"I Will Become The Next Rebel Leader", Cheapoo Declares

By Sidiki Trawally

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

February 4, 2003

The former Chief Justice of Liberia has announced he will become the next rebel leader in the war-ravaged Liberia if President Charles Taylor succeeds himself as president during the October 14, 2003 presidential and legislative elections in Liberia.

Counsellor Chea Cheapoo, also a former Liberian minister of justice and attorney general, said judging from prevailing political conditions in Liberia, "It is clear that president Taylor is unwilling to make fundamental reforms to ensure a level playing field in the upcoming elections." He called on the Liberian people to "become rebels if Taylor steals the elections."

The controversial lawyer made the remarks Saturday, February 1, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when he served as guest speaker at official installation program of officers of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (DE-ALJA), a group of Liberian journalists in the tri-state areas including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

"President Taylor has no interest in rebuilding Liberia since he took office. Further, his regime is more repressive politically and unprogressive economically more than any other Liberian president I know or read about," Cheapo said.

Cllr. Cheapo told his audience, which included LURD rebel executive Joe Wylie, "unless the necessary reforms are made in Liberia, participating in an election arranged and controlled by an elections commission appointed by Taylor will only lend legitimacy to an already rigged election."

Cllr. Cheapoo also said October 14 election is already " rigged" and that any one attempting to run for the presidency would be doing so just for formality. " Taylor has already won the elections. The ballots have been secretly kept somewhere until the day of elections."

Speaking on the topic, "Liberia: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," Cheapoo said Liberia's tomorrow is bleak with a " tyrant sitting in the Liberian presidential mansion, terrorizing the entire sub region. I know Taylor. He wants to succeed himself." He called on Liberians to "press for power and take control of their country from Taylor by staying away from any bogus election lacking fair play and masterminded by Taylor."

He said, "If Taylor goes ahead with a fake election in any event, Liberians must not recognize the results." Cheapoo said Liberians should be able to organize a provisional government to put in place the appropriate fundamental reforms for democratic elections within a year. " I am prepared to be a part of that process," he said.

Cllr. Cheapoo said Liberia's successive governments from 1822 to 1980 were politically undemocratic and repressive, and economically regressive. He said even the overthrow of the settlers by the natives in 1980 did not introduce much change in the operation of government. He said when Doe seized power in 1980, he had no special abilities in identifying his enemies, thereby putting his trust in Charles Taylor who stole a million dollars from the government as director-general of the General Services Agency and later overthrew Doe by force of arms."

The lawyer outlined some conditions he said are required to create the proper political climate for democratice elections in Liberia. He said the conduct of national census to determine the number of eligible voters prior to the elections and the availability of the rights to freedom of movement, association, expression and political activity. Also outlined by the former Liberian senator include the safety of individual person from unlawful arrest, intimidation, harassment and unlawful influence. "Liberia needs an impartial elections commission," he said.

Also making remarks at the occasion was the national Chairman of the Coalition of Progressive Liberians in the Americas (COPLA), Mr. Bodioh Wisseh Siapoe, who revealed that his organization had credible evidence that ballot papers for the ensuing elections had already been ordered, printed, and filled out in favor of Taylor's National Patriotic Party (NPP), and were being hidden in the hinterland.

Mr. Siapoe said the ballot boxes were recently removed from one location to another, after COPLA raised the initial alarm from credible information it had gathered from Liberia and outside the country where they were printed.