An Outlook on ULAA in 2002
By J. Kpanneh Doe
February 19, 2002
It is perhaps the oldest Liberian civic organization in the United States. Its predecessor was the Liberian student Association, which existed in the 1960's and early 1970's. At 27 years old, the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA) has established itself as a recognized Liberian institution. Like many other organizations, it has experienced its share of high points and low points -rising, falling, and rising again with the changing times. Its exceptional strength and distinct quality are its determination to remain a viable Liberian institution, representing the hopes and aspirations of mainly Liberian community-based organizations across the United States.
ULAA attributes its longevity and success to many factors, but key among those are: its commitment to promoting unity among Liberians in the United States and the Diaspora; its advocacy of issues affecting Liberians at home and abroad; its non-partisan nature and significantly, its commitment to promoting a long cherished tradition of being a trailblazer and a microcosm of Liberian democracy. Since its inception in 1974, the Union has been able to institutionalize the process of holding democratic elections every year, now every two years since adopting a revised constitution in 1997. Since then, it has held elections to elect a new leadership with a broad participation of Liberians across these United States. Throughout its history, it has had well over 14 elections, and about 14 different Presidents of the organization, a record unrivalled by any existing Liberian organization.
ULAA veterans and observers point to the work of the ULAA Interim Administrative Council, from December 1995 to September 1996, as setting the stage for the turn-around of the Union by and through its Restructuring Plan which prepared the organization for the new millennium. Council members included Edward McCauley, Felecia Williams-Lamptey, Joseph Korto, Jesse Cooper, Jeff Bates, Mydea Reeves-Karpeh, and Toe Blamo Gbi. The Plan essentially produced three major changes: Participation in ULAA was changed from individual basis to membership organization; the electoral system based on the equal voting of delegations from member-organizations; and the creative distribution of power and authority among the Board Members, Executive Officers, and Chapter Presidents. The new Constitution was authored by Mr. Toe Blamo Gbi, whose work was described by a former Chapter President as, "new thinking which mixed participatory democracy with representative democracy, in an elaborate framework of roles, responsibilities, functions, and duties that still represent the three levels of a democratic government (legislative, executive, and the judiciary). The framer of the Constitution purposely provided a significant role for directors to develop by-laws, elections law, and code of conduct, and officers to prepare a financial management system for transparency and accountability.” As to whether the tasks were performed or not remain the subject of the power play that lies ahead.
Notwithstanding, Union watchers point to ULAA's unique governing structure as another positive attribute that has made the organization relevant to contemporary times. Its governing structure comprises the following: The National General Assembly, the National Administration, the National Board of Directors, and a National Leadership Council. In terms of pecking order and functional responsibilities, the National General Assembly or "The Assembly", ranks as the highest institution of the Union and the forum for the mass participation for member organizations and foreign friends of Liberia in the policy and decision-making processes of the Union. The Assembly meets once a year to hold elections for a new corps of officers or to discuss internal matters and national issues. This is followed by the National Board of Directors or "The Board", which is the second-highest ranking institution of the Union, and serves as the legislative arm of the Union. The National Leadership Council or "The Council" which brings together the elected heads of various Union membership organizations operating at the national, regional and statewide levels follows this; and then, the National Administration or "The Administration" which runs the day-to-day affairs of the Union.
Almost considered a model for organizational building and broad community participation, the Union has been able to craft and champion the concept of "local community associations." The LCA's have served as an instrument for mobilizing and bringing together Liberians in different states where they are concentrated. On record, there are at least thirteen (13) active LCAs or chapters of the Union. The all-time high of Chapter membership was twenty-three (23).
Despite its success, the Union has had its failures and setbacks, much of this has been intertwined with the larger Liberian experience. Riding on the crest wave for democratic change, the Union became an evocative voice for Liberians in the Diaspora, calling for socio-economic and political reforms at home. The Union was then living up to its billing, mission by establishing itself as the umbrella organization among the ranks of various pro-democracy groups advocating for change and the removal of an oligarchic structure that served the interest of a tiny minority for over a century.
With its advocacy mission, the Union's popularity also rose - its popularity swelled and it became a training ground for leaders, and its image was writ large. But soon as the oligarchy was removed through a military coup d'etat, a selfish strain developed among the Union's leadership. As the new military leaders looked abroad to recruit professionally trained Liberians to assist in running the bureaucracy, an element of the Union's leadership seized the opportunity to pursue its own personal agendas. Prominent among the ULAA leaders who took the flight to the greener pastures under the military and civilian regimes of Samuel Doe included: Anabas Johnson, Ignatius Clay, Bai M. Gbala, Thomas Collins, Monorkomana Nyundueh, Moses Duopo, Jenkins Scott, Moses Jarbo, and others. The Union then became transformed into a springboard by those that had highjacked it to further their own personal aims and ambitions. So, all throughout the 80's and early 90's when the country was further plunged into war, the Union's image was egregiously damaged, and it suffered a major setback.
However, it must be stated that perhaps with the exception of J. Milton Teahjay and D. Karn Carlor, no prominent former ULAA official participated in the Interim government from 1990-1994. Lessons were learned to the extent that under the Presidency of Toe Blamo Gbi, September 1990-July 1991, ULAA endorsed the Interim Government led by Amos Saywer against the rival government set up by Charles Taylor, a powerhouse in ULAA who still had influence among the old rank and file of ULAA. Sooner, rather than later, the old guard rose to the defense of the NPFL and Taylor and actively participated in the war of annihilation against the Liberian people. Further ruining its image, many of its former leaders became key architects of the seven-year civil war, who are now presiding over the demise of the Liberian state. Of course, its most visible figure is Charles McArthur Taylor, President of Liberia, once Chairman of the Board of Directors, and his companion of friends who at one time or the other, served in leadership roles of the Union, including Speaker of the House Monorkomna Nyundyueh, Senator Thomas Jucontee Woewiyu, Director of Cabinet Blamoh Nelson, Investment Commission Chairman Somah Paygar, Presidential Advisor Bai Gbala, Deputy Foreign Minister Jangaba Johnson, among other. Furthermore, ethnic ties, class allegiances, and political persuasions led to a surge of new Liberian organizations that undercut the membership of ULAA during the civil war.
Yet still, critics of the Union point to its failure to address the internal needs of its members - literally, the caring and feeding of its members - attending to their welfare, as another blemish that has bruised its image and credibility. Not much attention is being paid to its membership amidst the increasing needs of the growing number of Liberians that have migrated to the US in the last few years. Regarding this, Mr. Siahyonkron Nyanseor, a Union veteran and former President said, "While there may be some truths to the accusation, those who accused the Union of failure to address internal needs of its members, really do not understand the operation of the Union. The Union operates as a federal organization, as such, most internal problems are addressed through the local organizations. The federal government of this great United States cannot exist without the states - it is the same with ULAA. ULAA cannot be called ULAA without its local chapters. Therefore, what the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA) does for its members is the same as the function of ULAA."
However, in recent years, successive Union leaderships have taken some steps to educate its membership, reconcile their advocacy for change at home and attending to the needs of Liberians in the Diaspora. One of the important initiatives launched by the Union in the last two years, is the aggressive push to lobby the US congress to effect a change in the immigration status of thousands who have sought refuge in the United States as a result of Liberia's civil war and its ongoing instability. ULAA wants Liberians who currently benefit from a temporary protective status to be given a permanent residency status. Though still a remote possibility that a permanent status will be granted by Congress, the Clinton and Bush administrations have found strong foreign policy and humanitarian reasons not to deport Liberians back to their shattered country, but have seen it fit to extend the stay of Liberians here in the U.S. Initiated by the Korto administration, the Reeves-Karpeh administration has pursued the Liberian immigration cause relentlessly, and with some degree of success.
Even as the Union struggles to redeem its image from years of being sullied, and restore some semblance of credibility, its own institutional success, has also become its nightmare. The Union's enviable organizational structure has become a major source of institutional conflict for power among varied competing interests. Whereas, there had always existed such conflicts, it deepened in recent times. What is the nature of the conflict?
The nature of the conflict is one of a perceived weakness and at the same time real strengths of ULAA's Constitution. The Constitution does not invest any supreme authority in any of its principal bodies, especially the Board and the Administration (The Union model could be a good example of how the powers of the Liberian presidency could be reduced). Depending on personal chemistry, common interests and vision, both bodies can work in a collaborative partnership or develop an adversarial relationship. In terms of its structure, the principal function of the Board is to develop policies and serve as a legislative arm, while the administration implements policies and programs.
According to Mr. Nyanseor, "this collaborative management and relationship has been undermined over the years and has become more adversarial in some instances. While at other times, one body has dominated the order."
He adds: "The chairmanship of Thomas Jucontee Woewiyu (1987-90) and the presidency of Mathew Kai (1987-1990) sow the first major seeds of antagonistic behavior. Thereafter, the chairmanship of Patrick Roques (1990-1994) and the Presidency of James Worlobah (1991-1994) turned up the pace of 'power struggle' into one of litigation between the Board and the Administration. The struggle continued through the Chairmanship of Mathu Gibson (1994-1996), and it reached its maddening zenith during the chairmanship of Augustus E. Majors (1997-2001)."
The Current Crisis is more than institutional disagreements; it appears to center around competing visions and interests, which is also connected to the unresolved Liberian crisis. There are two key protagonists in this conflict: Mydea Reeves-Karpeh, the current and first female elected president in the 27-year history of the Union, and Augustus E. Majors, dubiously referred to as "Chairman for Life" (for being the longest serving chairman in the Union's history), and formerly Chairman of the Board. Majors reluctantly relinquished the Board chairmanship after being defeated in the local community elections in Boston, Massachusetts. As he represented no chapter, he lost his national pulpit to bully and deal.
Considered unassuming and highly professional, many observers have applauded the degree of independence and the restoration of integrity Ms. Reeves-Karpeh has brought to the Union long battling image of deficit and fatigue. "Ms. Karpeh has not only given the Union a new face and a new image, but has brought a degree of independence which was found wanting in her predecessors especially the Korto-Majors Administration, which had a close relationship with their patrons in Monrovia," observed a former local community president from the northeast.
The adversarial relationship that dominated the Union, from August 1999 to December 2001, between the Board and the Administration, has also been a reflection of the personalities and leadership styles of the President and the former Chairman of the Board. Many local community leaders interviewed for this story, praised President Reeves-Karpeh for her "consensus-building" style and her ability to consult widely before making important decisions affecting the Union. A review of her resume indicates that Mydea earned a Master's degree in Public Administration fro Southern California in 1973, and worked at the Institute of Public Administration in Liberia.
"As the first female president of the Union, Mydea has been an excellent leader. She always consults and seeks advise from friends and associates," observed Christiana Dagadu, past President of the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA). That is one of the things that boiled Mr. Majors, who required the President to only consult and act only on the instructions of the Board Chairman.
In addition, her critics also blame her for her inability to follow through on her campaign promises and projects she has committed herself to implement. "If only she can attack her program with some assertiveness, she would be even more successful...but again, to be fair, she has not had the support from the Board, " another community leader opined.
By contrast, however, the former Chairman of the Board, Augustus E. Majors, is viewed as the very opposite of Ms. Reeves-Karpeh, in terms of personality and style. Considered condescending but hard- working, majority of the community leaders interviewed perceive the Board during Majors' leadership as top-heavy, adopting a "controlling-style" which is not befitting of a civic organization. Many of the leaders also fumed at the fact that the former Chairman of the Board made decisions without consultations, or only consulted a close-knit group of collaborators.
"The Board is made up of 26 members from various local chapters, but not once in his seven years of being Board Chairman, was he able to convene a Board meeting with 50% of the members represented, but yet still decisions were made and expected to be carried out...this says much about Majors leadership," a former board member observed. Adding, " the Constitution says the Board should set policy, yet the chairman constantly fights to get involved in programming issues. When it comes to the Board passing policy resolutions, the chairman opts for issuing instructions and demands to the president on every imaginable issue."
If there was a real "clash of civilizations", in ULAA, these differences have developed into a clash of personalities and have boiled over into a series of testy exchanges between the President and the former Chairman of the Board. The clash of egos has led to trading accusations, finger-pointing and name-calling. In the process, the work of ULAA has been stalled, programs and projects abandoned, and a condition of stalemate has ensued resulting from a lack of cooperation between the Union's two principal bodies and their leaders. Also, in the process, alliances has been formed which has also thickened like brick and mortar, and has contributed to the deep divide between the Board and the Administration. The conflict has become so venomous that Mr. Majors is continuously hitting cyberspace with all kinds of serious charges against her. Meanwhile, President Reeves-Karpeh had considered filing a lawsuit against Mr. Majors for "libel, slander and defamation of character."
It would however be inadequate to explain this chasm between the Board and the Administration by only pinpointing and highlighting the personality conflicts. The differences on closer scrutiny, are much more substantive. There are differences on internal operational matters, and more importantly, policy issues.
Operationally and procedurally, there exists a wider gulf between both organs of the Union. Both sides appear to have a list of grievances, but more so coming from the Administration.
The Reeves-Karpeh Administration on several counts, for example, cites the failure of the Board to commission an Independent Audit of her predecessor, the Korto administration (Sept. 1996-August 1999), further saying it has failed to do so because Mr. Majors was Board Chairman and at the same time the main vendor of services and procurement officer for goods provided by his company . The Board instead approved the Korto financial report without an audit, which is required by law. The Majors' Board on the other hand has demanded a financial report from the current (a report submitted January, 2001, but yet to be audited) administration, when in fact it did not do so for the previous Administration. Observers attribute this to the fact that the Korto Administration and the Majors' Board saw "eye-to-eye", and were in lockstep on many issues and transactions.
Adhering to constitutional requirements, the Reeves-Karpeh administration submitted an Administration Program of Action, A Budget, and A Financial Management and Accounting Procedures document - all of which were submitted to the Board in November 1999, but never adopted by the Board. Complaints abound that the Chairman of the Board has refused to submit himself to established rules and procedures governing the Board.
On other matters, small and large, the Administration argues that the Board has never been able to convene a full session comprising all 26 members of the board. Hence, it has never had a quorum, yet still it makes unilateral decisions that it expects the Administration to implement. The Board also has no system of working committees as stipulated by Board by-laws.
Of significance, the administration points to the fact that the Board has failed to draft and enact elections law that would govern the Union's general elections (The last revision was made in 1998). This has contributed to elections being postponed at least twice since the tenure of the Reeves-Karpeh's Administration ended In August 2001. It was in September 2001 that the Majors Board confirmed the appointed chairman of the Elections Commission, Abraham Massallee of Pennsylvania, with co-chairman Prof. Dr. Abraham James, former professor of political science at the University of Liberia. Majors had demanded that Mr. Willie Kamara, previously of Ohio and now in Texas (a non-ULAA member-organization) continue to chair the Commission.
Mr. Majors has complained that President Reeves-Karpeh likes to micro-manage everything, including finances and does not consult the Board. Furthermore, that the President is disrespectful of the board, failing to respond to any correspondence from the chairman. He is personally bitter that President Karpeh turned away from having him lead the way on Liberia, and instead has chosen to follow the word and gospel of the "gang of three" (Charles Brumskine, Toe Blamo Gbi and Norman Cole). The president says she is free to seek the advice of anyone, but denies that anyone tells her what to do. " The three guys are my friends. I am not certain as to whether all three are buddies. I am proud to be associated with some of the best brains Liberia has to offer. But none of them rules ULAA," the President is quoted as saying to a former Board member.
Underneath the mere appearances and the sniping, there were key questions of policy and direction that set the Administration and the Board apart.
One important development and a key turning point in the two-year Reeves-Karpeh Administration, had to do with a major policy shift and change regarding ULAA's relations with the Liberian government, the Taylor regime. Inheriting a policy of "Constructive Engagement" from the Korto & Major team, which was designed to built a cordial, accommodating, uncritical and non-confrontational relationship with the Taylor regime, the Reeves-Karpeh Administration not understanding the nuances of the policy, had to carry it out during the first six months of her administration simply out of "good faith" that the Union could bring its
influence to bear on the Taylor government in respecting the rule of law and improving the quality of life of Liberian people. To the contrary, however, the policy produces no real concrete results despite a token acknowledgement and a symbolic visit by a government delegation led by Mr. Blamo Nelson, Director-General of the Cabinet (a former Secretary-general of ULAA in the 70s) to consult with ULAA's leadership.
The Constructive Engagement Policy, adopted at ULAA's 25th General Conference, was the brainchild of ULAA's past president, Dr. Joseph D. Korto, this was pursued with vigor and to the hilt. It had been touted and heralded as providing "fresh thinking" and a "new beginning" for a faltering organization. Both the former president (Korto) and the former Board Chair (Majors), led a ULAA delegation to Liberia in 1998 to lay the groundwork for this policy. But the policy never gained much traction, and did not receive
organization-wide support. The only evidence of its effect was the muted criticism and the lack of critical engagement of the Taylor regime on matters of human rights abuse and lack of the rule of law.
A respected analyst of Liberian politics and the politics of the Union, noted that: "The Constructive Engagement Policy of the Korto-Majors team was asham, allowing the Taylor regime to buy-off the Union leadership and grease their palms...it's real motive was self- serving."
But proponents of the policy viewed it as serving a useful purpose, providing a radical departure from the "old-style" politics of demonstrations, issuing position statements, and mass confrontation with the Liberian government, this has always characterized the Union politics.
In an important break with this policy and changing course, having determined that the so-called "constructive engagement" was producing no constructive results, but only a one-sided engagement---a marriage without a wedding - the Reeves-Karpeh administration opted for a complete and total break with this policy, by adopting a policy of advocating for human rights and democracy in Liberia. At ULAA's 26th Annual General Conference held October 2000, in Atlanta, Georgia, the General Assembly adopted a resolution mandating the Reeves-Karpeh administration to aggressively pursue this policy. It was
clear from this mandate that the Reeves-Karpeh Administration had begun to assert its independence and free itself from the stranglehold and the legacy of the Korto-Majors team. This new policy was clearly articulated and reinforced in a Statement issued in October 2000, on the Current State of Affairs in Liberia and the Sub-region.
"As the oldest and largest group of Liberian organizations in the Americas, ULAA has consistently upheld and defended the principles of freedom, liberty, justice and other civil as well as human rights of Liberians at home and abroad. Consequently, the Union shall continue to advocate and engage in activities that support and promote good governance and constitutional democracy. The Union will not support any individual or group whose aim is to bring untold suffering to the Liberian people already burdened by the
insurmountable problems due to the non-performance of the Taylor government over the past three years."
On several other policy matters, the Majors Board and the Karpeh Administration were diametrically opposed and adopted several different paths. For example, while the Board leadership supports a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Administration, advocates War, Political and Economic Crimes Tribunal;
while the Board leadership supports cooperation with the Liberian Embassy and UN Mission, the Administration advocates disengagement from Liberian government entities; while the Board leadership supports international rebuke and condemnation of the Taylor regime, the Administration advocates
international sanctions; and, while the Board leadership supports the establishment of a ULAA Voters Education Project to assist Liberian government Elections Commission, the Administration advocates the establishment of a Liberian Democracy Fund to help level the political playing field, just to name a few among many others.
A board insider complained that the key collaborators of Major's viewpoints on Liberia are such Board members as: Ijoma Flemister of Ohio, a former True Whig Party Member of the House of representatives (Tolbert era); Dweh Boley, a former Deputy Managing Director of the Liberia Oil Refinery (warlord regime of Taylor, Boley, and Kromah). Dweh Boley was second in command to Managing Director Cyril Allen, who is now the Chairman of Taylor's party. These are new "Majors" on ULAA's power block: Flemister for the last 2 years and Boley for less than a year."
A Power Struggle The rivalry and the accumulated problems over the last two years, had hardened and deepened, and contributed to a gridlock in which very little was accomplished. Now, it became evident that one side had to find a way to outwit and outmaneuver the other.
Acting unconstitutionally, the former Board Chair and his close allies, meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland on September 8, 2001 at its quarterly meeting, took the inevitable decision not to extend the term of President Reeves-Karpeh whose term had officially expired on August 21, 2001. In a September 10, 2001 letter to Reeves-Karpeh, the Former Board Chair wrote:
"Due to the fact that the two-year term of office of your administration expired on August 21, 2001, the Board opted not to extend the term until the General Conference and Elections scheduled for November 16-18, 2001 in Columbus, Ohio. The decision was also taken based on the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the Board and your Administration, despite several noble efforts to reverse it. Because of this and other reasons, the Union has failed to operate effectively and efficiently for the past two years. It is also in the best interest of the Union that appropriate measures be taken to address the present financial management problems of the Union immediately. An Interim Administration has duly been established to carry out the affairs of the Union until General elections are held."
This decision by the Board was made public in a subsequent Press Release issued the same day that carried the Board Chair's signature, in which the new Interim Officers were announced. It stated: "The Reeves-Karpeh administration will be replaced by a five man Interim Committee appointed by the Board to administer the affairs of the Union until its General Elections scheduled for November 16-18, 2001 in Columbus, Ohio. The members of the Committee are: Emmanuel Wettee, Secretary-General of FOLAO and member of the National Leadership Council of ULAA, Mr. Dweh Boley, member of the Board from
New Jersey (North) and Ms. Hawah Kpakah, former President of the Liberian Community of Washington, DC -Metro. Other members are: Mr. Sam Tiah-member of the Board from Massachusetts, and Mr. Emmanuel Elsar-former President of the Liberian Community of New Jersey (North)."
In the words of one of the Board members, a "palace coup" had taken place only that it lacked legitimacy. The Board's action clearly overstepped its constitutional authority. Further, this action did not resonate well with the broader membership. In a September 11, 2001 memo to the Board Chair, Ms Ruth Yvonne Nelson, President of the Liberian Community Association of Maryland, wrote: "Mr. Chairman, you (the Board) have just undermined the Liberian people in these Americas. No amount of personal differences is sufficient to warrant this blatant sabotage of the Administration."
After publishing the ULAA administration statement of condolence issued by its president, The Perspective received two press statements from ULAA on September 17. One of the press releases was a statement signed by Mr. Gus Majors in which he stated that Ms. Reaves-Karpeh was no longer president of ULAA. Mr. Majors wrote, “This decision was necessary because of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the Board of Directors and the Karpeh Administration on issues of finance and operations. For more than 16 months, the relationship between the Administration and the Board had soured to the extend where the efficiency and effectiveness of the Union were undermined and significantly impaired. This action of the Board is not unprecedented and it was necessary to secure and protect the assets and integrity of the Union.” The second statement was another condolence from the “Interim Commission.”
When this magazine decided to probe this matter, it decided to contact the sender of the two statements (email@example.com) to determine what was the constitutional basis or the "enabling legal authority" it had for the unprecedented action it had taken. The Board Chair appearing irate, responded in a very terse e-mail: "I find your request very strange and also unprecedented. Over the past two years, your paper has on several occasions printed mere "allegations" about several individuals, including myself and have accused us of unfounded acts without any proof or even given us a chance to vindicate ourselves. These fabrications also affected every Liberian. Without any provocation, your paper sought to discredit us and tarnish the images of innocent Liberians striving to do the right thing...I am curious to know whether you requested and obtained the "legal authority" needed to print those stories and if yes, from whom? Your paper was provided bonafide Press Statement with a contact source and other information yet you have refused to publish it. It makes one wonder why? Is it because it is about a person who you have glorified, and feel embarrassed to print something contrary? Or, is it that your paper is biased and not prepared to print the truth?"
The Board Chair contends that there were precedents for his action, which occurred in 1995 and 1998, in the case of Dr. Jesse Cooper and Dr. Joseph Korto, both presidents of the Union.
Rejecting the Board's decision, Ms. Reeves-Karpeh responded in a memorandum of September 11, 2001, addressed to all ULAA Board members and the National Leadership Council. The memo read:
"On your decision titled 'Status of you Administration', I am and will remain the National President of ULAA until elections are held at your arbitrarily suggested date in November 2001 at your chosen city of Columbus, Ohio. No externally politically motivated act of yours or the Board will suffice under the law of the Union. I will not give away any of my constitutional duties, responsibilities, roles and functions to you or the Board to satisfy the whims and caprices of internal and external forces against the best interest of the Union and Liberia. Under my leadership, I will ensure that the will and pleasure of the ULAA member organizations prevail that there be no constructive engagement with the undemocratic Liberian government until at such time the fundamental rights of the Liberian people are respected and protected. Your personal preference and the Board decision to have the Union do business with President Taylor, is out the door."
The National Leadership Council and the Board reached an agreement to annul the decision to remove or not to renew the mandate of the Karpeh Administration, as the action was not supported by the Constitution, not backed by any lawful precedent, and did not carry a simple majority vote of Board members. After this defeat in Philadelphia in September, Mr. Majors returned to Boston to campaign, and lost the elections. Two major blows to Mr. Majors, yet he keeps fighting Mrs. Karpeh in cyberspace outside the corridors of power.
ULAA's Outlook in 2002
For the world, the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001, will forever be remembered; for the Union, the failed attempt to change an administration unconstitutionally, will be remembered in the annals of the Union's history.
ULAA, however, enters 2002 with a lingering crisis and a number of unresolved issues. Perhaps, time will tell what kind of relationship develops between the Board and the Administration. Even though there has been a change in the Board's leadership - Mr. Ranney Jackson of Maryland and former Vice Chairman of the Board, has replaced Augustus E. Majors who lost his Board seat in his local community elections in Boston, Massachusetts, thus disqualifying him to continue as National Board Chairman. It is yet to be seen what personal chemistry evolves between him and President Reeves-Karpeh. It should however be noted that Mr. Jackson was both a close ally of Mr. Majors, and helped sanction the foiled Board's decision, which leaves much to be desired.
There is also the brewing conflict in the Liberian community in Metropolitan Washington, DC, that has led to a deep split within the community association with two sides contesting the leadership, and claiming to be the bonafide organization of the community. One side led by Patrick Nimley Tuan, spearheads the LCA Washington, DC metro group as its "Interim president"; the other is led by Mr. Dave Gannett as "President-elect" of the Liberian Community Association of DC. Both groups are battling for the hearts and minds of the community. Meanwhile, a five-man ULAA Eminent Person Fact-Finding Committee has been set up by President Reeves-Karpeh to investigate this matter. The committee comprises the ever -present Former ULAA president & Board Chairman Leslie Norman Cole, who has now become a "troubleshooter", former ULAA presidents Toe Blamo Gbi, Jesse Cooper and Joseph D. Korto, and Ms. Ruth Yvonne Nelson, president of the Liberian Community Association of Maryland. It surely will be a test of this experienced team to reconcile the two groups, one of which -the Gannett's group - has refused to give parental primacy to the Union. This will also be a test of presidential leadership in finessing such a crisis and bringing harmony in a discombobulated community.
Furthermore, if the internal bickering and leadership struggles continue within ULAA, it would have a diminished and non-influential voice on Liberian affairs, and especially on the fate of 2003 elections. As the most recognizable institution of Liberians in the Diaspora, this would be a setback and a throwback to its tradition of advocacy for democratic change. Other emerging pro-democracy may seize the initiative in this area groups such as the Liberian Democracy Initiative (LDI), and the Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia (MDCL) that is making strides to run away with the democracy banner.
Wisely, ULAA will have to develop a framework for collaborating with various other Liberian organizations especially on the question of 2003. An attractive proposal for collaboration, will be the staging of a "Million Liberian March" on Washington, DC to highlight the importance of the 2003 elections.
Encouragingly, while the Liberian Washington, DC community appears to be coming apart at the seams, other LCAs are making progress and keeping their community unified and intact. Successful elections and new leaderships have been chosen in Minnesota, Georgia, Massachusetts, among many others.
"Just as the grapes soured between former Chairman Majors and President Karpeh, a showdown is expected in August 2002 when ULAA elections for President are held. There is whisper that Dweh Boley, who is continuing the " war" against Mydea Karpeh, is seriously campaigning to run against the veteran leader. This will be a whitewash , even though Majors will not be a bystander," a close ULAA watcher concludes our story.