NPP and LURD: Stop the masquerade

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 7, 2002

Reading the news from Monrovia today, I saw a piece from The Inquirer that was supposed to be a report of the CNN Q&A program dealing with Liberia where I shared the podium with Liberia's Minister of Information, Mr. Goodridge. The story in the newspaper left out most of what other people on the program said and rather concentrated on the minister's words, all things flattering to the government. This is normal. Nobody would quarrel with them, about their perception of reality.

However, I would like to make a few additions or corrections. I did not name MODEL as one of the organizations supporting sanctions. Before going on the air, I had called the leaders of ULAA (Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas), MDCL (Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia), LDI (Liberian Democratic Initiative) and four political and opinion leaders, one of whom is far from being an opposition person. What I gathered from them was unanimous:

1. The sanctions were not targeting the common Liberians. Liberians could travel anywhere, including to the US, engage in business and do whatever they wanted. The only people targeted were President Taylor and his inner circle and few other people. But the government was making people believe that the international community was suppressing Liberians.

2. The sanctions were targeting only the export of diamonds - something very peripheral in our economy - and the import of arms. Arms are abundant in Liberia and it may be the last thing we needed and finally the travel ban concerned a limited number of people.

3. Timber should be added to the sanctions regime, since it was now becoming another way of raising funds for arms deal according to Global Witness and the United Nations.

The response of the Minister was that people who advocate for more sanctions on the government do not love Liberia. What we need to tell the government is that with the easy communications system, Liberians in the US know exactly, on a daily basis, per the hour and minute what goes on in Monrovia. People who speak for the sanctions are not anti-Liberian they simply detest the policies of the government. Liberians in the US support their families at home and it is from the people at home that they take their cue on public issues. The fact that there are more Liberians displaced, in refugee camps and trying to get out of Liberia than in 1997 shows that things have worsened and that has nothing to do with the sanctions.

The representatives of Global Witness and the US Committee for Refugees said the same things: there are too many arms in Liberia. The government is exploiting the timber to buy more arms. They said that the Taylor government was perceived as a destabilizing element in the sub-region. The representative of the US Committee for Refugees went on to say that the United States government wants Mr. Taylor out and that he was enjoying the support of a few governments in Europe for their interest in Liberian timber. Conmany Wesseh added the same thing. All in all, people felt that in 1997 there was much goodwill in the international community and in Liberia towards the Taylor government but that goodwill has been squandered. Rather than pointing to an international conspiracy, the government must look inward to correct its mistakes. Most Liberians in the US do not want to be in the US but they cannot imagine being home because of the prevailing political and security atmosphere.

The government must stop burying its head in the sand and think that things would work the way they want. There is a big difference between running a warring faction in the bush, being accountable to nobody and running a government where millions of lives are involved.

The government cannot be serious about reconciliation, call people for a national conference while it maintains a state of emergency and keep throwing people in jail for verbal utterances. Many Liberians may want to attend the July conference, but they would only do so if they know they can go in and out, say what they think about the state of affairs in the country and not be harassed or arrested under some fuzzy pretense. At the end of the elections in 1997, nobody really cared about money or cars, people only wanted a national reconciliation. Rather, the fascination for money and obsession with power took over and here we are. As Conmany said on the CNN Q&A program, Mr. Taylor has nobody to blame but himself. Can he salvage his regime? Can he convince Liberians that he is the president of all and not just "Gbarngarites?"

Our second issue today regards a press release from LURD. They were reacting to various press commentaries from around the world. Nobody seems to trust them and that hurts them. It is normal. But they gave an insight of what they are about if they ever make it to the Mansion: their release warns Liberian media people to remember what they are saying now about them... In other words, those who are criticizing them would pay a dear price if they ever overthrow the Taylor government. Are we supposed to be scared? They still don't seem to get it. The media and the truth will survive them.

LURD can take Monrovia as they were supposed to do two years ago before Christmas and then, we will decide if we should return home or stay in exile and criticize them as we are today doing. We are not afraid. What we are trying to tell every one is that Liberia is nobody's playground, especially those who play with guns and human life.

Enough is enough. We don't want any more liberators and we don't trust people who want to impose their will through the barrels of guns. Whatever they did so far has helped no one in Liberia except Taylor. The Liberian media survived many dictators and it will survive LURD.

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