In his article,“Fears, Apprehension and Reality of UNMILL Departure”(www.theperspective.org, November 3, 2015), Dr. Abdulaye Dukule’ made or makes the claim that“Some of the most important issues at the core of the agitation in the 1970s – to be part of the political process; to break the cycle of oppression and gain lost dignity; to have the same opportunity as anyone else . . . with freedom of speech, freedom of association, national leadership open to anyone without distinction as in any democracy” – have been resolved. All those battles led the nation to where it is today (italics ours)”.
To this, we wrote a rejoinder/response indicating that the conclusion that“Some of the most important issues at the core of the agitation in the 1970s have been resolved” ignoresthemost important, critical issues that began since 1847 and gave rise to the April 12, 1980 military coup d’ etat, for “abuse of power (the culture of impunity, denial of vote-electoral rights – decentralization) and rampant corruption as its signature tune”. These most important issues are with us more, much more profoundly, today than ever before, and cited some examples that he admits.
Now,Dr. Dukule’ Comments on and reply to our rejoinder/response says that: a) “Mr. Gbai Bala, the problems you cite, about governance challenges and behavioral issues of public officials do not change the fact that the government of Liberia today is not exactly the same type of government you and others were protesting against in the 1979-1980 when President Tolbert invited a few of you to “see for yourself.”
b) “The governance issues that you point to may well exist but they in no way contradict the content of my article.
c) “Again, let me repeat the point of my article: rather than fear that UNMIL’s departure will give rise to chaos, Liberian politicians and opinion leaders should thing about how to maintain social harmony.Maintaining social harmony and narrowing the growing gap of inequality – because of the emerging of a weak corrupt political middle class – are part of the issues I raised, including strengthening integrity institutions”.and d) “If people have something to say about the government, they should not wait for articles from other to expose the facts and draw their own conclusions. As a prolific writer, you needed not wait for my article to point out issues that you raised. Maybe that is what is wrong with our political discourse. If you think none of the issues you guys were protesting against in the 1970s, well, we still have ways to go… but that was not my point. I still stand by my opinion: stop whining about UNMIL leaving and think of ways to keep social harmony to keep peace. Because ready or not UNMIL will leave.
Is this clear enough? That’s all I am saying”. Our Answers/Response to Dr. Dukule’s Comments First, it is regrettable to note that Dr. Abdulaye W. Dukule’, a longtime friend, associate and former co-worker, does not know my name (calls me Gbai Bala), despite all the years during which we have known each other, although my name is clearly shown on the rejoinder/response to his article. Profoundly disturbing!!Now, our answers/response to the Comments:
a) Our Response: Indeed, although governments are created and established by the people to perform, basically, the same functions and deliver the same services, but may not be, cannot be and are not exactly the same type of governments, in terms of individuals, personalities and policy perspectives and orientations, in the light of historical change, socio-economic and political conditions. That this is so in the context of the Liberian experience is not, reasonably, unexpected.
b) Our Response: Dr. Dukule’s article asserts that “some of the most important issues at the core of agitationin the 1970s were resolved”. However, the governance issues and many others cited are examples, in fact, of some of the “core issues” that gave rise to and including the tragedy of the decades-long civil war that Dr. Dukule’, conveniently, ignored. These validated citations debunk Dr. Dukule’s assertions and, therefore,“contradict” his article, which, in fact, falls apart.
c) Our Response: If, for crying out loud, by“maintaining social harmony and narrowing the growing gap of inequality . . . including strengthening integrity institutions”, have reference to thenational reconciliation (social harmony, etc.) and related, post-conflict programs intended to address post-conflict, socio-economic well-being of the citizens, then we respondas follows:In an article elsewhere, we observed that Reconciliation, in general, is a process designed to “settle a quarrel, a difference” with someone(s), arising from wrongful acts, after estrangement due to such acts; a re-establishment of friendly relations by and between two or more individuals after a period of intense, unfriendly and, sometimes, deadly, encounters.
Accordingly, Reconciliation, like the famous, South American dance, tango, (“takes two to tango”) takes two to be successful; that is, that it takes the coming together of the victim(s) of the wrongful acts, on the one hand, and the confessed, remorseful, guilty ones of the wrongful acts, on the other.Now, in the case of the Liberian, political community that experienced illegal armed conflict in which hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens were brutally tortured, maimed, raped and summarily executed, the families of the dead, loved ones, the livingvictims of this cruel adventure and the confessed, remorseful, guilty perpetrators come together, under lawful direction/supervision of the National Government of the political communityto “settle the quarrel and re-establish friendly relations” – peaceful co-existence, mutual understanding, respect and cooperation – or national reconciliation.
But, this is done after, not before, reasonable, dedicated and diligent institutional reforms, the socio-economic well-being of the affected citizens, including application of the modern, Transitional Justiceapproach – the process from systematic abuse of civil/political rights and post-conflict transition to democracy – designed for even-handed investigations, arrests, free, fair and open trials, conviction and punishment of human rights violators, with amnesties granted to deserving violators, as well as remedy to and satisfaction of the living victims and families of loved ones victimized during the war. As such, reconciliation is a final or end-process.
However, this approach for reconciliation, etc. (for healing of the wounds inflicted, “social harmony, narrowing the growing or grown gap of inequality, including strengthening integrity institutions”) have not been, and are not being, applied. This is the reason, among many others, for the repetitive failures of National Reconciliation.
Examples include beginning withDr. Sawyer’s IGNU, The Council of State, President Taylor’s “jungle justice”, Bryant’s Transitional Administration, dominated by factional rebels and application the doctrine of “spoils of war” entitlements; and now, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s two-term “watch” at its final hours, but still with “no show”, while the “beat still goes on”.As a matter of fact, there had been an ethnic/tribal tug-of-war between some Liberia-based and Diaspora-based Liberians about being excluded from membership of the recently-appointed, Mr. George Weah, then Peace Ambassador, as Chairman of aReconciliation Committee.
That Committee has been awarded by government, reportedly, a US $5M sleaze for operations, butthere has been no word from the-now Senator Weah about National Reconciliation. Another bottomless pit? Meanwhile, the world-recommended “TRC Roadmap” Reports are gathering dust in the offices of prevailing political dispensation, while public officials live in excessive luxury at the expense of the People, in the cesspool of massive poverty, hunger, diseaseand deaths from curable ailments.
Apparently, the basic, critical reasons for the continuing failure of our desired, National Reconciliation, etc., include the presence of powerful,dishonest (corrupt), abusive forces of the past which, often, continue to wield some measure of political and economic authority, including judicial, military and police power (Freeman, 2006).
d) Our Response: We are here not to preach the virtues (or vices) of Mr. Bai M. Gbala, Sr., in terms of his lifetime activities, especially, his commitment and the courage to speak out and write, unequivocally, against socio-political injustices in our country and society, from his early days and in the last days of the Tubman government, during which he was, often, threatened; jailed by the Taylor “Jungle Justice” and subjected to subtle victimization by elements of our recent regimes.But, suffice it to say that Mr. Bai Gbala has written, extensively, on almost, every socio-economic and political issue in our country. We are sure that Dr. Dukule’ is aware of this; and that Mr. Bai Gbala does not have to “wait for my article” or that of any other writer, other than to exchange or challenge ideas, conclusions, policy relevance and the future of our nation and people.
On the issue of Political Discourse, Mr. Gbala believes, is convinced, that Liberians and the media, especially, its courageous investigative reporting, commentaries and analyses, are on par with, if not superior, aggressively, to, the developed west. Regarding the expected departure of UNMIL, dedicated, loyal, patriotic and nationalist Liberia does not to be, is not, “whining about UNMIL departure”; for, Liberia has the reserve and demonstrated capacityto deal peacefully, decisively and reasonably with anymisguided, corrupt and decadent home-grown elements with designs to disrupt the peace and tranquility of the nation and its people.
Finally, we urge Dr. Dukuly and other patriotic Liberians now living broad, but deeply concerned about change and democracy in Liberia, to return home permanently. For, we arguethat despite one’s academic achievements, commitment to classical democratic principles, pontifications of pie-in-the-sky, public policies or dishing out criticisms from the comfort of distant lands will not bring about or provide just, lasting socio-political change/order; rather, this change, this democratic transformation will come only when one is physically present, permanently, on the ground in Liberia and participate in and experience the socio-economic and political dynamics – ofwho says and does what to whom, why, how, when & where – and the context of these dynamics.
Reference:Mark Freeman, Truth Commissions and Procedural Fairness, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2006.