The Analyst (Monrovia)

20 February 2013

Liberia: Gangsters' Proxy War Emerging, Reverberating Woes of Conflict

Despite the fact Liberians, for decades or perhaps centuries, carried some amount of hate and bitterness for one another, and that the political system was not as responsive as everyone had wanted, citizens were virtually peaceful with one another; mass murders, mass destruction and collective guilty and hatred against each other were not the people's conscious and immediate contemplation or handiwork until politicians dug up and exploited distant and faint conflict situations. That was when Liberians, like Adam and Eve, began to behold the environment around them, the differences in tribes and political cleavages and went out to attack and decimate one another on those differences. The engineers of the new order of things, at the end of the day, became the fat beneficiaries, surviving on the precious lives, blood and tears of the "masses of the people" who were instruments of the struggles. Nearly ten years later, there seems to be simmering signs—politicians are again marshalling their unsuspecting proxies to prosecute selfish agendas in ways nearly akin to civil conflict days. The Analyst reports.

Emerging Woes

Two officials of Government—one an executive appointee and the other a legislator—have been trading proxy demonstrations (at least so they accused each other) in recent days that some media organs deciphering their subterfuges have refrained from publishing the developments. Before this most recent event, there was a similar scenario when the brouhaha over labor contentions at the General Auditing Commission saw two sets of demonstrators: one group protesting in favor of dismissed employees and the other demonstrating in favor of the Auditor General Robert Kilby.

Further before the GAC labor saga, the proxy mentality hit the women segment over verbal feud between the Executive Mansion of President Sirleaf and Madam Leymah Gbowee. This incident was ignited by remarks by Nobel laureate Gbowee in Paris, France, accusing President Sirleaf and her Government of doing little or nothing to fight corruption, nepotism and national discord. The media wildly reported strong statements from women groups, particularly pro-Sirleaf groups, denouncing each other and with threats of demonstration.

In the last week or so, Finance Minister Amara Konneh and CDC lawmaker Acarious Gray, have fielded or unleashed demonstrators against each other; the evidence is that each of these Government officials has alleged that the other had done so.

Both men, believed to be youth representatives in their various governmental domains, have brought what pundits are now calling "gangsters' proxy war" to its recent crudity in the country.

Sadly, as one passerby observed when "gangsters" assembled at Gray's home on the Bypass on Monday this week, the demonstrators were predominantly youth, the same ages if not the same faces, that had gathered before the Ministry of Finance less than a week earlier in protest against Konneh.

"It is pathetic that people calling themselves generational advocates on behalf of the current youth population of Liberia are rallying their poor constituents in the sun under the guise of demonstration," the passerby asserted. "If the guys we see here aren't the same people we saw under the Ministry of Finance last week, they are all of the same ages; all victims of economic abuse by those who get them in the streets."

Reasons for the counter-demonstrations between Gray and Konneh remain a mystery amongst pundits, except for sketchy clues analysts are extracting from counter-accusations amongst the counter-accusing "masterminds".

When a mass of young people assembled between the Ministry of Finance displaying placards and shouting slogans suggesting calls for Amara Konneh's resignation for failure to perform in office, amongst other things, Gray's link to the demonstration appeared nearly inconspicuous except that there are others who said that the demonstrators were hooting and parading with pro-Gray slogans.

It was not therefore difficult to draw a Konneh link to the anti-Gray demonstration that came a few days later where the demonstrators claiming to be Acarious Gray's District #8 constituents called on him to resign for also failing to keep his campaign promises. Gray and his supporters have seen the later demonstration as a reciprocal attack by Konneh.

Konneh and Gray are yet to admit unleashing demonstrators on each other, but the public is taking cues from both men's allegations

The beams of light providing pundits some clues in the ruckus have so far come from querulous Acarious Gray who charged that Konneh and the Executive Mansion are picking at him because of his advocacy against corruption and nepotism he believed practiced by the Executive Branch for which he has submitted a bill for rectification at the Legislature to remedy.

He has however not been able to say and admit why he would be the first to sponsor demonstrators against Konneh, and Konneh is yet to help independent analysts with traces of Gray's link to the Finance Ministry demonstration.

Sharpening the Analogy

The use of demonstrators by politicians to settle score with perceived or real opponents have been the postwar version of splinter militia factions during the civil crisis, some pundits conjecture.

Edward Saydee, Executive Director of Citizens Against Corruption and Abuse of Power (CACAP) put it this way: "These days, instead of politicians reaching out face to face, or using legal and other legitimate means to resolve differences, they choose to run to crowded communities and vulnerable people, lured them with cash and sent them in the rain or in the sun for demonstrations the demonstrators know nothing about."

Saydee, who spoke to The Analyst at length on the scenario, continued: "Using innocent people as tools to amplify their selfish struggles is a bad sign in today's Liberia because this was the same way politicians and militarists put tribes and regions at each others' throat during the civil war. The people who perished during the war, and the worth of destruction incurred by the country would not hit the scale it reached if Liberians were not incited against one another; when tribes were not instigated to eliminate another tribes.

"This is spinelessness at the highest, and more so a frightening sign of what is to come. Now it is a Konneh accused of reaching out in West Point and PHP hauling youth to rise up against Gray. And now it is a Gray going into Clara Town and New Kru trucking another batch of youth to throne words at a Konneh. Tomorrow, this could become a acceptable medium of political interaction in the resolution of national and personal matters, as forming belligerent militias did during the war. Who knows that can happen in the days to come, particularly in democratic contestations near and far? We head for political apocalypse."

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