About two years or so ago into the destructive and deadlyNational Patriotic Front of Liberia’s (NPFL/INPFL) “armed struggle” to “remove a dictator”, a new and distinctive phenomenon appeared, gradually, on the Liberian, political scene. This is the phenomenon of a “Rebel Leader”.
Ruthless and feared; fabled and perceived invincible; and encased in an aura of glamour which may be likened to the modern-day “jet-set”, the Rebel Leader in Liberia is maintained in power by war-front commanders-executioners with such spine-chilling titles or nicknames as“Rambo”, “Gio Devil”, “General God”, “Man-Pass-Man”, “One-Man-One”, “Pepper-And-Salt”, etc., at checkpoints or gates throughout the nation, awesomely named and known as “No-Man-Pass”, “God-Bless-You”, “Kuwait”, “Give-Me-Blood” and execution centers where life or instant death was or is determined by ethnicity, membership in the national armed forces or employment by the national government.
Although the Rebel Leader is the most destructive, immoral influence on our young people today, yet he is glorified, popularized and given respectability and acceptability bordering on idol-worship by the masses. Where ever the Rebel Leader goes (he is a jet-setter), he is sought-after for “exclusive” press interviews; every statement that he makes is reported on front pages in banner headlines by the print media and headline news on radio and television worldwide.
In Africa, for example, at 1300, 1500, 1705 & 1830 hours GMT(1,3, 5:05 & 6:30 pm Liberian Time),politicians, civic and religious leaders and the citizens in general – men, women and children – rush to and crowd around battery-powered, short-wave radio receivers to hear the latest “pronouncement” by the Rebel Leader or his information spokesperson on the famous BBC Focus on Africa broadcast.This practice has become a ritual.
In Liberia and, indeed Africa, the institution of the Rebel Leader has become a reality, accepted and feared. For, the Rebel Leader is romanticized and has become immortalized in our social, economic and political life. The Rebel Leader is now seen and emulated by our down-trodden and less-fortunate compatriots as the final hope for a better future,now. Did he not, in no time, triumphed over the politicians, big shots and the PhD “book people”?
As if this African phenomenon, this frightening process of socio-political brain-washing, conditioning or re-conditioning of our “future leaders” is yet incomplete, some politically-prominent Liberians, academics/intellectuals and newspaper publishers argue the appointment of rebel leaders (particularly Rebel Leaders who waged unprovoked, savage and murderous wars on their people for political power) to the nation’s high positions in government. But there is a problem with these arguments, with wide-ranging implications.
For, the conscious surrender of political power on the silver platter to the Rebel Leader, not through the ballot box, the power for which he/she (the rebel leader) waged a brutal, deadly war but failed on the battlefield; the power which confers honor, dignity, respect, glory and glamour upon the recipient and rendersto such a recipient a role-model status, an exemplary figure, national hero to be emulated; such a surrender of political powersends a powerful, but morally-decadent, wrong and fallacious message to our young people and generations, yet, to come that “crime does pay”,although throughout human history, crime did not, has never paid.
This message conveys immoral, illegal and deadly convincing proof that if you desire political power with its attendant recognition, fame, wealth, personal relationships and interactions withkings, presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries on the world stage, simply organize and train a few or thousands of men and women, and provide them with large quantities of sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, easily and readily available from international, double-dealing, merchants of death, businessmen/crooks; terrorize, brutalize and kill a few or thousands of your own countrymen in the name of Liberation and Democracy; vandalize and destroy their villages, towns and cities indiscriminately; hold on to captured territories of your country partitioned as a nation and establish an “administration” with headquarters in a captured “capital city” and an “Executive Mansion”.
Then you are now a “warlord”, a famous (or infamous), feared but recognized “Rebel Leader”; now “president of this nation” with courtesy calls made on you for consultations on national/international affairs by the world’s “High and Mighty”, includingcrooks & criminals.
You can now strip your country of its resources – produce, cocoa,coffee, lumber, diamonds, gold, iron ore, rubber, including involuntary exactions from terrorized citizens and businesspersons held captives; some of these resources you sell to buy more and more weapons to kill more and more people, the others you live on now like a king.
You are invited to international, peace conferences just to “talk, talk and talk” and accommodated at host governments’ guest houses or at five-star hotels suites fit for kings at no cost to you, hotels that were figment of your dreams or imaginations only a year or so back that you could not touch with a ten-foot pole.This “rags-to-riches” fairy tale is a Liberian(and African) reality; this recognition and glorification and this romanticism of a “Rebel Leader”, a “Warlord”, the warlord who constitutes such formidable model of political entrepreneur is emulated by young Liberians and transmits powerfully-convincing, socio-economic and political signals to our young men and women, the less-informed, the under-privileged and the disadvantaged.
In this way, Mr. & Mrs. Liberia and Africa,we are about, in a conscious, planned and organized setting, to bequeath to our nations and succeeding generations, the legacy of high crime -vandalism, banditry, plunder, destruction, human suffering and death – The Legacy of a Rebel Leader.By Bai M. Gbala
The New Democrat, November 10-17, 1995