To Compromise Or Not To Compromise
By Nvasekie N. Konneh
September 5, 2002
In a country run by a dictator who doesn't give a damn even if he has to rule over the dead bodies of his citizens, there are only two options citizens with conscience have: to compromise or not to compromise. There is no middle ground. It's either one or the other. One will either stand his ground or compromise on corruption, right versus wrong, pure evil versus pure good, etc. etc. Of the two options, compromising is the easiest and the option chosen by many. This option will allow you to see another day, and if you are lucky enough you will be receiving your crumbs from the dictator's table. If you were a radical before and find it necessary to compromise, your concern will shift to that of trying to fit in so you too can start benefiting for all the years invested in radical agitation. You will put all those rhetoric in the trash bag and throw them in the dumpster. After all, what can you do with all the rhetoric when it can't put any food on the table, and won't bring those hoochie mamas running to your door to let you have your grooves on with them? As we all know, in Liberia money and position rule over everything. Everything else is meaningless! With this in mind, it is quite easy to compromise just to obtain position or acquire money.
You see, my people, there is a very big difference between a hungry radical crying in the wilderness and the successful ones who's lucky enough to have some big title appointments within the system. And suppose you don't have the qualification or the physical strength or as Amos Sawyer used to say, "the marketable talents," to work hard for every penny like we have to do here in America? Then you have to get in to fit in. Are we surprised then why Bacchus Mathew or Lewis Brown is what they are today? What is the difference of Mr. Mathew not compromising with Tolbert, Doe but has now compromised with Mr. Taylor who has proven to be of lowest quality in terms of honesty than his predecessors? May be Mathew and others will say "we must go with the flow if we have to enjoy our many years of struggle in the cause of the people." It could be that one of the champions of revolutionary patriotism in Liberia is now getting old and has come to realize that to "struggle in the cause of the people" is an old rhetoric which has no place in today's Liberia. Is it fair then to conclude that compromising with the devil or selling one's soul to the devil is the order of the day?
For those who refuse to compromise their conscience just for the loot, there are two options: going into exile, or stay home and risk going to jail or getting killed. Moses Duopu, and Samuel Dokie come to mind when we think of those who were killed for not compromising on principle. For those who have to flee for their lives for not compromising, we will think of people like Dr. Sawyer, Commany Wesseh, and Varfley Dorleh. There are many people living in America today who are not here for the love of American life and all the good stuffs it has to offer. They include journalist, politicians and other professional people. Since they won't compromise and join the party they have to keep away and let Taylor enjoy his time. Since Taylor may not be leaving any time soon, only God knows how long the exile will continue.
There are others who have chosen to remain home with all the risks involved. As of now Taylor is pointing at Dr. Tipoteh as an exemplary politician who has stayed to "engage the system." He's doing this to prove to the world that all we have been saying about him being the "mean bad man" is not true because he has tolerated a prominent politician to stay and operate within. If we must accept Taylor's self-righteous bragging about tolerating opposition from within, isn't it interesting to know that journalist Hassan Bility and others are arrested and detained for "staying to engage the system", while Dr. Tipoteh is praised for the same reason? Or is it because Dr. Tipoteh is a big fish, which the president can't touch, and Hassan Bility is just a little one, which he can step on with impunity?
Hassan Bility refused to compromise or be bought by the system. He rejected all the offers made to him to compromise. Before his arrest, many friends and family members had advised him to leave the country. All these people were talking to him out of concern for his life. The commitment to stay on to "engage the system" weighed so much on his mind that he would not give up. On many occasions when I talked to him, I urged him to leave. His response would always be, "We all can't pack up and leave. Some of us will have to stay to help make Liberia a better society." He could have gotten the visa, and could have gotten all the help to get the plane ticket to get out of Liberia. It could have been quite easy for him to get the asylum approved in the United States. But Bility made the conscious choice of staying without selling his soul to the devil. He decided it was best to "engage the system" the best way he understands it and that is to exercise his constitutional right as a journalist and say it like it is. Since he could not compromise and have no intention of leaving the country, Mr. Taylor decided it was time to move against him. When Bility finally felt the threats coming all around him and decided to leave the country "temporarily" as indicated in the email he sent me on the 14th of May, it was too late.
Subject: URGENT URGENT URGENT SOS CALL
Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 11:17:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan Bility <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Nkonneh <email@example.com
If I needed any help from you guys, this really is it. I need it now, for tomorrow could be too late. The current situation in the country poses a serious danger to me. I need not elaborate. I don't have my phone in use now for security reason. You can contact me through the email for now. If you guys wait for few more days, it could be too late. I therefore want you to call an urgent meeting of the brothers out there for an SOS to assist in getting me temporarily out of here. This is my request, it is urgent.
What can be understood from this email is that Bility was under strict security surveillance and that Taylor's security forces were just waiting for the order from their boss to do what they eventually did. His every move was being watched while they manufactured their lies as justification. We did responded to his SOS call and were concerned whether he could leave safely. I emailed him on several occasions to find out when he would be leaving or if he had already left where could we contact him. I told him that we were seriously concerned about his safety and prayed that God will guide and protect him. The following email is his reply he sent me on June 13th, eleven days before he was arrested.
Subject: Re: URGENT URGENT URGENT SOS CALL
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2002 03:54:28 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan Bility <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Nvasekie Konneh <email@example.com
I'm still in Liberia. It's a horrible experience that I can't even inform anyone that I plan to leave Liberia because I fear the news might leak to Taylor and his security forces. He called just before he ordered the reopening of my paper and made assurances that I would be protected at all costs. Our discussion lasted for 38 minutes. He told me how he wanted me to edit his newspaper, The Patriot. But I told him I would think about it. I'm really afraid now for my life.
May God be with you.
These two emails will prove as false all the charges the Taylor government has levied against Bility. The two emails do not show a man who was planning to kill the president of a country. They show a picture of a man who has finally been convinced that the threats to his life was real and that his best chance is to flee for his life like many other Liberians have done. He has finally realized that it is better to live to see another day rather than die a cruel death at the hands of brutal murderers who are so notorious for killing people like Dokie and others. One can only imagine how terrifying it is to know that your every move is being monitored and that at any moment you could be arrested, tortured, or killed on the order of a ruthless killer. If you are not so strong, you could lose your cool. This is why Bility would not believe Taylor's "assurances" that he would be "protected at all cost." Bility knew Taylor meant the opposite when he offered such "assurances." He knew that Taylor's offer to let him edit his "Patriot" newspaper was just another attempt to buy his loyalty. Most people under such condition would say "yes" but Bility was too uncompromising to have told the man that he "would think about it." May be Taylor considered that as a defiance and came to the conclusion that Hassan Bility must be arrested and charged as a "terrorist." After all, who can defies Taylor and lives to tell the story? What comes to mind is Moses Duopu's last interview from Abidjan on VOA when he defied Taylor's imposition of himself as the leader of the NPFL. This was in the early 90.
News coming out of Liberia regarding Bility and other detainees is not good news. Reliable sources indicate that their health condition is terrible. They are not adequately fed. They are being transferred from one location to another. Just recently, Bility and seven other persons were taken to Clay, which is still a war zone. This could be an indication that the regime wants to do to them what it has done to countless victims in the past. With the reputation of terror monster like Taylor, anything is possible. If Taylor could kill people like Jackson Doe and Gabriel Kpolleh with impunity, what about Hassan Bility, Ansumana, Mohammed Kamara and others? Are we going to get angry enough to tell Taylor that enough is enough or are we going to sit and do nothing while he kills these people?
Whatever the case, our prayers are with all those detained and we hope that the divined Power will intervene on their behalves. We will also hope that all Liberians who believe in human rights and sanctity of human life will join us as we demonstrate in Washington DC on September 16, 2002. We must not allow these brothers to be another statistics of Taylor's brutal adventure. Even if we may not be able to stop Mr. Taylor from doing what he's determined to do, it is our responsibility to tell him that we are against what he's doing. That's the reason why we will demonstrate in Washington DC on the 16th of September 2002.