By Tamba D. Aghailas | April 27, 2006
"...Some call it witch-hunting; proponents say the government wants to maintain the fragile peace Liberia is enjoying. For me, it is a political blunder that could bring to failure the Johnson-Sirleaf government in a matter of time. One cannot build a beacon of democracy through government actions that undermine the fundamental rights of its people. ..."
“As the world stands by, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf shall transcend from Africa’s first female president to its first female dictator thereby confirming her “iron lady” moniker.”
With just one hundred days in office, the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf lead government has proven that Liberia will continue to do “business as usual.” By recent acts of arbitrary arrests, jailing of private citizens without due process, and intimidating journalists, the government has shown its true color to the Liberian people, both at home and to those in the Diaspora. These events compel me write this piece about the government’s actions as it cracks down on Fundamental Human Rights of its citizens.
Some call it witch-hunting; proponents say the government wants to maintain the fragile peace Liberia is enjoying. For me, it is a political blunder that could bring to failure the Johnson-Sirleaf government in a matter of time. One cannot build a beacon of democracy through government actions that undermine the fundamental rights of its people. Bear with me to cite a few examples:
It can be recalled that on April 17, Ambassador George Weah and his team were manhandled while traveling through the Roberts International Airport [field], according to media reports. Weah and his team were detained for the alleged possession of diplomatic passports, of which they were not entitled. Eventually, the government after contradicting itself about its actions restituted Ambassador Weah’s expenses and apologized.
On April 20, journalists of “The Inquirer" daily, Charles B. Yates and Morris Gayboe of the private-owned daily "The Informer" were deliberately refused the right to take photographs of the market demonstrators who were being arrested. Mr. Gayboe insisted as any journalist would and took pictures of a youth being physically abused by Police. According to reports, several policemen repeatedly hit him [Gayboe] with batons. When Yates tried to intervene, a policeman responded: "You too, you want your own like your friend?" then Yates was also beaten (allAfrica).
As these incidents indicate, trained Police under the supervision of high-ranking officers sat-by while innocent men and women were bundled into pickup trucks and beaten mercilessly. Others remain in prison without due process of the law, a disregard to the very principles that Liberia represents.
The government continues to intimidate not only private citizens, but independent and private owned news outlets have become targets of these preposterous acts of cowardice. This week three patriotic journalists – Tom Kamara (New Democrat), Stanley Seakor (Analyst online), and veteran Kenneth Best (Daily Observer) are being grilled by the Liberian Senate for their reporting of acts by the overzealous Senate. Their crime - for carrying out their civil duties and to report on how much senators earned, the Senate’s jailing of two ministers last week without due process, and a report about Nimba’s bad choice of general peanut-butter (Adolphus Dolo), a former war lard turned warlord who once duped his protégé, Prince Johnson, also a warlord.
All these acts only point to one direction: The government’s attempt to silence the people.
As the world stands by, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf shall transcend from Africa’s first female president to its first female dictator thereby confirming her “iron lady” moniker.
Such a trend must never be accepted to prevail, for “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
Let it be known now and then that no one, not even the most feared rebel lord will ever again instill fear and harm upon the brave and steadfast people of Liberia. If a government cannot allow its citizens to express their fundamental rights – their right to freedom of speech – their right to assemble and to disagree, then that government is bound to fail sooner or later.
This time around the people will not sit back and let recycled politicians ruined the hard-earned peace Liberians have paid for so dearly during the decade-long war. The same warlords through their feudal wars killed more than a quarter million people, chopped off limbs of hundreds, while a half million were sent into exile.
As Nobel Prize laureate Harold Pinter said, politicians are interested NOT "in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power." Liberians must be steadfast and take a united front to confront those politicians to demand justice, transparency, and a respect for human rights. For without such fundamental rights, a nation is bound to linger in misery, ignorance and poverty. The fight has just begun!
The author is a freelance writer and Human Rights activist. His articles appear regularly on several Liberian newspapers online, including TheLiberianTimes.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his thoughts at www.voiceofliberia.blogspot.com