The Banditry, the Elections and the Bassa People

By Wellington Geevon-Smith

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 31, 2003

Despite the nearly decade long war brought upon us by self-styled 'Liberators' that took an estimated 200,000 Liberians to their untimely graves; our national politics is still a discursive one. We have lost our bearing and those in control of the state are in no hast to reflect on the factors that led themselves to pick up arms, thus they now accept the same gimmicks that they denounced yesterday as the best method of leadership.

Certainly, news emanating from home is degrading to our democratic existence in the comity of nations. We live in a region, in spite of the level of instability orchestrated by the very people in control of our country, where other countries are making significant gains in improving the lots of their people. On the contrary, our government sees dominance, brutality, plunder and the politics of fear as the only way to rule people into submission. The world is different today. Those kinds of leadership style are now archaic and countries that practiced them (according to the reality of the time) have co-signed them to history.

Our country claims to be the oldest African nation but does not have anything to show as evidence of this argument. With over 150 years of existence, there is no institution for governance. The country cannot distinguish between 'state security' and 'party/government security'. State security institutions are transformed into personal gang of death squad to install fear in the people and make officials of government untouchable.

I understand Defence Minister Daniel Chea forcibly cited the chiefs, officials and elders of Grand Bassa County on his farm the very day Cllr. Charles Brumskine was due in the county. In addition, the Defence Minister warned that anybody caught in the streets to welcome Cllr. Brumskine would be dealt with drastically. Is this the function of the Minister of Defence in a "country of law and not of man"? Is this the democracy they were bringing for which thousands of orphans and widows are today roaming the streets of Buchanan and else where?

The likes of Daniel Chea should know that while they are accusing opponents of the government of discouraging foreign aid to the country, his attitude is one that qualifies the Taylor-led government to be ignored by the civilized world. Ghana, Benin, Mali, Senegal and even coup-prone Nigeria are thriving towards democratic governance. There are nearly thirty political parties in Benin. With that astonishing number of political parties based on interest, the country holds the credential as one of the finest examples of African democracy. It enjoys the true sense of 'unity in diversity' and the impressive record alone forms the basis for foreign assistance to help move the country forward.

As the Defense Minister was giving his directive, two known personalities in Bassa politics; Thomas Johnson (former Superintendent) and Carlos Wallace Smith (a known spokesman of the Bassa people) were considered "security risk" and pick up, simply because they were going to Buchanan to prepare the arrival of Cllr. Brumskine. Even if his boss does not know the working of Bassa politics, Chea should know. The endurance of the Bassa people is very long and sometime people misconstrue it as sheer stupidity or being coward but when the Bassa man reaches a point and he says this is my 'watershed', only death can make the difference. Chea should know this very well. 1992 (when the Bassa people rose up against the armed NPFL fighters and drove them out of the county) is not too far for Ali Baba and his thieves to forget.

What the Taylor government is practicing is rule by brutality and fear but it has a short lifespan. It has not work forever in any country and history has no intention to impose it on the already impoverished people of Liberia. During the formative years of the National Socialist Party, known as the 'Nazis', in the 1920s in Germany, special thugs in brown shirts were detailed to 'maintain order' at political rallies. The function of these thugs, who later became the personal bodyguards of Adolf Hitler known by the abbreviation 'SS', was to smash the skulls and break the limbs of Hitler's political opponents in order to ensure that Hitler rose unopposed to power as head of the Nazi Party and ultimately as the Chancellor of Third Reich. Today, they are on the debit side of German history and the country has become more democratic. The life of a country cannot be determined by the length of time a political party stays in power; at the end, the country will outlive that political establishment.

There is no respect for the organic law of the land, yet they say "Liberia is a country of law and not of man". How long will they continue to wallow in this deception? Is that what is obtaining in Grand Bassa a 'law' or the behavior of the leader of a pack of gorillas which beats its chest to announce to interlopers the existence of its own territory, its own laws, its own foraging and existential strategies for the family or herd under its protection? Let the entire Taylor group know that their reservoir of treachery is now emptied and what they are now surviving on is what Jean Paul Sartie called "walking lies". The Bassa incident is the beginning of the end.