An Open Letter to Pres. Taylor & LURD's Sekou Konneh
By Nvasekie N. Konneh / © The New Democrat
Once again the Liberian government, the rebel factions, politicians and interest groups are participating in another peace talk and this time again in Ghana. For most Liberians, the reaction so far is "wait and see." If this peace conference produces the results that will bring lasting peace to the country and its people, all peace loving Liberians will be happy and thankful to God, the facilitators and the participants who would have finally seen the light. If it does not, well, we have been there before. The commitment or lack commitment on the part of President Taylor to any peace agreement is nothing new. We have seen it all before. Since this is LURD/MODEL's first time participating in any peace talk, it may be interesting to see how they will conduct themselves and how the whole process will turn out to be. We can only hope for the best.
As one of the many Liberians in and out of Liberia who are watching this development with keen interest, I am writing this as an open letter to President Taylor and his government on the one hand; Chairman Sekou Konneh and his LURD and MODEL factions on the other hand as well as those politicians and representatives of the interest groups.
TO PRESIDIDENT TAYLOR: twelve years ago you started the war to "liberate" Liberia from the tyranny of President Doe. From the inception of your "liberation" war, we were made to believe by the way you conducted yourself that your ultimate objective was to be the president of Liberia. Nine months into the war, the target of your "liberation" war was knocked out. I, and perhaps millions of Liberians believed that our "hour of liberation" had come. But we soon discovered to our surprise that your main interest was beyond our "liberation from the tyranny of Doe." Your main interest as we all know now was to become the "President Of Liberia." For seven years and thousands dead, you dragged us through war. We all realized after these many years that since the presidency is what you want as your “pay” for our "liberation," you can have it and we would see what you would do with it. A special election was organized and whether some of us like it or not, you were declared the winner and installed as the "President Of Liberia." For you it was a "dream-come-true," while for some it was a disappointment but all have been waiting to see what you would do with the "presidency." Well, what you have done with the job you have always wanted at any cost does not need to be enumerated here because your record speaks for itself.
The results your presidency has produced since 1997 is not clean Mr. President. Liberians and the international community have lost confidence in your ability to lead the nation to genuine reconciliation and economic stability; your miscalculated mischief and ruthlessness have been the cause for another war that is going on now between you and two other warring factions.
Mr. President, since you were given the opportunity and you have squandered it, reason dictates that you resign and give chance to another arrangement. Given your current relation with the Liberian people and the international community whose economic assistance is very essential for pulling the nation from the dismal condition it's in today, you will not be able to do anything even if you stay there for another hundred years (will you rather stay there as an ineffective leader or give way to someone else?). In this case, resignation is your best option. That will give the Liberian people the opportunity for a fresh start. I was watching TV recently when the head coach of a major sport team here in the United States said that after many years, he was stepping down to "give chance to someone with fresh idea how to do things different." I was thinking of you and other African leaders who want to hold on forever even if their rule means hardship for their countries. If you think you deserve respect, and not disgrace after your presidency, the honorable thing to do is to resign and give way to new arrangement that will be acceptable to all Liberians. I don't think it will be wise on your part to stay on and be like another Doe, or Mobutu or Idi Amin. You can resign and remake yourself and may be you could make a second coming and may be by that time you could be given another chance to prove yourself as a statesman, not a warrior or a mass murderer.
We usually say that African leaders do not learn from history. For you, one can only say, "look how Doe ended" as he stubbornly hung on. Doe could have left that time, go cool off somewhere and today, people would be calling him to come back and save Liberia from you. Mr. President, there is always better days ahead and I will strongly advice that if the promise of your presidency does not look bright today, you could quit and come back some day (of course not through war). Even if you don't get the second shot at the presidency, at least you will still have life to live for yourself and your family. So Mr. President, you will be doing yourself a great favor if you go away since you don't have any solution to our problems.
Well Mr. President, one more concern. You are going to talk peace with LURD. What about the people that are dying in your notorious prisons on mere suspicion of being LURD members or supporters? If you are sincere and want genuine peace for the country, you would set these innocent people free while on your way to talk peace with LURD.
LURD/MODEL: as you or your representatives sit with others in Ghana, I have few things to say to you too. Consider that as my advice and you have the right to take it or leave it. What I am saying to you is not motivated by anything other than the fact that I want peace in Liberia. This is an honest advice similar to the one I have given to President Taylor.
Most people believe that "history repeats itself" but as I learnt from my friend and brother Hassan Bility recently, "it's the people that repeat history." Now you are in the same spot Mr. Taylor was in 12 years ago when he was knocking on the gates of Monrovia telling President Doe to resign so we would be "liberated." You are either going to repeat the history of what he did or you are going to do it differently (we can only hope that you do it better than he did for your own place in the history of the nation).
Today no one can dispute that Liberians want to be "liberated" from the man who came to "liberate" them 12 years ago. What method to use is where we all defer. Your stated goal is to "liberate" us. Most Liberians will say, "we have been told the same thing before but we are still not liberated." The question then becomes, "Are the liberators driven by the desire for power or the desire to free the people so they may decide through a genuine democratic process who their leader should be? " We are waiting to see what you will do as the common saying is, "action speaks louder than war."
If Liberian people are in doubt about what you have told them, don't blame then, blame the history of the many "liberators" who came before you. Rightly or wrongly, most Liberians are judging you based on that history and what you do will either prove or disprove their judgments. So as you go to Ghana to talk peace, please bear this in mind. All eyes are on you to see whether you will be as intransigent and unreasonable as Mr. Taylor was in the various peace talks when he was where you are now.
Since 1990 our war has not produced any "national hero" whose ultimate sacrifice can be appreciated by all Liberians without question. Those that should have been celebrated as heroes of our "liberation" could not defy the temptation to reward themselves with the presidency just like Mr. Taylor. At the end of the day, they are all seen as people motivated by the desire for power and only faking our "liberation" as the reason. Is it going to be business as usual as far you are concerned? Well, this is your time to do what is right and be celebrated as heroes or be intransigent as Mr. Taylor was and be condemned as villains. Please remember this famous quote from President John F. Kennedy, " Think about what you can do for your country, not what your country can do for you." If your fight is to just "liberate" us from our current "liberator," this statement will mean a lot to you. Prince Johnson was right when he said, "The guns that liberate should not rule." This is a profound statement. The problem is the temptation of power could not keep Johnson committed to this statement for which he became so famous. He showed so much disregard for the rule of law as he could be seen parading on the streets of Monrovia behaving in manner suggesting that while Amos Sawyer was the interim president, he too was another power to deal with. He was too flamboyant, acting too shamelessly foolish to be considered a hero. We all know what became of him.
To be a liberator of a nation or a people is a self-appointing and risky job, but a noble one indeed if it is done selflessly. Whether you are doing it as a guerrillas fighting in the bush or speaking or writing, it's still a self-appointing and risky job. It's too much of a sacrifice to lose your sleep, precious time away from your family and loved ones to undertake a task for people most of whom have given up the hope of been free from a ruthless dictator and his agents of death; many of us are confused as to whether or not we stay under this deplorable condition for another hundred years. At the end of the day, we all will expect our "liberation" without you asking us to reward you with the power to rule over us. At some point in appreciation for what you have done, we may give it to you without too much of a hassle. A true hero must seek for power that is legitimate and given and not the one that is obtained forceably.
So those of you in this "liberation business" we expect you to be selfless to the point of not thinking of any pay in return except the respect and the admiration we will bestow upon you. That's why heroes get when they do their citizens' wishes. Those who have the fortitude and are selfless enough would in the long run or even in death command the admiration and respect from the people who they sacrifice for. They go on in the people's minds to become mythical figures, larger in death than were in real life. Black Americans have had such a figure in Malcolm X. For the Malians, it's Toumani Ture who they have rewarded now with the presidency. It seems to be that the concept of true heroism is alien to the liberators we have seen over the years. We can only hope you will be different from all the other "liberators" we have seen over the years. So Chairman Konneh and the leader of MODEL, this peace conference is your test and I will pray that you past it by not be unreasonably uncompromising, especially when Taylor agrees to step down.
POLITICIANS AND INTEREST GROUPS: Most Liberians know very well how political and interested you are when it comes to power and its glory. We have been so disappointed in the past that we have characterized all of you for being interested only in obtaining power, only using the people as a front. Well, this time, you too must show that you are not only about positions and power. Please remember our people languishing in prisons in President Taylor’s Liberia. Please impress upon Mr. Taylor that there is no point of talking peace with LURD/MODEL while he's torturing these people in jail on mere suspicion of being LURD members or supporters. You cannot talk any peace with Mr. Taylor and others and not mention that Aloysius Toe, Mohammed Komara, Mobutu Kromah have been wrongly accused and abused for far too long and deserve their freedom just like you. Do not let the position be so important that you will do anything to get it. Stand for principle and think about the innocent women and children who the victims. To do the right thing should be the only motivating facotor to what you do or say while you are there.
God luck and may God bless Liberia.
Nvasekie N. Konneh