A Response to Mr. Hodge
By Tim Siklo
January 25, 2002
It was with great disappointment that I read Mr. Hodge's, "Open Letter to Tim Siklo and LDI" (http://www.theperspective.org/siklo_ldi.html), for the fact that it lacks basic understanding of the matters it comments on and shows a disregard for undertaking basic research or homework. For instance the author does not understand how the Foreign Service works and there was no time that I was second to the Ambassador or fired from the Embassy. The letter is full of inaccuracies, innuendoes, self-fabricated lies and unchecked hearsay. Furthermore, Mr. Hodge and I have met at least once since I left the Embassy over a year ago and he has called me at home at least twice, hence he could have checked out his information for accuracy before making them public. I am left wondering as to the true motive of Mr. Hodge: Is it the need for public notice or some other ulterior motive such as a 'disguised' apologist for the regime in Liberia?
The statement in question was LDI's and not Tim Siklo's, therefore any query should be directed to LDI as an organization and not to any individual member or officer of LDI. The statement is a collective representation of the views of the members of LDI.
I worked for the Liberian government - and not any particular party or political group - as a foreign service officer from 1992 to 2000, basically serving as political officer, Liberian community liaison officer and head of chancery among others. My duties involves advising the head of mission on matters relating to my functions, help in explaining Liberian government positions/policies etc. to the host country government (in this case the US government), Liberia nationals and the general public, and relaying their reactions, responses, views etc. back to the government through the Embassy. Foreign service officers are professionals or technocrats that deal with the relations between their country and other countries. They are not political operatives; the fact that a particular government may infuse it with its agents does not change the recognized role of the service. The ambassador is the only recognized political appointee at a post; hence his/her appointment is the only one that the host country has a final say on. He/she represents the head of state, the government and the country, of course including the people
I have been a Liberianist and an advocate/activist of Liberian issues since the 1970s. My record on anti-NPFL and pro-democracy activities during and after the civil war is well known in Cleveland, Ohio in ULAA and other Liberian civic organizations circles. An argument can be made that probably it was because of my activities in the Liberian community in Ohio (LACE and FOLAO), pro-democracy activities, educational qualification and experience at the foreign ministry that prompted the Sawyer administration to ask me to come to the Embassy in Washington. It was a very tough decision to make, whether I would put my skills where my mouth has been, whether I would make a sacrifice for my country or just criticize. I guess when I was criss-crossing the State of Ohio, organizing/holding activities in Cleveland, visiting the east coast in the interests of working with other Liberians in addressing the challenges facing Liberia, Mr. Hodge was busy having a jolly time to notice or participate in the local community association when we both lived in Cleveland, Ohio.
The record is quite clear on my anti-NPFL stance. After the elections - which surprised or disappointed most of us - I like most Liberians decided to embrace peace, put the war behind and work with the new government to reconstruct the country and reclaim our place in the international community. This was the honorable thing to do.
I was at no time "...the Taylor administration's top dignitary in the United States- second only to the ambassador." Would you consider this "privileged": being owed more than $100,000.00 in unpaid salaries, depending on spouse and friends to meet expenses, including underwriting government's obligations, working in a dilapidated building as an Embassy, developing pneumonia from working in such a building that did not have heat, accumulating hundreds of dollars in parking tickets on account of serving Liberia, not being able to pay your rent etc.? I left the Embassy because my cup was full. I left for non-payment of salaries. I had to stop sinking into further debts, worsening credits and address growing family needs from Liberia etc. Believe me if my aim was to become an ambassador I would have become one. I know what to do. My aim still is to help Liberia get out of this mess and bring genuine peace and real economic reconstruction and development to a Liberia that we all can return to.
I have and will talk to members of all Liberian groups, be they pro or anti-democracy or the government. In order to adequately tackle the challenges facing Liberia, we must understand the issues and various actions undertaken to address these issues. Whenever I have an opportunity to get an understanding of a Liberian issue I will take advantage of it, irrespective of who or where it is coming from; provided that is an issue I am concerned about.
If the ambassador and myself had disagreements then they were professional disagreements and had no bearing on my decision to leave. Disagreements and differences do exist in professional and public institutions. I could have asked for transfer if it were a matter of working with the ambassador, but I decided it was time to get out period, case closed. I do not owe any one an explanation except my family and close friends, who supported my going in and while I was in. When I was going I got advice from my family and closed friends. My views on Liberia have not and will not change. I consider my citizenship very serious. I have not embarked on "...new aspiration to save the country..." If and when I decide to run for public office as a politician then I will face the particular constituency.
You are the only one I know who has questioned my credibility and it may be because you chose to be unaware. I have never been a member of the ruling party (NPP), much more being "...deeply entrenched with the ruling party..." I did not "...propose a new advocacy group embarked on undermining my old boss..." LDI was formed by a group of Liberian professionals including myself. My so-called boss has and continues to undermine himself, and if you are not aware then you need not comment on Liberian public affairs.
It is no secret that the government focused on security. The role of a Foreign Service officer is to explain the policy and its basis as presented by the government through the foreign ministry, without injecting ones own personal views into it. If you have been following my public utterances and actions you would have realized that I have been consistent. As a 'Johnny just come lately' it is advisable that you conduct a thorough research on an individual or issue before you begin to criticize least you do damage to yourself as a commentator or whatever public role you have decided to play.
Again, the statement is not alleging, but stating facts that are publicly stated in various human rights and press reports. If you are insinuating that the fact that one is a member of the Liberian Foreign Service he/she is privy to all internal government deliberations, then you are plain wrong. For one who has worked for the Liberian immigration service during some of the most repressive periods of our country's history you ought to know better or do you want to explain to the Liberian people what you did or came to this country with? You ought to give others the same benefit you gave yourself when you decided it was time to end you career as a Liberian civil servant and leave the country.
My decision to leave was not sudden; it was deliberate, well thought out and moral. Whenever I am working towards making a change to better the lives of the Liberian people in Liberia or helping to provide services for Liberians in the US, I am and will be proud, even if the government representing Liberia is a despicable one. I can only be responsible for my actions. Each and every Liberian ought to decide what role he/she wants to play as a citizen.
The statement is simply a position statement on the current situation in Liberia. If you or anyone is interested in knowing about LDI, some of what it has done and is doing then please check our web page at www.tldi.org. LDI does not claim to be able to solve Liberia's problems, much less alone; rather LDI is working with Liberians - and their various organizations - and Liberia's friends in the international community for the interests of Liberia. As a new organization we gradually are working towards achieving our objectives.
There is not one solution, organization or person that possesses the solutions to Liberia's challenges. We all neither have to work together within the same or one organization nor on the same pace. Our focus ought to be working for the interest of Liberia and our activities complementing one another. For instance there are more than 100 Jewish or Israelis organizations in the US. Some of them are international, national or local, but they all have Israel's interests at heart. LDI and I have and will continue to work with Liberian and American organizations in seeking our objectives. For instance I have been honored by the Federation of Liberian Organizations In Ohio (FOLAO), the Liberian Association of Cleveland (LACE) and the Liberian Association of the Metropolitan Washington Area for my contributions to Liberian community affairs. LDI has and continues to work with ULAA and others, for instance LDI was very instrumental in having the president of ULAA, Ms. Mydea Reeves-Karpeh testify as the Liberian witness during the hearing on Liberia conducted by the African Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives on March 14, 2001. LDI was one of the organizations that participated in ULAA's Conference on Democracy held in Newark, New Jersey, on April 28, 2001. The conference's resolution committee was chaired by me. Yes, I consider ULAA to be the premier Liberian organization in the US. It may not be as strong as we would like it to be; however, we will continue to work towards making it a strong organization. I hope the likes of you would cease bad-mouthing it and rather act towards strengthening it.
While LDI and myself are opened to views, suggestions and even criticisms, we will not allow any misinformation or detractions to go unchallenged. We Liberians must learn to listen to the contents of written or uttered information and act upon them, rather then characterizations without adequate research.
Let me leave you with this admonition from John 18: 23: "Jesus answered him, 'If I have said anything wrong, tell everyone here what it was. But if I am right in what I have said, why do you hit me?' "