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Claiming and Shifting Responsibility for War: Legal and Security Implications

By Arthur B. Dennis

On December 27, 2004, the Liberian Analyst reported that Nimba Superintendent Harrison S. Karnwea said, "Nimbians are responsible for the war." But Supt Karnwea came under intense criticisms and later denied making such statement. However, in criticizing Supt Karnwea, some of the critics shifted the responsibility for the war on certain individuals and suggested that those individuals be made to face war crime trial. Well, in a free-speech democracy, everyone is entitled to his opinion. Therefore, this article is not intended to criticize anyone's opinion but to draw the public's attention to the legal and security implications for claiming and shifting responsibility of the war as well as advocating for a war crime tribunal to be established in Liberia.

Legal Implications

Firstly, for the past 14 years, Charles Taylor has been on record for being responsible for the war not only in Liberia but also for the wars in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa. Moreover, most Liberians judge people by collective guilt, not by the behavior of one person. Collective guilt destroyed thousands of precious lives in the war; as such, it should never be taken for granted in whatever we say or do in public.

Therefore, any person claiming responsibility for the war is not only a self- verdict of guilt but also a verdict of guilt for other members of his ethnic group. The claimer will be telling the public and the world that Taylor is not to blame; instead, he and members of his ethnic group are responsible for the war in Liberia, and that they exported the war into Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa.. It further means that Taylor should be released and they be made to appear before the Sierra Leone war crime tribunal for trial. On the other hand, shifting responsibility of the war means indicting a person and members of his ethnic group for the war in Liberia as well as for the wars in the other African countries.

Secondly, under Article 76 of the Constitution, it is a crime of treason for any group of Liberian citizens to wage war on the people of Liberia. Therefore, claiming responsibility for the war is a self-verdict of guilt for the crime of treason and a verdict of guilt for other members of the claimer's ethnic group, including his supporters. And shifting responsibility means indicting people for the crime of treason, exonerating Charles Taylor who is responsible for the war.

Thirdly, there are no cleans in any civil war. Every party to a conflict has two groups of supporters: the group of supporters who pull the triggers, and the other group of supporters who provide the funds and logistics to pursue the goal of their cause. Therefore, if the matter appears in court in Liberia, Article 76(2) of the Constitution expressly states that people who pulled the triggers as well as people who aided and abetted them are indictable for the crime of treason.

Fourthly, if the matter appears before the war crime court, here is what would happen. The combatants who pull the triggers to commit war crimes will be charged under the doctrine of individual responsibility; the commanders who issued the orders for war crimes to be committed will be charged under the doctrine of command responsibility; and those who provided the financial and logistic support to warring factions will be held under the law of complicity for aiding and abetting. But many of the war crime tribunal advocates disagreed, arguing that only those who bear the greater responsibility for crimes committed in the war (apparent reference to the faction leaders) will be made to appear before the war crime court for trial.
Perhaps those who believe in the "principle of greater responsibility" have not been following the interplay of "super-power" politics under international law, or perhaps they have not read the full text of the International War Crime Statute since it came into force.

Or perhaps they need to be informed that there is no such term as "greater responsibility" under any of the provisions of the International War Crime Statute. The term was coined to get even with certain faction or government leaders in a crisis situation whose platforms are opposed to the interests of certain super power or group of super powers.

However, to make matter short, the relevant provisions of the July 17, 1998 International War Crime Statute, dealing with the principle of individual responsibility in war crimes, which entered into force July 1, 2002 and ratified February 25, 2003 by 86 countries including Liberia, are as follows.

Article 25: Individual Criminal Responsibility.

1. A person who commits a crime within the jurisdiction of the court shall be individually responsible and liable for punishment in accordance with this statute.

2. In accordance with this Statute, a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the court if that person

(a) Commits such crime, whether as an individual, jointly with other or through another person, regardless of whether that person is criminally responsible;

(b) Orders, solicits or induces the commission of such a crime which in fact occurs or is attempted;

(c) For the purpose of facilitating the commission of such crime, aids, abets or otherwise assists in its commission or its attempted commission, including providing the means for its commission;

(d) In any other way contributes to the commission or attempted of such a crime by a group of persons acting with a common purpose. Such contribution shall either:

(i) Be made with the aim of furthering the criminal activity or criminal purpose of the group, where such activity or purpose involves the commission of a crime within the jurisdiction of the court; or

(ii) Be made in knowledge of the intention of the group to commit the crime;

(b) Directly and publicly incites others to commit genocide….

The War Crime Statute further provides that the principle of individual responsibility shall also apply to all persons regardless of their official positions. The following is the appropriate provision of the War Crime Statue dealing with that matter.

Article 27: Irrelevance of official capacity

1. The Statute shall apply equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity. In particular, official capacity such as Head of State or Government; a member of Government or Parliament; an elected representative; or a government official shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under this Statute nor shall it in and of itself, constitute a ground for reduction of sentence;

2. Immunities or procedural rules which may attach to the official capacity of person, whether under national or international law, shall not bar the Court from exercising its jurisdiction over such person.

The criminal responsibility for military commanders and other superiors is also stipulated under the following provision of the War Crime Statue.

Article 28: Responsibility of Commanders and Superiors

A military commander or a person effectively acting as a military commander shall be criminally responsible for crimes within the jurisdiction of the court committed by forces under his effective command and control, or effective authority and control as the case may be, as a result of his or her failure to exercise control properly over such forces, where:

(a). That military commander or person either knew or owing to the circumstances at the time should have known that the forces were committing or about to commit such crimes; and

(b) That a military commander or person failed to take all the necessary and reasonable measures within his power to prevent or repress their commission or to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution;

(c) With respect to superior and subordinate relationship not described in (paragraph (a), a superior shall be criminally responsible for crimes within the jurisdiction of the court committed by subordinates under his effective authority and control as a result of failure to exercise control properly over such subordinates; where

(d) The superior either knew or consciously disregarded information which clearly indicated that the subordinates were committing or about to commit such crimes;

(e) The crimes concerned activities that were within the effective responsibility and control of the superior;

(f) The superior failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his power to prevent or repress their commission or to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution.

Since the International War Crime Statute entered into force in 2002, only the Rwanda War Crime Tribunal has been effectively applying all the relevant provisions stipulated in the foregoing. It is indicting military commanders as well as those who pulled the triggers in the 1994 massacre. It is also indicting officials of government, businessmen, journalists, civilians and other invisible hands accused to be linked to that 1994 mass murder.

Security Implications

There are several security implications but because of space, we shall limit ourselves to only three. Firstly, the memories of human lives and properties destroyed by the war in Liberia as well as the wars in other African countries will live forever as long as the history of the war exists. Therefore, any person claiming responsibility for the war will be claiming responsibility not only for the lives and properties destroyed but also will be exposing himself and members of his ethnic group to everlasting sentiments of hate in Liberia as well as in the countries where the war was exported. This is exactly what would happen if the blame of the war is shifted on other people.

Secondly, certain Liberians master the arts of witch-hunting people for their negative past and using that negative past to destroy the future of their fellow citizens. Therefore, any person claiming responsibility for the war will be indicting himself and members of his ethnic group as troublemakers or security risks, and the stigma will witch hunt them as long as the history of the war exists. Not only that. Besides being a target for gossips and finger-pointing every where, they will always be on the radar screen under security surveillance to be the first to be arrested in case of any national security crisis.

Thirdly and most important of all, any person claiming responsibility for the war will not be trusted now and in immediate future to hold certain top leadership posts in government, especially in any state security branch. Confidence crisis over power sharing in government is the price that most players usually pay after every civil war. For example, at the end of the American civil war in 1865, it took nearly ten years for the southerners to be trusted to hold top sensitive posts in government; although general amnesty was granted to all those who participated in the war. The Easterners in Nigeria, who broke away in 1967 under the State of Biafra, were also granted amnesty following the war. But when it comes to power- sharing in government, especially in the military and other security services, confidence crisis still hangs over them today. This is exactly what would happen in case the blame for the war is shifted on any group of persons.

Concluding Comments.

There are three most important issues to be remembered in this article. First, those who are claiming responsibility for the war should remember that they are not only incriminating themselves but also incriminating other members of their ethnic group coupled with those who were in sympathy with their cause in the war. Second, those who are shifting responsibility for the war on other people should also remember that they are not only incriminating them but also endangering their lives in Liberia as well as in the countries where the war was exported. Finally, those who are claiming or shifting responsibility for the war should remember that Article 76(2) of the Constitution as well as Article 25, Article 27, and Article 28 of the War Crime Statute are strongly advising us that if we haul rope, rope will haul bush. Therefore, those who have ears to hear, let them hear, and hear real good before going public with a call to set up war crime tribunal for Liberia.

Profile of Arthur Dennis


LIBERIA'S ELECTION GUIDELINES: SOME UNFINISHED BUSINESS

BY: DWEH S. BOLEY

The elections season in Liberia is fast approaching, and we have to applaud the National Election Commission (NEC) for having the strength and character to keep the process on course under undeniably difficult circumstances. The Commission has got its structure in place. It is coordinating with other international and local organizations to mobilized resources and to ensure fairness and integrity of the process.

The Electoral Reform Bill and Guidelines for participation initially got stuck in the Transitional Legislative Assembly (TLA) over matters that were later realized to arise principally out of pecuniary concerns. There were some heated exchanges over the necessity of the hitch. But in the final analysis, the bill got passed. That's the beauty of a democratic debate and we are thankful for the non-violence exercise.

Like all things in Liberia, doing it the right way from the start and all the way to the end is always the key to success. Leaving seemingly "little matters" unattended has the potential of rocking the process inevitably or unfairly tilting the balance in one direction. So, it is all about the discovery of unfinished businesses that must be addressed; and taking care of those businesses in a timely fashion should be a priority.

In my view, the NEC's guidelines of January 17, 2005 relating to the registration of Political Parties and Independent Candidates failed to address two important concerns that I believe, if addressed properly, will help to "ensure that the rights and interest of all Liberians are guaranteed, and that the elections are organized in a manner that is acceptable to all."

First, there is no specific reference within the Guidelines to prohibit the use of public resources in support of candidates and political parties during campaign activities. Second, the Commission has established no deadline for the resignation of current government officials who may have the desire to contest for elected positions in the upcoming national elections. And God knows - there are dozens of them waiting in the winds to jump into the race and take care of business.

While the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (ACPA) may have partially tried to address the issue of restricting the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Speaker of the TLA, as well as all principal Cabinet Ministers within the NTGL from contesting for any elected office during the upcoming elections; the ACPA speaks nothing of other executive political appointees within NTGL including Commissioners of Bureaus and Managing Directors of Public Corporations and Autonomous Agencies and their deputies. The accord is equally silent on Deputy Ministers serving in the NTGL and current members of the TLA who may be desirous of seeking elective positions within their various constituencies.

I think that the same logic that went into restricting "Principal Cabinet Ministers" should have applied to Commissioners, Managing Directors and their deputies. If not, what justifies the thinking that the Minister of Agriculture or Rural Development for that matter, can exercise more undue political and financial influence on the elections process than say the Managing Director of National Port Authority, Liberia Petroleum Refining or the Commissioner of Maritime or the Comptroller General of Liberia? It just doesn't make sense to me. What's good for the goose must also be good for the gander.

Since the ACPA failed to address these issues comprehensively, The NEC is now called upon to take practical steps to close the loop before it gets too late. I believe that the NEC can solve this looming problem by taking bold and unequivocal actions to set a specific deadline for these government officials to resign their post before contesting for any elective position in the forthcoming elections. I take the position that the NEC should require the officials in the category mentioned above to resign their position at least six months prior to the day of national elections in order to qualify and participate.

This is not asking too much. The NTGL Chairman can replace them based on the recommendation of their respective nominating parties. By this move, the NEC will be creating some sort of level playing field between those with access to government resources and exposure and those without such added edge.

Clearly, the argument relating to the advantage of incumbency cannot apply to these official of government. Why? Because, they were never elected by the will of any electorate of any legitimacy. They were selected or appointed to positions in various branches of government for the purpose of national convenience in order to implement the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The above two concerns should be addressed quickly in order to create and ensure a level playing field for all - where the less powerful will be heard as well as the most powerful. Further, this process will also minimize the abuse of authority, undue influence and coercion as a form of power, which of course has always been a trademark in Liberia's system of government and political campaigning.

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About the author: Dweh S. Boley is Executive Director of Liberia Business Network, President & CEO of Lone Star Environmental Services, a Liberian-owned business specialize in OSHA and DOT Compliance, Phase I & II Environmental Site Assessment, Asbestos, Lead-Base Paint, Mold, IAQ and UST. Contact is dwehboley@yahoo.com
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Why am I voting in the first place?
BY RINNY V. JACKSON
January 25, 2005

"Democracy is something you learn and practice over a long period of time, It does not occur by someone waving a magic wand and all of a sudden everyone and the whole system become democratic."

When this whole issue about elections in Liberia started, I decided to shun it in the name of the popular saying, "I am not a politician." I thought it wise to leave it to the so-called political minds of our time. But on second thought, I decided to express my thoughts on the status-quo.
Since the inception of our rights to participate in the electoral process (and it goes far back), most Liberians have denied themselves the right to institute good governance, simply by refusing to go to the polls to elect a good leader because some feel that they are not educated enough to participate in the process. The thing is, when rhetorical Liberians take advantage of the democratic process, everyone, whether educated or uneducated suffers.

No one needs tell Liberians that the laissez-faire attitude of the past has not benefited us.
I am afraid most people would beg to differ when I say that most of the problems in our society are due in part to our negligence and ignorance about our rights to practice and uphold our freedom.
I am not speaking as an innocent by-stander. During the crisis, I crawled through the swamps, and walked on bare-feet. I actually know what hunger is, and worst of all what dying is. I know anguish and pain in all their forms. Sadly, there is one thing I have not known my whole life, that's good governance. It's interesting how complacent we as Liberians can be. There is a popular belief that as long as a man can afford to feed himself and his family, purchase a bottle of beer and some roasted meat and sit around the beer table after work, life is good! Life is not good, damn it! Have anyone ever considered how he or she is earning the money. Is it legit or something squeezed in your pocket by your so-called "boss man"? It is heart wrenching that as long as one man is stealing and supporting his family and girl friends, have a car to move around, no one else matters.
Even our so-called freedom crusaders find the transition from crusading and advocacy to exploiter and manipulators of our people fun and easy. Everyone is either too greedy or afraid that we all fail to realize the butterfly effect a single action from an honest and God-fearing old-village lady could cause in the long run. But everyone is so afraid in challenging the status-quo. We would rather be abused and mal-handled by fraction of individuals to whom we entrust our country, than to speak out and stand for our rights.
Who are your presidential aspirants, and why should you vote in the first place?

This is the question I am admonishing us all to grapple with. Why? Because Liberia is at this time like a schizophrenic and paranoid little child in need of not only therapy, or medication, but a systematic approach which is capable of pulling her out of this demented state (fugue).

Who ever becomes the next leader should be prepared to be a teacher without a curriculum. He or she should be in a position to rely on past training and ingenuity, implementing methods that would in the long run be defined as a frame work for governance for all of Africa.

The ordinary person's position in this light should be assessing the aspirant's knowledge and experience relating to the job as stake. All of us should in our guest to put in place a good leader formulate in our minds and utterances solutions in terms of steps for our own political and economic redemption.
Advocating for a leader with insight should be our outmost priority. A time might come when the demands transcend insight; problem identification plus insight plus knowledge plus the behavior of the people governed will equal effective coping and fruition for our long sought peace and prosperity.

Right now, we need a leader who is mentally equipped, well connected; a person who loves the country and has never been implicated in any scandal. This is a tough one, but this is what Liberia needs right now. Has anyone ever wonder why all these aspirants are all desirous of the presidential seat? This is an insult to the integrity of all Liberians by these so-called presidential applicants. Why don't we hear anyone talking of being a senator, or occupying any lower governmental position?

Right now Liberia is not a big ripe juicy apple that everyone can have a piece of. But interestingly, no one can make such decision for anyone else. Everyone is entitled to one ballot. Are we going to vote for individuals to satisfy short term needs or long term needs?

This election is going to afford everyone the opportunity to make his or her destiny. Like me you might say you are not a politician, but bad political decisions affect the lives of every one of us. The poor people are the real victims of the shanghai facing us. But no one is excused. Because no one has to tell you what is good for you.

I am mentally prepared to dog any presidential aspirant, but right now the most important thing is the issues at hand, the election. Most of your aspirants are frauds, but that is left for you on the grounds to figure out.
It is disheartening that most of us have to move to the US and other parts of the world to make ends meet. We undeniably want to come back home, that's why we keep talking despite the fact that we are far away from home.

There is no place like home!

Though our traumatic political past belongs in the trash bin of history, I admonish us to take a critical look at it before we toss it. So in the long run we can avoid those pit falls that have shattered the lives of our people and brought our nation down to her knees. The past should be our school and these elections should be our graduation from political indignation and stagnation to political glory, from inequality to equality, from nepotism to equal opportunity for the competent and from tribalism to nationalism.
These elections should e a healing process, and economic resurrection and the spontaneity by individuals to be identified as Liberians.

You might ask why you should vote. You should vote because our lives depend on it. The economic and political vibrancy of Liberia starts from your ability to vote right. What is voting right? You tell me!
I cringe when I see people campaigning for a candidate that is disgracefully corrupt and greedy, not only that but down right unsuccessful in past endeavors. I am hurt when people applaud these old political heads. These are people who know they can no longer be elected to the presidency, interestingly; these are people who glory in being part of the incumbent as though it is their birth right. They have been part of all regimes.
Why should we vote in the first place? Because our lives depend on your actions at the poles. Who is the right person to vote for? If I told you or suggested to you an individual, I will be violating your rights to choose for yourselves.

All you have is the power to better your lives. If we chase short term goals, we will have ourselves to blame afterwards. "Decency herself would beg to convert to dishonesty and disrepute when some of these presidential applicants come in close proximity to her!"



October 2005, be ware, Liberian youth, they are at your doors again.

By Ben Browne

"All hail Liberia hail!!
All hail Liberia hail!!
In union strong success is sure
We can not fail
Our right to prove"

Over the years the youth of Liberia continue to be used by warlord, politician and other job seekers in the name of serving the Liberian people. Many have used statements such as, "I want to seek the interest of the Liberian youth" or "I want to serve the Liberian people for the betterment of our young generation." These statements and many other may have appealed to the masses, but how many of these people making these statements have upheld their values?

In recent times I have been questioned by some of my readers why I date few of my recent articles as far back as 1944 till present. I think most Liberians would agree with me that the period from 1944 to present could be remembered by many Liberians presently alive as a very critical period in our history.
With the count down to elections in war ravaged Liberia, it is important to take an introspective look at our history of electoral processes. From 1847 to 1980, elections in Liberia was mainly clothed in the diabolic inner workings of the political minds of said eras, the incumbent always having the say, referred to as, "so say one, so say all," mainly because it was alleged that the election was decided at a Masonic meeting before the actual election, with the chair of the elections commission present at such meeting.

When the young 17 enlisted men headed by sergeant Doe took over in 1980, the leadership before him was condemned for not doing much for the youth of Liberia. He promised to do every thing to improve the status-quo, but the promise, like many other failed to yield its intensions. The youth were encouraged to drop from school and join the military which was seen as a step to success.

Before the 1985 election, Sergeant Samuel Doe changed his age to be within the frame work of the law which requires presidential candidates to be 35 years of age or above. That election result was decided at the executive mansion before it was announce to the Liberian people.

As the chairman announced the result to the public at the Unity Conference Center outside of Monrovia, he could not help himself but mistook Samuel Kanyon Doe for Samuel Fiah Doe (Fiah being the middle name of the late Jackson Doe, the presumed winner of the 1985 election). Some of what lead us to our present situation is a direct link to such election results.

After the death of sergeant Doe, when time came to discuss the formation of an interim leadership for Liberia, Liberians politicians, religious leaders and civil servants pulled in from every parts of the world to find job in the name of serving the Liberian people and improving the lives of the young people bearing arms. These job seekers, headed by Dr. Amos C Sawyer, a Liberian political scientist and Bishop Ronald Diggs, a Lutheran preacher, soon found themselves in positions of trust in war crippled Liberia but in no time it was business as usual in the Liberian sense ( corruption, nepotism, favoritism, tribalism greed, ETC). After the disgraceful death of Samuel Doe at the hands of mentally unbalanced rebels in 1990, the period between 1990 and the 1997 elections was mark by change of much interim leadership based on political, tribal, and factional interest. Indeed, Liberia was at a very critical cross road of uncertainty until 1997; when Liberians started coming out of the woodwork and every possible holes to contest the election in the name of serving the people and improving the lives of the youth, many of whom were being used by the warlords. But sadly at that point many Liberians thought rewarding the guy with the biggest gun with the executive mansion would've solved the problem. It was often said in Liberia at that time, "Liberians must allow the guy that created the mess to clean it up."

It is widely believed that Liberians therefore elected Mr. Taylor out of fear and with the blind hope that he would've made a difference. In less time they came to the painful realization that Mr. Taylor interest was not the Liberian people, indeed, it was not the youth that slaughtered, tortured and raped to get him to the position but his family and close associates. He failed to live by his popular slogan, "above all else, the people." Many of the other factions that have emerged over the time in the Liberian situation in the name of bettering the lives of the youth and the Liberian masses have all failed to meet those promises because of their selfish and personal interest.

Upon Taylor's departure from Liberia, most Liberian again converged on Ghana to seek Job in the name of doing better for Liberia. Most of those leaving from the United States took out the saving form their 401k accounts, some took out from their personal saving accounts and others borrowed from friends and relatives to be able to buy their way into the job seeking process, all in the name of serving the Liberian people. But again in less time Liberians and the international community have come to the realization that when those few Liberians who keep running around in the political corridor says they want to serve their country it means they want to steal, loot, kill and corrupt.

It is often said that experience is the best teacher. Liberians have had their own share of experience with every thing ugly and nasty, but the future of Liberia is now in the hands of Liberians, so be ware because they are at your doors again. Some are just old wine in new battle while some are just new devil dressed to dance to the singing of the same old singers and drummers.

A distinguished medievalist, J. R. Strayer once said, "No community can survive and no institution can function without constant reference to past experience. In every society people are usually ruled by precedents fully as much as by laws, which is to say that we are rule by the collective memory of our past. It is the memory of occurrences that makes a scattered individual into community."

As we start the count down to October, we must allow our history to enable us deal more knowledgeably with continuity and change in our society. The construction of an informed sense of our past is a fundamental component in appreciating and understanding the present as well as anticipating the future. The decision to elect leaders that will seek the common good of Liberia will be in the hands of Liberian, especially the youth in October. This election will not be the old, "so say one so say all" it will not be a reward to the guy with the biggest gun nor should it be a popularity contest but a mark of broadminded zeal to the integrity and freedom of the Liberian people.

Come October, we must elect leaders that will lead our nation under God's guidance to a new birth of freedom and equality. The coming moment is one that is rare in the Liberian history of political election. This moment is an opening of opportunity to the greater achievement that awaits us as a nation. Will we be wise enough to seize this opportunity?

Before this opportunity, Liberians have endured all the pains of conflict and many hearts are staying heavy with the memory of the sorrow. However, the past is over and it is the future that summons us now. That future is not one that can be found in uneducated popularity, it can not be found in greed in the name of serving the people or the youth, nor can it be found in nepotism, corruption, injustices, and favoritism. Such future can be found in leadership that will be able to make real the promises of democracy by the past failed leaders. Liberia may not be able to succeed in taking the last step to total peace and freedom in a condition of relative calm if we are not wise enough to soberly reflect on our historical failure before October.
Let us remember it is not how we can disentangle ourselves heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live. WE CAN NOT FAIL OUR RIGHT TO PROVE.



George Weah's Executive Mansion bid:
A PRELUDE TO POST WAR POLITICS

By Alex Quermorllue

Thanks to the Regional Body ECOWAS and the United Nations, the prospects for Liberia's Legislative and Presidential elections slated for October, 2005 has progressed past the Rubicon. A point of no return following the successful disarmament process and the formal disbandment of the warring factions. No wonder, the Liberian capital Monrovia is already bustling with the debate that is bound to transfix this erstwhile beautiful country and its war impoverished citizens as to who will be the next President. Needless to point out that the whistle to begin formal campaigning is yet to be blown.

But who can blame the ordinary Liberians for showing such an early enthusiasm for the electoral process to come? For too long and with disastrous consequences, the majority of the Liberian populace dismissed government as the "people thing". This nonchalant attitude of the people played into the hands of not only the corrupt and decadent class rule of the True Whig Party spanning over 100 years, but sadly also the supposedly redeeming military government of the late Samuel Doe and finally and to the alarm of the international community, the destabilizing rule of Mr. Charles Taylor. Fourteen years of brutal and cruel civil war has instilled the fact that government is not the "people thing", but is and should be the prerogative of all the people.

There are the traditional Liberian politicians, plentiful in number, whose interest in our country and people always ends on the day of their election and swearing into office. From there on, they become partners with the business community - the so-called partners in progress - to economically terrorize the people as evidenced in the past by sky rocketing commodity prices and kick-back laden government contracts and concessions.

On the other hand, there are the politicians with very close ties to the discredited ruling political class of the TWP era who wish to have a shot at leadership by simply whipping up memories of their past status of privilege and fame, with no evidence of any meaningful contribution to the struggle by the mass majority of our people for economic equity, social justice and political plurality.

Yet still, perhaps more than ever before in our country's history, there's need for Liberians of all walks of life and persuasions, outside the traditional political circuit, to get involved in the democratic process. The candidacy of Mr. George Weah, therefore, should not alarm the so-called educated political class, but should be seen as a prelude to the new political dispensation in our country. Mr. Weah, like all other would be candidates in the October 2005 polls, should make his case to the Liberian people for the office he is seeking. The argument by some that only the intelligentsia, the well-heeled and politically crafty segment of our society should monopolize the political process is not only wrong and divisive, but also very dangerous to our embryonic peace process.

The October 2005 vote must not only be free and fair, but also must be open to all Liberians regardless of social status, religious affiliation and ethnicity. The "so say one, so say all" zero sum politics of the past must be buried with the end of the civil war.



U. S. Ambassador to Liberia--John W. Blaney III: My Diplomat of the Year 2004

By Arthur B. Dennis

John W. Blaney III, a 29-year career diplomat, who officially became U. S. Ambassador to Liberia on September 9, 2002, is my Diplomat of the year 2004. I have nominated him for this honor not only in recognition of his two-year accomplishments but also in appreciation for his outstanding role in ending the 14-year civil war in Liberia.

It can be recalled that in his July 9, 2002 confirmation hearing speech delivered before the U. S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ambassador Blaney said, if confirmed, he would work with the U. S lawmakers to implement what he referred to as an aggressive, practical and pragmatic policy and pledged to make the following 5-point agenda his top priority. (1) to provide security for the Embassy, serving 500-600 U. S. citizens in Liberia;( 2) to curb Liberia's role as a source of regional instability; (3) to facilitate peace and reconciliation; (4) to improve Liberia's human rights practices; and (5) to establish a level playing field for free and fair elections in Liberia.

Security for the U. S. Embassy
At the time of Ambassador Blaney's appointment, the need to enhance security at the U.S Embassy in Monrovia was overwhelming. The reason was twofold. First, at that time, the Embassy had been operating for thirteen years in a hostile combat environment characterized by lawlessness and indiscriminate human rights abuses perpetrated on the watch of four interim governments and two elected governments. And second, at that time, the Embassy and the Charles Taylor regime had been on a collision course for five years. The rift grew out of the following hostile circumstances.

It began in December 1997 when the Embassy issued a press release, condemning the killing of one Samuel Dokie and his family by some security elements of the Taylor Government. In February of 1998, the detailed account of that Dokie incident appeared in the Human Rights Report of the U. S. Department of State, linking certain Taylor's security guards. But Taylor dismissed the claims and accused some of the Embassy staff of filing a false story to Washington.

On September 18, 1998, Taylor forces entered into the main premises of the Embassy and killed one Madison Wion accused of being a dissident. The Embassy staff were very terrified. For, it was a gross violation of Article 22 (1) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which expressly provides that diplomatic premises of the Embassy of a sending State shall be inviolable, and no agent of the host state shall enter such premises except by permission of the head of mission.

Yet, Taylor did not stop there. Following that incident, he began regularly deploying over 100 heavily armed soldiers around the Embassy under the pretext of providing security for the staff against possible terrorist attacks, whereas the real mission was to keep a close surveillance on the entire diplomatic compound based on empty suspicions that the Embassy was harboring dissidents to overthrow his regime.
One day in 2000, a local newspaper published a story, revealing that Taylor's loyalists were formulating a plan to arrest the U. S. Ambassador Bismarck Myrick. But the Taylor government denied the story, and that killed the plan. These hostile circumstances coupled with other security threat-related incidents rendered the staff and the Embassy totally defenseless and created the need to enhance security at the mission. But today, that is no longer the case. The Embassy is now operating in the appropriate security environment befitting the status of a diplomatic mission. Thanks to Ambassador Blaney's Security Agenda.

Curb Liberia's Instability Role
When Ambassador Blaney was appointed in 2002, Liberia's destabilization role in the region was high on the agenda of U. S. foreign policy on Liberia. Because of this, he took the matter seriously and unveiled the following agenda, pointing out that:

"Liberia is without electricity, water and sewage systems. Yet, instead of investing the nation's resources in hi s own people, the Taylor Government supported the RUF in Sierra Leone, and supported the RUF attacks in Guinea. Therefore, in this bleak environment, he added, our immediate objective has been, and remains, to curb Liberia's role as a source of instability in the region."

On August 10, 2003, 11 months after he took over, the Liberian people woke-up in surprise and heard Taylor reading his resignation speech to leave the country for exile. On the next day August 11, Taylor left the country.

It was indeed a combination of military and diplomatic pressure that prompted Taylor's exit, and the credit goes to all the players. However, the fact that Ambassador Blaney pledged to curb Liberia's instability role in the region, and the source of that regional instability was the Taylor regime, Mr. Taylor's departure marks the end of Liberia's instability role in the region and creates the necessary room for Ambassador Blaney to win the first prize in the military and diplomatic race that end the Taylor factor.

Facilitate Peace and Reconciliation
Since Ambassador Blaney assumed official duty in Liberia, I have been closely monitoring his activities and here is what I gathered from my observation. He met the Liberian civil war in its 13th year with no hope in sight for peace and began his search for peace with closed-door consultations, starting with President Charles Taylor who was the prime target of the civil war. They met many times behind closed doors and discussed several issues not only essential to the peace process but also vital to the interests of the United States and Liberia.

When the war reached the city suburb in June and July 2003, he intensified his shuttle diplomacy not only to secure a cease fire but also to end the war through negotiations. At that time, mortar shells and stray bullets were falling here and there indiscriminately killing innocent people. Even on July 21, one heavy mortar shells badly hit one of the embassy buildings. Yet, Ambassador Blaney kept waving the "white flag" for peace, and kept the Embassy's greystone compound gate opened so the multitude of civilians fleeing the war could go there for safety.

When the military hostilities escalated in the city and brought pressure to bear on the U. S. Embassy, calling on President George Bush to militarily intervene in the crisis, Ambassador Blaney was on the phone daily trying to convince Washington to send U. S. troops. When several dead bodies of people killed in the war were brought and placed before the Embassy in order to build up pressure for U. S. troops to come, Ambassador Blaney convinced Washington, and President George Bush ordered the deployment of U. S. Marines to Liberia. At that time, there were no U N peacekeeping troops in the country.

When civilians in rebel-controlled territories were starving and desperately needed food and medicines, Ambassador Blaney went beyond the call of duty and led a team of humanitarian agencies into the hostile combat zone not only to plead for peace but also to appeal for access so that humanitarian supplies could be allowed to reach the suffering population. It was indeed a venture of humanitarian diplomacy at its best, and I am inspired to describe Ambassador Blaney not only as a "Hero of Peace" but also as a Humanitarian Diplomat" par excellence..

Meanwhile we recognize the priceless role of other international actors in ending the crisis, particularly the UN Special Representative Jacques Klein who is my second choice of Diplomat of the Year 2004. However, if we keenly reflect on the combination of diplomatic and risk-taking role played in the peace process by Ambassador Blaney, we will come to realize that he truly deserves a special recognition and honor in the global success that restored peace and stability to Liberia.

Level Playing Field and Human Rights: The Unfinished Agenda
Establishing a level playing field and improving Liberia's human record are the unfinished agenda for Ambassador Blaney. However, in the meantime, he deserves a standing ovation for taking two bold steps designed to achieve the goals of his unfinished agenda. First, on September 22, the U. S Embassy provided $50, 000 grants to six local groups in order to promote democracy and human rights; and second, in his recent December 3 Press Statement, Ambassador Blaney declared what he calls his "Three Pillars" of success for a transition to New Liberia. These include (1) Peace and Stability; (2) Democracy; and (3) Good Governance.

On the issue of human rights, Ambassador Blaney only need to be advised that most of the human rights abuses reported in Liberia over the past several decades have been perpetrated largely by state security on orders of government officials. Liberian state security officers are under mandatory duty to give unquestionable obedience to all orders from their superior officers, whether such orders seek to protect or violate human rights, they must be executed.
To end this status quo, we strongly advise that the entire state security, comprising the military, national police, immigration, prison officers, Special Security officers, plain-cloth security, customs officers, court messengers, security guards of public corporations, etc. be thoroughly trained. to master the skills of International Humanitarian Law so they can be empowered to say "Yes Sir to orders intended to protect human rights, and to say "No Sir" to orders that will violate human rights, regardless of who is issuing the orders.

Concluding Comments
Before Ambassador Blaney was appointed, the U. S. policy on Liberia was (and still is) one of "neutrality. Under this policy, the role of the U. S. Embassy in the crisis was essentially twofold: First, to closely monitor daily events in the crisis and report to Washington; and second to supervise the activities of international and local agencies funded by the U. S. Government. In order words, before Ambassador Blaney's tenure, the role of U. S. Ambassadors in the crisis was to only watch the drama of the war and later bid farewell following their tour of duty.

And so after Ambassador Blaney was appointed, and he pledged at the confirmation hearing to promote U. S. interests in Liberia, most people believed he was pledging to uphold the policy of neutrality in order to also watch the drama of the war and bid farewell following his tour of duty. But he has proven his skeptics wrong. He pledged to enhance security at the Embassy so the staff can work in the appropriate security environment to serve the public, and he did it. He pledged to curb Liberia's instability role in the region, and he did it. He pledged to facilitate peace and reconciliation in Liberia, and he did it.. He pledged to establish a level playing field for the scheduled 2005 elections and also pledged to improve Liberia's human right record, and he is making encouraging progress.

In view of the forgoing, we are motivated and pleased to nominate Ambassador Blaney for the honor to be the Diplomat of the Year 2004. We were inspired by the merits of his job well done and nominated him in good faith. Therefore, we take responsibility for the views and comments expressed herein to support his honor.

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Writer's note: This article has also been sent for publication in the U. S. Department of State Magazine, Washington Post, and the New York Times and on certain selected websites. Therefore, all comments for or against this article should be submitted directly to the publishers, with a copy to the writer 's mailing address at 141 N. Tennessee Avenue, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Or at his E-Mail address: :arthurdennis734@hotmail.com


WHO ARE THOSE THAT KEEP FAILING LIBERIA?
By Ben Browne

Since I posted my last article, "NEW SLOGAN, SAME PEOPLE, DIFFERENT DAY," I continue to receive comments from Liberians of diverse ideas and backgrounds. I greatly appreciate those comments mainly because I believed diversity is the beauty of democracy. However, while many of these comments are in agreement of my idea of sober reflection in the Liberian situation; some considered me bias and uninformed but one particular question that keeps coming up in most of these comments is "who are those that keep failing Liberia?"

The simplest answer to this question could be it is Liberians that keep failing Liberia. But my intention for this article is far from being confined to only who continue to fail Liberia; it is of much greater extent, and shall take in the main reasons for Liberia failure over the years. As to my own parts, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weight the several proposals of other projectors, I write for the dignity of Liberia and the destiny of our democracy.

I think it is agreed by all parties that the prodigious situation of Liberia is in its present critical stage; therefore whoever could find a fair, unique and easy way of making this situation greatly improve would deserve a public recognition on the local and international level. We continue to hear the international communities tell us that our problems can be better solved by us. I shall now propose my own thoughts, which I hope will be taken into consideration.

I have come to realized over the years that one of our greatest problems is we continue to put people with little or no education into positions of trust based on what we may get or our personal connection to such person. On January 3rd 1944 we put an 8th grade student in power that ruled the nation for 27 years unaccountable to no one but himself. Liberia was at a motionless point for those years because all that matters to the leadership at the time was making sure that their farms had workers. When the president died in 1971 and his vice president took over as president, Liberia was already sitting on a political and social time bomb waiting to explode. The bomb exploded finally when the master sergeant took over a leadership he had no idea how it functions. By the time he could realize his own function it was already late. The wanted embezzler was on his way to get him.

From 1980 to present most Liberians continue to make the same mistake of singing and dancing to songs such as, "native women born soldier, soldier killed Tolbert," you killed my pa, you killed my ma, I will vote for you, and now you know book, you don't know book that you we want." These slogans/songs mainly by some of our citizens continue to show the outside world our level of education. I am not reciting these facts for the purpose of recrimination. We cannot afford it. I recite them in order to explain why we continue to fail as a nation.

The pending election in Liberia is one that must decide the direction of the generation after us not a repeat of our failed past. Sound education with sober judgment must be very important components expected of people we elect to offices in Liberia during the coming election. We must be able to give our children reason for their education. Two well known functionalist sociologist, Kinsley Davis and Wilbert Moore, once concluded that, "social stratification (society in layers according to class, power or prestige) is inevitable because society must make certain that its positions are filled; ensure that the most qualified people end up in the most important positions; and finally, reward people for the time and energy it takes to develop strong qualifications." Liberia is in my view, no exception to such society.

There is something in the soul of the ordinary Liberians that is crying out for freedom and great leadership. There is something deep down within the very soul of the ordinary people from mount wologisi to Maryland, from mount Nimba to Cape mount, and from St.john River to the Montserrado River that is crying for a leadership that will not fail them again. Liberians have tried to adjust to the failure of our uneducated, selfish and arrogant leaders but now is the time that we can sing to a better song with its truth meaning---all hail Liberia hail. It should be cleared that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of Liberian can ignore the present events leading to the 2005 election. Now is the time for us all to get involve. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity.

We can make a collective decision that will restore our dignity and respect by electing some one with sound educated judgments. Some one that will be able to negotiate and lobby for the well being of Liberia on the global scene or we can elect someone with little or no leadership/education experience and make the university of Liberia (UL) an extension of the executive mansion and repeat our failed history. Indeed our problems can be better solved by us. For too long Liberians who come up with new slogans different days continue to point finger at the educated people/politicians for our failure. But my only question to the finger pointers is which real educated Liberian has been placed in the presidential chair base on real issues by a popular vote since 1944?

Once to every nation comes a moment to decide. I urge every Liberian of diverse political and social interest, Liberians of all religion and tribal grouping, from every section of the country to join in the process of educating the masses, that the upcoming election is what will direct the path of our children. Therefore we must elect candidates base on their education, wisdom, courage, vision, record and decision making abilities not their popularity.

In our time we have come to live with moments of great crisis mainly because of our past leaders lack of proper education, vision, common sense, loyalty to the nation, and respect for the rule of law. Our lives have been marked with debates about issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and commitment. But rarely in any time does an issue of electing someone that will bring our country to the stage of respect, accountability, and social, political, and economic equality lay right at our feet. The upcoming election is not only a challenge to our growth, our security and respect; it is also a challenge to the value, meaning and purpose of our beloved sweet land of liberty.

Our founding fathers believed that if the view of the right of people was to burgeon, it must be rooted in democracy. The most basic right of all is the right to choose our own leaders. But about this right there can be no argument that every Liberians must have the right to vote or be voted for. But the duty that must weigh heavily on us as citizens must be the duty to vote the most qualified person into position of trust. If we will make the right choice we will be able to transform our bitter and failed past to a beautiful masterpiece of brotherhood.
Again remember, the ultimate question for any of us to ask is not how we can extricate ourselves heroically from the affair, but how the generation after us shall continue to live.


PROSPECTUS FOR PEACE
A PROPOSED GOOD GOVERNANCE AND NATION BUILDING INITIATIVE FOR LIBERIA

BY W. COLEMAN FOSTER II, ATTORNEY AT LAW

Addressed To Collaborator, Senator, Julius Parker (NTLA Representative, Montserrado County); To the United States of America; To the United Nations; To the Economic Community Of West African States; To the African Union; To all Liberian Citizens; and To the interested international community…

At this point, I believe it is safe to say that a great majority of Liberians appreciate the desperate need for assistance in the nation's critically essential, yet uniquely precarious, upcoming rebuilding effort. The very weighty question that remains is "What kind of assistance is required to effectively, efficiently and 'self-sustainably' rebuild the nation?"

For a good number of years, there have been whispers of implementing an international Trusteeship, and the desire for the same should be well understood. After all, it has become painfully obvious that Liberians are not, and likely will not do what is necessary to rebuild the nation without assistance. The emphasis is on the word will, because it should go without saying that capability is not in question, but as one said, the 'political will' of would-be leaders is certainly questionable, at best. Frankly, as a result of what has become a deeply entrenched culture of corruption, it is vitally important to see to it that all public officials from the least to the greatest are involved in some form of "discipleship" as to the ways of good governance.

Nevertheless, it is apparent that a cookie-cutter good governance project is insufficient for the rather idiosyncratic socio-political situation that currently exists in Liberia. And though a Trusteeship, may be the first idea that comes to mind in dealing with such a failed nation-state, it would arguably not accomplish the long-term effect desired, namely the imperative "self-sustainability" of the socio-political and economic environment of Liberia. Even the toughest critics of a Trusteeship must agree that a Trusteeship would provide at least a temporary fix. In fact, many of those critics would even agree that that temporary fix could be a good one, however, many would say a deceitfully pleasant one- and herein lies the rub. Without ensuing an extensive diatribe on the subject, it can be said in summary that the critics of a Trusteeship feel that though that form of international assistance would likely afford the peace, stability and even economic growth so desired in Liberia, the same would only be temporary. The argument is that a Trusteeship, would necessarily undermine Liberia's sovereignty, and would most detrimentally undermine self-sustainability, in that it would weaken the central government and essentially serve as a crutch for the crippled nation; and when removed, the peace, stability, good governance and economic growth, once held together by the Trusteeship, would begin to crumble.

Therefore, in an effort to alleviate this perceived problem, I would suggest an international "Assistanceship" which would incorporate all the benefits of a trusteeship, but omit the drawbacks. The proposed "Assistanceship" could be summarily defined as follows:

- a relationship wherein the (Liberian) government will cooperate with an international body(ies) for the purpose of establishing, building, maintaining and promoting a self-sustainable system of good governance, peace and socio-political and economic stability, without destroying national sovereignty .

The Assistanceship should be necessarily distinguished from a "Trusteeship" in that the key principles of the Assistanceship would be to achieve self-sustainable good governance, peace, socio-political/economic stability and success, while safeguarding against impositions to the nation's sovereign control. This is categorically distinguished from trusteeships, which have been touted as virtual colonies by their strongest opponents, and criticized, even by proponents, as agencies wherein central government is weakened, authority diminished, sovereignty hampered and so on. Though trusteeships often experience at least some temporary benefits during their tenure, these modalities have been accused of lacking the long-lasting and permanent effects necessary for true nation building.

Therefore, an "Assistanceship" is hereby promoted, which is envisaged to provide the best of both worlds; e.g., 1. Providing all the benefits of a trusteeship (namely stability and ongoing support); 2. Yet maintaining the integrity and control of a sovereign nation-wherein the central government and the systems of good governance are strengthened rather than weakened, and wherein positive socio-political and economic advancement is promoted in a manner which creates an environment of self-sustainability, rather than a temporary crutch.

The following list is that of some Major Objectives sought through this endeavor:

1. Implementation of Central Government as proscribed by the Constitution and Laws of Liberia, including all established branches of government:

  • Executive
  • Legislative
  • Judicial

2. Intense Monitoring of Government Agencies/Officials/Employees
3. Intense Good Governance Training for Government Officials
4. Maintaining Peace- Continued Military Force (UN)
a. Training Police/National Military forces
b. Rehabilitating ex-combatants, etc.
c. Peace and Reconciliation Campaign
5. Rebuilding the infrastructure
a. Restoring the Capital or build a new one;
b. Roads/Highways; Public Transportation;
c. Public Utilities (e.g., electricity, water, sewage, waste management, etc.)

6. Economy Building

7. Education: Restoring quality, public, free or affordable education
8. Health: Restoring an affordable/perhaps subsidized national health system

Sample CORE MODALITIES for the Nation Building~Good Governance "Assistanceship":

1. International Advisory Board (Comprised of UN/US Advisors-- to cooperate with the various branches of government, providing advice, training, support)
2. Assistanceship Grant
3. Monitors for every governmental branch/agency (perhaps including undisclosed monitors)
4. ECOWAS/AU Governing Counsel to oversee International Advisory Board
5. Peace Keeping Forces/Trainers

Potential International "Assistants"
1. United Nations
2. African Union
3. ECOWAS
4. United States of America (US Senators; Department of Justice; State Department)
5. Other NGO's (e.g., UNDP; UNESCO; WHO; USAID…)

Proposed Duration: long-term commitment (e.g., 25-35 years), with shorter-term operational increments (e.g. 5 years), continued as necessary.

Editorial notes:

Please bear in mind that the aforementioned proposal represents only the initial thoughts as to this matter, and it is well understood that a substantial effort would need to ensue for purposes of properly planning and drafting proposed legislation on the matter to be submitted to the Liberian legislature. For this reason, the assistance of the international community is requested.

Please also consider that an Assistanceship could be implemented immediately, or following a very brief (e.g., one year or less) Trusteeship (during which efforts could be made to properly situate the country for a national election, which would possibly have to follow a referendum to continue suspending pertinent provisions of the constitution and to postpone the presently scheduled elections.)

It is understood that a number of foreign aid efforts are already underway, nevertheless, it is suggested that all efforts be consolidated under the banner of one nation building effort, such as that summarized above.


Did The Perspective Engage In Junk Journalism In "The Ways of our Leaders" ?

By Daniel Solee

Since 1990, things have been constantly changing in Liberia. We are now living in trouble times when respect, law and order have dissipated. There seems to be no end in sight. Every day and every hour, there is growing tensions everywhere in Liberia due to corruption, mismanagement, lawlessness, robbery, injustices and other chaotic situations. Certainly, in such horrible situations, we need the blessings of God and we also need individuals and institutions that can instill discipline, proper education and unity.

In my opinion, there is no better institution in any society that can serve as a unifying force than the journalistic institution. Journalists are bridge builders and educators. Journalists are supposed to provide information that elevates our public discourse through the exercise of reasonable judgment between junk and news worthy information. I believe that The Perspective failed the test of reasonable judgment when it decided to republish an article written by one Withers Nyenie-Wea, entitled, "The Ways of our Leaders." As a responsible and informative website, I did not expect that you would carry such sensational, fallacious and unstructured article for the following reasons.

First, The article alludes that Ruth Perry is dead. What nonsense? The perspective is very well aware that Ruth Perry is not dead. As a matter of fact, The Perspective just carried an article on Ruth Perry a few weeks ago. An article with such devious lie should not have been carried on your website. This was obviously untrue, and any reasonable person would concluded that Mr. Withers Nyenie-Wea did not know what he was talking. I realized that The Perspective had added an editor's note to correct this obvious error. But it would have been far better to retract the article and issue a public apology.

Second, the article alleges that the family of Dr. Harry Fumba Moniba is soliciting financial assistance through ULAA for the funeral expenses. Again, that was another blatant lie. The perspective was the first website to carry an article on Dr. Harry Moniba's death. In that article, you spoke very highly of him. Since, the inception of Dr. Moniba's passing, you have not seen any article on any website where the family is soliciting financial help. As a well organized website, you should have investigated this fallacious allegation prior to publishing the article on your website. I am sure you know the leadership of ULAA. A phone call or email to validate the information would have accomplished this simple task.

Third, the article refers to the late President Samuel K. Doe as a "Monkey." It further stated that Dr. Harry Moniba should have been killed along with President Samuel K. Doe. This article, with such divisive undertones should not have been published. Our country is too divided after all these years of mayhem for your website to condone such publication.

The article is not only insulting and demeaning to the Moniba family but to the Liberian nation as a whole. The nation is mourning the loss of a great man. He has not even been buried. The memories of his death are fresh. How dare the perspective engage in such Jungle Journalism Of Divisiveness? We are right to disagree on fundamental principles. We have the right to express our opinion. But I don't think any reasonable person would agree that it is okay to wish death on another Liberian. That's not an opinion. That is malicious, divisive and designed to hurt an already hurting family. Why would the Perspective condone this beats me. It is wrong. And there is no excuse for it.

Fourth, Mr. Nyenie-Wea's vicious and regrettable statements against Dr. Moniba are disheartening at best. But even more troubling is the fact that The Perspective viewed these statements as news worthy to recycled them. Mr. Nyenie Wea made those statements on the University of Liberia List Serve, making them viewable only by the members of the list serve. But by The Perspective deciding to recycle them, it gave them more prominence. I don't see anything in those statements that are news worthy. Neither do I see anything in them that would help our public discourse. I am sure most reasonable people don't. May be, the Perspective can let its readers know what information benefit was gained from Mr. Hodge's piece.

I do not hold Withers Nyenie-Wea more responsible for this slanderous article. He is a man with no remorse of conscience. But I hold The Perspective responsible for the pain this article has caused, because I expect the Perspective to maintain a higher journalistic standards and ethics. I also expect the Editorial Board to exercise reasonable judgment. Even if one is not a journalist, you can tell from the article that the writer is totally disconnected with reality.

People like Withers Nyenie-Wea tell me that Liberia's troubles are from over. As we approach the 2005 elections, we must begin to reflect seriously on selecting a leader that can bring back respect and dignity to Liberia. We must choose a leader that is mentally structured, strict, law abiding, honest and sincere. Otherwise, we will continue to have people like Withers Nyenie-Wea who will go about insulting and disgracing honest and dignified individuals in our society in the name of free speech. Instead as we emerge from war, let us find ways to reconnect with one another. We must find ways to reconcile and build bridges. We must replace anger, insults, condemnations and disrespect with love, grace and forgiveness.

In short, let us follow the model of the one I admire and respect the most, Nelson Mandela. This man demonstrated reconciliation and restraint when he was released from prison in 1991. He did not display bitterness and anger towards his oppressors but talked with them in building a democratic South Africa for all. I was doubly impressed and amazed when I read that he invited men who were his prison guards to his inauguration. Therefore calling people "monkeys" is absolutely irresponsible and does not anchor well for reconciliation in post-war Liberia. We are relying on the media outlets like the Perspective to exercise reasonable judgment in making a value decision between news worth information and junk. This article was junk. It benefited no one. It did not educate. It did not inform. It did not analyze any tangible issues. Dr. Moniba is no longer a candidate for President. Dr. Moniba tragically passed away. What good it is to anyone to attack him personally when he has not even been laid to rest? As a matter of fact, this is not the time to engage in defense or critique of the Doe-Moniba government. Mr. Wea and The Perspective would have plenty of time to do that. The bottom line is that this article was designed to hurt, and it did. And that's a sad commentary.

I believe that the perspective owes the Moniba family and the Liberian people a public apology for publishing such irresponsible, sensational and divisive article. In fact, the article written by Mr. Hodge in which he printed the article written by Withers Nyenie-Wea word for word should be removed. The perspective should be a unifier and not a divider. I really hope that my brothers and sisters at the Perspective agree with my assessment. Let us all work to build a better tomorrow. And that involves exercising reasonable judgment, restraint, and respect for mankind.

Daniel N. Solee
Liberia Project & President, Washington DC Chapter of The Federation of Lofa Associations in the Americas (FLAA)