When the Means to an End are
Convenient and then Feared
By Tom Kamara
August 14, 2000
The end may justify the means as in the case of Liberia where fear and horrendous atrocities determined the outcome of the presidential elections in 1997. But now there are fears that the "means", in the hands of "enemies", could be devastating in justifying the new governors' feared end. Hence, President Charles Taylor is seeing enemies everywhere with the "means." Such enemies now include the Americans whom he last week accused of plotting to overthrow him. In recent times, he has been forced to abandon his luxury homes to sleep in squalid hidden places. Outside, he travels concealed, like cargo, in a 100-car convoy with a Libyan supplied helicopter hovering above to detect hidden enemies beneath with the possible means of justifying their end. The President is now living with his own Frankenstein, facing the truth that when one uses devious means to attain power, the end is uncertain and ever illusive.
This is the dilemma of African rulers. One of the primary causes of instability on the Continent is the means politicians apply in getting to the top. If the means are plagued with unsavory strategies, which is usually the case, fears linger that others may discover these means and use them to also justify their end. Therefore, a government that comes to power through violent means must be changed through violent means. And the perpetrators of violence for political objectives must always look over their shoulders to ensure that someone else does not use the means in justifying the end. With this, suspicions linger, enemies perceived or real abound. Paranoia sets in and the innocent pay the price in constant instability. So is the case with Liberia - three years after elections hailed as the freest in the country's history.
The means to victory in Liberia are so feared that plots and subversions are discovered almost on a daily basis. Hence, the personal security of the President takes the bulk of the budget, with Taylor reminding critics, "I don't play with my security." Despite acquiring a massive approval of over 80% of the votes, confidence in the electorate is lacking, and energy is spent on depriving suspected foes the means to justify their end.
One of the first acts Taylor instituted to deny "enemies" the means when he came to power was to eliminate those who knew his means that justified his end in becoming President. His rivals, fellow warlords were quickly driven out of the country while others, like the Dokies and many others, were killed. Original members of the rebel faction, National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), such as Moses Duopu, Elmer Johnson, among the hundreds, were swiftly eliminated because they helped formulate the means.
On becoming President, he then embarked upon the specifics of destroying the means. Huge markets were cleared of peddlers, particularly if they were men. Taylor had good reasons for this policy. During the war, many of his rebels were infiltrated in the cities disguised as peddlers, standing in the streets for days "selling" a pack of cigarette, for example. Through this, they gathered intelligence and mastered the terrain, and infiltrated the communities. Arms and ammunitions were smuggled into the cities and other areas. To send the message that the capital, Monrovia, was unsafe, special squads were sent on grenade-throwing missions and the targets were public areas such as night clubs, markets, etc. Many innocent people were killed in this campaign of terror that proved his desired objective of the omnipresence of his rebels everywhere, therefore his power. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost. The President fears that these strategies, these means, are now in the hands of his enemies to be used against him. Paranoia has consumed him and the means to rid himself of it, as his predecessor Samuel Doe discovered, are scarce.
Following the destruction of markets, displaced centers were demolished and thousands of homeless residents ordered to return to their villages in rural Liberia. This had to be because every displaced center was suspected as harbouring "enemies." Weeks ago, this policy was extended to refugee camps holding about 33,000 Sierra Leonean refugees. According to a Freetown newspaper, the camps, near the Sierra Leone border, were set ablaze by Taylor's Army because they suspected dissidents were hiding in them. Residents near the Executive Mansion (which some Liberians now call the Executioner's Mansion) were evicted at gunpoint by Taylor's ruthless Anti-Terrorist Unit due to fears that dissidents were living in the area. Many home owners who have lived in the area from the 1940s and now too old to find alternatives, were told never to return because they posed a security threat to the President.
Now, The Patriot newspaper, one of the President's many mouthpieces, reported last week that an American plot has been uncovered to kill Taylor. According to the Pan African News Agency, trained assassins have already been infiltrated into the city to carry out the alleged assassination. Fear of America, of all countries, running after someone to kill is understandably terrifying, more so when there are a few places for the target to run. Taylor's predicament is pathetic. Reports the Pan African News Agency:
"The government, quoting reliable sources from a neighbouring West African capital, alleged that the Americans have made available up to two million dollars to carry out the mission, Taylor's private paper, The Patriot, reported. It quoted senior Liberian security officials as saying a number of U.S. citizens, some posing as missionaries, and U.S. Embassy officials, were secretly moving around Monrovia observing strategic installations and assisting in planning the assassination. The government also accused Britain and the U.S. of assisting the insurgents who have been waging war in northern Liberia for over a month now, the paper reported. It said a senior Liberian security official disclosed that a number of personalities who are known to be aware of the plot were quietly preparing to leave the country with their wives and relatives. According to PANA, "U.S. Embassy public affairs director Sarah Morrison said the rumours of an assassination plot against Taylor has not been brought to the attention of the mission by the Liberian government. "I hope they (Liberian government) realise it is absurd. We don't do this type of thing.
"Meanwhile, Liberian security has unearthed a sinister plot by supporters of the dissident forces fighting government in northern Liberia to cause chaos in Monrovia by throwing hand grenades into crowded areas, major entertainment centres or markets, the Patriot said The government is making all efforts to minimise threats to the security of its citizens."
Note that a component of this alleged plot is the throwing of grenades in crowded areas by members of the country's new rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). It must be a terrible reminder. When one haunted by the past, there is hardly any redemption. Grenade throwing in crowded areas was one of the means at Taylor's disposal for the presidency. Now, it is one of the feared means.
Reference to Government officials in knowledge of the alleged American assassination plot preparing to leave with their families is troubling. Since the fighting in the north of the country began, rumours have been flaring that passports of government officials have been confiscated, and that those wishing to travel must get clearance from the President's son, Chuckie Taylor. The linking of officials wishing to leave to the alleged American plot is unquestionably designed to stop anyone from leaving as the fighting intensifies. Taylor is reported to have once told his officials, "You think I will die alone?" Sources in Monrovia say this was the rationale behind the mass dismissal of officials who refused to attend a church service with the president. Many officials, fearing to be caught in crossfire, simply stayed away from official ceremonies when the president was present. This was the case with the recent Independence Day celebrations when seats remained empty as many government officials stayed away. With the President tying government officials leaving to the alleged American plot, no one will attempt to leave. "We are all in this together", seems to be the rule.
Fearing the means in the wrong hands has led to uncovering plots from all over the world. Dissidents in Sierra Leone are accused of converging to attack. Guinea is assisting dissidents. Britain and America are helping the dissidents. University professors are assisting the dissidents. Government officials want to overthrow their own government in league with the Americans. It is a nightmare.
But this is scary scenario stocked with Liberian politics for years. Samuel Doe lived through daily discovery of plots. The problem of leaders living in fears is stocked with Liberia for years except they are elected through transparent means that justify respectable ends. Without this, there will always be plots and paranoia as the James Jones syndrome takes over.
When sweets are littered on the floor, ants cannot be stopped
from emerging. Even after destroying markets and displaced camps,
executing or exiling enemies, more "enemies" are emerging
from other areas. Ants will always search for "sweets."
One remedy is to ensure that such sweets are swept away. Once
conditions of instability are brewed, the result is instability.
Indeed, the means justify the ends.
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