Oh Yes, We Do Understand
By Edward D. Kollie, Jr.
February 6, 2002
The NEWS Newspaper published an article under the title “Liberia Will Not Progress Until... Blamoh Nelson Sees U.S. Assistance, Transparency A Must” which was posted on the Liberian government propaganda web page on January 8, 2002. The newspaper quoted Mr. Nelson as follows: “The Cabinet Director averred that many Liberians in the United States have been capitalizing on their lack of understanding of the national policies, actions and real intentions of the Government of Liberia to propagate against the system negatively to the American Government.” There are many statements attributed to Blamoh by the newspaper in its article, but the one above got my attention the most. I am tempted to conclude that Mr. Nelson is extremely arrogant to state that Liberians living in the United States of America (or anywhere else for that matter) do not understand what is going on in Liberia. As if it takes knowledge of rocket science to understand what the barbaric, nepotistic and thieving regime of Taylor has done to bring decadence to the Liberian nation and despair and unprecedented suffering to its people. However, I will cut him some slack and assume that he was acting in line with his official government capacity as Cabinet Director. After all, Blamoh understands he has to bow to Charles Taylor in order to keep feeding his family, even as the vast majority of Liberian families, including those with new born babies and young children, continue to struggle hopelessly to afford a meal a day. Now let’s look at the “national policies, actions and real intentions of the Government of Liberia” which the director of Charles Taylor’s cabinet says Liberians residing in the USA do not understand.
Sound national policies are those designed to ensure, safeguard and respect basic human rights. Such policies also promote peace and tranquility among the citizenry and foster economic and social development. A well-designed set of national policies is geared toward building, as well as maintaining, the infrastructure necessary to protect citizens against disease and infections, to educate and train them and to provide adequate and working means of transportation. Good national policies also ensure against a national resource distribution system that is seriously skewed toward a handful of individuals, to the detriment of the vast majority of the population. Acceptable national policies promote an atmosphere in which ordinary citizens are not hopelessly left to disproportionately suffer the pains or bear the burdens of the nation while a few greedy and corrupt individuals luxuriate in wealth and abundance. Good national polices also advance respect for the laws and constitution of the land and make sure citizens and residents live in an atmosphere free from social, ethnic and political intimidation and discrimination.
What are the national policies of Charles Taylor’s government that Blamoh Nelson says Liberians residing in the United States do not understand? Was Mr. Nelson talking about the corrupt and decadent policies that the rubberstamp Liberian Legislature, dominated by members of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), routinely approves to bestow more totalitarian power on Charles Taylor - like the “Strategic Commodities Act”? This disgraceful and despotic Act stipulates that: "The President of the Republic of Liberia is hereby granted the sole power to execute, negotiate and conclude all Commercial contracts or agreements with any Foreign or Domestic Investor for the exploitation of any of the Strategic Commodities of the Republic of Liberia. Such Commercial Agreement shall become effective and binding upon the Republic as would any treaty to which the Republic is a party, upon the sole signature and approval of the President of the Republic of Liberia." I wonder how many other nations in this world have such a dictatorial and ridiculous law. Even a fool can tell that this law was designed to ensure that the Liberian tyrant, his family and national and international cronies continue to appropriate Liberia’s resources for their personal benefit, while the overwhelming majority of the Liberian people languish in abject poverty, hunger and disease.
What are and have been Taylor’s policies for providing some of the barest necessities for the people of Liberia, since he essentially forced his way to the presidency of the country by threatening to re-start the civil war if he did not win the 1997 presidential election? By “barest necessities” I mean for example, (1) a working sewer system, pipe-born water and electricity in Monrovia, (2) food to feed the countless hungry people in Monrovia and around the nation, (3) medicines to help alleviate the high incidence of such treatable ailments as malaria, chicken pox and many common childhood diseases, and (4) repair to streets, roads, highways, bridges, schools and government buildings and facilities his murderous drugged child soldiers and foreign mercenaries looted and destroyed; as well as repair to clinics and the JFK Medical Center in Monrovia and the University of Liberia. What is the Taylor regime’s policy for the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS in Liberia? And one is not even sure if the man’s apparent insatiable appetite for sex, which seems to be the compelling reason why he has so many wives and mistresses in Monrovia and elsewhere in the country, does not in itself contribute to the worsening HIV/AIDS situation in the nation. There are many other areas in which we could raise valid arguments about the lack of national policies but we will leave those to another time and move on to the other issues that are the subject of this article.
When a set of good national policies has been devised, the next logical step is to put those polices into real action. In view of the foregoing argument, we are hard-put to find which actions Mr. Nelson was referring to, assuming he was talking about actions that would alleviate the long and profound suffering of the Liberian masses. The only actions Liberians everywhere and the international community have seen from Charles Taylor and his band of looters and plunderers are: (1) the transformation of Liberia into a pariah state in the international community, (2) the devastation of the country’s economy and infrastructure and the concomitant decadent and ruined state everything is in today, (3) the wanton destruction of more than 200,000 Liberian and other African lives, (4) the reduction of our once proud and hard-working people to mere beggars and refugees in their own land and in various parts of the world, (5) the brutal repression of political and social dissent and difference of opinion, (6) the accumulation of enormous wealth by Charles Taylor as well as his family members, friends and international collaborators through the pilferage and loot of the country’s financial and natural resources and through the sale of blood diamonds from the neighboring sovereign nation of Sierra Leone, (7) the ruthless and barbaric adventurism into Sierra Leone, as manifested by Taylor’s support for the savage and satanic Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which has left thousands of Sierra Leonean men, women and children limbless and their nation in total ruins, (8) the constant proliferation of bold-face lies by the Taylor regime to conceal his evil machinations and (9) the continuous brutal arrogation of all political power to Charles Taylor and his gang of blind, greedy, spineless and unpatriotic adherents.
It is often said that one cannot always accurately tell another’s intentions from the latter’s actions. I am sure many of us have inadvertently landed a hard hit on a friend’s shoulder or some other part of his/her body when our real intention was just to get that friend’s attention. But if on several different occasions, over a sustained period of time, we were to consistently land such hard hits on our friend, then that friend would not be wrong to assume that our intention was to inflict physical harm or pain on him or her. And here is where we find the barometer to measure Charles Taylor’s real intentions vis-à-vis the Liberian nation and its people. The real intentions of this messiah of evil and despair have always been very plain and simple: (1) to force himself on the Liberian people as their “leader” at any cost and (2) to enrich himself, his family and his friends at the expense of the well-being and safety of the Liberian people. And this man will employ any means to achieve those intentions. Taylor’s first official act of broad daylight thievery was committed when he forcefully took more than $25 million from the Liberian Treasury saying that he needed the money to pay his civil war debts; as if the Liberian nation and it’s people mandated him to start and fight the war that caused so much loss of human lives and destruction of property, not only in Liberia, but also in Sierra Leone and later on in Guinea as well.
Taylor started his civil war on the Eve of Christmas 1989 under what we now know to be a guise. He said his primary goal was to get rid of the brutal and repressive Samuel Kanyon Doe government and to restore peace and stability to the country. At that time most Liberians, including this writer, threw their support in one form or another behind his campaign. But the issues began to take a clearer shape and come into better focus when Taylor, to the utter amazement and disappointment of Liberians and the international community of civilized nations, refused to lay down his arms after Prince Yormie Johnson and his forces lured Doe from the Executive Mansion to their headquarters on Bushrod Island and murdered him on September 9, 1990. Taylor vowed to burn Monrovia down to ashes unless he was made ruler of Liberia. And true to his evil nature and uncompromising thirst for power at any cost, he ordered his drugged child soldiers and a gang of foreign mercenaries (including former enforcers of South Africa’s racist apartheid policies) to attack the peace-loving people of Monrovia. Needless to say that Taylor’s forces, in their campaign to lay Monrovia and its surroundings in total ruins, raped, maimed, and brutally killed thousands of innocent defenseless people, including five American Catholic nuns. They destroyed every semblance of civilized life in Monrovia and the outlying areas as they looted everything of any value in sight and shot their way into power.
Unemployment in Liberia today is at a staggering 85%. According to the US State Department and United Nations reports, HIV/AIDS affects an estimated 10% of the Liberian population. The average life expectancy is 47 years; less than 40% of Liberians are capable of reading and/or writing; nearly 75% of Liberians have no access to safe drinking water and well less that 15% have access to sanitary facilities. Monrovia, once a proud capital of regional and international trade and commerce, is now no more than a shanty town replete with rusted buildings that provide fertile breeding ground for rodents, mosquitoes and other life forms that are harmful to human health. Charles Taylor’s brutal and suppressive tactics have succeeded in ridding the country of all viable peaceful political opposition. He has either killed his political opponents, actual or perceived, or he has driven them into exile in foreign lands. Some of the very basic human rights, such as the right to free unrestricted and uncensored speech, as well as the right to a free press, have been severely stifled by this modern day barbarian.
Mr. Blamoh Nelson and other gravy-seekers like him go around singing words of praise about Taylor and asserting that those who refuse to blindly march in cadence do not understand his policies. Unfortunately for them, the realities on the ground in Liberia speak very loudly and clearly for themselves. Our people continue to live in total despair and frustration in their own land. Better than 90% of school-age children around the country are either not in school or attend schools that have no textbooks and/or trained teachers, not to mention the abounding dilapidated school buildings around the country. It is worth noting that Charles Taylor once promised to provide a computer for every child attending school in Liberia. Civil servants are fortunate if they receive a paycheck more than twice a year. There is almost a complete absence of healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities in the country. As a matter of fact, Taylor’s own Ministry of Health reported last year that there were only about 25 medical doctors in the nation of more than 2 million people. As the vast majority of the residents of Monrovia continue to live under sub-human conditions due to the lack of pipe-borne water, a safe and working public sewer system and electricity, Charles Taylor, his family and friends live in abundance and in the comfort of expensive, often newly built fortified homes equipped with satellite TV systems and other luxury amenities that contrast starkly with the status of a war-ravaged and economically devastated country like Liberia.
While malaria and other easily treatable diseases continue to plague the masses in the country, the Liberian ruler along with his family and friends seek medical care in foreign countries like France, Taiwan and in the United States of America (prior to the imposition of the travel ban on Liberian government officials and their families by the then Clinton administration). It is also a living reality that several Liberian families rely solely upon their relatives in the United States of America for their day-to-day sustenance. Liberians in the USA and others send hundreds of thousands (if not millions of) dollars to their relatives back home in Liberia. So when Blamoh Nelson said Liberians living in the USA do not understand his boss’s policies, actions and real intentions for the country, he was either totally unaware of this phenomenon or he blatantly chose to ignore this reality. Given Mr. Nelson’s position as Director of Taylor’s closet Cabinet, I find it difficult to believe he did not know that Liberians in the US are in fact unwillingly providing a vital life-support for Liberia’s ravaged economy, with their hard-earned money which they send, via Western Union and other means, to help their relatives and friends make it from one day to the next. Another reality is the fact the Liberia has become what a very prominent American legislator referred to as “Charles Taylor, Inc.” As the result of his corrupt, brutal and nepotistic practices, virtually all “business arrangements” in Liberia are either owned, co-owned and/or dominated by Charles Taylor, his family members and political cronies. For perhaps the first time in our national history, the ruler of the country has a total dominance on the means of short-wave radio transmission by ruthlessly wrestling the right to own and run short-wave radio broadcast from all others. Taylor is indeed a study in national disgrace and embarrassment. This fact is no better demonstrated than by his assertion that it is a privilege to own and operate short-wave radio transmission facilities in Liberia despite the fact that the country’s constitution, in addressing the issues of freedom of speech and the press, provides that this is a right.
Mr. Nelson’s statement that Liberians living in the USA agitate negatively against the Liberian ruler due to their lack of understanding of Charles Taylor’s policies, actions and real intentions, in some ways reminds of the charge the regimes of president William Richard Tolbert and Samuel Kanyon Doe used to levy against those who disagreed with those regimes and stood up against the horrors they perpetrated. Anyone who disagreed with the Tolbert government and the Doe/PRC regime was branded as being bent on introducing alien ideologies to Liberia, namely communism and socialism. From their point of view, the only reason why anyone agitated for change or spoke out against what was happening was that such individual wanted to introduce communist or socialist ideas to Liberia. Those leaders were just too blind to see that anything was wrong in Liberia. Mr. Tolbert, despite his initial seemingly commendable efforts to raise the people to “higher heights” and make Liberia a “wholesome functioning society” in the areas of healthcare, education, farm-to-market roads, etc., seriously failed to recognize that his government had become increasingly nepotistic, intolerant and brutal.
Master sergeant Samuel K. Doe and a group of low-ranking military personnel overthrew president Tolbert on April 12, 1980, charging the Tolbert regime with “rampant corruption”, among other things. Needless to say that Mr. Tolbert was brutally murdered in the coup and a group of his cabinet members and other government officials were subsequently lined up and shot to death at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia. Notwithstanding the horror of the April 12, 1980 coup, Liberians overwhelmingly welcomed the change of leadership and initially embraced the People’s Redemption Council government. It was not too long before the PRC government itself became very corrupt, dictatorial, intolerant and brutal. Soon opponents of the PRC government and the subsequent “civilian” Doe regime that followed were disappearing and/or being summarily executed, while others were being jailed without any tangible cause. Mr. Doe’s security forces constantly raided the University of Liberia. They beat, raped and jailed its students. They also destroyed and sometimes stole University property. The Liberian economy was doing extremely bad and government workers were getting paid once every three or more months, thanks largely to dwindling revenue intake and the theft of funds from the Ministry of Finance by Doe and his gang. And as usual, Doe and his herd of murderers never saw anything wrong with what they were doing and what was happening to the country’s image around the world. So those who spoke out against Doe and his government’s corrupt and brutal practices were labeled as being individuals who were bent on ridding Liberia of the “free enterprise system” so they would replace it with communism and socialism. It did not matter that these ideologies had essentially lost their appeal after having failed badly in places like the former USSR, East Germany, Eastern Europe, etc. where they had been in practice for decades.
As if the Liberian nation and its people have been cursed, we are again plagued by another evil regime. The only difference this time around is the fact that the horrors committed by this present regime pale in comparison to the evil-doings of all previous regimes combined. The evil I have seen up to this point in my lifetime makes me believe that the road to hell passes through the hearts and minds of diabolical men and women. And for the Liberian nation and its people, getting to hell through Charles Taylor has taken but a wink of an eye.
So what and whom do you think Taylor and his followers blame for the troubles our nation and people are facing today? What is the reason for the lack of basic sanitary conditions in Monrovia? Why have Liberians become refugees in their own country and elsewhere around the world? Why has Liberia become a pariah state among the comity of nations? Why are Liberians dying of easily treatable diseases? How come the vast majority of the population can barely afford a meal a day? What is the cause of the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS in the country, without any viable national policy to address the situation? And how about the 85% unemployment rate? Why are Sierra Leoneans, including thousands who are without a limb or more today, so angry at and scornful of Liberia? Blinded by sheer greed and consumed by evil, Charles Taylor and his band of broad daylight thieves and murderers blame all of the nation’s current problems on Liberians in the USA, on the governments of Britain and the United States, and on Guinea, Amnesty International, Global Witness and others who have ardently refused to accept the regime’s brutal wrestling away of freedom, peace and tranquility from the people of Liberia and the West African sub-region.
The terror and despair that prevail in Liberia today, some may say, is the price we are now paying for our inactivity at seriously and aggressively tackling, at the earliest stages, the economic inequities and sociopolitical deprivation that existed under successive True Whig Party regimes. While this may have some semblance of truth to it, I submit that our nation and its people are suffering today as a result of the total ruthlessness and barbaric tendencies of one man, namely Charles McArthur Taylor. This totalitarian and autocratic reprobate is one of the most unpatriotic rulers Africa has ever produced. His satiety for power and personal wealth is boundless. He will stop at absolutely nothing to fulfill his greed for power and wealth. Those who believe Taylor will respect the rule of law and willingly give up his brutal grip on power in Liberia must also believe that they can go to heaven with their eyes wide open. This liar and criminal, who also broke from jail in Massachusetts (USA) and fled to Libya where he received extensive terrorist training, is a murderer and a disgrace to the continent of Africa in particular and to all of mankind in general. It is therefore a horrible mistake for any sane person to expect him to observe any standards of acceptable civilized behavior. As I have said before, Charles Taylor will never ever relinquish power by any means other than force.
And so as the Blamoh Nelsons of Liberia go around singing the praises of their boss and accusing the rest of us of being ignorant of Taylor’s polices, actions and real intentions, we must never relent in constantly reminding them of the plight of the Liberian people. As they say in Liberia, the fruit never falls too far away from the tree that bears it. So it is our prayerful hope that one day soon the fruit from Taylor’s tree will start to fall and through some divine instruction, it will hit Mr. Nelson and others on the head hard enough so that they wake up and smell the rot and stench that this flagitious despot and thief has caused in Liberia and the West African sub-region.