10 December 2012

Liberia: Struggling Against the Sword


The winds of intolerance raging over Liberia since its founding in 1822 by freed American slaves, continue to blow with devastating effects despite a coup d'etat over 2 decades ago in the name of change, followed by a war of terror in the name of justice. "I came to get the dictator off the Liberian peoples' back," Taylor the ruthless, marauding warlord promised a decade ago. But the handwriting was all along on the wall, for even the blind, that he came to climb on the people's back for implanting a more debased tyranny. "I will sit there like a porcupine and see who will remove me," he clarified later.

And indeed, he has. The recent brutish armed assaults on students and teachers at University of Liberia indicate that certain things don't however simply change, and this includes an in-built value system of a people.

Successive Liberian regimes, adamant in their politics of exclusion and obsessed with theft and plunder as political gains, lived and ruled by the sword, and those who naively expected a departure from this value system under a man who reduced the country to utter primitive levels for the presidency, determined to win power by all means and at all costs, grossly showed their ineptitude in defying history and ignoring reality. As before, in this war against ideas opposed to totalitarianism, the University remains a "legitimate military target." Its President, a Taylor protégé and key participant in the war in which child soldiers died in their tens of thousands, Dr. Ben Roberts, decreed after the bloody assault that the University is not a "place for political agenda." He proceeded to "discipline" the students by suspending their leaders from studies, vowing to continue the purge of ideas in Taylor's name. But Men like Roberts defy history because his predecessors had used the same scripts of intolerance only to regret their war against ideas in the service of a myopic tyrant. He will be no different.

The historical reality is that from its inception, the Liberian state was built on brutality and exploitation, all in a crusade of politics as means of personal wealth. "There is an open system of acquiring wealth here", Taylor recently defended his plundering regime as his benefiting cronies clapped. Thus, Liberia has always been a state erected on the pillars of Tammany Hall politics, rewarding its adherents with beastly power and therefore material wealth in a sea of poverty and illiteracy. The novelist Graham Greene noted this during a visit to this enclave of primitivism sold as civilization. "Almost every other man is a lawyer and every other man politicianCorruption does not make for simplicity as might be supposed. It may be all the question of cash and printing presses and armed police, but things have to be done with an air...," the British man wrote in Journey Without Maps over 60 years ago. Nothing has changed since then, only that these values are now more cemented than imagined.

In the preservation of loot, brutality against opponents is a measurement of personal power, something appreciated by most sectors of the society as a proof of actual manhood against "weaklings". Doe's challenge to his opponents was ("let's measure pricks to determine who is more of a man." Taylor vows to chase his opponents in their "mothers' wombs", always reminding them that, "I am a tough guyy'all know me" In such a setting, it is not intellect that counts. Ideas are offensive. What matters is how a "strongman" humiliates opponents. In 1996, as Taylor and Kromah prepared to burn down Monrovia in a show of power, the former angrily warned:

"They are writing 'Angels of Death.' Look, I am no Angel of Death and I am going to prove it in this town. I am very serious, me, Charles Ghankay, I will prove that I am no Lord of War and I am no Angel of Death. If you don't respect this [collective] presidency, you'll respect it or I am going to lock horns with some people here one on one. They think ECOMOG here to support their nonsense and their talks. ECOMOG will not stop me. It's almost reaching now that we will make sure that different processes; due processes of law maybe, and in some cases, the laws of the jungle to bring things under control in this town. You know Charles Taylor, we will straighten things out", writes Kenneth L. Cain in his moving account of events in "The Rape of Dinah: Human Rights, Civil War in Liberia, and Evil Triumphant."

A few days after this psychopathic ranting, Taylor dispatched his loyal child soldiers to hunt down G. Baccus Matthews who had declared him and his followers "Angels of Death." Matthews, now a Taylor-appointed PR officer for the Malaysian timber company Oriental Timber Company accused of indiscriminate deforestation, was only saved by West African troops who ferried him into hiding as the warlord's child soldiers looted his home, wearing his underpants and daring him to show head out. In a recent speech, Taylor praised Matthews because, he said, unlike others, this leader of the opposition United People's Party, known as one of the fathers of political confrontation, is "no longer talking nonsense." He has accepted " reconciliation," Taylor told followers, adding that others who have not would be chased "in their mothers' wombs."

Said John T. Richardson, NPFL spokesman also known as Octopus because he allegedly masterminded the bloody invasion of Monrovia code named Octopus that left thousands dead and destroyed most parts of the city:

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