[Documents menu] Documents menu

Writing for Change And History

By Abdoulaye W. Dukule, The Perspective (Smyrna, Georgia)
Opinion, 22 August 2001

Perhaps Liberia would be better served if this period of our sad and sordid history is well-documented and written about so that those who will assume the mantle of leadership and the generations to come will learn the important lessons of this period. This is why some of us write and make no apology for what we write and say.

Liberia has lost about 250,000 people to reach this far and this should not be in vain. We have our entire middle class, doctors, lawyers, teachers, journalists, all in exile. We have a country where HIV is spiraling because young girls are thrown in the streets to make money to support entire families because their parents never get paid. We have a government composed of people building castles and swimming pools and hiring professional jockeys to teach their kids how to ride horses when teachers have not been paid for 10 months. We have so many different security layers that they shoot at each other in broad daylight. We have a president elected by 87 per cent of the electorate who cannot fly out of the country. We have diamonds that nobody wants to buy. We have the most beautiful beaches in the world with nobody on them. We have ministers who earn less than 30 dollars a month but spends $100 everyday. Our economy depends on the whims of a few people. We are probably the only country in the world without water and electricity or basic needs. This is what makes us to write. And this is what we write about.

Yes, I write at The Perspective when I see we are wasting our country's energy and resources because a few people want to live big. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Liberians are wasted to please a few. I write because I think people who are now telling the president that he is doing the right thing are leading our country into a disaster that would impact future generations. I write because I know how our natural resources are being wasted. Yes, I was in the interim government a very close friend and advisor to Amos Sawyer. I remember the days when Dexter Tahyor used to write in the Eye newspaper and call him a white collar rebel, a corrupt communist and so on. Who can write that much about the president today? One does not need a decree to stifle the press. So, repelling decree 88 means nothing because press freedom in Liberia today is worse than it was under the PRC regime. At least Master Sergeant Samuel Doe did not own a radio station, a television station and a newspaper and so on.

I left a very lucrative business to join Amos Sawyer in 1991. I believed him when he used to say that 'the success of the interim government depends on its capacity to work itself out of job.' He kept that promise and the day the warring factions decided to get together and form a government, he stepped aside. I know it is hard for some of our compatriots to understand that anyone would walk away from power. I was there when Ibrahim Babaginda flew in to the Cotonou ECOWAS meeting in 1993 to tell him that he didn't have to sign the Geneva Accord if he didn't feel comfortable with it. President Conteh also told him that he should not walk away and let the bandits take over. His response to both men was that Liberians needed to try what was ahead and that he was ready to try anything that would put an end to the killing. And now we are trying it big time. We can blame him for his naive trust in the warlords' pretense to peace building, but please, let's have the decency to salute when salute is due.

Yes, I write at The Perspective but I have never met one person among the people who founded The Perspective. I have never received a dime from anyone and if I were to run into any of those sponsoring the paper, I wouldn't know who they were. I have never belonged to any political party, opposition or not. I don't know any of the other contributors to this paper. The only and last time I saw and spoke to Musue Haddad was in Akasombo, in Ghana, when as a student, she came to cover the first meeting of the warring factions held in that country. People can share ideas and ideals and work together without knowing each other. Some of us are tired of the tyranny imposed on our country for so long and we want it to stop. Some take up the guns, some form political parties, we write. And we are not for sale.

I worked for the peace process and it didn't make any difference who I thought needed help or advice. The first time the NPFL leader got a full hour of interview on television to make his point was when I sent to Gbarnga a group of journalists from the Ivorian television who came to Monrovia. I will give two other examples: In 1995, when the peace process came to a standstill, I submitted a paper on the way forward to the major players. It became the foundation for the second transitional government. President Taylor's former friend and Senator, Charles Brumskine, brought to him a three-page paper which became the working document. In September 1996, after the April fracas, the warring factions and the government were called to a conference in Abuja. While others slept or drank in their rooms, Brownie Samukai and I worked the entire night to come up with a communiqué, which was accepted and signed by all warring factions. We didn't get paid for it, our names were never mentioned, and I have in my possession handwritten annotations made by the president on our original draft. I still have to pay back John Morlu who lent me the money to make the trip to attend the conference. We don't have backers and we don't owe allegiance to any foreign government or power. Nobody, except our sense of national duty, dictates to us what we write.

We don't all write for money and fame. Some of us believe in a larger picture and see a Liberia that goes beyond our bowl of rice or Club beer. We are angry because we know our country deserves better. We write because we care about our sisters and brothers languishing in refugee camps. We write because we care about our old people who are dying here in America of boredom and loneliness when they wish they could be home and see the bright tropical sun everyday and take care of their grand children. We write because our children are growing up in foreign lands and have no way of relating to the land of their ancestors. We write because our country is in the hands of bandits and con artists who care about nothing but their own enjoyment. We write because we are angry. We are angry because people like you try to tell us that somebody else has to be blamed for the stupid and costly mistakes our leaders make. We are angry because those who should know better are blinded by personal gains.

We don't dislike the president. We don't think he is solely responsible for the underdevelopment of Liberia but he made Liberia what it is today. We are also saying that there are things he can control. There are things he can change. That's why he was elected. To give Liberia back to Liberians. We are all aware of the sycophancy that plagued the country for generations; we must therefore know how to change things. He claimed to have come to salvage Liberia from its ugly past. What he is doing just makes us miss the ugly past. At least there was some kind of decency, back then.

Let's pray for that one day that politics in Liberia will go beyond the issue of the bowl of rice.