ULAA: The Conflict Within

By Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 3, 2003

As all eyes are fixed on Akasombo, where interested parties and stakeholders will meet soon to attempt to resolve the issues affecting Liberia, a new crisis is brewing right here among us. Our premier Liberian organization, ULAA, is slowly following the ugly example of the homeland; it is headed down a path of self-destruction.

Bitter factional rivalry within the rank and file of the organization has created an impasse. Normal activities usually undertaken by the administration were virtually grounded to a halt. However, as if in self-denial, nobody seems to want to admit it. Talking to the powers that be, everyone is quick to assure you that all is well. The truth of the matter is that all is far from well.

After an organizational meeting held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, news surfaced that some members of the Board of Directors had walked out of a Board meeting chaired by Chairman Ranney Jackson and accused him of irregularities. Before long, we were informed that Chairman Jackson had been deposed. The new Chairman of the Board, according to the communiqué, was Mr. Ijoma Flemister, who had hitherto been a prominent board member. Mr. Flemister was also one of the losing presidential candidates in the most recent general elections.

Mr. Jackson was not prepared to take this lying down. As expected, he fired back by issuing an official press release announcing the he was still in charge and boasted of having the support of the majority of board members. We were told that the group that tried to undermine Chairman Jackson's leadership was only a splintered, disgruntled group who had no authority to represent the board as it had claimed; that they had acted illegally.

Being concerned about the growing deterioration of the union, I frantically tried to get to the bottom of things. I interviewed a number of people including the two principal parties, Messrs Jackson and Flemister. I also interviewed President Kromah and Mr. Emmanuel Wettee, the Doyen of the Leadership Council, who is also Chairman of the Federation of Liberian Associations in Ohio (FOLAO), the organization Mr. Flemister represents on the board. I further had the opportunity to listen to as many as three tele-conferences called and hosted by the various parties.

One thing that was certain was that each group stubbornly held to its position and its ultimate conviction that its course was right and legal. Each group seemed convinced that it was only a matter of time before its opponents and critics would succumb and all would be well again.

Caught in between, and seemingly off guard, was President Kromah who seemed to be overwhelmed by events spinning out of control all around him. He assured me, though, that the state of the union was strong and unshakable. Cynically, I felt otherwise and recent events have convinced me further that things will definitely get worse before they improve. That is, if these supposedly well-intentioned Liberians do not eventually bury this historic organization.

While these matters have remained unresolved, the Liberian Peace Conference to be convened in Akasombo, Ghana has taken center stage; it has become the focus of all Liberians (groups and individuals) concerned about events in our country. Invitations have been extended to all interested parties, including ULAA.

An announcement from the office of the presidential press spokesman informed us that: "The delegation of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), to the up-coming All-Liberian Peace Conference, has been formally accredited by the organizers of the conference. The accreditation follows a formal invitation from ECOWAS to ULAA. The ULAA delegation is consisting of the National President, Mohammed S. Kromah and the Chairman of the Board, Ranney Jackson."

Before we had had time to digest this development, two communiqués were issued by Mr. Ijoma Flemister, in his assumed capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of ULAA. One of the letters addressed to President Kromah said: "In accordance with the Thursday, May 29, 2003 decision of the Honorable Board of Directors, I will be representing the Board of Directors on the ULAA delegation, headed by you, attending the International Contact Group sponsored peace conference in Ghana, during the ensuing first week of June 2003".

In the second letter addressed to Mr. James Rogers, Chairman Flemister instructs: "In view of my ensuing absence from the headquarters... to attend the conference in Ghana, I wish to exercise the honor of confirming that during my absence you will maintain the responsibilities of the Chairman of the Board..."

Again, before having the opportunity to peacefully resolve the internal conflict within the organization, the show hits the road. Uncomfortably caught in the middle will be Mr. Kromah. How he handles himself as a president of an organization accompanied by two strong-willed men, each steadfastly determined, will require some balancing skills.

I am not optimistic as to how this show will pan out. I have this very strange and uneasy feeling that Mr. Kromah and his opposing delegation members attending a conference to discuss peaceful resolutions will be tantamount to a couple going through a bitter divorce proceeding while playing marriage counselors to another warring couple. Can such a couple realistically be expected to dispense credible advice and propose suitable, peaceful solutions with a straight face? Such a scenario seems highly unlikely, I suppose.

Mr. Kromah will be playing the role of an invitee to a prom with two dates hanging on to him. Sooner or later, one will have to be left in the hallway while one gets to dance. Who will be the lucky partner? Fortunately, polygamy is legal in the Ghanaian culture. Right?