TAYLOR AND US
By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé
In October last year, I wrote here that a friend who worked for an international elections NGO invited me to lunch and told me that "they" were looking for ways to get elections going in Liberia because the democratic process must be sustained. And my friend said there would be elections in Liberia, with or without the participation of Liberians. My friend said "they" had already made contacts with some members of the opposition and all that was left was an "acceptance" from some Liberians in the US.
Since October, many things have taken place, all pointing to the fact that everything would go on "as planned" and if everything goes on as "planned," Taylor would win his second term.
Not too long ago, Ambassador Streeb of the Carter Center went to Monrovia and after being accorded an audience at the Executive Mansion, said that they would help organize the elections. Flashback two years ago: The Carter Center shut the doors of its offices in Monrovia, because Carter said he was appalled by the human rights abuses of the Taylor regime. Former President Carter wrote a letter that was made public and he said Taylor had failed to listen to his good counsels. The US and the UN imposed sanctions on the NPP regime. Many Liberians expressed some happiness at the fact that after Congressman Donald Payne, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Carter was finally awakening to the true nature of the regime in Monrovia.
Former Ambassador Diggs
A group of Liberians confronts LURD's Joe Wylie (Right) at the USIP forum
Ambassador Diggs’ anger would have been credible had she not tried to paint LURD as the sole source of Liberia’s problems. Many speakers called on LURD to stop their war, because it only helps Taylor, but it was lost on nobody except the good Ambassador that Taylor was the real problem. LURD came to being because of Taylor. We can condemn the insurgency but we must never forget the source of the fire. From a certain perspective, LURD is working on a Taylor agenda. The greatest achievement of LURD has so far been to provide an excuse to Taylor whenever he needed one, not that he ever does.
The magical wand
Another noticeable thing at the conference was how much Liberians seemed to find relief in the words of the representative of the International Contact Group. People clapped at every word she said. And when she was done, the entire room gave her a standing ovation. It was indicative of how most Liberians feel about our problems: that someone, from somewhere would come up with a magic wand and take care of everything. It is a mindset ingrained in a culture that drew its "strength" from outside for generations, rarely reaching inwards to find solutions. Ask Liberians to name a national hero. Try and find a Liberian work of art that stood the test of time besides the great sculptures of Vanjah Richards or the traditional masks. Many of us grew up thinking that the only "good" music was what came from "abroad." No matter how well she sang, we never thought Miatta Fahnbulleh, was ever as good as Diana Ross. We grew up thinking that "Shaft" was a distant cousin. One might wonder what is the relationship between music and politics: it is creativity. Only an independent mind can venture "outside the box" and create. Our imagination and vision of the world are still somehow unilaterally channeled towards one source of light. The worse aspect of colonization is the loss of identity. The avenues that would have helped Liberians to explore the depth of their imaginations were rarely open. Liberians reaction to the speech of the State Department envoy was indicative of that state of mind. We expect a magical wand, from somewhere, from someone.
The Brumskine issue
From the day he acquired a piece of real estate in Liberia and put his name on the political landscape of the country, Taylor has maintained the nation in a perpetual state of crisis and anxiety. His political mode of operation is comparable in many ways to that of Doe, with more devastating results. From 1980 to 1990, never a year went by without some type of major political crisis. Either someone was trying "to overthrow the government" or a "foreign country had sinister designs to destabilize the country." With Taylor, it is the same game. He survives from crisis to crisis.
Denying Brumskine the right to travel was just another way to create a crisis. Taylor ran out of tricks to provoke a crisis. He lost to Guinea. Sierra Leone could swallow him at anytime through an indictment. He and friend Blaise Compaore lost the Cote d’Ivoire adventure. No matter how he provoked America, Uncle Sam seems to be a step ahead of him. David Crane, presiding over the War Crimes Tribunal in Sierra Leone and the imperturbable Ambassador Blaney in Monrovia have both been causing him nightmares. In their shortsightedness, Taylor’s advisors convinced him that Brumskine was "America’s candidate" sent to take over. By stopping Brumskine from traveling, he was hoping to create a national political crisis that would have brought everybody in to beg him, just like he was begged to let Gongloe and Hassan Billity and many others go. Stopping Brumskine from traveling should have created another chaos that would have lingered on for months. During that period, everyone would have forgotten about the economy, the elections and the banditry with international dimensions. But it didn’t work. There was no crisis. Brumskine will get out sooner or later, or may stay in long enough to see the end of the NPP regime. Whatever, the case, the distraction did not work. Taylor also knows now that he cannot have a dead Brumskine on his hand. This is the best thing that could happened to the Brumskine campaign ...
Since stopping Brumskine did not create the crisis he was expecting, he unleashed the LURD psychosis. The insurgents are supposedly in Gbarnga, Clay and everywhere. Or maybe it is the NPFL returning empty-hand from their looting spree in Cote d’Ivoire and picking up everything on their way to Monrovia since they could never make it to Abidjan? Again, as if on cue, LURD is attacking when Taylor needs a crisis. He needs one and LURD is playing the game for him. When I interviewed the Minister of Information in Washington, DC, last year, he had a slip of the tongue that everyone in the room picked up, because the whole staff was present, including Ambassador Bull: the Minister said "there was no such thing as LURD." There is LURD and there is LURD.
Taylor would try as hard as possible to have his elections. There will be some international NGO’s to facilitate this, including those elections makers at the Carter Center. There would also be the respectable voices of the Mary Brownells to tell Liberians to challenge the regime at the ballot box. There would also be a few and handful hungry politicos who would register to run for president with the full knowledge that they are participating in a charade that would only perpetuate the regime of brutality and theft. There might be some ECOWAS leaders fearful of Liberian rebels- our major exports, besides the refugees- that Liberian political leaders need to embrace each other and salvage their country by participating in elections.
We are only 7 months away from elections. In the best-case scenario, a stabilization force would not materialize before August. They would have 2 months to deploy throughout the country. By the time they set-up their tents, Brownell and others would be everywhere, distributing ballots. What is lost in this equation is that the stabilization force may be able to protect the politicians, but they are not the ones who need protection, but the villagers who have been under the scourge of NPFL fighters for the last 14 years. When people ask for stabilization force, they seem to forget that the NPFL has ruled rural Liberia since 1989 and no foreign troop can change that reality.
As Tiawan Gongloe said, for the past 12 years, we have been adjusting to Taylor demands and now, it seems that many are ready to take part in charade called elections... Rejecting or protesting the results after the elections would not change the fact that Taylor would have been elected. Just like Mugabe. Elections are not stolen on the day of balloting, but before or after.