When Confronted With Reality

By Wellington Geevon-Smith

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

February 22, 2003

Once upon the time, the tiny West African Country called Liberia was a place everybody had wished to visit. Today, it is the most shunned, feared not only because of the insecurity that engulfed the country but its physical outlook.

On Friday's morning (February 21) I reached my workplace early at the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and was perusing the local dailies, especially the independent 'Weekly Insight'. The paper had published the full-text of a statement issued by the MFWA on the human rights situation in Liberia, making specific references to the brutalization of journalists Throble Suah of the Inquirer and Hassan Bility of The Analyst, all in the hands of state security.

The information contained in the statement was enough to bury the face of any patriotic citizen in shame but was nothing more or less than the fact of the reality the homeland is going through. State security personnel enjoy absolute impunity to the extent that a security captain is more loathed by the public than the leader of a criminal gang.

While I was glued to the paper, the head of the Research and Publications Department at the MFWA (my immediate boss) who had arrived from Senegal the night before walked in the office. Before answering my greetings, he said "Smith, you have to stop the fighting". He took a seat and narrated to me how the plane that brought him made a stopover at the Roberts International Airport on Thursday, February 20.

He was trying to give me a vivid description of how my international airport looks while pointing his fingers in the direction of a slummy area in downtown Accra. He talked about the bush that covers the landing script and the burnt out buildings destroyed by the liberators now in control of the country. To him the international airport in Conakry, Guinea was better off than RIA. Moreover, he narrated how he was overcome by fear when it was announced that they were landing at the Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, Liberia. The first thing he thought on was not to be caught up in any ugly situation that would embarrass his journey. Coincidentally, my embarrassments came in sequence, the newspaper publication and a personal account.

When my boss left I had to carry the burden of shame and guilt of being the first independent African country and perhaps the least in development in every area of life; both human and infrastructure.

Coupled with the war situation, what has buried Liberia is complete dictatorship. You don't need a battalion of soldiers to install fiscal discipline, restore sanity and credibility to the judiciary or to respect the human rights of the people. The total cost of two Land Rover jeeps that can drop the officials of government at the RIA can give the airport a facelift. Amidst the war situation, international media investigations conducted put the monetary value of the President at over two billion dollars.

Mr. Taylor sees the presidency as his 'life' to enrich himself and not as the trustee of the people's 'Autonomous Will'. He made his pliable legislature to surrender the entire country to him through the 'Strategic Commodity Act'. The President negotiates the country's resources, sells them and decides what to do with the money. These are all characteristics of dictatorship. Once his 'boys' are well armed and satisfied, the society is buried in silence and he is living a luxurious life, Mr. Taylor carries no remorse to realize how deeply his misrule had assaulted our humanity. This is the reality we have to accept.