An Interview With Gen. Wylie
July 31, 2000
Since 1999, Lofa county, one of fourteen counties and a political subdivision in northwestern Liberia, has become a magnet for armed incursions. There has been at least three incursions by various groups seeking to remove the Taylor regime from power by the use of force. The latest round launched early this month by a group known as Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), appears to be different from previous ones insofar as its claims that it has taken control of Lofa county. But there has been counterclaims from the GOL that the county is still under local government authority. While visiting the United States recently, LURD's Senior Military Advisor, General Joe Wylie, was interviewed by Editors of The Perspective (TP) newsmagazine on the nature of his organization and its current struggle with the Liberian Government. Below is the transcript of the interview conducted by George H. Nubo, Siahyonkron Nyanseor, and J. Kpanneh Doe.
TP: Why should Liberians believe that you are any different
from the present
Gen. Wylie: Unlike the current Taylor regime, which has used state power to repress its own people, and to pillage and plunder the country's resources in a drive for personal enrichment, we are real nationalists who care about our nation's image and its people. We are not interested in seizing state power at the expense of the Liberian people. We are not interested in exploiting the resources of the land for our personal enrichment. Our primary objective is to remove this regime which has become the obstacle in the way of progress for the Liberian people, and which has become a laughingstock in the international community. By starting this revolution therefore, we consider this as the highest form of expression of our love and compassion for our fellow Liberians who are crying for water, electricity, jobs, food, education, and the right to return home from sojourn, prisons and refugee camps of west Africa. We believe our cause is just and God is on our side.
TP: Let's assume that you succeed in getting rid of Taylor, which is what many Liberians want according to survey, what is your program for democratization?
Gen. Wylie: This must not be an assumption. This is a reality that is inevitable. Right now as I speak, Taylor's troops sent to the warfront are being demoralized, and many have dropped their arms and have defected to our side. People are asking the question: who are we really fighting for - Taylor or our country? According to our intelligence, there is also mass desertion in the Liberian army. Army personnel are basically taking off their uniforms and wearing civilian clothes, saying good bye to a regime that has not cared for them. Look what happened a few days ago, when government soldiers beat up medical doctors and nurses at the JFK medical center simply because these wounded soldiers are not being treated due to the fact that the doctors and nurses have not been paid for about six months. The Taylor government has no compassion for the Liberian people. We are winning the war. But back to the question of democratization. Not wanting to sound dogmatic or simply saying words because they sound good to a listening ear, let me say in plain and straightforward language that the National Executive Committee of LURD is fully committed to the democratization of the Liberian society, and shall quickly work together with the Liberian people in laying the real foundations and building blocks for democracy based on the Liberian constitution. We shall respect the rule of law, respect human rights, and above all, ensure that freedom of speech and the press is encouraged throughout our society. LURD believes the growth of ideas is the mother of all progress and development of any society.
TP: When should we expect an end to military rule?
Gen. Wylie: LURD is democratically structured. It is led not by the military but by civilians; so there will be no military rule. LURD does not, however, intend to perpetuate itself in power no more than it's necessary. Again, as I stated earlier, the National Executive Committee [NEC] of LURD is fully committed to returning Liberia to genuine democratic, constitutional rule as soon as Mr. Taylor is removed from power. Again, at the appropriate time, the National Executive Committee will publish full details of its program for democracy and national reconciliation. We have nothing to hide, and we have no hidden agenda. LURD's struggle for national reconciliation and democracy will involve every Liberian no matter your tribal, religious or class background. This is the people's struggle.
TP: Why have you opted for armed struggle at this time?
How can you assure
Liberians that you and your group are any different from Mr. Taylor's in terms of observing human rights and the rule of law?
Gen. Wylie: As I stated earlier, LURD will be law abiding, promote freedom of the press, speech, and movement and follow the Liberian Constitution to the letter . Moreover, the respect of human rights will be our hallmark. We intend to be servants to our people instead of Lord over them. Our guiding principles shall be the Liberian Constitution and all international conventions on human and civil rights. We do not want to ostracize our nation from the communities of civilized nations - of which, Liberia made valuable contributions. Unlike the tyrant that is ruining our country, we intend to behave like civilized people.
Taylor has turned our country into a breeding ground for arms smuggling, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Now, please tell me! How can we allow this to happen in our country at the very beginning of this millennium? If we do not fight now to take our country from the hands of this lunatic, our children's children will regret it and condemn us tomorrow. Taylor is sick and LURD can help cure his insanity.
TP: Why should we believe you? What is your level of
success in terms of
Gen. Wylie: That question has been answered about a week ago by Taylor himself when he told the Liberian People on radio and television that the situation is very serious. What he really wanted to say was LURD is serious; no one could put it any better. We have liberated Lofa County and our combatants are operating in many parts of the country. For fear of compromising our operations we cannot specify where our men are located but when Taylor, Defense Minister Daniel Chea and Information Minister Joe Mulbah start to cry again, you will find out that we are really in control.
TP: It has been learned that RUF has joined the war
obviously on Taylor's
side. Are you capable of containing the RUF and Taylor's army?
Gen. Wylie: From the onset, the RUF and NPFL have been one and the same organization with a single strategy. Therefore, it is not surprising to see uprooted RUF elements retreating back to Taylor's camp. We will deal with both RUF and the Taylor government at the same time, killing two birds with one stone.
TP: There are reports that your group has begun killing
civilians and burning
villages. What can you tell us?
Gen. Wylie: You know that is not the case! While would we kill innocent civilians? Due to the fact that Mr. Taylor has been unable to rally any support from the Liberian people to defend his falling regime, he has imported mercenaries to fight and kill his own people in Lofa County. He thinks by blaming LURD for these atrocities, he would get the support of the Liberian people. But he is dead wrong. You may recall that last year he said dissident forces looted the equipment and vehicles of NGOs then operating in Lofa. But his government had to later apologize because the NGOs equipment and vehicles were in fact looted by government forces. These vehicles were repainted and are used by Taylor's security. There is no truth in what they are saying. It is against the laws of LURD military to kill civilians. If anyone or group is noted for killing innocent civilians including three-year olds, it is Mr. Taylor and his associates - RUF. We expect these kinds of atrocities to be committed by Taylor and his people.
TP: Are we not seeing the emergence of another tribal
based group interested
in loot and naked political power for personal wealth? In clear terms, what is your political program?
Gen. Wylie: Our organization ,LURD, is representative of all tribes and ethnic groups including Americo Liberians. The use of ethnicity in recent Liberian politics has divided Liberia, and to maintain it as a strategy or a means to an end, will have us fighting until kingdom come. Furthermore, we are not fighting this war to obtain personal power or personal wealth. We have learned from history that ultimate power belongs to the people, and only fools like Taylor and his gang will disagree. The struggle we are engaged in is to end the conflicts in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to reintroduce peace and stability in West Africa once again
TP: Are you fighting in Sierra Leone too? And if so, on which side?
Gen. Wylie: No, we are not fighting in Sierra Leone. As you know, we are fighting in Liberia. What I mean is that, with the defeat of the Taylor government, the conduit used to supply arms, food and medicines to the RUF will be cut off. This will mean an end to Sierra Leone's nightmare - and of course an end to the amputation of the limbs of innocent people including women and children.
TP: You are said to be involved in every effort to overthrow the Liberian government since the 80's. What do you want?
Gen. Wylie: I am proud of my longstanding political participation for the past 26 years. I remained consistent with the principal of freedom and justice for my people. As a militant democrat, I have always gone close to where the actual battles for freedom and justice are fought in my country and my kids will be proud of me tomorrow. What LURD want to see in Liberia is harmony among our tribes and ethnic groups so that together we can build the nation that we can all be proud of.
TP: Over 250,000 people were slaughtered during the seven year civil war. When will you say enough is enough?
Gen. Wylie: By starting this armed struggle, we are paying tribute to the over 250,000 people that were slaughtered during the war. Once we succeed in removing him from office the souls of our loved ones who perished shall rest in peace. By starting this armed struggle we are saying enough is enough.
TP: The next election is in the year 2003. Why can't you organize yourselves into a political party and contest the election?
Gen. Wylie: We already know that Mr. Taylor is trying to break Tubman's record by trying to remain in power for 30 years. It is a wishful thinking on the part of some of our people to believe that there will be free and fair elections in the year 2003. Taylor does not believe in democracy and as such will not permit any opposition party to win any election. Due to his brutalities, opposition parties only exist in name. For example, since he became President, every other elections held in the country was won by his party. What does this tell you? It tells me that he and his partners in crimes are prepared to steal the 2003 election the same way they are stealing our natural resources. Are we to sit and wait on some opposition parties that exist only in name to do it for us? No! This is why we chose this option because we know that the only language that Mr. Taylor understands is the one LURD is speaking.
TP: What is the composition of LURD forces?
Gen. Wylie: LURD is composed of all of the people of Liberia. As our name indicates - we are Liberians united for reconciliation and democracy. This is not meant as a joke, among our ranks are relatives of Mr. Taylor, former NPFL commanders along with militants of the defunct factions who elected to give peace a chance. We were able to bring these various groups together because they finally realized that Taylor has betrayed the Liberian people. They have seen who Taylor actually cares for - his few friends and family members. So, they decided to join with us to force him out.
TP: Why did you choose this time to strike and why Lofa?
Gen. Wylie: I think that I have already answered that question.
TP: Who is supporting LURD?
Gen. Wylie: LURD is supported by all peace loving Liberians including members of Mr. Taylor's own government. Taylor has accused Britain, Sierra Leone, and Guinea of supporting LURD. If all of these countries were to combine their resources to fight Taylor, he would not stay in power for one more second.
TP: What is your specific role as senior military advisor, what do you do?
Gen. Wylie: As senior military advisor, I advise the
National Executive Committee and the National Chairman on all
military matters. I also take part in planning and strategy for
our military. This is not a simple position to hold especially
when you are fighting a tyrant like Taylor. However, throughout
the years, I was able to acquire a reservoir of experience from
studying and training, which prepared me to become efficient and
handling my obligations and discharging duties. My responsibilities also involve defense and related military matters for the entire LURD. As some of you may already know, besides being a freedom fighter, I started out as a student activist in Junior High School. Through my work as an activist, I became a writer, Poet along with the late Wiwi D. Debbah and other young student activists. Our poems in the 1970s helped in motivating our people to action. Three of my most memorable poems are: "There Is Still More Time", "Like My Brother In Soweto" and "Am I A Precious Jewel?" I wrote them when I was in the eleventh grade at Charlotte Tolbert High School in Monrovia, 1978.
TP: Who is the leader of LURD?
Gen: Wylie: Our national chairman is Mr. Mohammed S. K. Jumandy. He is a Liberian businessman who has both the courage and commitment to lead the people of Liberia back home. He is down to earth and is not mean spirited or swollen headed. He has the moral uprightness and the courage it takes to lead LURD.
TP: What message do you have for the Liberian people and the international community?
Gen. Wylie: Liberians have endured tremendous suffering
for the last several years under tyrannical rule that they should
no longer accept. Our children, mothers, fathers, grandparents
should not continue to suffer under such repression and poverty.
LURD is calling upon all Liberians to support this just struggle
for national reconciliation and democracy, in ridding our country
of dictatorial rule and working towards building a genuine democratic
society and better country for our children and generations unborn.
This will allow us to regain our rightful place in the international
community which we have historically been part of.
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