Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

By Tarty Teh 

I thought about first reading Dr. Patrick Seyon’s piece, in the May 2000 online version of The Perspective Magazine, that has driven Mr. Harry Greaves Jr. out of his hibernation away from the horror he helped plan and which resulted into the death of 220,000 Liberians who, like Dr. Patrick Seyon, were never ”in the know” about the activities of an outfit known only as the ACDL.  But why should I overload myself with Dr. Seyon’s dissertation when Harry Greaves’ presumptuous pontification can cause a stir even among the dead?  While Mr. Greaves can easily afford his long vacations from some of the troubles he makes, some of us have neither the means nor the inclination to ignore the suffering he caused. 

Dr. Patrick Seyon was the water boy for the band of Americos who first coalesced as ACDL (Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia) which, according to Mr. Greaves, ”operated on two tracks and at two levels” from Washington, D.C.  Apparently Dr. Seyon was aware of only the track that led to the U.S. Capitol Hill where he was led to deliver a testimony against an elected government of President Samuel Doe.  As I remember his testimony in early 1990, it was Dr. Seyon’s belief – echoed later by Mr. Francis Afonso Dennis, former Liberian ambassador to Washington in the lost dispensation – that democracy was on the horizon in Liberia in 1980 when the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) overthrew the 130-year-old Americo Liberian Empire. It was that apparently slow-rising democracy that was aborted by the coup that removed the last Americo president (before Charles Taylor) from office. 

That was quite a leap, given Dr. Seyon’s limited capacity for recognizing a multi-track system such as the one that was in place when he was called upon to voice the Americos’ disgust with having a semiliterate, native African president named Samuel Doe heading the country they founded.  For that, Dr. Seyon incurred the wrath of many who saw him as an African Liberian face on an Americo plan.  He didn’t please me then, and does not please Greaves now. But that was then, this is now.  The plan that the ACDL put forth called for recruiting Charles Taylor from prison to execute it.  Taylor had a neat dictum for his mission: ”The only good Doe is a dead Doe.”  In the end, President Doe and 220,000 other Liberians died.  Harry Greaves spent much of that period of gruesome death and destruction on vacation from his original plan after his initial elation, expressed in dazzling prose. All that is part of our recent history.  We have since screamed at one another at  conferences about how to fix what was destroyed by Greaves’ plan.  And just when we have begun to talk to each other about what to do next, here comes Greaves with some redistribution and re-direction of already assessed blames. 

Mr. Harry Greaves is a much capable man in promoting any cause he believes in. I read his gleeful press releases in 1989, marking Charles Taylor’s progress as he tore up Liberia.  My respect for Mr. Greaves is therefore based mostly on his talent in skillful communication.  In his latest offering, however, Mr. Greaves appears not to care very much what anyone thinks about what he says and how he says it.  And therein lies the presumption that perhaps this, too, will fly over our heads even if it is a lame effort by an otherwise capable performer: 

”If the election results are to be believed, 3 out of every 4 Liberian voters, all of whom suffered the trauma of that war, voted Mr. Taylor into office in July 1997 even though they knew he started the war and in many cases personally suffered privations at the hands of his militias. While we all know those elections were not conducted on a level playing field, that intimidation played a role and valid suspicion of massive cheating abounds (which we have not been able to prove), the fact of the matter is that Mr. Taylor is now in office as an elected president. I am not one of those who subscribes to the view that Liberians deserve what they are getting because they voted Mr. Taylor into office.” – Harry Greaves Jr. 

Mr. Greaves witnessed another bad presidential contest in 1985.  In that election three candidates campaigned for the presidency.  Each used the same government-owned and -operated media outlets to get his message to the voters. (Of course, Taylor, in 1997, didn’t allow the same kind of free access to the state-owned media.  For most people, however, there was much more at stake than the luxury of freedom of expression.)  In the end, the 1985 presidential election results were reported as being close enough that the winner could not boast of more than half of the vote.  That, of course, was unacceptable to Greaves and others who are used to political mudslides.  When someone wins by a modest margin, people who are used to total victories are incensed and therefore refuse to wait for the next round of orderly contest.   

I am not sure whether Dr. Seyon’s support of the overthrow of President Doe was a mistake.  My hope is that he believed that he was doing the right thing.  But no one died as result of Dr. Seyon’s testimony on Capitol Hill seeking President Doe’s removal.  But Greaves and others did help Taylor actually carry out the physical removal of President Doe and the destruction of everything in their path.  Now, it was just a mistake: 

”We all make mistakes – all of us except, of course, St. Patrick, who, as he reminds us with great sanctimony throughout his diatribe, is without blemish. Making a mistake is not a sin. Repeating it is. When I make a mistake, I like to fess[sic] up to it, make amends where possible, resolve to learn from that mistake, then move on looking for solutions. I believe the Liberian people made a big mistake in 1997, the painful reminder of which is with them every day in the form of no electricity, no decent drinking water, sewage in the streets, a barely functioning healthcare system, inadequately equipped schools, no jobs, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, loss of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, blatant disregard for the rule of law, a security apparatus run amok – all of this happening whilst the ruling class comprising a small clique of government officials lives ostentatiously. The Liberian people will have an opportunity to correct that mistake in 2003 and I believe they will.” – Harry Greaves Jr. 

Yet Mr. Greaves would not speculate on the size of the mistake he and his ACDL colleagues made when they planned the war from which we are still suffering, nor does he feel a need for a partial expression of regrets without attaching a catalogue of participants who responded to his initial aggression.  The long list of every group that fought in the war that was forced on us includes our version of the very army each nation maintains to protect its sovereignty – our Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).  What’s so wrong with a national army fighting an invasion?  The clue to that question lies in the fact that the person heading the nation was, for once, not an Americo. 

Of course, the debate between Mr. Greaves and Dr. Seyon, according to Greaves, is about estimating how much death can be crammed into a ten-thousand-dollar budget.  Greaves seems to maintain that it took more than $10,000 worth of killing tools to doom 220,000 Liberians.  Well, Greaves and his ACDL may have given Taylor only $10,000, but a ten thousand here and a ten thousand there quickly added up to more deaths.  With Taylor now successfully in power, death and destruction are now measured by money withheld.  A $50,000 SUV here and a $80,000 Mercedes Benz there for President Taylor’s personal security forces, will keep food and knowledge away from children and ensure their early death.   

Reading this, you would have thought that Harry Reaves was talking to his soccer team after a defeat: ”Making a mistake is not a sin. Repeating it is.”  Sounds neat, doesn’t it?  But how about this.  The one that cost Liberia 220,000 lives was not Greaves’ first mistake.  It was his second that I can vouch for.  The first one I know of was the one in which he escorted Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa into Liberia to remove President Samuel Doe in the 1985 coup that failed (See Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh’s ”Of Lies and Pretenses”).  On their way in for the commando raid, the invaders left an otherwise militarily 
prepared Dr. Fahnbulleh at Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone ”due to some misunderstanding.” 

But it’s only a mistake – which ”the Liberian people will have an opportunity to correct … in 2003 and I believe they will,” says Harry Greave Jr. I think Mr. Greaves thinks we are still a stupid bunch. This, however, is no longer his problem; it’s ours.

– Tarty Teh 
Copyrighted © Tarty Teh 2000 


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By Tarty Teh

If whim, which foils prediction of each of their next moves, is a natural gift
for African leaders, then their quest for accolades is conversely easy to
predict.  This means that predictability can only land the predictor within the
realm of folly for a given African leader; it does not determine which station,
along the path of foolish consistency, may be next. With this in mind, let’s
take a look at what the Liberian National News Agency (LINA) circulated on its
wire network:

“President Taylor has won the ‘Father of the Millennium’ award in London,
England, during the recent International Youth Conference.  Making the
disclosure last Thursday during the dinner hosted for Lone Star players, the
Youth Advisor to the President, Benjamin Sanvee, said the award is in
recognition of President Taylor’s love and care for the young people of
Liberia.” – LINA (4/24/00)

Jealousy cannot be ruled out as a motive for anyone who would frame a question
against this obviously monumental achievement by President Charles Taylor.  But
I am not sure if any award has ever been issued for so large a time span and
without any hints of spatial limits.  The renowned theoretical physicist Albert
Einstein, for instance, got only a piece of the millennium – a tenth of it, it
turned out – when Time Magazine named him “Man of the Century” this year.   We
are told that there is hardly any spatial separation between a genius and a
plain nut.  Taylor could very well be the latter.

I, for instance, was once named “Distinguished Liberian Citizen” for 1996 by a
Liberian church in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.  Even so, some people said I did
not deserve the honor.  Some argued that some of my friends had engineered my
selection for the honor. Yet, the recognition was only for one year, by one
church group, for a given population of a given nation.

While I was not all that sure someone else didn’t deserve the tribute more, I
did not understand the logic of my detractors who devalued the input of my
friends as character witnesses.  Nevertheless, in 1997, I had a part time job
through the temporary job agency, Career U.S.A., in Washington, D.C., and won
the honor of “Employee of the Year” for that company, but only for its
Washington, D.C., area district.  This time, however, no one interviewed any of
my friends as a means of determining the value of my job performance.

But what if the church or the job agency said that I was “Citizen” or “Employee
of the Century”?  That would have strained credulity and taken away from the
sincerity of the professed homage.  Even before someone found out that I was a
dedicated worker, I would have had a similar opinion of myself in that regard.
And so, such honors both affirm and confirm what we suspect as individuals in
our quest for glory.  We should therefore be suspicious of honors without
discernable bounds.

I cannot disagree that President Charles Taylor is “Father of the Millennium”
without a context.  As father for his children, a millennium may not be long
enough for what his children could confer on him, especially given that there
are no other fathers competing in the arena of his brood.  Logic excludes other
fathers enough to make the point moot.  But this particular honor comes as
result of “President Taylor’s love and care for the young people of Liberia.”

The foregoing is a drastic departure from what was the prevailing thought
before this honor rolled in.  The question was whether Taylor should live
despite his crimes, or die because of them.  A credible spin away from that
question should not start with an award that ignores Taylor’s most recent and
immeasurable destruction of lives.  There are people who are afraid of Taylor
enough to keep quiet.  The quiet ones are perhaps not so dangerous as those who
break into a song and dance out of fear of the man.

Do we really think that Charles Taylor doesn’t know that those who are fishing
for honors for him are acting out of fear?  If Taylor does know, then what does
accepting the honor say about his own mental state?  It will not even be fair
to question the motives of those who conferred the honor.  Survival is motive
enough any day in Liberia.  I am only wondering what Taylor thinks this honor
is worth in the eyes of  people outside his sphere of deadly influence.

Can we assume that Taylor has no faculty for perceiving the preposterous
dimensions of the honor the sycophants bestowed on him?  President Taylor
earned some respect without the sycophants’ enhancements which now dilute what
plausible ground was left for not declaring him insane.

President Samuel Doe had no such luck.  He was barely literate, and so
stupidity was the predicted cause of any administrative malfunction that
resulted from applying even textbook remedies to any of the many problems
Liberia faced.  So Taylor was contrasted with Doe as smart enough not to do the
obviously foolish thing.  And so when the Dokie family was wiped out just a
week after the Taylor government listed Mr. Dokie as “an enemy of the state,”
one of the refrains was that Taylor was too smart to be a part of a messy way
of silencing opponents.  President Doe would have been stupid enough to do such
a thing.

I could not argue but so much with the claim about President Doe’s stupidity.
Only now such is also President Taylor’s growing profile.  Here is an example
of President Doe at his weakest.  One day he looked at the figures of, perhaps,
the GNP for some of the friendly G7 nations and decided to ask for help toward
his development goals for Liberia.  He asked the U.S. for two billion dollars;
Japan one billion; the EEC, two billion.  Soon President Doe had over five
billion dollars.

I am not sure if any of the countries or institutions replied to his requests.
I don’t believe the problem lay with the countries and institutions that got
President Doe’s requests.  I thought President Doe didn’t know how big a
billion was – even the American billion, not the British one.  If President Doe
was required to write down the number, he might be a bit more impressed by it
and less glib in asking for it.  The number $1,234,567,890 would be roughly 1.2
billion dollars.  That’s more than twice the amount of money he was asking for.

Similarly, I wonder if President Taylor understands the scope of a thousand
years.  Maybe if we quit calling it a millenium then it would not seem so
compact.  Galileo lived roughly 400 years ago.  Along the way he, I believe,
spent some time in jail for saying the earth moved around the sun.  That must
have been soon after he, or some other nut, said the thing was not flat.

When Galileo plunged into physics and astronomy, there was barely any previous
knowledge in those endeavors to go on.  Every subsequent thinker had the notes
of the previous thinkers until we got Internet and e-mail.  So what did Taylor
do for his people, let alone mankind, to occupy such a large chunk of human
existence as “Father of the Millenium”?  Perhaps the Romans had a right idea
but the wrong man when they sentenced Galileo to prison.  Taylor needs to go to
jail – again.

Whose fault is it?  Taylor continues to get what he wants.  And so over time,
what was sincerely ours becomes his.  And heaping accolades on him helps him
more than it helps us.  But now that the sycophants have given away the biggest
honor, what will we give Taylor next time he comes calling?  That may be sooner
than we think, unless we send him packing first.  And if we don’t act soon,
there will be no honor left for ourselves.

– Tarty Teh  [Washington, D.C.,
April 29,2000]
Copyrighted © Tarty Teh 2000

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By Tarty Teh 

If Mr. Armstrong Williams can justify his conservative credentials, I do not see why I cannot prove myself worthy of my liberal ones.  By way of introduction, I was born in the village of Borti, in the clan of Pallipo, in the district of Webbo, in the county of Gedeh, in a republic called Liberia. My birthplace is 428 miles from my nation’s capital, and 135 miles from the nearest point on the Atlantic coast with any hints of Western civilization. The year of my birth would be 1946 on the Western calendar, but we have no such thing as an anchored universal time from which years run (Since the birth of Christ, for instance, for Western calendar).  I started Western schooling at age 12, and left my birthplace for the capital city in my late teens after I was promoted to the 8th grade.

We pick our relevant points in time; so, for my parents and those who have since come to believe in me, the year Westerners refer to as 1946 is simply the year Tarty Teh was born, which was also on the 12th day of the 8th month of our calendar.  We have 13 months, all 28 days long.

To us, the question “What year is this?” is an illogical one.  There are years, for instance, since your child was born; years since you were married; years since your child left home; years since you lost your mother, years since an eclipse; and so on.  So years do not have individual names.  For general accounting for time, however, there are pebbles stored in clay pots in the attic of a hut in the center of our main village.  Each pebble represents a season since we became a dakor or nation.  Much like the American atomic clock in Colorado.

So, I was born on the 12th day of the 8th month called Gbajoh, meaning “carry seeds,” as in the last sweep of farm sites by tropical rains, carrying spilled seeds from the last harvest via the swollen rivers’ last rush south for the season.  Well, so much for advanced civilizations.

I am writing this from my hospital bed at the Washington Hospital Center.  My delight at seeing that Emerge was among the magazines my wife bought for me on her way to seeing me was dampered by Mr. Armstrong Williams’ article in the “Last Word” section for the magazine’s Dec./Jan. 1998 edition.

Since in fact I was born in Africa, I cannot fairly suffer any rebuke for not sharing Mr. Williams’ professed love for America — love so strong that he would not deign to refer to himself as an “African” American.  The only gift Mr. Williams has shown is that of making his own “cookie cutter,” which — magically — replicates items already found on right-wing conservative menu, hence “the Great Society’s welfare is a disaster” exceeded in scope only by the “socialized health care system.”

Well, for the rest of Mr. Williams’ lip-synching of conservative refrains, see Jerry Falwell’s list of supposed Republican battle hymns and how well they mirror what Williams has created with his own “cookie cutter.”  They include a lamentation about “family under siege,” the abomination of homosexuality, abortion, “sex education or contraception training . . .” How do you know when a brother has made it?  When he wakes up one morning with a hangover from worrying about “homosexual marriage.”

I have been trying to study the Emerge magazine to determine its bent so that if I came upon an issue which I felt was of interest to the magazine I might write an article about it for submission.  But if standards as so high at Emerge as to keep me from appearing in it, then by what editorial fiat did Emerge allow the ponderous platitudes Williams has been programmed to prattle in conveying conservative precepts which I believe he lacks the intellectual dept to internalize?

Beyond all this, I do not think Mr. Williams is coherent enough to occupy the print space Emerge allotted him to propagate his contempt for African-American agenda.  Let’s take a look at his statement on racism which the magazine finds salient enough to use as its center blurb: “The best way to overcome racism is to rise above pettiness and get on with the business of living.”  Aside from the statement’s serving as a good example of uninspiring prose, aren’t racism and pettiness two different things?

“I learned the value of hard work . . .” Déjà vu all over again!  I believe Mr. Williams has listed his obstacles in terms of the degree of danger they pose to reaching his life goals.  Accordingly, blacks rank ahead of whites as threat to his dreams, hence, “I also learned that blacks, as well as whites, could be hostile to a black man who worked hard to succeed.”  In fact whites are an afterthought in the above quotation because they are only parenthetical to a more naked threat which blacks represent in Mr. Williams’ mind.

But “when whites burned down my father’s barn, not one of our black neighbors helped my family rebuild.”  Well — has it ever occurred to Mr. Williams that the blacks may have thought that the Williams thought they did it, especially with reasoning like this?  I, too, seeing the scant ground upon which Mr. Williams acquired his “proud” conservative label, would not go near his barn, no matter what shape it was in.

I presume that blacks never touched or torched any of Mr. Williams’ property — else we would have heard about it.  They are black-listed only for not rebuilding the barn whites burned.  So what use is Armstrong Williams to any black cause?  I believe something can be said for being wary of people who burn your barn.  The Kings, Dauglasses, Jacksons, Lowerys, and other wary souls knew who burned their dreams.  That’s what we’re talking about!

Tarty Teh
CSI Editorial Services
1904 18th Street NW, Suite C
Washington, DC 20009
Call: (202) 234-6627
Fax: (202) 234-6933
E-mail: CSIe@AOL.com [LIBERIA]

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By Tarty Teh

With a healthy respect for complexities, I am not always the first to jump into any argument in which so many well-informed persons can’t seem to agree.  But the debate about affirmative action has raged on for so long I feel my opinion on the issue is overdue.  Well–so much for guts.

I am impressed mostly by the efforts of those who argue against affirmative action–impressed, that is, that some have managed to treat it as if it were a crutch for the permanently disabled.  There is a familiar treatment of race issues by conservatives which is typified by an article, titled “Buying Off
Justice,” by Mr. James K. Glassman, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Research fellows at policy institutes are not exactly plagued by ignorance; so their mis-labeling of historical facts is often more a function of their desire to change rather than interpret policies.  And while we generally are enraged by their such pursuit at the expense of the minority population, we still
manage to admire their scholastic flair.  But Mr. James K. Glassman’s attempt leaves me nothing worth tolerating him for.

In his November 26, 1997, op-ed article in the Washington Post, Glassman maintains, with jaundiced conviction, that the following poll results agure against affirmative action: “‘Do you agree or disagree with the decision of the school to retain the black teacher in order to maintain racial diversity?’
Whites disagree, 53 percent to 33 percent.  So did blacks, 49 percent to 36 percent.”

But I cannot understand how it escaped Mr. Glassman that the respondents to the poll had job for either teacher on their minds.  And so you could switch from one color to the next without changing the outcome of the poll question; because beyond the relevant concern of having the workplace reflect the general population, either woman needs a job.  And you don’t have to be white or black to be for it.  That’s what the poll results mean.

I have not followed the issue of affirmative action closely enough to have a strong emotional investment in it, and while that detachment may not necessarily enhance my claim of having understood its complexities to some extent, it has the merit of protecting me from the taint of advocative goals.
And this, essentially, is how I came face-to-face with the issue.

Where Broadway and Myrtle Avenue meet in Brooklyn, there is a line of elevated subway tracks.  For that the place is dark and dangerous.  For the two years I had been in the United States since 1971, every bad thing that had happened to me I could justly blame on a black person.  But I wasn’t black; I was African. But the bad thing that was now happening to me, I blamed on myself.  I worked
in a factory in Queens as a self-supported foreign student.  Normally I rode the bus from work and made it home by 1:00 a.m.  But this was summer and today I did not go to school.  That’s why I had ridden my bicycle to work, and was riding it back home.

It was well past midnight, but it would be another 30 minutes before I could get home.  Aware that motorists treat bicycles as a superfluous contraption, the very least I could do was obey the traffic rules.  That was why when I reached this interception, which managed three streets, I waited instead of
entering it even when it was least busy.  I waited for the traffic signal to favor me.

As I waited, other vehicles gathered; some took their turns to go through.  So by the time the light changed to let me through, there were a few headlights facing me from the on-coming traffic.  I peddled into the on-coming headlights but well on my side of the road as I entered the interception.  But I quickly froze in place when I realized that the car which had flooded me with its lights was turning left and had begun to occupy my path which should have been straight through the crossing.

Blinded by the light in my riding position on the bicycle, I straightened up and could now see the driver who had begun to address me with every epitaph meant to hurt a black person.  That was because he had jammed his brakes to avoid running over me on my side of the road.  Yet I responded with an infusion of apologies; but there was no let-up in the torrent of vulgar expletives.

I saw no indication that this would end soon, but for now I had not been physically attacked.  If only I could get beyond this interception with my life, I prayed.  More cars gathered around the interception, but the man who was tearing me down with his speech seemed to relish the growing audience.

I felt that something was about to happen to me.  Soon.  It did.  The back wheel of my bicycle was nudged by a car behind me.  An addition to me growing woes, I thought.  So I turned very slowly.  I saw another man standing outside his car with his right foot in the car and his right hand engaged below as if to hold the driver-side door as a shield for his pending attack.

“One more word out of you and I’ll blow your brains out.”  I did not turn again to examine the source of the warning.  “You almost kill the brother and you’re talking garbage,” he said.  The man in front of me had no gun; even so, the verbal fury he proved capable of discharging had already been spent, although
he could not have resorted to it yet still without some grave danger to his own life.  The man behind me, feeling no pressing need to produce a promised gun, left no doubt he had one.  His commanding advantage was such that even where violence proved necessary, he could have easily gotten by on the strength of his moral indictment.

By this time the motorists facing the intersection had each lost at least a turn to go through.

I once had the right to proceed through the intersection; but that right had been held up by a man with a big car and mouth.  But that right had been restored back to me only when the traffic light turned decidedly red, and I turned black.  Yes, I proceeded through the intersection while the traffic
signal indicated red.  My brother told me to.

My rights were affirmed just then; but somebody lost a turn.  That’s why I didn’t have to wait another turn at another intersection for what had been denied me at this.  Nobody blew a horn of impatience to hasten the unfolding drama.

The argument between the man ahead of me and the one behind me was an old one. The one ahead of me was white; the one behind me was black.

And so I was already feeling black when several blocks later a car pulled alongside me with someone with a by now familiar voice asking, “Are you all right, brother?”  Yes.  And I have been feeling that way since.

Tarty Teh
CSI Editorial Services
1904 18th Street NW, Suite C
Washington, DC 20009
Call: (202) 234-6627
Fax: (202) 234-6933
E-mail: tartyq@aol.com [LIBERIA]

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By Tarty Teh

Whether we care to admit it, as individuals, the net effect of our citizenship comes in two forms — a blessing or a burden.  In fact, this question was put to me not in terms of my Liberian citizenship, though it would have been equally relevant, but rather as a native of the Grebo tribe.  I was asked if I wasn’t proud to be Grebo.  It was not an easy question to answer.  But I thought about it and decided that pride in being Grebo should come mainly from any contribution I make in upholding or advancing any greatness of the Grebo nation that was already evident before I was born.  This applies easily and equally to my Liberian nationality.

We all are actors on our nation’s behalf.  What we do individually have a collective effect in creating our country’s profile.  If we project a shady profile, we will attract shady characters that are oftentimes much more adept in exploiting the weakness that is inherent in our penchant for subterranean dealings.

It is bad enough that we infuriate well-meaning adventurers in our national sphere with our crooked bent and matching ineptitude when executing even legitimate deals.  But when we fail miserably in keeping up with the crooks we invite, the whole country suffers the consequences after the foreign crooks pay off a few domestic ones before settling down to suck us dry.  A look around Liberia will confirm that our level of infrastructural development clearly belies the 161 years we have existed as a nation.  The following could be a clue:

Dear Willis, You are the man! What would we do with out our PR man.  It is only prove to me again that the issue of the pr men is extremely essential. Anyways please inform Madame President that her concerns will be addressed. Yoram told me that he has already informed you that the first payment of US$1 Million will be made after our contract is signed.



Avi  Date: Sunday, August 17, 2008, 2:46 AM (On Thurs, 2/14/08, Abraham Avi Zaidenberg < avizaid@liscr.com > wrote:)   The man who wrote the e-mail, Avi Zaidenberg, is an Israeli citizen in charge of Yoram Cohen’s Cellcom GSM network and his LISCR field office in Liberia.  If nothing else, Mr. Zaidenberg’s untidy syntax proves that English is not his native language.  In fact both Cohen and Zaidenberg are Israeli citizens — although Cohen took the extra step of becoming an American citizen as well.  And based on the official letter Mr. Willis Knuckles wrote to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 50% of the shareholders of Cellcom, Cohen’s GSM network in Liberia, are Israelis whom Mr. Knuckles implored President Sirleaf to meet during a trip to Israel.  Mind you, Cellcom is billed as an American company; so if 50 percent of the shareholders are Israelis as Knuckles said in his October 22, 2007, letter to President Sirleaf, then the other 50%, or a big chunk of it, must be owned by Americans.  Whatever is left might conceivably be in Liberian hands, which is mighty little in light of all the trouble Cohen’s larcenous scheme portends for the President of Liberia.

Of course both Cohen and his sidekick know that if this had been at home (United States or Israel, take your pick), they and the President would have been up to their ears in legal and political trouble.  But this is Liberia where they have a good deal of control through money.  In fact they have already suggested throwing “the first payment of US$1 million” at the foreseeable problem they know they are creating for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.   The scope of the scheme may be evident in the fact that it is only the “first” million.  If the legal or political trouble for President Sirleaf proves intractable — which I doubt given Liberia’s current legislative and judicial incompetence — the cabal can always throw in another million.

It certainly gives the appearance that paying kickback is, as those from the Unity Party boot camp are fond of saying, “not an event; it is a process” — a continuing process, that is.  This could easily trigger speculation about how much money the LISCR/Cellcom syndicate is making away with if its operators are willing to throw a million dollars here and there to nail down ten more years of dealing under the table.  Of course it doesn’t take only Sirleaf loyalists or her Unity Party members to feel the shame associated with the revelation of dirty dealings on this scale and this high up in our government.  For me, as a member of an opposition party, the presidency is worth rescuing even if the President must swim or sink.

The way I see it, the presidency takes a hit when a foreigner writes as follows about the person who personifies our sovereignty: “Anyways please inform Madame President that her concerns will be addressed.  Yoram told me that he has already informed you that the first payment of US$1 Million will be made after our contract is signed.”  The person who embodies our sovereignty is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the sovereignty is the Republic.

Evidently the crooks are in the driver’s seat and the President’s anxiety is palpable.  The President’s concerns, of course, have to do with money, and the foreign crook who is baiting her into giving him a multimillion dollar contract for more crumbs says so matter-of-factly.  So you only have to be a Liberian to feel hurt for your country or for your President or both.  But the way to reclaim our pride even in the face of ignominy this grand is to do something in keeping with our Constitution and case laws.  But a quick look at our Legislature and our Judiciary will reconfirm our misery.  They can’t help themselves; how can they help us?

Copyright © Tarty Teh 2008

November 24, 2008, Monrovia, Liberia

Contact Tarty Teh at:

e-Mail: TartyTeh@aol.com

Phone and text: (231) 6-617-433

2008: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

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By Welley Mulbah

“…a callow semi-illiterate leader of a group of drugged and inebriated foot soldiers who barely completed primary education as indicated by the inability of many of them to pronounce their own western names….” Augustine Kollie

April 12, 1980 came as a result of the built-up of tension resulting from injustice, cruelty, and deprivation that the True Whig Party and its associates melted against indigenous Liberians over a protracted period. For over hundred years, indigenous Liberians paid taxes without representation. They were denied voting rights, education, and self-respect. Conditions of the indigenous Liberians, who plotted the coup as described by Mr. Kollie in the above paragraph, were the reality of harsh conditions that most indigenous Liberians had to endure under the True Whig Party governments. Hope Mr. Kollie will now understand what necessitated the bloody coup of April 12, 1980.

Shortly before his death, Mr. Pah told me that a technique called “Saklifee” was used to collect taxes from the indigents. He explained that the soldiers who collected the taxes would place one long iron over the tibia (Liberians say “crazy bone”) and the other against the fibula and press the two irons together. Indigents caught in this situation would make any offer, just anything available to the soldiers only to be released. He said it was the most inhumane treatment he had ever experienced in his life. The soldiers often did that each time they wanted chickens, goats, rice, and other things for food besides the taxes. Indigents were responsible to transport government officials in hammocks on their bare shoulders/heads. They were used as donkeys.

The gallant men and….(were there women?) who overthrew the totalitarian government of the True Whig Party felt more than what Mr. Pah tried to explain to me. No, they were not drugged inebriated foot soldiers, and illiterate by choice. No, they did not choose the western names by themselves. They were made to feel less human! The coup was a glass of water spilled over! President Tolbert could have been “a good man”, but the explosion of a volcano has no perfect time. To me, the story of most blacks in America before January 31, 1865 was the story of most indigents in Liberia before April 12, 1980.

President Doe, though a tyranny, was not a coward. He was a brave soldier who died for a cause. At that crucial time, maybe Doe could have agreed to hand power over to a Kollie or Wlatee, but the coup that initially served as liberation for all indigenous Liberians would have happened in vain had he given power to Charles Taylor, a man whose forefathers’ inhumanity brought about the coup. He knew Taylor would revenge. Wasn’t he right? Hope we are being fair enough.

It is unfortunate that Liberia does not have a reliable history. Most of our best historical accounts have been oral, which we barely explore for fear of “opening old wounds.” “Let’s by-gone be by-gone” is all we hear each time we attempt to explore our history. Aren’t we learning anything from the American history? Americans have recorded everything from war to slavery…especiall y, slavery, the most embarrassing chapter in America’s past. History helps us to understand how far we have come as a people.

“Their (the so-called progressives) intractable hunger for power undermined democracy and rendered the country a pariah status…… ..” Where was the democracy, Mr. Kollie? For 131 years, the True Whig Party was the only party. I wish Mr. Kollie could explain to his audience what his definition of democracy is. Mr. William V.S. Tubman served as President of Liberia for 27 (twenty-seven) years, and the late President William R. Tolbert served as his VP during some of those years. Yet, Mr. Kollie is preaching democracy.

Liberia has a very rich history. We can use this history as a torch to show us the way. It should be our guide towards the future, and not as a weapon for revenge. Liberians should use this history wisely; it has a great lesson to be learned: If most freed slaves, who had already experienced inhumanity and deprivation in the USA, had not shown the same awful behaviors to indigenous Liberians, if previous governments headed by freed slaves were more inclusive, if indigenous Liberians who took power in 1980 had not continued a killing spreed, if only Taylor had not planned a revenge and totally ruined Liberia after Doe was killed, probably, Liberia would have been far ahead of other developing nations by now.

To me, the coup of April 12, 1980, has achieved its goal. We have a multi-party democracy. There are many indigenous Liberians in governments than they were in the past. There are many educated indigents than they were prior to April 12, 1980. No indigent is being used as a camel or donkey to transport government officials as was done in the past. Pres. Doe abolished taxing unemployed indigents, a policy from which they nearly perished during the 100+ years of rule of the True Whig Party. Indigenous Liberians will always be grateful to the late Pres. Doe for relieving them of those taxes. Indigents have voting powers, and can elect their representatives! All these changes happened because of April 12, 1980.

The coup was not intended to eliminate congau people or the True Whig Party; it was probably intended to eradicate those policies that mostly dehumanized indigenous Liberians. It does not matter whether we have a congau president or indigenous president at this time. One thing is certain: the harsh policies of the True Whig Party against indigenous Liberians will be dead forever. Also, no Liberian, or group of Liberians will think less of the other, because we all do remember quite vividly too, what happened in the past, and where we are at present.

It is time now for Liberians to unite and choose great leaders. We need leaders who will extend equal opportunities to all Liberians, and treat the Liberian people with decency. It is time to heal our country, because what matters most is Liberia, our beloved country.

Mrs. A.W. Mulbah

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By Nat Galarea Gbessagee


Long before publication of former Liberian foreign minister H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr.’s latest article, “Before the Setting of the Sun,”  (Liberian Orbit, October 2003), the Liberian chat room was blazing with questions by avid admirers wondering why he had not commented on the present changing military and political tides in Liberia. So given the brilliant rhetorician and astute politician he is, Mr. Fahnbulleh delivered a masterfully crafted rhetorical prose that dabbled in the historical and psychological imperatives for the last two civil wars and associated political and social uprisings in Liberia, to the keen delight of the thirsting souls that laid in wait of his quenching words of wisdom, to devour it with their varying interpretations. But crushed below Mr. Fahnbulleh’s psychoanalysis of a bleeding Liberia is the dialectical underpinnings of the various insurrections the country had experienced, which bespeak more of a people highly determined to cause each other grievous mental and physical harm at opportune times with arguably bizarre explanations and justifications, than a people truly committed to the building of a pluralistic society respecting of equal rights, equal opportunities, justice, fairplay, and rule of law.

I am the lest impressed about the growing propositions of plausible remedies to the Liberian crises by persons who seemingly mean well, but whose vision and urgency about creating the necessary social, economic, and political conditions for social justice, fairplay, rule of law, and democracy in Liberia were, and perhaps still are, somehow buried in ideological and military adventurisms to supposedly correct the wrongs in society. I had insisted in numerous articles that Liberian politicians and “intellectuals” missed numerous glorious opportunities in 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1997 to lead the Liberian nation and people out of their so-called “intractable political immaturity and bewilderment, and educational and social backwardness,” to a new and prosperous life in the psychoanalytical promised land of democracy and rule of law, that any belated saber rattling can only undermine the new quests and urgency to start anew and build from scratch what our astute politicians and intellectuals had failed to do.

The folly of men and women of letter who have managed through their rhetorical and intellectual skills to cultivate a clan of cult followers, is to continue to advocate rapid and grandeur schemes of total liberation that defied the reality of our times. I believe that the last few decades of civil unrests and fraternal political breeding and un-insightful intellectual discourse in Liberia have made more pressing the need for Liberians to cultivate new tactics and approaches to peace, unity, reconciliation and democracy in Liberia that are more in sync with the objective realities of the social, economic, and political developments of the Liberian nation and people, than of any utopian concepts.

For if mere psychoanalysis prevails over the dialecticism of the Liberian problem, we may have to tighten our boots for the long walk ahead, as poster Nyan Wotor succinctly articulated in count one of his five-count analysis of Mr. Fahnbulleh’s article in an AfricaOnline chat-room post October 29: “Point One: Conscious Political Actors Please Stand Up. Here, Fahnbulleh says that the two phases of our long civil war, coupled with Taylor’s reign, have caused mass violence, immorality and hustling to become more deeply ingrained than ever, in our culture. To him, this can be changed only by “social transformation” and the intervention of “conscious political actors.” Fahnbulleh describes “conscious political actors” as those who not only critically examine society, but those who participate in struggle in order to “actualize the results of [their] critical examination.” This theory of “praxis” is not new, but it bears repeating as often as possible until some of us get it and get involved.”
Here, it may not be far-fetched that Mr. Nyan Wotor understood Mr. Fahnbulleh’s calls for “conscious political actors” in Liberia to mean, and perhaps countless other Liberians share similar meaning, that it behooves Liberians to not only critically examine prevailing socio-economic, political and cultural ills in the Liberian society, but to take appropriate actions to “actualize the results of (their) critical examination.” Of course, it is hard to tell if the contextual use of “actualize” connotes violent or peaceful methods to attain one’s aim, but it seems to me that the message was clear even before it was written, given the anxieties and inquiries preceding the Fahnbulleh article, and Mr. Fahnbulleh’s own admissions in previous writings that he was at the forefront of the 1985 failed coup by former army commanding general Thomas Quiwonkpa, which tacitly laid the foundation for the 1989 military invasion by the NPFL.

And that 1989 military invasion of Liberia mushroomed into a catastrophic extermination of over 200,000 Liberians, and an epical 14-year nightmare that rendered Liberians as hopeless refugees and squalors in displacement camps in Liberia and mainly across West Africa, and totaled the country’s political, economic, social, and cultural institutions, and related general infrastructural developments. Even the unpredictability of the current confluent of politically motivated and ideologically separated Liberians, tucked together under a power-sharing transitional government at the behest of international mediators in the hope of restoring peace to the war-ravaged country, owes both its genesis and testimonial to the 1989 military invasion.

So when Mr. Fahnbulleh opines that “The logic of history evolves along its own path, incomprehensive to the ordinary eyes and to the simplistic mind…,” he is probably right, given the tendency of most Liberians to permit their respect and admiration for persons of power or authoritative figures in their lives, to dictate their evaluations of pertinent issues before them. And I know from whence I speak because when I wrote “Countering Political Rhetorical and Intellectual Misrepresentation in Liberia’ (New Democrat, October 2003), a self-declared defender of one of the political commentators I had mentioned in the article was quick to accuse me of attacking a “classy guy” without “provocation,” who usually presents the “truth”, and demanded that I apologize to the “classy guy” for my critical analysis of his article. “He was simply attempting to bring the public some thoughtful analyses on the Liberian story as he has done honestly for so long…. I think he deserves an apology. (Commentator’s name withheld)) is the epitome of “class”. Can we say the same for you, Mr. Gbessagee?” the poster asked. And when I said I would clarify any issues he had with my analysis, he added.”Good luck with any plausible reasons you plan to use to justify your bad analyses. Like I said, if you had any class, you’d simply apologize and move on.” Here, the substance of what I wrote was less important to the love, respect, and admiration the poster had for the commentator in question.

And it is that kind of mindset that immunizes us (most Liberians) from questioning the sincerity and truthfulness of the statements and actions of our friends and relatives, and emboldens us to dismiss outright as the working of a “primitive mind,” a fair warning from our “peasant” brethren that “Liberians are their own worst enemies.” For it is a tasteless social courtesy to not inquire of the speaker what he or she meant by such a bold statement, but how else does a peasant’s viewpoint matter than to be dismissed outright? Yet we proceed to rejoice in our vainglory and self-pride until the ripples of our indiscretion come full circles that we begin to look for scapegoats. And here we are once more presented with another golden opportunity to trace our steps backward from where we now stand, to ascertain if we needlessly stepped on a green grass that has withered, when we could have continued our journey without much harm to the grass. And perhaps, we could be humbled at last to repent of our mistakes and take a new direct path on which we will be in no position to wither the grass anew. But we are so self-centered in our tracks that we think our statements and actions were “justified,” and that statements and actions by others were “unjustified.” And that is the crux of the problem with peace and reconciliation in Liberia today.

But, apparently, Mr. Fahnbulleh is well aware of the strength in the simplicity of diagnosing the Liberian crises in such limited manner for his cult followers, and so he insists with much audacity and adroitness, “There are those who blame many of us for what they consider the ‘destruction of their society.’ If I may ask: which society are they talking about? Is it the one that established tribal Bantustans in the Capital—New Kru Town, Bassa Community, Vai Town, Buzzi Quarters—horrible slums where peasants drifted to after the confiscation of their land for the use of plantation owners? Can they be talking about the society where the Masonic Craft and the established Churches hoodwinked the people politically in acquiescing in their own oppression and exploitation? …What society are these people talking about for which they hold us culpable in its destruction? And how did we destroy this society? By explaining to the people the causes of their backwardness and underdevelopment and the paralysis of the nation? But tell me, what kind of society deserves to survive if a handful of illiterate peasants in uniform could overthrow it with such ease?”

Here, of course, it is highly unlikely that such rambling discourse and myopic attempts at self-exoneration through defiance and put down can appeal to anyone of reason, except, perhaps to cult followers. For a society must exist in order for one to seek its ”social transformation.” But if one who presupposes and assigns to himself the intellectual and leadership capability to lead such a social transformation also recognizes not the existence of the society he is to transform, how can such a person be a credible choice to lead the social transformation? And I am even dumfounded that an erudite and learned person who ascribes to others the sarcastic indignity of “handful of illiterate peasants,” would seek to take marching orders from the same “handful of illiterate peasants” in the capacity of foreign minister and education minister, and as a battlefield warrior in a failed coup. But such is the sad state that is Liberia!

Fahnbulleh is equally adamant that he holds philosophical sway over most Liberians in regard to the direction Liberia should take, to the extent that he self-assuringly pontificates, “The tradition we follow is one of critical analysis of our society and the courageous and revolutionary involvement to actualize the results of our critical examination. This is unlike those who have never participated in political struggles and think that because they have not sullied themselves with hatred, blame and aspersion, they will constitute the new corps of leaders who will be snatched up by certain international circles and imposed on the Liberian people. Such fantasy is the dream of starry-eyed novices. Political capital comes from grueling battles and not from taking the moral high grounds in situations of relative comfort.”

But Fahnbulleh soon bungles in irony. At one point he dismisses calls for changes to the Liberian constitution and says, “No matter which Constitution is given or adopted, nothing will change because the human material in this society is a highly combustible one without the discipline and consciousness needed to build a progressive democratic society. Where is the factor of accountability in a system where unenlightened peasants and destitute slum dwellers line up once in six years to select one of several wealthy candidates?…Maybe instead of changing the Constitution, we need to hire psychiatrists to examine the men and women who vie for power in our country! We may yet stumble on interesting disclosures where mad men and women, junkies and spineless cretins, hallucinating in their demented fantasy, delude themselves that they are historical figures. The debate over the Constitution is sterile and uninteresting…“

Then, at another point, he seems to recognize the constitutionality of the scheduled 2005 general elections, and advises, “We have to fight this election as if our very existence depended on it. The victory of the popular forces will usher in the new dawn of social justice, popular participation and democratic devolution, but defeat will signal the emergence of that clique for whom the nation and its people are cannon fodder in a grand scheme of atavistic nostalgia and political arrogance. The popular forces must unite and take state power before the sun sets on the battered dreams and flickering aspirations of that multitude which dared to hope for an alternative during the heroic confrontation of the 70s. This struggle must not only be fought! It must be won!!”

Here, the irony of Fahnbulleh’s brand of society lies not only in his bellicosity, but also in the very essence of the “social transformation” of a society in which “… we need to hire psychiatrists to examine the men and women who vie for power…” For if, in Fahnbulleh’s estimation, society is dominated by “unenlightened peasants and destitute slum dwellers,” and “enlightened” men and women who need psychiatric help to prove their worth, I sincerely doubt any persons would be left in society that will become “the popular forces” that “will usher in the new dawn of social justice, popular participation and democratic devolution.”  But even such characterization contradicts Fahnbulleh’s earlier rhetorical statement and question, “There are those who blame many of us for what they consider the ‘destruction of their society.’ If I may ask: which society are they talking about?” But it is such rhetorical statements and questions that present both Mr. Fahnbulleh and the Liberian people with an awkward dilemma and the paradox as to how anyone thinks he should be taken serious in prescribing remedies to a society whose constitution and existence he doesn’t recognize!

But the key to peace and stability in Liberia lies collectively with all Liberians, and not with Fahnbulleh as a person. So the main issue is not what Fahnbulleh says or does, but whether those Liberians (“educated” and “uneducated”) mesmerized and spell bounded by the flowery political rhetoric of him and other Liberian political firebrands, will for once cease to be mere followers of intellectual intrigues and become independent thinkers capable of charting a national course for Liberia, in which sullying oneself with “hatred, blame and aspersion” will not be the capstone for greatness, and where power will not reside in the hands of “village peasants.” For such a proposition is more a fantasy than a reality in our modern world dominated by democratic and free market forces. And I even doubt if ever there was a time when power truly resided in the hands of  “the people” or “ village peasants,” without powerful cliques running the whole show in the background in disguise. Therefore, Liberians must harness their political, economic, social, cultural, and human resources by living and working together in peace to build a pluralistic democratic society in which every Liberian will be treated fairly before the law, and given equal access to employment, educational, and leadership opportunities.

I have indicated throughout my writings that the Liberian crisis is more complex than we all care to admit. It is hard to believe by the level of atrocities committed by all sides during the last two civil war that Liberians were that cruel toward one another. And perhaps we didn’t know because we were either too young or not yet born, and did not witness the Sasstown and Grebo wars in the last century, which were as gruesome and brutal as the last two civil wars. But now that we know, the solution is not to justify one action over the other, but to collectively take steps so that such atrocities are never again repeated in our national history. And I do not think that solution is possible with prosecutions under a war crimes tribunal, unless we, Liberians, genuinely want “justice across the board”, and not a “victor’s justice,” for there are no victors in the Liberian crises.  For Mr. Fahnbulleh, Jr., Gen. Quiwonkpa, and others committed a treasonous act under the Liberian constitution in their attempts to overthrow a sitting Liberian government in 1985, just as Mr. Charles Taylor and others in 1989, and Mr. George Dweh and others in 1999 committed a treasonous act each in their own attempts to overthrow a sitting Liberian government. Could each group have had valid reasons and justifications? Probably, “yes.” But none is exempt from committing treason under the provisions of the Liberian constitution.   And none of these cases can be excluded from a wars crime tribunal prosecution if we, Liberians, truly desire justice.  After all, each group took the guns over the courts, being fully aware of their repercussions of their actions regarding peace and stability in Liberia.

So when Mr. Fahnbulleh asks, “And how did we destroy this society? By explaining to the people the causes of their backwardness…” he is simply misstating the gravity of the case. For as much as his statement might be true in certain respects, his role in the 1985 failed coup can hardly be characterized as “explaining to the people the causes of their backwardness.” It was a calculated attempt to unseat a sitting government through the barrel of the gun and not through the ballot box, no matter what the justifications. And that failed coup attempt in 1985 accelerated the growing public distrust of the sitting government and caused a chain reaction that led to the 1989 military invasion, as well as the 1999 and 2003 military invasions. Hence, Mr. Fahnbulleh’s psychoanalysis about a bleeding Liberia needing a “social transformation” that he and his  “popular forces” must lead by winning the 2005 elections at all cost, is nothing more than a misdiagnosis.

Liberians must, therefore, think long and hard as to whether it is in the interest of all Liberians to make amends and work together to create society in which all Liberians can live in relative peace in pursuit of life’s many treasures, or whether it is in the interest of all Liberians to help Mr. Fahnbulleh create a society in which “Political capital comes from grueling battles and not from taking the moral high grounds in situations of relative comfort.” For me, I am not for Fahnbulleh’s society of the “fittest.” I am for Liberians reconciling their differences, even through what some deemed as “appeasement,” to create a new society of equal rights and opportunities we all can be proud of.  I know the task will not be easy but it can be done. And for that, I propose it is time to get beyond Fahnbulleh’s psychoanalysis of a bleeding Liberia. For I think all Liberians want to stop the bleeding of our country, but not with a mixture of hot pepper and vinegar!

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