Sharing The Blame For "Our" Present Mess (Part 2)
By James W. Harris
Posted July 29, 2002
From my own vantage point, I sincerely think that the present corps of opposition figures seriously lack what it would take to immediately arrest the horrible situation back home and finally bring some sanity to our now despised nation. Not that I have anything personally against any of them, but I strongly feel that it would be a very good start for the now pariah country if they were made to answer to the Liberian people for whatever they did or positions they took in their immediate past.
Frankly, if I had my way (which I obviously don’t), those Liberians that are presently masquerading as so-called opposition leaders, would first have to give the Liberian people a full and factual account of their “deeds” long before we even consider them for any possible future leadership position in the now war-battered nation.
Given the terrible state of affairs prevailing there today, Liberia definitely needs a brand new corps of leaders - the kind of leaders, who, according to one of the foremost thinkers of democracy, Thomas Jefferson, would be READY and ABLE: “To restore…harmony, to render us [Liberians] again as one people acting as one nation.” That, he wrote, “should be the object of every man [that’s really] a patriot [one who loves his or her country and supports (not destroy) its interests].”
“The services [are needed] of [a] great leader whose talents and whose weight of CHARACTER [are] peculiarly necessary to get the government so underway [going] as that it may afterwards be carried on by subordinate characters.” Simply put, such a leader must be unselfish enough so as to ensure that the [Liberian] government functions even after he or she leaves office - a government very UNLIKE Taylor’s.
Now, putting all jokes aside, who in the present opposition would ‘perfectly’ fit the above profile, and in addition, have a ‘realistic’ plan that would quickly put the now war-weary nation back on its feet? Surely, not the likes of Alhaji Kromah, George Boley and many others who have yet to take full responsibility for their roles in our ongoing civil strife! That’s why we should remain vigilant against such persons at all times, knowing that up to now, the Liberian government has always been focused around a “single” personality - a practice that has greatly helped to destroy our country. In fact, such a practice should immediately be discouraged for our own good, especially so, when such persons are well known “career opportunists”. Don’t you think?
Considering our current peculiar circumstances, why should we be rewarding or even embracing Kromah and others, when we’re at the same time trying very hard to hold President Taylor’s feet to the fire for his personal acts against the Liberian people and nation, or for that matter, the entire Mano River Union sub-region? If Liberia is to move forward quickly, then we certainly cannot afford to keep making the same fatal error of presenting ourselves as hypocrites, while at the same time, asking the international community to trust us - because they won’t. We can choose sides in our continuing crises if we so wish, but we must, above all else, also make ‘sound’ decisions based entirely on cherished principles.
As desperate, traumatized and demoralized as Liberians presently are, and haven't been denied their rights (God given and constitutional) to fully participate in their country's political process as genuine citizens, the need for a new corps of opposition leaders with substance, integrity and ‘clear’ vision for the whole country [not tribe, social groups, etc.] cannot be sufficiently stressed. I'm thoroughly convinced that Liberians generally won't ever want to go down this road [civil strife] again. That's why the choice of a “good” leader at this particular time is very, very crucial. And obviously, making the wrong choice again would only send the already war-ruined nation further down the ugly path of self-destruction. Don't say that I didn't tell you, because I did! I need not mention that at this unusually critical time in our history, the stakes are too high and there's no room for ‘trial and error’ - not when so many innocent lives are continuously being taken in the ongoing war that is very, very strange.
Besides elections, which are arguably a small part of the democratic process, Liberians must strive relentlessly to institute, what Jefferson calls a “GOOD GOVERNMENT” [which transcends the “cult of personality” as it always seems to be the case with us]. He wrote: “No government can continue good but under the CONTROL of the people; and [if the] people [are] so demoralized and depraved as to be incapable of exercising a wholesome control,…[then] their reformation [must] be taken up ab incunabulis [Latin, meaning, ‘from the cradle; from infancy’].
Isn't this exactly where we are right now - badly demoralized and depraved? But let's go back to Jefferson because his words have great relevance in regards to our pathetic situation today.
“Their [the people, in this case, Liberians] minds [must] be informed by education what is RIGHT and what is WRONG; [they must] be encouraged in habits of VIRTUE and deterred from those of VICE by the dread of punishments proportional, indeed, but irremissible; in all cases, [they must] eschew error, which bewilders us in one false consequence after another in endless successions”, he wrote, adding, “These are the inculcations NECESSARY to render the people a sure basis for the structure of order and good government.”
But he (Jefferson) was honest enough to admit that this just couldn’t happen overnight, even though, some in the opposition, civil society groups or even the National Patriotic Party (NPP) government itself, make it seem as though the holding of elections [even under known fraudulent or dubious circumstances] automatically translates into democracy. That's absolutely not true!
Jefferson wrote: “But this would [be] an operation of a generation or two at least, within which period [might succeed] many [tyrants, like Taylor] who would [quash] the whole process”, and then confessed that he “[could] neither see what [a group of leaders] united [in their wicked ways] and uncontrolled could [devise] to lead their people [towards] good government, nor how this enigma [could] be solved.” And so, you see, we’ve got our work cut out for us, because Jefferson has already warned us that more tyrants, dictators, etc., could emerge during this period.
I must admit, though, that many in the present opposition are showing signs [or have shown signs in the past] of falling right into the above mentioned categories, thereby, making it more likely that the Liberian masses will keep suffering for the foreseeable future. Yet, they can’t afford to totally lose hope! They must remain determined as never before and assertive in their demand for “good” government so that Taylor won’t be replaced with another despot that’s just waiting on the sideline.
I’m very sure that Liberians, if given security protection so that they won’t be intimidated, physically harassed or cowed any longer, could make the right decision between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. But only if the international community, particularly, the United States (US), could do for them what Great Britain has done for Sierra Leone - get directly involved as the chief custodian of democracy.
This, undoubtedly, would be the best prospect yet of bringing the present ugly situation in Liberia under complete control and finally return the war-devastated country back to normal. Such decisive action would hopefully give the Liberian people a fresh start and a new lease on life. Aside from the familiar ‘historical ties’ that exists between the US and Liberia, I honestly don’t see why it (US) won’t consider doing this as a moral duty in keeping with its own professed goal of promoting democracy. Really!
The only problem or reluctance on the part of the international community to continue helping Liberia, it seems, is that we [Liberians] actually haven’t given them the right kind of leaders that they could work with - leaders that they would have the utmost confidence in and respect for; leaders that truly represent the dreams and aspirations of all Liberians for a unified, stable and peaceful country. That seems to be our biggest dilemma at this point - a dilemma I sincerely hope we can soon overcome!
While I’m at it, I’d like to briefly address another issue that usually comes up amongst Liberians - the view held by some that “we are all responsible” for the present mess that our country is in. While that could be true to a certain extend, I wish to disagree reluctantly, because, personally, I have and am still continuing to make my contribution towards saving or salvaging our ruined nation through my writings, going as far back as my earlier days as a reporter with PALM magazine, then run by Mr. James Dennis. So, it’s not like I’ve not been talking about the ills in our [Liberian] society, because I have! Neither am I a “Johnnie come lately” to the ongoing Liberian debate. As the matter of fact, I have in my own weak ways and in many instances, made ‘sensible’ recommendations that I know within my heart are in the best interests of our country, like, appealing strongly to both the United Nations (UN) as well as the US to immediately deplore troops on the ground there so as to provide much needed security protection for our severely traumatized people. The question then arises, has anyone been listening? Apparently not! Why then should I be held responsible for our nation’s current plight?
From my personal experiences, the crux of our ongoing problems is that there are just too many people out there in so-called leadership positions that hardly know which way they’d want themselves to go, or worst yet, Liberia. The signal that we’re getting from these folks is that they want leadership positions only for their self-aggrandizement, not necessarily to promote the general welfare of all Liberians. Yet, these are the same people in charge of the battered nation’s affairs - dealing strangely with the larger international community on our behalf. Scary, isn’t it?
Furthermore, being a minority voice (even of ‘sound’ reasoning) amongst them when they are gathered to discuss the future of our country, is usually suicidal, as in most cases, they won’t ever give you the opportunity to fully express yourself. Ironically, these are the same old people, who, in one way or the other, have actively participated in the total destruction of our beloved land and they’ll definitely do everything and anything within their power to remain in control of events there. Tragic, eh, isn’t it! For apparently selfish reasons, it has become totally acceptable amongst Liberians to do things the ‘wrong’ way and then find every possible excuse to justify their equally ‘wrong’ actions.
For the sake of clarity, let me cite two specific instances - the recent conferences sponsored by the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) and the Liberian Leadership Conference (LLC), respectively. In the case of ALJA, I just couldn’t imagine why a supposed ‘professional’ organization, that says it is promoting “good government” in the context of democracy, would go ahead and hold elections of its officers without first formally adopting a constitution. Isn’t this what is meant by “putting the cart before the horse”? Shouldn’t it have been the other way around (adopting a constitution and then holding elections)?
While some people admittedly may have no problems with doing such a thing, or even if it were legal, the BIG question is, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves whether or not what we’re doing today is “RIGHT” or “WRONG”, considering the fact that we, as Liberians, have to move away from complacency and avoid making the same silly mistakes that’s got us where we are in the first place? I mean, sincerely, how can we [Liberians] see nothing wrong with advocating one thing and yet doing something completely the opposite? I don’t know how ALJA could help Liberians move towards the democratic process when it doesn’t have the will to correct itself, or better yet, set a ‘good’ example by its actions. I really don’t! These are the kinds of issues - right vs. wrong - that Thomas Jefferson raised in his writings that I had earlier quoted. Remember?
But when I tried to raise this particular issue there, guess what? I was disrespectfully and deliberately shouted down by the majority that was present, thereby, sanctioning and blessing the elections. So, why would I want to be a member of ALJA when I know fully well that I’d never be given the chance to make my voice heard, especially as regards doing the “right” thing for our war-devastated country? Thank God, they cannot stop me from being heard in any way through this medium. And so, they can go right ahead and keep doing things the way that they know best - “wrong” - without regards to the basic principles of “right” vs. “wrong”.
Since their May conference in Washington, D.C., I’ve since learned from some members of ALJA that they were at that moment mainly concerned about “expediency” [whatever that means], therefore, their action. But “expediency” at the expense of compromising what - basic “principles”? I surely don’t get it!
As for me, I’ll definitely continue to engage Liberians on the basis of the basic principles of what’s right and what’s wrong in our ongoing national debate on burning and sometimes very controversial issues for the ultimate good of our country - and fearlessly too.
As for the LLC, I was literally kicked out shamelessly by the presiding chairman, Mr. Cletus Wotorson, simply because I had boldly identified myself as a member of the press (The Perspective). And mind you, we were sent a written invitation to the meeting by "Chairman" Wotorson. Besides, isn’t Alhaji Kromah also a well-known member of the Liberian press and, in fact, runs his own website just as we do? Maybe (just maybe), like Kromah, I too may have to become a warlord to be given a seat next to Messrs. Wotorson and Brumskine. But if that’s what it entails to become a full-fledged member of ‘their club’, then I guess, I’ll never participate in any Liberian conference, because I do know better than to contribute to the wicked destruction of my very own country, leaving tens of thousands of our country men, women and children dead in the process.
Let me make it quite clear here that I’m in no way trying to be vindictive (because I really don’t care how ALJA and/or the LLC want to run their respective ships). Instead, what I’m trying to do is to support my view with real and recent examples contrary to what some people believe, that “we’re all responsible” for the ongoing carnage and bitterness that’s tearing the country apart. The fact is - some Liberians are more responsible than others! Unfortunately, those that should be held accountable and responsible for our country’s demise seem to be getting off the hook with impunity and ease. Sad, isn’t it!
But as Thomas Jefferson again wrote: “What could [a virtuous rule do]…to lead his fellow citizens into good government?… If [the Liberian] people [are] like ourselves, enlightened, peaceable, and really free [which they are NOT], the answer would be obvious - ‘Restore independence to all your foreign conquests [i.e. Sierra Leone], relieve [the Liberian nation] from the government of the rabble [a disorganized or ‘highly’ confused bunch of people]…Consult it as a nation entitled to self-government, and do its WILL.”
Jefferson further wrote: “But [if] the whole [Liberian] nation [is] steeped in CORRUPTION, VICE AND VENALITY [as it presently is, then], … what could even [such a leader do], had it been referred to [him or her] to establish a ‘GOOD GOVERNMENT’ for his [her] country?” This is the most difficult question yet as Liberia is far from having a “virtuous” leader!
But hopefully, though, for the sake of our nation’s future stability and peace, the above question would be answered in the not too distant future in terms of us finally settling the difference between those who would want to see the next Liberian government ACCOUNTABLE to its people, and those who would want to continue using it (government) as it has always been done up to this day, mainly for personal gains - absolutely accountable to no one.
In the final analysis, the realization of the former - accountability to the people - should be the challenge and responsibility of all Liberians, whether in the Diaspora or at home. This much I surely can admit! And it has nothing to do with tribalism, ethnicity, etc., although they’re all very important factors in our national life. But it has everything to do with our sense of fairness and patriotism to our now internationally despised nation.
And in conclusion, as Jefferson also wrote: “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce the people under ABSOLUTE DESPOTISM, it is their RIGHT, it is their DUTY, to throw off such [a] government, and [then] provide NEW GUARDS for their future security.”
To interpret this briefly, he’s simply saying that, yes indeed, Liberians do have not only the “right” but also the “duty” to remove [“by any means necessary”] their government that has become despotic [like Taylor’s] - a clear warning to those that are presently seeking state power despite their poor record of not seeking the people’s interests in the past when they had the opportunity to do just that.
Therefore, all you “bandit” politicians, especially those that are contemplating running for the ruined nation’s presidency, I must fully admonish you to beware - Liberia will never be the same again!