Rabat: Just Another Peace Accord For Taylor

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

The Perspective

March 1, 2002

From the European Union (EU) to the United Nations (UN), from refugee camps to the displaced centers and small villages in Liberia, in dark alleys and streets of Monrovia, people welcomed the signing of a peace agreement between Liberia and her neighbors, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Everyone seems to believe that once Kabbah and Conte agree to sit down with Taylor and put their signatures on a piece of paper, everything would be all right in the Mano River Union. According a PANA press release, the three presidents agreed to work for peace, to take care of the refugees and displaced people and condemned armed groups operating in the region.

In as much as the chance of lessening political tension in the region is a positive sign, no one should be blinded to the character and the track record or the man who single-handedly inflamed the region almost twelve years ago in his attempt to put an end to the military dictatorship of Samuel Doe. Taylor has a long way to go to prove that he has the capacity to live like a normal human being. That he is not sent by God to rule Liberia as he thinks but rather elected by human votes. Every Liberian and every human being is a child of God.

The questions asked here a few months ago in “Can we still make peace with Guinea and Sierra Leone” are more relevant today than ever. But the answer is simple: yes, we can make peace if Taylor decides to play by the basic rules of humanity and neighborliness. Can Taylor see himself other than the reincarnation of some dead president (Tubman) or the descendant of Christ? Can he put a lid on his insatiable appetite for money? Can he lead a normal life of decency, becoming a moral example for Liberians children, by putting an end to his immoral life style that lead to corruption of mores?

The paper that Taylor needed to sign was not the one he signed in Morocco. His problems are all in his own backyard. He cannot kill hundreds of people in broad daylight and expect to sleep in peace. He needs to make peace at home. He must make peace with those who have suffered at the hands of his thugs, the Krahns, the Mandingoes, the political opposition and the press. He must repent and seek forgiveness. Having Krahn mistresses or a Mandingo wife among others, or having a Mandingo Chief of protocol means nothing if his hordes of killers continue to create havoc in the country.

Taylor does not need Conte or Kabbah to bring peace in the Mano River Union. Before he brought the NPFL, there was peace and since NPFL came to be known, there has never been a day of peace in the sub-region. One cannot arm thousands of children with deadly weapons in the nation and in villages and expect to have peace. You cannot create a monster and unleash it on your neighbors, play lip service to peace and expect people to trust you. Taylor knows where the peace process begins. If he doesn’t, here are a few suggestions about things to do:

- Admit that he has lost control of his militias of killers and ask for the presence of UN and ECOMOG troops to take over the security of the country until a new police and army is trained and deployed in the country;

- Ask the United States and ECOWAS to help train the new army and the new police force from now to the time leading to the elections;

- Stop his cronies and mistresses from looting the national wealth;

- Audit every single state enterprise and Ministry;

- Start to live a normal life and stop taking himself for the reincarnation of Tubman or an appointee of the Almighty;

- Empower a real and true human rights commission that would throw light on every murder that has taken place, every violation of human rights committed on Liberian soil and bring perpetrators to justice;

- Ask Liberians people for forgiveness.

The personal life of a man who runs a country comes into play when it becomes harmful to the nation’s economy and security. Some of the changes the president may have to do will concern re-arranging his personal life, so that his pillow-advisors are not left in control of crucial national issues. One of his “friends” is sitting on top of all customs and taxes in the country. Another one is giving into religion and is on the brink of creating a religion divide that has never been known in Liberia. His son is associated with the most notorious brutal militia in the land, and the list goes on.

Meanwhile, the opposition, because of its weakness and divisiveness is being pressured into accepting a new reconciliation meeting that would all but ensure the re-election of Taylor and Cyril Allen and Grace Minor and Sando Johnson and Paul Mulbah and Charles Taylor Jr. and Victoria Reffell and Isaac Musa and on and on. The UN and Kofi Annan may be ready to lift the sanctions on Taylor: they don’t need a window dressing conference to do it. At this point, Taylor would promise anything to do away with the sanctions and the issue here is that the UN sanctions have nothing to do with Liberians’ human rights, it was all about Sierra Leone.

Going unprepared to Abuja, fighting for a seat at the front table and being invited to a private close-door session with Obasanjo and Taylor sound so attractive that people would jump at the chance to spend their earnings and head for the Hilton in Abuja. The show will be about Taylor, and nobody else. If he shows up, he will bring a planeload of operatives and a suitcase of US dollars. The rest is history, a repetition of 1997. As the meeting in Abuja draws nearer, Taylor would make all the needed compromises, he would pray and sing and he would get some opposition members to salvage him. Then he would get re-elected. And we would go back to point zero.

Liberians want peace and they must be prepared for it. The mistake the Interim Government for National Unity (IGNU) made in the past was to go along with peace plans that were brought in from outside. We were so busy listening to New York, Paris and Lagos that we forgot the people we were fighting for and we lost the peace process. Now, the Taylor regime has its back against the wall and an organized and well-focused opposition can make a difference. It has to set its priorities straight and work in concert. Otherwise, it will only pave the way for the re-election of Taylor. Rabat and Abuja will not solve our problems. Every solution we are seeking is right there, in Monrovia.

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