No Plans to Arrest Charles Brumskine?

By Abraham M. Williams

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 21, 2003

Charles W. Brumskine Photo © by The Perspective
Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine
As I was going through my e-mails, I came across an interested piece from the Friends of Liberia (FOL) News Dispatch, a reliable resource for news and information on Liberia. The headline was "No Plans to Arrest Brumskine -Says Justice Ministry".

With such an alluring headline, I couldn't help but being drawn to the piece for a number of reasons. First of all because of the rapidity with which the Ministry of Justice responded (January 17, 2003) to the Friends of Brumskine (FOB)'s press release, which was published by The Perspective on January 16, 2003. Secondly, because it is this ministry that gives Mr. Taylor legal guidance as he moves to eviscerate fundamental freedoms and civil liberties in Liberia. The Ministry of Justice is one of Taylor's core instruments in his battle against inculcation of democratic culture in our country. It is a powerful tool that Taylor uses, in the most flagrant way, as he suffocates democratic practices.

So, it would be natural that any statement coming from this all assuming "ministry of Justice" would attract my attention. That's being the case: I began to read the Ministry's statement with care and unusual deliberation. And as I did so, I quickly discovered what I would consider a sleazy contradiction between the headline and what the statement really says. The Ministry of Justice did not say - and this is important - there are no plans to arrest Brumskine. It did say, however, that the ministry does have information that the government of Liberia plans to arrest Counselor Charles Brumskine upon his arrival in Liberia this month.

Speaking to reporters in Monrovia recently, the Public Relations Officer at the Ministry, Charles Matadley, was quoted as saying the Ministry is the prosecuting arm of the government and would not keep as a secret the plans to prosecute anyone. But while this comment appeared to be superficially plain and innocent, I found it rather malign and disingenuous. It's this kind of deceptive tactic of conducting public affairs that has created a credibility problem for the regime in all agencies, including the Ministry of Justice. If Charles Matadley is a public affairs officer at the Ministry of Justice then he must have known that his remarks were less than accurate.

A little more than a year ago, this same agency of government had intimidated a local radio talk show host for interviewing Mr. Brumskine. On Wednesday, January 9, 2002, Mr. Brumskine did a call-in program on Radio Veritas Morning Show hosted by Ledgerhood Rennie, and many Monrovians who took part in that discussion freely voiced their displeasure with Mr. Taylor for the way in which his regime has failed to adequately address the national malaise. Instead, some participants believed their president has abandoned Liberia's problems while trying to undermine and destabilize the region.

Shortly after the Show ended, the radio station received a visit from the dreadful Director of Police, who "requested" a copy of just concluded talk show program with Counselor Brumskine. Police Director Mulbah said, "The government of Liberia was interested in the interview with Counselor Brumskine". Upon receiving a copy to the Brumskine interview, Police Director Paul Mulbah asked Mr. Rennie if there were any other hidden tapes in the studio.

According to credible sources in Monrovia, after this depressing experience, Ledgerhood Rennie, the Radio Veritas Talk Show host, returned home to rest until his next scheduled program. But as one would expect, a group of plain-clothes security officers descended on the radio station, asking for Mr. Rennie who, according to a source familiar with the incident, had again been "invited" by the Minister of Justice. The station manager called Mr. Rennie on the phone and urged him to report back to the studio as soon as possible.

My information is there were many drawn and pensive looking faces around the studio that Wednesday, since no one knew exactly what this invitation from the Honorable Eddington Vambah, Minister of Justice, would mean for Radio Veritas as well as for Mr. Rennie. Whisked by security agents and uncertain about what would happen to him, Mr. Rennie was taken to the Ministry of Justice, where he had a meeting with Mr. Vambah for more than two hours, during which he was warned to be "careful" as some of his guests were enemies of the state, and that government had warrants for the arrest of some of them.

The message was clear. Any media outlet that allows alternative views on national issues to be heard better re-assess the consequences of that decision.

Most dismaying, in the aftermath of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed elections in Liberia, is the repeated assertion by Taylor's supporters that the former warlord was democratically elected.

Yet some of the same folks are scared of democratic processes such as equal access to public media facilities, open debates about public policy issues and a political environment, where their "democratically" elected president will defend his achievements over the seven years in office; where the Ministry of Justice will not be a guard dog preventing the administration of justice. Instead of intimidating citizens for exercising their rights under the constitution, we need a ministry of justice that will prosecute anyone who killed a policeman in cold blood as Charles Taylor, Jr. just did recently when he shot and killed Col. Fitzgerald Vampelt. Indeed, Liberia needs a ministry of justice that will not allow the overuse the "charge of treason" to the point where that offense has lost its essence as well as its meaning.

Until that time, we have every reason to suspect that this Ministry of Justice is just an extension of Taylor's tyrannical hands incapable of seeing justice, let alone administering justice where it's needed. And in Mr. Brumskine's case, the world is just watching the "Ministry of Justice".