Speaking Out From the Diaspora

By A. Flama Kai

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 17, 2003

I applauded Ms. Jewel Howard-Taylor for standing by her husband. Notwithstanding, I was also appalled, when, on CNN, Saturday, July 12, 2003, she graded her husband favorably for good governance of Liberia since his election. I believe she could have done a better job of being a wife while evaluating the 69 months rule of her husband’s regime as a progressive citizen, who sees the daily suffering of the Liberian people from the Executive Mansion, her Sinkor office and Congotown residence, assuming he dwells with her since she is the first of the First Ladies. A vast majority of these people are Liberians who do not have or cannot afford any basic necessity of a modern environment in the 21th Century: water, food, shelter, healthcare and electricity. I had never approved her husband’s quest and ascension to the Liberian presidency. However, I accepted him as the Chief Executive because of the 1997 election result, which was blessed by international monitors, including the Carter Center, in spite of bickering by associating and competing aspirants. My lack of support and approval for Mr. Taylor emanated from a score of reasons yet to be outlined.

Today, I can reflect on that decision and pat myself on the shoulder with congratulations. It was a decision engulfed with love for Liberia and the well being of its people, with no personal biases. I have learned from my personal failures that individual and collective decision-making is not a matter that must be taken lightly and hastily, regardless of the magnitude. Dramatic changes in Liberia, which commenced in the late 1970s, require that our judgments rely heavily on wisdom from above to guide our analytical decision-making processes with expectation of deriving benefits, good enough for the general polity.

For two weeks now, political turmoil in Liberia has dominated global news and gained attention. President Taylor has been asked by world leaders and expects to resign soon. The potential of his resignation has prompted other Liberian politicians to lobby in Akosombo as possible interim replacements until a general election is held. Prayerfully, I envisage the vacuum to be created by the peaceful and orderly exit of President Taylor as an opportunity to restore decency and civility to the Liberian society, and return the country to its rightful place among the community of nations.

I also suspect aspiring Liberian politicians pursuing the highest office in the nation in the absence of a general election as fulfillment of a personal dream without a master plan. For most of those aspirants, it is a matter of adding another name to the list of Liberian presidents, which began in 1847. As a native Liberian, I have decided to outline why we should not have entrusted Liberia with President Taylor in the first place. Similarly, I would like to provide reasons why we need to carefully scrutinize the big names that have surfaced as possible interim replacements. These are highly educated Liberians, who feel their education provides them with the basic minimum requirement to be president. Many of them have been chasing the Liberian presidency for most of their lives, without acquiring adequate hands-on experience in government or the private sector.

But while education is one of the major keys, it takes more than degrees. In my opinion, and I am certain, former Interim President Amos Sawyer would attest to my assertion. It calls for brains, guts and philanthropy, if you really want to know.

I believe leaders are born, yet can be made if nurtured and trained in the proper environment. I define a good leader as a follower, who serves as in the example of the “Good Shepherd”. A good leader is humble, confident, strives to be fair at all times and aggressively firm in his determination. A good leader values the lost by the intensity of his/her search and lives by example. A good leader attempts to be sincere, honest, and critical, accepting criticism and competition as a means for continuing improvement. Unfortunately, these are the weaknesses and missing links of most African leaders to which Liberia is no exception in its struggle toward building a wholesome functioning society. What we have witnessed predominantly in Africa in general, and Liberia in particular, is the complete opposite of the definitions aforementioned.

Most African leaders would ostracize, imprison and kill when criticized. They fear competition, which causes them to tamper with election commissions and results. Trustworthiness and pluralism are dictions missing from their lexicons. These words are replaced with unilateralism, greed and egocentrics. Though the “Good Book” says that
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, most African leaders fail to see their own shortcomings. That’s why members of society for the common good of all must exert every effort to correct these imperfections. Remember, for evil to triumph, the good must keep mute. Thus, invigorated by this cliché, I am prepared and pressed to proceed as intended.

Allow me to commence my critique with President Taylor, who finds delight in the attention of center-stage. Charles Taylor was the wrong candidate selected by the remnants of the True Whig Party (TWP) in their quest to regain the presidency and power in Liberia. Researching the genesis of the Liberian quagmire from the 1980s, I have yet to be convinced that he was appointed Director, General Services Agency (GSA) of Liberia. This was the first “red flag” that cautioned and caused me to believe that Charles Taylor was on a power hunt. Secondly, incompetent and corrupt management of the GSA suggested that to place him in any position of significance in the country would lead the nation to “Lower Depths”.

My third reason as a non-advocate of the Liberian ruler stems from the following allegations; (1) that he wrongfully transferred an estimated One Million United States Dollars from the Liberian treasury to a dummy corporation in the U.S; and (2) as attempts were made to extradite him to Liberia for trial, he miraculously fled the U.S. These extraordinarily inexcusable behaviors indicated that the road to obtain power, money and fame was of the utmost interest to him instead of serving to improve the quality of life in Liberia. As this madness overwhelmed the cerebellum of fugitive Taylor, he emerged as a member of the National Patriotic Force of Liberia (NPFL) in the Ivory Coast. Quickly, he learned that the nucleus of the NPFL was intoxicated with retribution and vengeance instead of improving the state of the nation. Hence, he shrewdly infiltrated the hierarchy and placed himself atop the organization to achieve his ultimate objective, the Liberian presidency.

No doubt, my judgment of Mr. Taylor may be perceived too harsh and deemed unacceptable by his loyalists, the sequence of events narrated herein are true and recorded occurrences. If for any reason I have erred in stating the facts, I would appreciate correction, cognizance of my imperfections. Until then, I beg to continue with my critical assessment. Occupied by tribal vengeance, arrogance and egocentrisms, the road to Monrovia to oust President Doe was the central focus. However, somewhere along the way disagreement caused a split, leading to the emergence of the INPFL, the group credited with capturing and killing President Doe. At this juncture, if the welfare of the country were of the utmost interest to Charles Taylor, he would have abandoned the military option since President Doe had been killed, and encouraged the nation to prepare for a general election. Moreover, he would have convinced his TWP benefactors, which initially sponsored him.

But steadfast in his determination, Mr. Taylor pursued the Executive Mansion dream militarily without success. The impact caused the nation to experience major catastrophes as emerging belligerent rebel clubs also competed for the presidency. Once more Charles Taylor determinedly displayed his lack of leadership character until ECOWAS intervened leading to his election. He was offered a social contract in the 1997 election from within and in the wilderness to reestablish peace and engage a serious improvement of deplorable conditions in the country, which were largely attributable to him.

It is approximately 69 months and 16 days since Mrs. Jewel Taylor's husband was formally elected to the presidency and Liberia is worst off now than what it was, when he assumed office. How then can First Lady Jewell Taylor say her husband has been a good leader? She may be a humanitarian as proclaimed but this does not mean her husband’s governance of Liberia since October, 1997 has been good. As I am convinced that collected and available stats do not support her claim, I publicly challenge her to prove me wrong. Since she gave her husband good marks overall, I would like to see how she would grade him respectively in the following areas; national security, public safety, national economy, public health, public works, human rights, general reconstruction, reconciliation, rehabilitation and repatriation. Her inability to respond favorably with stats to support her assertion would warrant demand for her husband’s departure as demonstrated by Liberian civilians through the streets of Monrovia.

I have scored him very low in all of the categories and rate him as the most inefficient, ineffective, inept ruthless president in the 156 years existence of Liberia, despite his skillful qualities and characters of eloquence, aggressiveness, determination and zeal. He has used these God given talents wrongfully. Overall, he lacks the complete quality of a statesman though he ably presents himself in public like one. Just remember another adage that says, all that glitters is not gold. A hint to the wise is quite sufficient. I hope Liberians remember that pretty soon it will be time again to exercise their inalienable rights to elect another Liberian president. Better yet, we need to carefully select an interim leader, who will understand his role without creating an added partisan advantage for his/her choice. The political playing field must be leveled for potential future candidates. Let us avoid cheating for a change and allow the voters to elect a democratic president without fear and intimidation.

Finally, as we bid the Taylors farewell, I would like to advise President Taylor. Primarily, he needs to search deep down in his heart and repent to the Almighty for whatever atrocities he caused Liberia and the West African Region (WAR), if he has not done so already. Furthermore, he should not take asylum in Nigeria and hide behind the presidency of His Excellency, President Olusegun Obasanjo to avoid the indictment. He must handle the allegations levied against him like a man. He has admitted to no wrongdoing and involvement in the Sierra Leone civil war, which has been responsible for the annihilation of lives and properties. If to the best of his knowledge and conscience, he pleads “not guilty”, then he needs to hire for his defense some very good international barristers to represent him at the UN backed court set up in Sierra Leone. The Nigerian president cannot protect him for long or else, he would cause his newly reelected government a serious problem. Already, the opposition in Abuja has expressed disapproval of the asylum offered by their president. I am convinced that some Nigerian politicians believe Charles Taylor is responsible for the deaths of many West Africans, which include Nigerian civilians and soldiers.

The court in Sierra Leone will extend its efforts to bring Charles before the international community to face the charges in the indictment, regardless of which country grants him political asylum. He has not been convicted of any crime. It is only an indictment, which places the burden of proof on the UN backed court. Going to court is his best option, just ask O. J. Simpson.

Having assessed the plight of President Taylor, I believe, it would serve the Liberian community well to review some of our top-notch presidential wannabes. Our review will continue in the next edition of this episode. Stay tuned.