Liberia: Is Another April 6, 1996 Unfolding Before Our Eyes?

The Roman statesman, orator and lawyer, Cicero, once wrote, "Certain signs precede certain events". In Thomas Campbell's poem, "Loichiel's Warning" the Wizard tells Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel of the impending victory of the English over the Scots at Culloden Moor in 1746 in the following words:

"Lochiel, Lochiel! beware of the day;

For, dark and despairing, my sight I may seal,

But man cannot cover what God will reveal.

'Tis the sunset of life gives my mystical lore,

And coming events cast their shadows before.

I tell thee Culloden's dread echoes shall ring

For the bloodhounds that bark for thy fugitive king".

The expression, "Coming events cast their shadow before" has long since been borrowed from Thomas Campbell's poem to illustrate that some unnatural happenings are signs of an impending calamity. In the old days, traditional people lived close to nature and their keen attention to things and events unfolding before them led to the conclusion that before some major thing happened, certain signs would show which today we call "omen".

According to a traditional elder (name and ethnic identity withheld), in those days, people always paid attention to the behavior of animals from which signs could be read and interpreted. For example, roaches flying frenziedly about is a sure sign of an impending rain storm. Uncontrolled twitching of the left eye is a sign of impending bad news while a chicken crowing at night is also a sign of impending disaster.

For Liberians, the month of April is propitious as well as ominous. It is propitious in the sense that it is the beginning of the rains and a sign that crops will be adequately watered and, as a result, healthy. On the ominous side, especially in recent history, the month of April always bears bad omens. The nation recalls for example that it was in April that the Finance Minister and junior brother of President Tolbert died in a plane crash off the coast of Sinoe.

Four years later, in 1979, came the Rice Riots on April 14 in which over 200 persons were shot and killed by GOL security forces. Only a year later in 1980 came the military coup and the public execution of thirteen former government officials. Sixteen years later on April 12, 1996 fighting flared up in Monrovia when two warlords, Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah ordered the arrest of another warlord, Roosevelt Johnson which resulted in the deaths of thousands and the complete ransacking of the city of Monrovia.

It is on this note that the Daily Observer, recalling from history is calling on President Weah to exercise his authority as President to halt any further repetition of what the nation bore witness to a few days ago. The press conference held by ex-generals of defunct warring factions was clearly in bad taste and it taints the image of President Weah as a man of peace who espouses nonviolence.

Moreover, this newspaper has received information from very credible sources that the press conference held by the ex-rebel generals of several defunct warring factions was sponsored and paid for by Minister of State Nathaniel McGill. This is indeed disturbing, for it suggests that political neophytes who have little no sense or appreciation of history and imbued with a strong sense of inordinate greed, are prepared to plunge the nation into a bloodbath.

It becomes even more disturbing with the realization that President Weah, who has shunned public demands for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court, would not utter a word of rebuke to unrepentant war criminals whose hands reek of the blood of innocents.

And that they would, in full glare of the public, threaten the use of violence against perceived political enemies, speaks volumes about the disposition of this government to illegal and unlawful behavior by its supporters. And rather disgustingly, the Justice Minister has remained unmoved and as distant as the earth is from Pluto to these untoward developments.

As Christians observe Good Friday, this newspaper recalls that it was on this day sixteen years ago that Magistrate Bedell Fahn of the Monrovia City Court made a rather infamous statement in response to expressed concerns that he was ordering a court appearance of accused warlord Roosevelt Johnson and others. "Good Friday or Bad Friday oh, the people must come to court"!

But that court appearance was never to be as forces of warlords Roosevelt Johnson and George Boley resisted the arrest ordered by warlords Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah. And within a period of 72 hours, Monrovia had been massively looted with thousands of people lying dead. The Daily Observer notes that some of those ex-generals in that press conference were also involved in the April 12, 1996 fracas and the killing of five American Catholic nuns during Operation Octopus in 1992.

Thus, from the illustrated cases above, we can all understand that something evil may happen in the nation if concrete steps are not taken to reverse the slide into violence. Ex-rebel generals have threatened to arrest Representative Yekeh Kolubah, while hundreds of his supporters have vowed to resist by any means necessary to forestall his arrest. In view of this, the Daily Observer asks the question: Is another April 6, 1996 unfolding before our eyes?

Coming events do indeed cast their shadows!

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