Liberia's Search for Peace is Again Starting on the Wrong Note

By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 4, 2002

It is the 1990s all over again. Only this time, the chief Liberian warlord, Charles G. Taylor is occupying the presidency in Monrovia. Liberian warlords including Charles McArthur Taylor, Alhaji V.G Kromah, George Boley, Roosevelt Johnson and Prince Johnson, and the Liberia's political class are repositioning themselves to out maneuver each other. Again, like the 1990s, the victims would be the Liberian people.

Mr. Taylor is determined to outfox the beleaguered Liberian political opposition. He has failed to provide the condition necessary for a genuine national reconciliation to occur in Liberia. Yet, he is inviting the politicians and exiled warlords for a national reconciliation conference in Monrovia. The government has imposed a state of emergency that has victimized more human right activists, Journalists and ordinary Liberians than the LURD rebels fighting to unseat Mr. Taylor. The level of insecurity created by the Taylor regime in Liberia makes it difficult for any opposition politician or Liberian citizen to exercise his or her constitutional rights of freedom of speech or association without being arrested.

The lifting of the state of emergency as intimated by Mr. Taylor's surrogates will not diminish the risks posed by Mr. Taylor's security forces to the constitutional rights of Liberians. Mr. Taylor and his thugs will continue to violate the civil liberties of Liberians whether the state of emergency is lifted or not. The Liberian people and the international community do not trust Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor is not a man of his word. President Taylor and his government have made many statements that proved to be false. Numerous examples are:

Mr. Taylor and his government told the Liberian people and the international community that human rights lawyer Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe was brutalized by fellow inmates due to his failure to pay prison fees. But, Cllr. Gongloe stated in an interview that state security agents brutalized him. The Liberian government is yet to prove him wrong.

Mr. Taylor's objective is to perpetuate himself in power at the expense of the Liberian people. He knows that even a bozo will defeat him in a free and fair election; therefore, his idea of a national reconciliation is anything that will keep him in power.

A genuine national reconciliation will not succeed in Liberia if Liberians continue to accept people who have the blood of the Liberian people on their hands as partners for peace. Liberian warlords like Charles G. Taylor, Alhaji Kromah, George Boley, Roosevelt Johnson and Prince Johnson must be made to account for the atrocities they committed in Liberia. National reconciliation does not mean to give free passes to Liberians that massacred fellow Liberians or looted the resources of Liberia.

The primary objective of the warlords like Liberia's kleptocratic ruler, Charles G. Taylor, is to avoid prosecution for the atrocities they committed in Liberia. Hence, their goal is to be included in any future governing political structure. The warlords and their associates believe that their inclusions in any future political arrangement will insulate them from accountability or prosecution in Liberia.

Liberians have set a dangerous precedent in their quest for peace. Mr. Charles G. Taylor and the other Liberian warlords were responsible for the deaths of more than 250,000 people, yet Mr. Taylor was rewarded the presidency. Worst still, Charles Taylor, Alhaji Kromah, George Boley, Roosevelt Johnson and Prince Johnson have all become mainstream Liberian politicians. LURD is now using the same strategy to be a player in Liberia's political future. God knows who will be next.

For reconciliation to succeed, any conference about the future of Liberia should involve the cross section of the Liberian citizenry through their elected or designated representatives. The politicians and exiled warlords have hosted two conferences about the future of Liberia this year. They have not made any serious effort to include the broad participation of the Liberian people. The politicians, like the exiled warlords are representing their own interests. Their interests may not necessarily be the interest of the Liberian people. Future conferences must include civic and religious organizations like the Liberian Marketing Association, the Trade Union of Liberia, human rights organizations, the Muslim Council of Liberia, the Liberian Council of Churches and the leaders of the various Liberian community associations in the Diaspora among others. If the politicians failed to include a cross section of the Liberian people in search of peace, it will be difficult to achieve a lasting peace in Liberia.

I believe a real peace will be achieved in Liberia only when Liberians with the help of the international community pressure Mr. Taylor to relinquish the presidency. Thereafter, Liberians should form an interim government that will create an enabling environment for a free and fair election to occur in Liberia. Liberians and the international community must remember that Mr. Taylor will not disarm his thugs in Liberia as suggested by the opposition politicians and exiled warlords during their recent conferences. Mr. Taylor will also not allow a free and fair election in Liberia because he knows that he cannot win one.

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