By Tarty Teh
“Speaking last Friday night at the U.S. Embassy during a reception in his honour, Rev. Jackson said ‘since that democratic government was violently overthrown, the country has not recovered from that nightmare.'” – Liberian National News Agency (LINA)
The Liberian National News Agency is notorious for inaccuracies and outright reportorial incompetence. That is why we have to be careful in our pursuit of even a known mischief-maker like Rev. Jesse L. Jackson if our prime source of his latest utterances is LINA. But LINA also provided direct quotations of Rev. Jackson in his re-assessment of Liberia’s political history when the agency quoted him as saying that since the “democratic government [of President William Tolbert] was violently overthrown [in 1980], the country has not recovered from that nightmare.”
Rev. Jackson made this observation in Liberia on May 19, 2000. But he was sent to Liberia because Western intelligence finally confirmed what local Liberians and Sierra Leoneans had been screaming about for only nine years now – that Liberian President Charles Taylor, both as a rebel leader who killed 220,000 Liberians and now as President of Liberia because of those deaths – is the anchor of the wave of unrest sweeping West Africa.
Jackson was supposed to talk to Taylor about telling the Sierra Leonean rebels, he controls, to free the United Nations peacekeepers they hold. He was not sent to Liberia to teach Liberian history. But then again we have had, by far, much less qualified instructors than Rev. Jackson who had dabbled in writing and teaching Liberian history. And so Rev. Jackson had his shot at Liberian history as other strangers have.
That done, it shouldn’t take much prompting for Rev. Jackson to discover that the United States embassy was fired upon – not by dissident forces in Liberia’s trouble history, but – by the government of President Charles Taylor for whose benefit Rev. Jackson now indicts the only native African administration in Liberia’s 150-year history. Following that line of reasoning, it would seem that everything that has gone wrong since President Charles Taylor assumed the Liberian presidency can be blamed on the coup that happened 20 years earlier.
In 1998 the forces of President Charles Taylor’s government opened fire on the same U.S. embassy from which Rev. Jackson mounted the podium for his lecture that seems designed to absorb President Taylor of any blames. In that attack, they killed one of the Liberians seeking refuge in that embassy. The dead man’s name was Madison Wion. His body remained in the scorching sun while the government of President Charles Taylor and the U.S. embassy traded “diplomatic notes” about who was responsible for removing the dead body. The United States capitulated and buried Madison Wion on U.S. embassy ground.
Of course, this is not all. But what would be the point of re-indicting President Taylor as if Rev. Jesse Jackson does not know that Taylor’s international partnership is limited only to rogue governments – Libya, Burkina Faso, and rebels stunting the growth of democracy in other West African countries. This is why some of the aid that is customarily promised after any disaster, natural or man-made, has not arrived for Liberia. I say Rev. Jackson ought to know, and I will say that he knows, but he cannot help himself because he is being P.U.S.H.ed.
Rev. Jackson has some partnership with a Liberian descendant of American ex-slaves, Mr. A. Romeo Horton, in seeing to it that Taylor survives until the year 2003. It is feared that Taylor’s demise will be hastened by any open acknowledgement of the embarrassment he has proved to be to both the United States and his sponsors in the Americo-Liberian community abroad. So Taylor must limp to the finish line without the same sort of intervention that the Americos engineered when they had their fill of a semiliterate native African President named Samuel K. Doe. They had brought out the bulldozer to end Doe’s presidency and ended the lives of 220,000 Liberians in the process.
But P.U.S.H. has come to shove. We will not let Rev. Jackson P.U.S.H. us around. Despite what Jackson may think of us, we have the advantage of having lived the Liberian history on which he now preaches to us while he reads from cue cards held up to his face by his P.U.S.H. co-worker named A. Romeo Horton, who is a scion of ex-American slaves. These returned slaves kept us, African Liberians, as field slaves for well over 130 years in the land of our ancestors. For nearly a century and a half they gradually promoted us into the rough equivalent of house slaves when they domesticated a few of us by helping us sport such names as George Washington, Robert Kennedy, George Wallace, etc., as our new identities and as testimony of our acquired elegance. But the bulk of us remained Africans because we could not help it. For daring to remain Africans we, in the eyes of the ruling Americos, forfeited our rights to any aspiration beyond being tolerated by the snobbish descendants of ex-slaves.
Yet we never collectively conspired against the ruling Americos. It should therefore be understandable – though not excusable – why one desperate, academically ill-equipped but otherwise armed African native named Samuel Doe showed up at the Executive Mansion in 1980 to end our century-and-a-half streak of being shutout by the team of returned Africans from slave ports in the New World. Granted it was a shameful day in April 1980 when brothers killed brothers, we all learned from that violent eruption, and built a somewhat better democratic institution even with a vagrant juvenile at the helm.
The next elections were the most free in our history even if crooks took over the counting of the ballots. The True Whig Party (of Americos and Free Mason) that was overthrown by the gang of vagrant youth in 1980 also came to power through an electoral process. But there was a difference. The government controlled by the True Whig Party allowed no other candidates to oppose the single Whig candidate in each election. This should throw into dispute the very definition of the term “election.” Before that, elections were still all-Americo jamborees even if there was opposition within. At that time Africans were still field slaves to the Americo Dynasty.
During that dispensation what did we native Africans not do? We danced for the presidents, paid taxes, claimed no rights or privileges, yet they found time and reasons to beat us still into further submission. At what time or point would a reasonable person expect angry reaction from the subjects of the abuse of this magnitude? We killed 13 of them in the 1980 coup. They waited for all of 10 years (we had waited 130), and then killed 220,000 of us. They are back!
About all I can agree with Rev. Jackson about is his use of the word “nightmare” as part of his latest observations on Liberia. But that nightmare began for us when the free American slaves hit the shores of West Africa. We only got a respite in 1980 when the first African, who packed a gun, ended the 130-year rule over the native Africans by the self-proclaimed Americos who had fled slavery in America and founded Liberia in the name of democracy.
Rev. Jackson’s level of presumption is therefore unacceptable. I have lived in the United States longer than it is possible for Rev. Jackson to live in Liberia. And though I know enough about America to become an American citizen (but remain a Liberian), I can never know enough to be an American native. So why is it not time for Rev. Jesse Jackson to listen to the natives of Liberia?
What more do African Americans and Americo-Liberians want from us? We surrendered a century and a half of our lives to absorb the anger of the returnees on behalf of any African who had anything to do with selling our brothers and sisters abroad. We occupy only a tiny part of Africa and we are probably not the particular people who took part in slave trade. We are Africans; we can’t help it. If these returnees still don’t like us after 150 years, then they have returned to the wrong part of Africa.
The scale of death and destruction they have brought upon us is more than we are capable of imagining. We killed 13 after 150 years of subjugation; they killed 220,000 after ten years of counter action by us. If they make us unto the killers they have proven to be, there will be nothing left of Africa.
If black Americans want only to fortify the hold that the Americo-Liberians kept on the African natives for well over 150 years, they must know that now we are not alone, but we will go it alone if we must. In our lobbying efforts in the United States we have for long placed all of our eggs in the Democratic Party basket. Yet Democrats like Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey finds Liberian President Charles Taylor “intelligent because he knows what sells in the West.” While I can understand Congressman Payne praises in the context of the investment Charles Taylor and his operatives have made in the Congressman’s district, I cannot figure out why Rev. Jesse Jackson cannot bring himself to face the obvious truth about Taylor destructive streak.
The fact that a Republican lawmaker, Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, would find something profoundly wrong with President Taylor it is no longer odd. Senator Gregg also acted on his disgust with Taylor by writing a feature article, “A Graveyard Peace,” in the Washington Post while Rev. Jesse Jackson engaged in verbal calisthenics to avoid making a positive charge against the dictate of his P.U.S.H. brothers. Rev. Jackson would have done well to maintain his silence as he did throughout the war that consumed 220,000 African Liberian lives.
We will not take another push from Rev. Jackson. We will meet on June 24, 2000, near the Liberian embassy in Washington, D.C., and express our disgust with Rev. Jackson and all those who are pushing to keep Charles Taylor in power.
It is obvious to me that Rev. Jesse Jackson is pushing a save-Taylor agenda while Republican Senator Judd Gregg is pushing an African one. “Let me start with an unhappy truth,” writes Senator Gregg. “There can be no peace in Sierra Leone until the strongman of neighboring Liberia, Charles Taylor, is brought to heel. Taylor never forgave Sierra Leone for serving as a staging area when the United Nations intervened in the civil war in his own country. It was he who basically created the rebel movement in Sierra Leone known as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and he who has provided financing, equipment and sanctuary for it. As long as Taylor rules Liberia, Sierra Leone’s anguish will continue.”
And why is this “unhappy truth” not yet obvious to Rev. Jackson while Republican Senator Gregg sees its consequences for the whole of West Africa? Senator Gregg even acknowledged the futility of complete justice: “Is it naive to demand justice?” Still, “Why is accountability possible in the Balkans but not in Sierra Leone? Where is the war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone? It is not that I seek atonement for every sin, only that those with blood on their hands not be ensconced in the presidential palace.”
Liberia is finally on some American agenda because of Senator Gregg: “To see justice done, the United States must lead a multinational effort to bring true peace to Sierra Leone. First, Liberian leader [Charles] Taylor and his criminal gang must go; every feasible effort ought to be made to undermine his rule Anyone implicated in the ordering or commission of war crimes must be excluded from the election process.” – Senator Judd Gregg
As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary, I am inclined to believe the Senator Judd Gregg, first of all, knows what he’s talking about, and, second, he can help bring about what he believes needs to happen in West Africa. But more than anything else, this is our responsibility as citizens of West Africa. Without our own initiatives, we will not stay in the saddle even if Senator Gregg helps put us there.
Published in the June 10, 2003 Edition of The Perspective.
2003: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive