Yvette Chesson-Wureh's Activism Questioned
By D. Sumowuoi Pewu

I received a copy of your letter to Mr. George Moose, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, in which, you could hardly hold back your disappointment with the State Department in its refusal to help facilitate the granting of United States Visas to individuals your organization apparently designated to attend a major "All Liberian Conference" in Washington, DC.

I appreciate your recent decision to become visible and actively playing a role in the process of helping to create a momentum and sustainable effort amongst the American and Liberian populace regarding the Liberian crisis. Hopefully, your added participation will help bring us closer to realizing the dream of putting together a mass critical engine capable of removing the main political brakes on the development of democratic frame work for our society. But no matter how laudable we might be for your new fondness for progressive activism and change in our Country's most bruising moment, it is important that your attention is called to one issue of real concern to me and a number of Liberians in this Country and around the World. In your letter to Assistant Secretary of State Moose, you mentioned that "The aim of the conference is bringing together major Liberian groups around the world to determine how best we can reach a consensus on resolving the Liberia crisis."

Your letter to Mr. Moose is very compelling and it projects an image of a lady with shared vision seeking integrative solution to our seemingly interminable crisis. Because your letter made such forceful case to Moose, I took the opportunity to speak to the leadership of some of the "... major Liberian groups" that supposedly should have been in attendance but to my surprise, and apparently to their amazement, they all overwhelmingly claimed they were not "officially in touch with you" and were shocked to learn of your effort to obtain visas for them in anticipation of attending your Washington-sponsored conference. Assuming that these people were right, that raises a new question of what constitutes "major Liberian groups?" I know the question is bound to challenge our own conceptual framework as to what organizations can be considered as fighting for social justice, peace and democracy in Liberia. My personal understanding of some of these organizations includes: Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Liberian National Student Union (LINSU), Concerned Women of Liberia, University of Liberia Student Union, Interest Groups of Liberia, etc. Some of these organizations active opposition to tyranny in Liberia spanned more than two decades. And when one speaks of "major Liberian groups," I would imagine that these organizations have "carved" out a place in Liberian history and if they were not included, what criteria were used to determine the list of your "major Liberian groups?" I am yet to understand how an individual would arrogate to himself/herself the sole responsibility of determining who attends an "All Liberian Conference" but yet, not realized that attempting to micro-manage a process like ours, runs counter and at cross purposes to building a democratic coalition.

Your recent approaches are reminiscence of the traditional thinking of the True Whig Party which, promoted the idea that power was a fixed sum; that if one could out-maneuver the rest, power could reside with them and the rest could have less. For more than hundred years, the TWP refused to recognize that "power is an expandable pie," i.e., power is not a zero sum commodity requiring that in order for the Liberian people to share in, Tubman and Tolbert would have had to go with less. Naturally, this situation helped give rise to reign of terror as unleashed by such monsters like Doe, Taylor, Kromah, Johnson, etc. Some of us have spent our entire life coalescing with democratic forces in our society to stem out undemocratic elements and repression unleashed by dark forces. I get very jittery when I see tendencies that have the potential of netting the same results as the madness that has befallen our society.

Madam Chesson, I am all too aware that recent events in our home country have come to sum up a dramatic change in our life time experience as our Country's landscape and political paradigm are being dangerously shifted in favor of individuals who thrive and prosper on chaos and anarchy. With these individuals taking on a superior determination to destroy the civil super structure of our society, and recognizing that this could be the most defining moment in our Country's existence as a civic society, it wouldn't surprise me very much that people who once described us as "trouble makers" opposed to every government, are now the ones catapulting themselves into the limelight. I don't have a problem with people wanting to be visible because being visible, means enhancing power by calling attention to whatever objective one embarks upon. Visibility is also important because being noticed is the precursor to developing key strategic alliances with people whom, you otherwise would not have met. Until recently, I don't believe I ever heard or met you. But the establishment of your recently formed organization has made it possible to take notice of your activities.

With a leadership void created as a result of the brutal conflict in our country, we are witnessing an unremitting acceleration in people's desire to suddenly become visible by attending meetings in the corridors of Washington and elsewhere. This kind of well-directed strategy and the attendant agile tactical positioning leaves me wondering whether people are not anticipating some shift in future political action that would result in unexpected leaps in government by many of the late coming "activists." It is this very sudden realization that leads me wanting to understand the basis of some of the shuffling and reshuffling taking place in the Liberian Community and the obvious positioning and posturing in the heightened anticipation of something the rest of us might probably not know. It is pretty clear to me that with the outpouring of mass discontent and frustration over the hemorrhaging of our society, coupled with the associated mass victimization of our entire country and its people, it is not surprising that many see this era as an opportunity to pay lip service to our people's growing sense of hopelessness and despair. This situation has engendered a wave of a stampede amongst individuals most of whom, are hard cored opportunists who have been laying in hibernation for over a decade are now emerging believing that Liberia is spinning in an irrational bloodbath and anarchy and by surfacing at this time, some of these opportunists are hoping for that critical political redeeming value to make another dent in our society.

Conversely, I have become painfully aware that such naive and wishful extrapolation might provide some unexpected shift in the underlying political value of our society but, the best indication of the quality of leadership that will be acceptable to the Liberian people will be gleaned from analyzing the past history of the players. There is an obvious comfort in dealing with a change agent that provides a natural expression for the search of a common democratic value. We the common people are going to make the center of gravity of our search for a leadership inextricably linked to the search for innovative ways and opportunities to confront and change the status quo (a leadership that changes "business-as-usual"). A leadership that will help create a sense of covenant with our people.

Mrs. Wureh, it would be fundamentally frivolous to be juggling and trying to position oneself at this time, when, our people are being denied the basic exigencies of life, i.e., decent meals, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. The question of who heads the leadership of our Country to me, is not as critical as the putting together of a democratic machinery that ensures the highest quality of our people's free participation. Those who are opposed to this process are evidently those running around here and there trying to set up a obviously desired much. How many lives can we afford to lose and how many Abujas, Akosomos, etc., before we realize that forming government without the Liberian people's participation virtually guarantees a self-replication of the failed government that we have witnessed in recent years? Because many of our so-called intellectuals have a very deformed perception of the Liberian situation and suffer from forgetfulness of our recent past, they tend to be insensitive, ill-mannered, aloof, arrogant and lousy as their assessment of our people's needs which, invariably, results in a disaster for the rest of the population.

It is important that we understand that broadening the pie so that every one has a slice is a visual metaphor for a desire to institute democracy in our home land, where, every Liberian can participate in determining our common destiny. One way we could manifest our willingness to be democratic, is by ensuring that every mainstream organization has a voice say, for example, the selection of delegates to future Liberian conferences. The decision to select delegates for an "All Liberian Conference" should be done by participating organizations not the sole decision of an individual conveniently operating from a previously unknown group called "Liberian United for Peace and Democracy."

Madam Chesson, you remind me of my good friend, Mr. Momolu V. Sackor Sirleaf, who, while in Doe's Post Stockade prison with me, Dusty, Pajibo, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the late Klon Hinneh, James Flomoyan, Alaric, etc., in 1985, impressed us with his non-violent antics in the Liberian struggle. Ironically, as we all have seen, Mr. Sirleaf and his boss, Charles Taylor, head the most violent group, the NPFL which, has perpetrated a genocidal conflict that has led to the death of more than 200,000 Liberians. The parallel here, is that, people espoused one thing and do something fundamentally different. I am in no position to accuse you of the kind of transgression that Mr. Sirleaf is obviously guilty of. But your unilateral approach presents not only clear danger, but it flies in the face of every Liberian working to coalesce the energy of the different organizations and school of thoughts.

It is this poignant reminder, Ms. Chesson, that has caused me to pen my overwhelming concern to you and your organization.

Please accept my warmest sentiments and best regards as we work together to find a workable solution to our Country's quandary.

Copyright © 1996 The Perspective

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