Students Want UN Report Published
February 21, 2001
Students at the University of Liberia have accused the Government of misleading the population on the UN Panel of Experts report, and challenged it to publish the full report. They contended that the imposition of sanctions would make no difference in the daily lives of the population because the Government is squandering resources.
The students said they were amazed at the "misinformation and partial interpretations of the UN Panel's Report" circulated by the government, declaring that such misinformation campaign is "intended to stupefy the masses; let the government publish the report for public consumption," they demanded.
They compared the current state of affairs in the country with the 1930s when another President, Charles D.B.King, was forced to resign along with his deputy under pressure from the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. The Government then was charged, among other atrocities, with selling its citizens, native Liberians, into slavery.
But the students said they are concerned about sanctions because Government officials have made it clear they (officials) will be insulated (because of their wealth) against the threatened UN sanctions, not the "impoverished masses". The students however maintained that while sanctions may have problems, Liberians are not benefiting from the revenue intakes on timber, diamonds, the sanctions are to affect. "In the midst of gruelling poverty" the students noted, (there is) "the re-emergence of President William V. S. Tubman's dictatorial regime...graduating from handouts, and fostering a state of "Presidential Humanitarian system."
In a statement covering several problems in the country, they urged that the " government must be sensitive and consider the unqualified interest of the masses because government's recent move to ground all aircraft flying the flag of Liberia and the lifting of reciprocal visa restriction on the United States officials raise more questions about the United Nations Panel's report."
Although Taylor had accused the students of harbouring "Marxist-Leninist" ideas because they questioned the unprecedented logging in the country without benefit to the population, the students called for a national inquiry into the massive logging that is depleting one of West Africa's virgin rainforests. They said operations of foreign-owned logging companies such as the Oriental Timber Corporation, mentioned in the UN Panel of Experts report as a cover for arms smuggling and payment of Taylor's personal security, must be investigated by the Legislature.
Under the umbrella of the Student Unification Party (SUP) traditionally known for its pro-democracy activism, the students also accused Taylor of resorting to old authoritarian policies of patronage and corruption. They said Taylor was pumping public money into the renovation of private homes of friends and cronies under the guise of state interests. They observed that the construction of several public buildings, begun by the late President Samuel Doe, has been abandoned while homes of supporters like Romeo Horton, a staunch backer of the Taylor regime with links to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, are renovated at state expense. The students said contrary to several promises, their university has been abandoned with teachers' salaries unpaid and its library "obsolete" despite Taylor's declaration of "The Technology Time" slogans.
SUP urged the government to "immediately release the 13 Krahn political prisoners and embark upon reconciliation. "Setting all political prisoners free will lend credence to the sincerity of the President," the students said. They said Taylor's recent offer to the Opposition to return home, and that he would consult with ECOWAS to guarantee their protection, was a "mockery." They said the current supremacy of the Executive over other branches of Government "contravenes the principle of separation of powers as contained in the Liberian Constitution".
With ongoing human rights abuses, SUP said they were apprehensive about the prospects for free and fair elections in 2003. They cited the recent flogging of former interim president Amos Sawyer and his staff as examples of harassment and intimidation that will make fair elections difficult.
Taylor has accused the Opposition of influencing the youth against his Government, and warned that "even they (members of the Opposition) go into their mothers' wombs, I will get them." He said that the Opposition was behind an alleged plan for a People's Power demonstration to remove him from office. "We have the people", he warned.