Liberia is a Victim of a "well-contrived International Conspiracy"
July 31, 2001
Addressing a Town Hall meeting organized by the Liberian Community Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA), on Saturday, July 28, 2001, in Atlanta, Georgia in commemoration of Liberia's Independence Day, Mr. Aaron B. Kollie, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Embassy of Liberia in Washington, DC, presented what amounts to a Liberian government position on the crisis in Sierra Leone and the West African sub-region, recently imposed UN sanctions on Liberia, reconciliation, and a host of other issues in which the government has been embroiled. He said Liberia is a victim of a "well-contrived International Conspiracy."
While acknowledging the importance of a town hall meeting with its encapsulating theme: "Settling the Liberian Palaver: In Search of a New Vision," the embassy official conceded that the country is plagued with problems which could not be uniquely ascribed to one government (the Taylor administration), but rather to successive governments. He argued that the "Liberian palaver" had already been settled by the 1997 elections which ushered in the National Patriotic Party led by Charles Taylor, and that everything was being done to address many of the residual concerns.
"You will agree that Liberians have been fussing for too long about the need for political equality, social justice, economic growth and development, as well as respect for human rights. But these are issues that will continue to belabor successive government. The last 20 years witnessed our active drive to achieve all of these lofty principles and objectives. In an effort to address some of these problems, Liberians in 1997, decided to go to the polls to settle all of these questions through democratic elections. Accordingly, the Liberian people spoke and put into place a constitutionally elected government in an arrangement where 13 political parties participated in the electioneering process. In the end, one party, the National Patriotic Party, emerged victorious. Since its inception, the NPP Government has been endeavoring to implement policies and programs to address these concerns. But are we saying now, since the process, coming out of war with all its attendant variables, we should abort the democratic process and resort to force of arms? This forum, in my [judgment], is saying no. The fact that you've called us here, you are sending out a clear message that dialogue is the way forward. This is the very reason why we are here., We are not here to provide justification for the rightness or wrongness of events occurring in our country. But together we can find a common ground, realizing that there is a national calling to defend our country's cause."
In defining the Liberian problem, Mr. Kollie pointed accusing fingers to the so-called educated Liberian or elite as being in the "forefront of destroying the foundation of the democratic process in our country."
"More than 20 years ago, Liberians who were privileged to receive western education from leading universities, returned home and created such an enlightenment that the evolving political trend was seen as being too slow and in need of a radical political transformation to allow for political pluralism. That tolerant Liberian President at the time was overthrown, perhaps because his independent state of mind that allow for openness in the spirit of non-alignment and positive neutrality. Unfortunately, some people conspired against him and sought his overthrow. It was the scenario of a mortal punishment of a servant failing to obey his master. The Liberian people danced at the time, only to realize later that it was a mistake.
"Those same powerful hands supported the military regime against the ruling oligarchy. What we saw was the building of arsenals and military housing, to the neglect of the majority of the people, in an attempt to appease the military to leave office. This was done while deliberately paying blind eye to the democratic process, once their interests were being served at the time, given the cold war scenario. They again conspired against our interest, and supported a change because their servants had become too strong and independent minded for their comfort. The PRC-military turned civilian government was overthrown, leaving a trail of massive destruction of lives and property. In the process, we all were affected directly or indirectly. We all, in some way or another, have played a role in what has transpired, and cannot claim clean hands in all of this. Therefore what are we fussing about?"
Differing with the generally accepted view and UN supported evidence of Liberia's role in Sierra Leone and its involvement in destabilizing the West African sub-region, Mr. Kollie reacted in defense of the Liberian government.
"Unfortunately today, Liberia is being portrayed by the international community as the biggest troublemaker in West Africa. They say we are fomenting trouble in Sierra Leone. They say we are stealing Sierra Leonean diamonds and exchanging them for arms. They say we are supporting those who are maiming the arms and legs of Sierra Leonean children and old people. Liberia, our cherished republic, has been relegated and downgraded, even in the absence of substantiating the claims and allegations. Perhaps the new legal paradigm is guilt by association. Is that the new world order? If the big powers say you are wrong, even if you are right, you are suppose to be wrong. Might has become right. Even in crisis, Liberia has had a better standard of living than some of our neighbors,... and we've always been the producers of our own diamonds. During our own crisis, there were no such amputations of civilians. Why would Sierra Leoneans, fighting their own war, do such to their own people and then blame Liberia for such cruelty and act of barbarism? These things do not resemble Liberians. These unfounded charges have infuriated the international community to the extent that Liberia has now become the victim of a well-contrived international conspiracy as a result of the Sierra Leonean crisis."
Mr. Kollie opined that the amputation of limbs of thousands of Sierra Leonean children, women and elderly may have been the work of the Sierra Leone government and not that of the RUF:
"How sure are we, given the nature of the Sierra Leonean Government and some in its inner circle, many of them thief men, that they did not fore plan some of these amputations and try to blame Liberia? The stage may have been set for such, to win international sympathy to isolate Liberia. The game plan has worked so very well, provoking the imposition of sanctions against our country. In the case of other countries, they say smart sanctions or food for oil. Perhaps with the new scientific discovery and confirmation of a major product in Liberia now, which I am not authorize to disclose, the language could very well change. This world is now all about economics and interests. This is a contradiction of belief and philosophy of democracy by the powerful hands, making different rules for different people. President Taylor has never denied having a relationship with the RUF in the early years of its establishment. This relationship, in many instances, became helpful to the peace process."
On the question on general amnesty for exiled opposition politicians, many of whom have been charged with treason against the government, Mr. Kollie said:
"This week, President Taylor announced a general amnesty to all Liberians, and has invited them-to return home, and join the nation building process. He has genuinely made this call, and all of us Liberians have an obligation to test the call. Sitting here and questioning the sincerity of the call is not helpful. By staying away, you would have lost a glorious opportunity and your right to become a voice in determining the course of events in Liberia. The political process must be tested as we move on to better the lives our people on whose behalf you are today advocating. Liberia is all that we have."
Other speakers at the Town Hall meeting, however, offered different perspectives on how the Liberian crisis could be resolved.
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