Deja Vue-1985 Looms Again? Making Meaning Of Ellen’s Secret Wars Against Perceived Enemies

Monday, July 17, 2022

Hardly any Liberian will doubt that politics is in full swing with the race for the Presidency on in earnest. The just ended controversial Lofa by-election may be just a foretaste of what is to come.

More to that, the fact that ANC partisans, according to eyewitness accounts, were seen openly rejoicing along with CDC partisans following NEC’s announcement declaring victory for the CDC backed candidate, affirms the maxim that politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

This has raised questions whether the ANC, CDC and the Musa Bility faction of the Liberty Party are indeed in a strategic alliance intended to counter what is considered an existential “Joe Boakai” threat to Cummings’ presidential ambitions.

Such a scenario as far-fetched as it may appear, cannot be dismissed off hand. This is because, according to analysts President Weah now finds himself in a dilemma, in similar straits as did President Sirleaf on the eve of her departure from office.

That dilemma is to find a successor who will be sworn to protect his interests as he did and has done for his predecessor. In this regard, Joseph Boakai is a nonstarter and, perhaps more so is Urey

Amongst the current lineup of prospective candidates, ANC leader, Alexander Cummings stands out, according to analysts as the one most favored by the former President to accede to the presidency. It is little wonder why therefore, that she has thrown her weight behind him.

This is because, like Weah, Cummings is also sworn to protect the interests of his benefactor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who according to sources is allegedly going all out to ensure by hook or crook the election of Mr. Cummings as president.

She is well aware that President Weah may not win a second term and suggestions that she has discussed this with him cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.

This is because should President Weah lose the 2023 elections, both individuals may, more likely than not find themselves faced with prospects of possible corruption probes which would definitely not occur under a Cummings presidency, according to analysts.

The issue here is one of ACCOUNTABILITY. And this is the primary reason why President Sirleaf has fought tooth and nail to undermine the full implementation of recommendations contained in the TRC Final Report.

The reason is simple– “when you haul rope, rope will haul bush”. All kinds of trouble will jump out of that bush. The world will get to be reminded how the decisions were made to violently unseat Doe which led to the horrors of the Liberian civil war.

The Sawyer led Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia(ACDL) organized under the laws of the United States of America, was initially conceived as a non-violent political pressure group seeking democratic change in Liberia through the ballot box.

But President Doe was sitting tight and armed to the teeth with recently acquired weapons from Romania that included armored vehicles, light weapons, heavy long-range artillery pieces including 155mm howitzers and multi-barrel Katyusha rocket launchers.

Although there were widespread fears that given the experience in 1985 Doe would again steal the elections results in 1991 just as he did in 1985, Liberians nevertheless, appeared generally prepared to wait it out until 1991. And although Doe was under pressure from the Americans to respect the results of the then upcoming 1991 elections, yet he had shown no sign that he would have relinquished power if he did lose those elections in `1991.

Arguments over this issue, according to sources, soon led to a split with one group led by Amos Sawyer opting for nonviolent political change and the other led by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, opting for violent political change?

But the dilemma then was who to lead the armed campaign to violently unseat Doe. According to the late Thomas Jucontee Woewiyu when no suggestions for a name appeared forthcoming, former President Ellen Johnson suggested the name of Charles Taylor. This was at a meeting held at the home of Mr. Taylor Major.

Further, according to Woewiyu, the late Dr. Byron Tarr’s instant reaction to her suggestion was a No No on grounds that Taylor was a corrupt character. And when Dr Tarr could not come forth with a suggested name, Ellen and her supporters settled on Charles Taylor then locked behind bars in a high security Massachusetts prison awaiting extradition to Liberia to stand trial for embezzlement.

Apparently, strings were pulled and as sure as night follows day, Taylor was released from prison. In his account before the Sierra Leone Special Court, Taylor alluded to special arrangements that saw him walk out of jail on his way to freedom stressing that he did not break jail.

This was the genesis of the formation of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia(NPFL) and, make no mistake about it, former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the director of that enterprise dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Doe government and the return of the old order/former ruling elites, the  so –called “Monrovia Congau People” back to power.

This was evidenced by the fact that leading characters in that unfolding drama supporting the violent overthrow of Doe included individuals in the likes of Clarence Lorenzo Simpson Jr (Simpson Boy) and Taylor E. Major. And for all it seemed there was no turning back on the decision to wage war against Doe and his government.

The 14-yr brutal civil war began with an armed invasion of Liberia on December 24, 1990 led by Charles Taylor. It was characterized by massive, widespread and egregious abuse of human rights for which no one has yet been held to account. It was conceived, nurtured, planned, organized and set into motion by a group of Liberian politicians with former President Sirleaf playing a key and leading role.

And when war did breakout in late December 1989, she, allegedly  was in the thick of things, raising operational funds for the “boys” and making forays into Liberia to visit Charles Taylor’s bush headquarters in Gborplay, Nimba County, according to the late, former NPFL Defense Minister, Thomas Jucontee Woewiyu in his open letter to her.

Her immediate initial reaction was to threaten a lawsuit against Woewiyu but later backed down from the threat apparently after having realize its legal implications.

At the time of ongoing final discussions and decision making to launch an armed incursion into Liberia to violently remove Doe from power, other to be NPFL/NPP notables were nowhere around. That includes the likes of Cyril Allen, Benoni Urey, John T. Richardson and others.

And by the time the rebels started banging on the gates of the Capital in June and finally entered Monrovia, thousands had already fled into exile while others became internally displaced, amongst them according to informed sources, John T. Richardson, Cyril Allen, Roland Massaquoi and others. As a matter of fact at the time, Benoni Urey was a refugee in Freetown driving a gypsy cab according to confirmed accounts.

Fourteen years later, with over 300,000 persons killed, millions of dollars’ worth of property destroyed, over a million internally displaced and an equal number driven into exile a ceasefire amongst the warring factions was finally brokered.

It was the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accords (ACPA) in 2003 which led to a ceasefire and was followed by the setting up of an interim government to oversee the processes of disarmament of the warring factions, the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe into past abuses and lastly, the holding of elections.

To recall, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was a major player in those talks and had even made a failed bid for the interim presidency. But she was subsequently elected as President in the 2005 elections with a six-year tenure.

Barely a year following her inauguration into office, she dragged interim leader Gyude Bryant to court and jail on corruption charges. Bryant was shortly after, bailed out by his lawyers.

Although, she had been fully aware that Gyude Bryant was a mere token, appointed by the heads of warring factions to head a government controlled by the very factions that had, at the 2003 Accra Peace Talks rejected her bid to become interim head, yet she persisted.

More to that she allegedly put a stop to payments of the NPA legitimate obligations to Gyude Bryant. He died shortly thereafter a frustrated and brokenhearted man.

Hers was in sweet revenge against Gyude Bryant, then chairman of LAP, his close advisor, Varney Sherman and others who she accused, allegedly, of conspiring to deny her the opportunity in favor of Cletus Wotorson to contest the 1997 elections on a LAP ticket.

Additionally, Bryant, in 2003 at the Accra Peace talks, was chosen by the warring factions, over her, to head the transitional government to lead the country to elections in 2005.

Had she been selected by the factions to head the Transitional government, by virtue of that fact, she would have been automatically barred from participating in the 2005 elections.

Although she is reported to have canvassed for the nomination pledging that she required only two years to turn the country around and put it firmly on the road to recovery, yet the leaders of the warring factions appeared to have been nonplused and instead settled for Liberian businessman Gyude Bryant.

Perhaps, as suggested in some quarters, amongst Bryant’s most enduring legacy, if one would call it that was/is the TRC whose nine(9) member-Commission he appointed and whose Final Report has since apparently become a virtual threat to her carefully cultivated internationally “Squeaky Clean” image.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established as per the ACPA with a mandate to probe into past abuses and make recommendations for prosecution, lustration, institutional reform and reparations.

The implementation of those recommendations, according to the Act establishing the TRC, were to be binding and the President was required to make quarterly progress reports to the National Legislature on the implementation of the recommendations.

Of the more than three-hundred (300) recommendations, only those concerning prosecution and lustration appeared to have taken center-stage of public discourse on the TRC and still remains the case today..

It is important to underscore at this point the TRC was not a court in the sense that its standard of proof was not proof beyond all reasonable doubt which is used in everyday litigation.

The TRC standard of proof was Preponderance of Evidence. According to Legal Information Institute Preponderance of the evidence is one type of evidentiary standard used in a burden of proof analysis. Under the preponderance standard, the burden of proof is met when the party with the burden convinces the fact finder that there is a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true. This is the burden of proof in a civil trial.

Accordingly notices were sent to persons/individuals and institutions of interest to the work of the TRC. The names of individuals of interest were published and or broadcast on the various media outlets.

In doing so the TRC made it abundantly clear that all those failing to appear before the TRC in response to citations requesting them to do so would be adjudged guilty by default of the accusations levied.

Many high profile individuals cited to appear before the TRC cooperated. They included, amongst others, the likes of Vice President Jewel Howard, Prince Johnson, Sekou Damante Konneh, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Dr. Amos Sawyer, Joshua Milton Blahyee aka “Buck Naked” and NPP top gun, Cyril Allen.

Those who, for one reason or the other, did not appear include amongst others, Benoni Urey, Dew Mayson, Thomas Woewiyu(deceased) George Dweh(deceased) Charles Taylor, Benjamin Yeaten etc.

As for Charles Taylor, a special 2-man TRC delegation made up of Commissioners Pearl Brown Bull and John H. T. Stewart visited the Sierra Leone Special Court in Freetown to explore the possibility of Charles Taylor’s appearance before the TRC of Liberia.

The Special Court through a representative, told the Liberian TRC delegation that the Court was disposed to the idea but insisted that should Taylor say or mention anything of interest to his ongoing trial in Freetown, it was going to pounce on it to his disadvantage.

But Taylor’s lawyer Courtney Griffiths rejected the request arguing that the because the TRC failed to advocate on Taylor’s behalf  to prevent his extradition to Sierra Leone , he could not in good faith agree to advise Taylor to testify before the TRC.

But Taylor in his appearance before the Sierra Leone Special Court detailed the links between Ellen Sirleaf and his NPFL and how his escape from a Massachusetts maximum security prison was facilitated allegedly by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

As for former President Sirleaf, who inaugurated the TRC into office, she sashayed between a decision to appear or not to appear in public. Finally she appeared but in camera away from the public eye.

At the end of the exercise, she along with others was lustrated and banned from holding public office for a period of 30 years for her role in the conflict. But she ignored the ban and contested a second-term of office which she won.

However, she had desperately sought but failed to be excluded from the list of sanctioned individuals as was done in the case of Harry Greaves (deceased) whose name was inadvertently placed on the sanction list but was later removed.

When that failed, she enlisted the support of US billionaire George Soros, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, UN Ambassador Dr. Susan Rice and other influential figures to publicly condemn the TRC report. And as if that was not enough she took her case to the Liberian Supreme Court which declared the TRC report illegal and unconstitutional.

It is clearly on the basis of that decision that Solicitor-General Cephus has recently stated the Weah Government’s position that to implement the TRC recommendations on the establishment of a war crimes court for Liberia will constitute a violation of the Constitution.

Now it is becoming clear to the public  why TRC Commissioners faced retribution for their stance. Its Chairman, Jerome Verdier was denied compensation for contractual services he had performed for the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and his contract was subsequently annulled even after having successfully gone through a competitive process in which he emerged top.

Commissioners Massa Washington, Jerome Verdier and Oumu Sylla, fearing for the lives in the face of death threats went into exile in the US while other Commissioners especially those who signed the report were denied work opportunities and compensation for services rendered.

But if one may ask, just why all this history is necessary, this is because it is important to provide context in order to understand the political undercurrents then and now that have together conspired to produce undesired outcomes in our quest for genuine democracy.

But a little over a decade later, the TRC Report despite having been shelved and virtually ignored by the past government and this one as well, still stands and is recognized internationally as the foremost acceptable framework for Accountability for past abuses in Liberia.

And she (President Sirleaf) appears to harbor a morbid dread of Boakai, Urey and or Gongloe coming to power or anyone else who will actively pursue the establishment of a war and economic crimes court and who will not swear to protect her interests as Weah has done over the last 5 years.

Every now and then she would throw a jibe at what the public already perceives as excesses by the Weah government but each time Weah will fire back hitting her in soft spots and then the exchange would come to an end but without significant political damage to either side.

Further according to analysts, it is ostensibly because she fears and believes that if any individual perceived as an opponent comes to power, she may more likely than not find herself being called to account for her 12-yr stewardship during which 64 out of 66 Concession agreements signed into law were found to be bogus according to the Moore-Stephens Report.

Invariably, the TRC report and implementation of its recommendations on Accountability will be called into play. A deep seated fear of being called to account, according to analysts is what appears to have driven President Sirleaf to selecting George Weah as her successor.

Apparently there was no one else she could trust, not even Charles Brumskine(deceased) who had earlier enjoyed a rather cozy relationship with her. And political commentators say she still appears, more than ever, to harbor such fears.

That is why, according to reports, she appears to be doing all she can to demonize the likes of Urey, Gongloe and Boakai. As for Boakai, there is so much bad blood subsisting between he and Sirleaf that chances of reconciliation between the pair appear to be as distant as the earth is from the moon.

Least to talk about Urey who has made no secret of his intentions to contest the presidency although there is no indication at the moment to suggest that he is contemplating a run in 2023.

She fears Urey because of his financial potency which she, according to sources, believes he could bring to bear on the political process and thereby ruin her chances of having her proxy elected as President.

Towards this end, she has used every opportunity to demonize him. Using her influence within UN circles she is alleged to have done everything to place him on a UN travel ban list on grounds that he posed a threat to peace.

But such would prove untenable as the UN was to later officially lift sanctions against Urey and removed him from the UN travel ban list. Even the US State Department according to reliable sources has delisted Urey as one of those Liberians posing a threat to peace in Liberia.

More to that, Urey has long since declared his support for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia in order to provide the space and opportunity for him and others to prove their innocence. However she has instead militated against it (establishment of war crimes court) arguing that such would succeed in reopening old wounds, an argument which does not appear to be backed-up by facts.

In any case, if the war and economic crimes court is established prosecutors will have to adduce their own evidence to prove their case against the accused and will/shall not use the TRC report as evidentiary material to establish guilt or innocence.

It might interest the public to know that the TRC Report including county field investigation reports, in-camera hearings etc, are all stored in a repository at the Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, Georgia. All efforts by TRC Commissioners to have the archives repatriated to Liberia failed under President Sirleaf and similarly this government.

According to law the TRC report is subject to confidentiality for a period of twenty(20) years before it can become available and accessible for public use. Twelve (12) years have already elapsed So, even if the war and economic crimes is established at this moment, the TRC report is proscribed from being used as evidentiary material.

Interestingly, ANC leader Cummings, according to sources, is also on record for opposing the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia, arguing at the time in 2017, that Liberia had more important priorities than the establishment of such a court which would have only served to undermine national reconciliation .

Lately, however, he has flipped flopped and changed his stance. Apparently bowing to public pressure and having become aware of the yearning and urging of the Liberian people for an end to impunity, he now says he supports the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. But Liberians know better because they understand that his is mere political speak.

And now with presidential and general elections due in a little over a year from now, the former president, according to sources has stepped up her vilification campaign of potential claimants in order to increase Cummings’ chances of winning at the polls.

According to sources, she has been making the rounds on the international stage trying to sell Cummings. Only recently, thanks to arrangements by a trusted friend and alleged business partner, former Nigerian President Obasanjo, he was invited to participate as a panelist along with other world and business leaders.

But lest it be forgotten, Obasanjo also thru former president Ellen Sirleaf  has established business interests in Liberia. And with an eye on the future, he probably believes that his future business interests in Liberia could best be secured by a government under the leadership of ANC leader, Alexander Cummings.

This is the same man who he allegedly told Cummings in 2017 to stick to selling Coca-Cola but is now using his clout as a former Nigerian President and now world statesman, to introduce Cummings to a circle of international business bigwigs and the reason appears clear.

This was intended to not only showcase Mr. Cummings as the only viable candidate in the race but also for 2023 campaign fund-raising purposes and future business opportunities as well. But in order to have secured a place at the table he had to first be purged of criminal charges because he could not have been seated with charges of forgery and criminal conspiracy hanging over him.

A first step in that direction was to acquire the services of Cherie Blair, wife of former British Premier, Tony Blair. Both Tony and Ellen are close friends. Sources allege that she (President Sirleaf) prevailed on Tony to encourage his wife to come to Liberia and give Cummings a clean bill of health, of course for a hefty sum, on grounds that the forgery and criminal conspiracy charges filed by Urey against Cummings were bogus and politically motivated.

And in quick fashion, shortly after that, Solicitor-General Cyrennius Cephus, her former lawyer, announced that criminal charges against Cummings had been dropped while the case had yet to be heard and disposed of.

Sources say, all this was intended to clean up Cummings’ image in the wake of the criminal lawsuit and present him on the global forum as the most formidable and best suited candidate to take the helm of leadership of Liberia at the 2023 polls.

But there is a shortfall-a major shortfall and that is Cummings’ lack of a viable and identifiable political base on which he can count to propel him to the presidency ahead of other potential candidates particularly those from vote-rich counties such as Lofa, Bong and especially Nimba from which Gongloe hails.

For example, despite all the hype and predictions about a Cummings victory in the 2017 elections, he placed a distant fifth. According to pundits, this is the one and same kind of illusory thinking that led or contributed significantly to his dismal performance in the 2017 elections.

Perhaps this can explain why the former President has, apparently, spared her political foes, imagined or real, no quarter, demonizing them at every turn.

According to informed sources, She (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) has consistently spoken of Tiawan Gongloe in a disparaging fashion in top circles describing him as a “Communist”, anti-American and anti-big business who will prove hostile to western interests if elected as President of Liberia.

But in essence what she fears is that Gongloe, if elected as President, will more likely than not call her to account or even possibly launch a probe into her allegedly multi-layered business interests spread around the globe.

Beirut, Lebanon in the Middle East is where, according to well-informed sources, she allegedly has extensive business interests and political contacts which may possibly include suspected ties to Hezbollah allegedly through a longstanding family friend and business partner, Lebanese businessman George Abi- Jaoudi.

Lebanon is known to have strict banking secrecy laws and there is little likelihood that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) will find anything on her as it did in the “Panama Papers”.

Sources further allege that she has even paid secret visits to the home of the Hezbollah leader on the Lebanon- Syria border. However one of her ardent supporters (name withheld) has brushed off such allegations as mere lies.

Whatever the case, Liberians, the world needs to know that former President Sirleaf is and has actively been engaged in a secret war against her so called perceived enemies, some of whom she has seen off in quick fashion for stepping on her toes, like as sources allege, in the case of Harry Greaves or even Charles Taylor.

From all indications, she(former President Sirleaf) appears bent in her quest to see Cummings emerge as President, according to analysts. And her critics maintain that even if it means destroying others  to accomplish her selfish ends, she is prepared to do so. And should that fail, she will fall right back into George Weah’s fold according to them.

In view of all the above, the just ended Lofa County elections should provide instructive lessons as to what could possibly obtain in 2023 holding all things constant including, a highly corrupt NEC Board of Commissioners and a compromised Voters’ Registry. Already, the head of the National ID Card Registry, John Tiah Nagbe has begun the illegal and indiscriminate issuance of National ID Cards to citizens and non-citizens alike, no questions asked, no fees charged.

This illegal act is being carried out at the moment in Maryland County and he (Tiah Nagbe) has publicly disclosed his membership of the CDC with an eye on a senatorial seat in 2023. Only “Khambai” in heaven knows just many of such illegal cards he has issued already.

He is fully aware that a foreigner with a National Citizen ID Card can qualify to vote. And it is ostensibly for this reason such cards are being randomly and indiscriminately issued. Interestingly such is occurring in Maryland County which Cummings regards as his home turf. Just why he has maintained his silence on this issue remains unclear.

But the implications for 2023 are clear for the opposition especially the Ellen Sirleaf branded “best suited candidate to lead Liberia”, ANC leader Cummings.

He has derided and chastised the government as corrupt but yet his supporters were happy to celebrate the results of the Lofa County election, allegedly tainted with fraud and in which the CDC backed candidate emerged victorious.

But Cummings and other opposition leaders should not fail to learn lessons from the Lofa by-elections and begin forthwith to address themselves to rising and heightened public concerns about the unleveled playing field for elections especially a very corrupt NEC Board of Commissioners.

The prospects of having such a corrupt body to preside over the 2023 elections is unsettling. This is because stolen elections results or rigged elections constitutes a potential threat to peace and stability. Stolen elections results in the 1985 elections placed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as winner of a seat in the Senate representing Montserrado County.

She rejected her seat claiming that the results were rigged and therefore she could not in good conscience accept the seat in the Senate. On November 12, 1985 just about a month later following the October presidential and general elections, General Thomas Quiwonkpa launched an abortive invasion.

The lessons learnt, if any at all, from that cataclysmic event should serve to remind all Liberians that if our political leaders continue to fiddle and do nothing about such potential threat before it unfolds, then may “Nyensua” help us all!

For such may likely be a reecho of 1985 and of Special Elections Commission (SECOM) Cairman Emmett Harmon’s pronouncement,  “These elections result are ordained by God”.

In any case it appears to be “Deja Vue”, 1985 looms again.

By- John H. T. Stewart

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