The State of Emergency, War and Elections

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule

February 11, 2002

She was crying because she had just heard that “rebels” attacked Klay and she wanted to find out if anyone knew anything about what was really happening. Her four children are in Monrovia and she was worried about them. Her sister tried to calm her and ended up telling her that she too had three of her children back there, in Monrovia. She was afraid the children would be forced to take up arms and fight. Pretty soon, they were both crying on the phone. They prayed together and then hung-up. I heard the woman say that the same Lord that helped them live through 1989 and Octopus and April 6 will protect them. After the conversation, my mother-in-law asked me if it was true that there was fighting in Klay. I told her that I had just heard the news from a friend downtown. She looked at me, silently. I could see on her face all the despair in the world. There were no tears, just despair.

Explaining to the woman that the battle of Klay never happened proved to be very futile, because she had heard it on BBC. And BBC never lies. I tried to explain to her that the same Minister of Defense said that there was fighting in Kolahun last week and that the “dissidents” had been repelled. In a matter of three days, LURD would have then gone from Kolahun to Klay, overrunning the fortified military zone in Bomi Hills. What happened to the hundreds of heavily armed ATU stationed in that area? Were they killed? Were they taken prisoners? How many people were involved in the fight? The Minister of Information said that “the dissidents came to Klay” and were pushed back? Pushed back to where, I may ask? What was their retreat line? What was their supply line? Does that mean all of Lofa is now under LURD control? Again, somebody is not telling us the truth. Of course, I did expect the woman whose children are trapped in Monrovia to make sense of my logic. The so-called spokesperson of LURD could not say if they had attacked Klay or Klay junction. Geography is a military science. Show me a map!

So, according to the BBC, “the president of Liberia finally imposed the state of emergency.” What is new? Many predicted this for months. And when two senators and the Sando-The-Clown-Johnson spoke of the possibility of passing a bill asking president to impose the state of emergency, we knew it was in the making.

It is surprising that a government that is besieged by a rebel army would carry out its festivities in Buchanan as if nothing is going on. According to reports from Monrovia, partisans who attended the NPP convention in Buchanan returned to Monrovia on Friday with cars loaded with leftovers beer and wine, singing and dancing. They did not look like people who were on the brink of being driven out of power. Nothing, in the demeanor of the government indicates that there is a state of urgency.

The state of emergency is meant to get sympathy from the international community, but mostly, it is meant to postpone the elections. After his election, Taylor went to sleep. It took the recent visit of the American delegation of “elections-makers” to remind him that he would soon face the Liberian electorate. He was told in no uncertain terms that if he wanted “credible elections,” he would have to put in place some changes, in terms of communications, security and election supervision. He knew that he had no chance of winning, if he met just one of those conditions.

Letting people speak their mind? Talking about how corrupt his government is? Talk about how his Maritime Commissioner feed crocodiles on his farm with fresh cow meat everyday when people are starving? Point fingers to the fleet of new buses plying the roads of Monrovia and bearing the letters AREBECO? Agnes Reeves and Belle Dunbar, both government officials, spending tax money for their own benefits? Show how, his other mistress is ganging up with a decadent Reverend to turn Liberia into a so-called Christian state? How could he let that happen?

Disarm his child-soldiers?
Ask the ATU and the Police that they can no longer pick-up people in the streets and flog them and go on free? Over the weekend, scores of young men were arrested in the streets and detained. Forced recruitment into ATU is believed to be the motive behind the arrest.

Dismantle the funny elections commission?
Doing any of this was and is tantamount to losing the elections. Liberians are starting to regain their sanity. They are starting to walk out of the trauma of the war and they know they have nothing to lose by casting a vote against Taylor. What could be worse than what they are undergoing now?

What is so new about the state of emergency?
This government has never worked through the law. For the people back home, it is just another set of words that simply gives legal grounds to what has been going on since 1997. The nightmare has now gotten a legal layer, but the same charade goes on.

Who is in Klay? Who fought whom?
Is this the first war in the war when we never see prisoners of war, we never hear of victims, we never see “occupied or liberated territories?” For a man who loves nothing more than show, there is something uncanny about this war.

The state of emergency is not about war but rather about the elections. Taylor and his henchmen have been playing with this idea for a longtime and now, with their back to the wall, they have no choice but go ahead. Just as Liberians have nothing to lose by voting them out in 18 months, they have nothing to lose by imposing a state of emergency to put an end to all constitutional matters, including the electoral process.

What is LURD doing in all of this? Where are they? Using BBC to prosecute a war is an old game for the NPFL. Nothing has changed. Just as we wrote here the other day, the government claims to have been attacked. The “spokesman” of LURD echoes the accusation. Only now there is a new dimension, with the imposition of the state of emergency. It is another step up. The hoax continues. The people of Lofa are caught in the crossfire. Is LURD positioning itself for the up-coming reconciliation talks?

The Government wants the sanctions and the arms embargo lifted. LURD wants to be considered a serious rebel army and a seat at the table for any national conference. In the process, lot of lies fly around and lot of innocent people are hurt.

With this emergency supposedly going on, the most urgent things in Monrovia for the government seem to be the dismantling of the Lone Stars and the holding of Liberia for Jesus at the Samuel K. Doe stadium. Dismantling the Lone Stars after they lost by one goal to Nigeria is a shame. They did well and should be congratulated, having reached that far with all the adversities in their way. In the process, the Minister of Sports, Max Dennis and Edwin Snowe managed to scare Oppong away, after badmouthing him to Taylor and reporting to Weah what Taylor said in reaction.

In the meantime, another tandem is working hard to convince everyone that Liberia should be submitted to Christian laws, whatever that means. Jasper S. Ndaborlor, working with Mrs. Refell is suggesting that the Liberian constitution be revised to make it a Christian state. This may sound stupid and unrealistic to many but, when dealing with the gang that is now running the country, nothing is impossible. E-mails are being sent out to people to say how desperate the situation has become. Some compare the current situation to that of 1990. The phone system is jammed to create an impression of emergency.

It is difficult to make sense of it all. It is difficult to understand why a group like LURD would let itself be manipulated so much by the government it says it wants to dethrone.

There is no need here to go into speculation. Time will tell if LURD is really 20 miles from Monrovia and how long they will stay there. We all want an end to violence, corruption, human rights violations in Monrovia but are we really there yet?

It is a sad day for Liberia. It is becoming harder to see through the smoke screen.

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