Opting for Shame and Poverty

The Perspective
April 9, 2001

When Liberians went to the polls in 1997 and endorsed Charles Taylor as their leader, their desire for doing so was tied to one dream: peace and stability in which they could pick up the pieces and move ahead to build their shattered lives. Three years after their decision, the opposite has become their option. Instead of peace and stability, anarchy rules, not only in Liberia, but beyond its empty borders.

The choice made by those who believed Taylor provided the answer to Liberia's escalating problems of economic reorganization and security nevertheless defied reason. In politics as in other matters, one's record is the engine through which one's service in society is appreciated. Taylor's record, from his day at the helms of the People's Redemption Council, to his glory as a warlord, spoke abundantly. This was not a man to build a society. This was not a man for tolerance. This was not a man for probity. This was a man who breeds perpetual anarchy and theft, a disciple of doom.

Taylor's past and present told Liberians that endorsing him as President was establishing the cornerstones of instability and therefore deprivation. And for sure, he has not disappointed those who saw him as an anathema to progress and reconciliation after such a cruel war that left hundreds of thousands of Liberians outside the country refusing to return home.

On the political front, he has adopted a conqueror's attitude, constantly vowing to chase his opponents in "their mothers' wombs" for disagreeing with his agenda of theft and plunder. He has resurrected and elevated those values that plunged the country into the mess in which it has found itself. Summary executions of opponents, mysterious disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment using the "law", have become common strategies to solidify his reign of terror. Liberians having a different vision of their country have been driven out of the country. Freedom of the press has been trampled upon with frequent imprisonment of journalists while many others have fled the country. In short, Taylor, who promised a new dawn as he fed child soldiers with drugs to fight his war of loot and plunder, has ensured a new and more vicious dawn of tyranny.

On the economic front, theft of national resources has been legitimised more than ever before. Meager national resources are going for the repair of homes of Taylor's cronies, many of them members of the former True Whig Party such as Romeo Horton, a key adviser to the President. Forests are disappearing faster than we imagine, and as the Minister of Agriculture recently warned, we will be faced with a draught within 10 to 15 years, something that will enhance poverty and its aftereffects long after and his thieving cronies leave the scene. Senators, students, human rights groups, journalists are complaining that the President's friends in the cabinet and other institutions are speeding up the looting game. Taylor, his family and friends have seized the country's resources and they are perhaps the worst national plunderers in known Liberian history. For example, the use of Crimes in the country as convenient cover for international criminals with the required fee, is entrenched. Liberia, as one European publication says, has become "Taylor Inc."

Within the West African region and internationally, Liberia has become better known more than ever before because it has earned a place as Africa's leading pariah state. A series of report, along with the UN Panel of Experts report on Taylor's financial and political adventures in Sierra Leone which have left tens of thousands children with amputated limbs, have brought a threat of justifiable sanctions on the country.

These developments, and many more, should give Liberians cause for concern and therefore action. Certainly, Taylor's troops of cheerleaders, beneficiaries of the current decay, are many. But we believe this is one time that Liberians should put ethnicity, banal politics and personal interest aside to rescue the country. The alternative, we are afraid, is more terrible than most would admit. Mr. Taylor and his disciples have opted for shame and poverty of the people. Let other Liberians opt for dignity and the genuine beginning for humble reconstruction. These are no simple tasks due to the massive material and psychological destruction of the country and people. But a genuine start is needed.

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