Baccus Matthews, I can now reveal something he told me in Cotonou, in October 1992. He said that he never wanted to lead a social revolution nor be president. He says he is more a king maker than a king. When he spoke out in US against Tolbert, he was simply trying to get the money he thought government owed him. Before he knew it, people came around him, gave him money and a platform and he found himself in the forefront. He said all he wanted was his salary so he could buy a house and write a book... It is not too late. I think Baccus is very honest. He was simply taken too seriously too soon.

The most incredible thing that happened during the reign of the NPP is - the Supreme Court came back to impose a new sentence on people who had already been tried. The 13 Krahn men accused of conspiracy. Bai Gbala and others are now free. The others are still in jail. Roosevelt Johnson is on the run.

Tom Woewiyu spoke of cannibalism when he broke away from Taylor in 1994. Is this why he is not returning home? Has Pat Robertson learned about that? Isn’t that a good reason for him to disengage from his relationship with the Taylor regime?

This article was an attempt to write an anniversary paper of the NPFL. I am sure there are a lot of good writers in Monrovia now ready to pen down all the accomplishments of the NPP. The mass graves in Gbarnga; the torture chambers in Gbarnga and at the Executive Mansion; the five American nuns murdered by NPP; the new experimental marijuana and opium fields in Palala; the diamond mines; the hungry children; the dark alleys in Monrovia; and the little envelopes (crumbs from their boss) they receive after every three months.

I am tempted to write about the more than one 1000 kids to whom the University of Liberia handed diplomas last week. Congratulations. But guess what? There are no jobs. If you get one, there is no money to pay you. And by the way, how can you graduate with a degree in science and never having set foot in a lab? A generation of semi-literate is awaiting the next government. Just keep Ben Roberts on the ground to be Minister of Labor.

This is Christmas. Give thanks to the Lord. And remember the NPFL and Liberia and pray accordingly.

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