By: Theophilus Totee Bettie (July 15th 2005)
"...Whatever happened to the Tiawan Saye Gongloe who is also a student of the law? Does he not recall that there are consequences to maligning people’s reputation? ...."
It is beginning to worry me that once again, Liberians would miss an opportunity to seize this moment and do that which is right for our country. Instead of ensuring that this political season be dominated by a national conversation that compels a public policy debate over the future of our nation, some of us are determined to steer this dialogue into the direction of verbal attacks against a particular candidate sole based upon our personal dislike for said individual. Meanwhile, Liberia enjoys the paradox of “scarcity in the midst of abundance” while our people live under some of the harshest conditions imaginable in this modern era.
Of particular concern to me has been the recent conduct of my friend and brother Tiawan Saye Gongloe. Mr. Gongloe’s actions disappoint me because I had always regarded him as a measured person whose contribution to our national dialogue could only yield uplifting results. To see him rapidly degenerate into an “internet politician” whose chat room participation is riddled with unsubstantiated innuendos is very disheartening.
In a recent posting on the ULIBSAA forum, Mr. Gongloe wrote: “What Brumskine, Roland Massaquoi, and others who played key role in the killing and destructive machine of Mr. Taylor…” Tiawan, quite frankly such outlandish accusation is unnecessary and doesn’t help your cause. Brumskine a murderer? Not even the notorious Charles Taylor would agree with you on this one. Such unsubstantiated and ridiculous accusation solely has the effect of diminishing your stature as a thoughtful person. I fully support your right to cross examine any candidate desirous of occupying the highest office in our country. I would however caution that we should not allow our personal animosities to get the best of us. We owe it to our fellow compatriots to at least be truthful in all of our exchanges. Our people have been deceived enough and deserve nothing less!
Mr. Gongloe’s July 7 th 2005 article published by “The Perspective” provides yet another example of what happens when we allow our emotions to cloud our judgment. Not only did he launch an all-out venomous attack against Cllr. Brumskine, he also had the audacity to proclaim: “… Taylor did Brumskine a favor by pressuring him to resign from his position in the Senate, because had he not done so Brumskine probably would have been placed on the UN Sanction list”. Sheer nonsense! Whatever happened to the Tiawan Saye Gongloe who is also a student of the law? Does he not recall that there are consequences to maligning people’s reputation? The last time I checked, the U.N. Sanction list was reserved for those who, through their collaboration with the hooligan Charles Taylor, had committed economic and/or “war crimes” against the Liberian people. If Mr. Gongloe is aware of any past or present actions of Cllr. Brumskine that should qualify him (Brumskine) to be placed on the UN Sanction list, then I encourage him to make public his evidence. In the absence of such tangible evidence, he does his reputation a favor by remaining quiet.
Mr. Gongloe has on several occasions mocked Cllr. Brumskine’s claim of having fled Charles Taylor’s reign of terror by way of Roberts International Airport (RIA). Well, let us see who is guilty of exercising selective memory. After having been manhandled by a number of Charles Taylor’s tugs, how did his mentor (Dr. Amos Sawyer) flee Liberia for these United States? Did he walk? No! Did he swim? No! He “fled” via the same RIA under the control of Mr. Taylor security forces as did candidate Brumskine. As a matter of fact, even the learned Tiawan Gongloe, “fled” Liberia via RIA following his brief incarceration. Does Tiawan expect the rest of us to believe that it was possible for the likes of Dr. Sawyer and himself (i.e. individuals who Gongloe claims Mr. Taylor viewed as threats against his government) to flea Liberia by way of RIA but it was impossible in the case of Cllr. Brumskine? I’ll let you be the judge.
It may interest our reading audience to know that Mr. Gongloe once participated in government at the highest level. As a matter of fact, he was a trusted advisor to interim head of state Dr. Amos Sawyer. The purpose of this article is not to put said administration under the microscope. At the appropriate time, the deeds of that government would be examined and I am sure there would be plenty to write about. However, it should be noted that one of the issues that continue to tarnish Dr. Sawyer’s legacy is the accusation that he converted public funds to his personal use by securing a private mansion in Germantown, Maryland ( USA). What is especially disturbing about said allegation is that such flamboyant purchase is alleged to have been executed not only by a man who prides himself as being a liberator of the masses, but also at a time of abject poverty in Liberia. The following private e-mail from Tiawan Gongloe to Dr. Amos Sawyer provides ample proof of Gongloe’s continuing disdain for Samuel Togba Slewion, the Liberian journalist who broke the news. This e-mail which was intended for Dr. Sawyer was inadvertently submitted to members of the ULIBSAA forum. Mr. Gongloe claims to have since apologized to Dr. Sawyer for this mishap. The e-mail (unedited) dated Sept. 29, 2004 is as follows:
Read this peace. Someone is properly taking on Mr. Togba Slewion. The case of your house in Maryland could not have been better stated. It is so good that it is not one of us. Well, perhaps I should explain this. Kai was at the formation of LPP and stayed on until we moved to the Old Road . But when the party started encountering problem he joined NDPL, being a Sapo. He, therefore, has some lagacy to defend. But the public does not know him to be one of us. This gives his attack on Slewion on your behalf a lot of credibility. Truth crushed to the earth will always rise again. I really felt relieved reading this. Don't overlook the impact of Kai's piece on your reputation and our image as agents of change, given the level of ignorance amongst our people.
I know Dr. Amos Sawyer and find him to be an honorable man. I have my doubts that someone as reputable would have done as accused. Others may disagree! Notwithstanding, my decision to make public the aforementioned e-mail is twofold. First and foremost, I wish to highlight the following question. What exactly did Mr. Gongloe mean when he wrote: “…he joined NDPL being a Sapo. …the public does not know him to be one of us”. Is this our esteemed human rights lawyer flirting with tribalism? Is he suggesting that being a “Sapo” automatically makes one a member of the NDPL? Isn’t this the same nonsensical “guilt by tribe” that was responsible for the gruesome murder of hundred of thousands of our fellow Liberians during our civil war? Honorable Gongloe, not only do you need to apologize to the “Sapo” people; you also have some explaining to do.
My second reason for making public this e-mail is to expose that Tiawan Gongloe is not beyond operating clandestinely in a partisan fashion with politic motives. Such unmasking of Gongloe has become even more imperative since his newly manufactured title “Renowned Human Rights Lawyer” may mislead some into thinking that he is an impartial advocate without hidden agenda. The tiresome tactic of masquerading as objective commentators while demonizing potential rivals must be exposed and shamed. We should at least have the intestinal fortitude to let our audience know what our preferences are instead of serving as perpetual critics. If we are to be judges of other people’s presidential candidate(s), don’t you think we enhance the debate by expressing who our preference for the highest office in our country is? I think so because at lease this would enable the public to evaluate our taste (and motives perhaps).
This author supports the candidacy of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine. I do so because (in my opinion) he is the most suitable, within the field of available candidates, to manage the affairs of my country. Others may have alternative preferences; such is democracy. Quite frankly, I also firmly believe that any of the available four or five leading contenders are likely to do better than this current kleptomaniac Bryant administration. Do I have my differences with candidate Brumskine on some issues? Absolutely! Do I think candidate Brumskine is infallible and without fault? Unequivocally No! But then again, thank God we are electing a President and not a Pope. While some of us remain comfortably cocooning in these United States, Cllr. Brumskine has traded a life of luxury here in the U.S. for the harsh conditions of Liberia. I wonder how many of us “critics” can say the same? His quest to serve his people has taken him to some of the most inaccessible parts of Liberia only imaginable to most of us. His generosity has made it possible for scores of Liberians to further their education via a Brumskine academic scholarship. His “Friends of Brumskine” organization has spearheaded the construction of community wells, provided medical supplies, food, clothing and other tangibles that have had a direct impact on the wellbeing of the suffering Liberian masses. Are these the characteristics of the “demon” that Mr. Gongloe would have us believe candidate Brumskine is? I think not.
Whatever our differences, we owe it to our country to at least conduct the upcoming political campaign with utmost sincerity. The Liberian people deserve electricity, pipe borne water, decent schools, employment, healthcare, and the list goes on. In other words, there are more than enough pertinent issues to quiz our aspiring leaders on. Ours is a country that’s been labeled a “ Failed State”. The fierce urgency of now requires that our dialogues be development oriented and focus on macro issues. Those who through their trivialities would attempt to divert our focus from such undertakings should be served notice that the party is over.
About the Author:
Theophilus Totee Bettie is a Yale Alumnus and a Fulbright Scholar. He holds a M.A. in International and Development Economics and a M.BA. In Finance. He was also the founding co-chairman and first Standard Bearer of the Student Integration Movement (SIM), a University of Liberia based political party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org