By Theophilus K. Stephens (September 27th 2005)
"... Liberia deserves better and for once our people need a leader that will be accountable to them and not someone who will callously, arrogantly and contemptuously relate to our people as if they were all morons. If we were critical of people vying for leadership of our country over the past 158 years of our independence, perhaps we would not be where we are today...”
In a free and democratic society, which we say we have or attempting to construct in Liberia, it is the right of the individual or group to criticize any official of government and candidates for public office, as long as it draws, deserves and merits public interests. This way they can make informed decisions choices in the politics of our country. While some of us are not running for public office, I considered it our citizenship responsibility to speak on the issues of our time, and it was exactly the intent of Mr. Jucontee Tom Woewiyu’s open letter to Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. It is Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s apologists who are engaged in character assassination and mudslinging and not Mr. Woewiyu. Based on our conversation with Mr. Woewiyu, and our own investigation, we found out that this is not the first time that Mr. Woewiyu has exercised his right. The first time he took similar position was, July 19, 1994. According to him, “I was compelled to take such a position because the leader (Taylor) of our movement was acting contrary to the goals and objectives of the organization. Therefore, I had a press conference in Monrovia, not the other way around from abroad, to make our position clear to the Liberian people”. Here are excerpts of what he said then:
“Gentlemen of the press, I called this conference because I would like to clear up certain information concerning myself and other members of the NPFL whose position in the LNTG coalition government, and also to try to brief the Liberian people on the nature of the NPFL, its objectives and goals and try to see if I can clarify what the problem is at this time. This is the purpose for which I called this conference.
“I am a founding member of the NPFL. I was there when there was no NPFL and we put the NPFL together along with others. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could get out of the NPFL, so the notion that I am not with the NPFL any more, Samuel Dokie is not, Supuwood is not, is like a fallacy and is merely a divisive scheme by those who have actually used the NPFL and its noble goals to frustrate the Liberian people.
“Yes, there is a problem in the NPFL, and in this country. The NPFL itself is a very, very good organization. It is an organization made up of men and women dedicated to a cause. Most of you can recall that when the NPFL launched this revolution almost everybody in this country supported it. There were very few that did not support the idea that a people's force had to be used to remove the dictatorship of Samuel Doe. It was not the fighting men or the method of the fighting that frustrated and derailed this noble goal. It was the leadership of the NPFL that led to all of these problems.
“The NPFL, of course, as you know, is being headed by Charles Taylor, who as a matter of fact, was made leader of the NPFL as a result of a series of coincidences. Charles Taylor is not the founder of the NPFL. The NPFL was founded by the late Thomas Quiwonkpa and after the failure of his attempt, it was continued by those of us who felt that we had to continue the struggle until things changed. It could have been led by several other prominent Liberians; it could have been led by me, Tom Woewiyu; it could have been led by Moses Doupu (Duopu), it could have been led by Harry Yuan. These are people who were actually there at the resuscitation of the NPFL. Taylor was a part of that and by a series of coincidences, we agreed for him to lead the organisation. Over the years, he has abused that agreement. He has abused the trust of a group of noble men and of course, we have worked along with the organization to see if we could solve the problem and maintain the goal of the organisation which was to change things in this country for the betterment of all. Therefore, over the years, we went from one thing to another and everybody seemed to have given the NPFL all the opportunities to accomplish its goals through politics, but Mr. Taylor has consistently obstructed that, insisting that he must be made president of this country by force, not even by election, or else, the war will not stop”.
The full transcript of that press conference is readily available for any one to review.
According to Sir. Winston Churchill, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile-driver. Hit the point. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it the third time”. Exactly, that’s what Mr. Woewiyu did! Instead of addressing the issues contained in his open letter, Dolo and Martin-Tamba elected to brush them aside, as a way of not wanting to face the facts, but rather go on fishing expeditions – looking for just anything, whether they are true or not.
We are particularly disappointed by the vituperative essay and diatribes by Emmanuel Dolo, Ph.D. for one major reason. With the knowledge of writing essays at the undergraduate level, we are reminded that one of the things that professors look for are coherence and consistency in one’s arguments. In Dr. Dolo’s response to Mr. Woewiyu’s open letter, we found out these two basic ingredients of good essay writing were lacking and leave much to be desired. For one who brags about holding a doctorate, perhaps these elementary things should always come out in whatever essays you write otherwise your colleagues or even those of us who have not earned such high level of education will begin to think low about you.
Let us now trace the reason why Mr. Woewiyu wrote the open letter to Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. From the onset, it was Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf who dragged Mr. Woewiyu’s name into this discourse. For example, during an exclusive interview she had with the former Editor-in-Chief of Daily Observer, Rodney D. Sieh (sometime August 2005), Madam Johnson-Sirleaf was asked the question below:
Daily Observer: Speaking of Mr. Taylor, a lot has been reported about the once close ties you had with the now exile former president. In fact some have suggested you instructed Mr. Taylor to burn Monrovia down and you would build it back up. Is there any truth to that story?
Johnson-Sirleaf: You know I'm just so fatigued with this Taylor propaganda that he put out during the period when we were trying our best to get the regime change, to get Doe out of the country. So the first thing is I never had any close ties to Mr. Taylor. I think I've met Mr. Taylor only three times in my whole life. I was working with institution here (in the United States) which on the urging of Tom Woeiyu (Woewiyu) was a part of that institution, the Association of Institutional Democracy in Liberia decided to give Mr. Taylor support when he started his movement on the basis that all of our efforts were not working so we needed like the South African experience to have some kind of a military pressure on Doe for Doe to respect Democracy and human rights and so we started that support and the minute Taylor did things that we thought were leading in the wrong direction, for example our colleague Jackson Doe and Gabriel Kpolleh, those people were killed by him. These people were close political allies of ours in the 80s. As soon as those things happened we distanced from Taylor right away and from that time I have been actively involved in mounting the campaign to make sure that Taylor did not become president that's why I went to Liberia and challenged him in the elections, of course I lost but nobody can say I had close ties to Taylor, that's just not true”! (The title of the interview - “Liberia Has Come Full Circle": An Exclusive Interview with Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf)
“…I think I've met Mr. Taylor only three times in my whole life. I was working with institution here (in the United States) which on the urging of Tom Woeiyu (Woewiyu)...” According to Mr. Woewiyu, “This is not the full story! Madam Johnson-Sirleaf did not only meet Taylor more than six times, but she also had numerous telephone conversations with him. The fact that she incorrectly dragged my name into this and even denied that she never met Taylor more than three times in her whole life led me to write the open letter because I know she was not telling the truth. For a person running for the highest position in our country, I could not sit idly to allow the ‘iron lady’ to get away with murder easily”.
Mr. Woewiyu went on to say, “My original intent was to write my rebuttal in Bassa, since Ellen’s surrogates say I cannot write English (even though one of those who responded to my essay holds a doctorate degree but has written such a inconsistent and incoherent essay that could not even pass for an undergraduate essay), but decided against doing so because communication is a process of sending and receiving messages, and that message has to be understood by both the sender and the receiver for any action to be initiated. That’s the reason why I have asked my interpreter – the same Bassa/English interpreter, who assisted me in my classes for me to have earned my Associate Degree in 1977 from the Empire State College of the State University of New York, and a bachelor’s degree in 1981 (with honors) from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (you have my permission to contact these schools to verify the information). That’s how I operate”!
He added further, “The first news outlet that I sent my open letter to was, The Perspective. For some reason or the other, they did not publish my open letter to Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, but decided to publish rebuttals written by Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s apologists - to whom my open letter was not addressed. Yet, they took upon themselves to speak on behalf of a lady they do not really know or the ‘Enterprise’ she and I were involved in”.
In all fairness to Mr. Woewiyu and the readership of The Perspective and for balance reporting, The Perspective needs to publish Mr. Woewiyu’s open letter to Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf so that it can be referenced when reading this article. We feel it is in conformity with good practice in journalism to have both views published.
Having read the open letter, one can see that Mr. Woewiyu did not get personal (talked about Ellen’s personal matters) in his open letter to Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, “many of which I could have included, but did not do so because they were private matters”, he said. He added, “I want these apologists of Ellen to know that I too, can play it dirty if that’s what they want. What I said in my open letter is only a fraction of Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s doing. I could reveal more if these intellectual quislings do not address the real issues but choose to pursue gutter politics by throwing dirt all over the place. While I am also good at dirt throwing, I will refrain from it but continue to deal with the issues and facts that our people need to know about Ellen”.
Mr. Dolo’s question, “Where is Your Apology?” to Mr. Woewiyu is such that apologizing to an audience abroad, during a campaign because you are running for office is something great that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf has done. In the first place, the United States is not the place for Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf to issue an apology to the Liberian people. On the other hand, why apologize, when you had not done a thing, as Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and her supporters are claiming. This is blind loyalty! Please, Liberia will go nowhere with such sycophantic behavior.
Based on our conversation with Mr. Woewiyu and the material we reviewed on the Internet, Mr. Woewiyu has done more than apologizing, even though, no amount of apologies will ease the pains and suffering, he, including ELLEN, THE IRON LADY brought upon our people. To prevent this from repeating, he said, “I came in the public on July 19, 1994 to denounce and condemn the practice of some of the leaders, specifically Taylor and others in the NPFL. Had the Liberian people listened to my warnings at that time, we would have avoided lots of problems. Instead, Taylor was elected in 1997, three years after I warned the Liberian people. I did not stop there, and I have not been Johnny-Come-Lately to making my opinions known and taking public positions on issues of our time”.
On February 26, 2001, Molley V. Paasewe wrote an article titled: “Tom Woewiyu Speaks His Mind”. The article reads, “Grand Bassa County Senator Thomas J. Woewiyu recently granted an exclusive interview following dedicatory services of the Rock Church International and the Liberia Christian Broadcast Network (FM 102.2) at Dwazon, outside Monrovia. The outspoken former Defense Spokesman for the erstwhile National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and former leader of the defunct Coalition Forces that sacked Gbarnga in 1995 speaks his mind about God, reconciliation, peace and national unit”. Find below excerpts of what he had to say:
”Most people in this country cannot imagine seeing me, a warlord, a rebel, a fighter, a troublemaker, a man responsible for the chaos in my country, talking about peace. But you know, God is strange. He does things we don't understand. Anybody who wants to do any more physical fighting in Liberia should forget about calling my name. I am a reformed warlord.
“I am very sincere about this. All of us have different history. A lot of the Liberian people that were involved in war got involved with Liberia during the war. I have been involved with Liberian politics and the leadership of our people from the late 1960s when I entered the United States. The present President of Liberia and I have been friends since that time. We formed the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA). I was President of the Union and I led the Liberian community in the States throughout the 80s. I saw to it that our leadership - the citizens and the intellectual base of this country that were put into exile - when there was a threat that they would perish, I saw to it that most of them were brought into America in exile and I was forced to jump in the bush and clear the way for them to come back home. All I am asking my fellows to do now, those that mean well for this country, let us now do politics, so that our generation which has been a very violent one can forget war”.
Now, you compare what Mr. Woewiyu has done to Ellen’s apology! We’ll leave it to the Liberian people to decide (Molley V. Paasewe’s article is available on the Internet).
In fact, Mr. Woewiyu has in no way, shape or form denied being a part of the NPFL; so his letter to the ‘iron lady’ is not an attempt to exonerate himself. According to Mr. Woewiyu, “It was only an honest effort on my part, to remind Ellen that she too, was a part of this project. Furthermore, it is people like Ellen who want to paint themselves as Angels because they now want power in our dear country”.
Now look at who is calling Mr. Woewiyu a liar; someone by the name of Ousman-Martin-Tamba! Martin-Tamba, says, “Liberia does not need the Woewiyus of the world; they have nothing to tell us. After all, he is only a liar and a hustler. What else can I say?” At least Martin-Tamba should have gotten his facts correct first before calling Mr. Woewiyu a liar, hustler and a scoundrel; the facts will reveal him to be the liar.
Allegation #1: The Ducor Robbery
“Tom Woewiyu (formerly known as Thomas Smith) emerged on the Liberian landscape in the late 1970s. During those days, Woewiyu was employed as a security officer at the Ducor Palace Hotel towering over Monrovia. Liberia was in critical need of foreign investment capital to keep the pace of economic development on track. President William R. Tolbert, Jr. invited a group of foreign Investors to Liberia to explore the investment climate in the country. They were lodged at the Ducor Palace hotel as guests of the Liberian government. Sadly, a rogue Liberian cop named William (Bill) Taplin was the SSS agent assigned to the guests as the security detail. Bill Taplin, who will later be known to Woewiyu and Taylor as the “god father”, was married to a niece of the late President Tolbert. He, therefore, had enough inside information to know that the visiting investors had some liquid cash to carry. This information was passed on to Tom Woewiyu who was the chief security on duty that night. Woewiyu then arranged the robbery with a known thief named Frank Chenoweth. On that fateful night, Chenoweth, under the guidance of Tom Woewiyu, broke into the investors’ suites and robbed both the investors and the hotel. Legend has it that he escaped the hotel premises by wrapping himself into a mattress and jumping down to safety. The hotel lost money, the investors lost money and confidence, and Liberia lost investment opportunities and potential jobs and economic growth. But Tom Woewiyu, Chenoweth and the God father were several thousand bucks richer, which was the only thing that mattered to them”.
OUR DISCOVERY: In the first place, Mr. Woewiyu never lived in Monrovia for him to have worked as a security officer at Ducor Palace in the late 1970s. The longest he stayed in Monrovia was when he was sent by LAMCO to attend the Liberian Police Academy for 6 months in 1966. He graduated in the same year with the 8th Class of the Liberian Police Academy. In fact, the timethat Ousman Martin-Tamba is referring to – “the late 1970s”, Mr. Woewiyu was already in the United States, and he was no longer called Thomas Smith. Mr. Woewiyu came to the United States, February 1969. According to Mr. Woewiyu, “The I – 20 form (Burnside Aviation Institution in Florida) that brought me to the United States was sent to me by Siahyonkron Nyanseor who was at the time my cousin-in-law”.
The very first time Mr. Woewiyu returned to Liberia was in April 1977 to bury his foster mother (he stayed in Liberia less than a week); the second time was in 1980 went he traveled to Liberia with the ULAA delegation to meet with the late President Tolbert.
Allegation #2: Changed Name
When Mr. Woewiyu was asked about the changing of his name that Martin-Tamba mentioned in his article - his reply was, “Only those with the wrong understanding of Liberian social and cultural history will refer to the claiming of my rightful names as changing names. I took back what was really mine! I did so in order for my children to not bear the name of someone I stayed with as a ward. What else can I say? As Malcolm X would have said, I am a ‘field native’ and not a ‘house native’; and this explains why I have been actively involved in the politics of our country. I have never dreaded the threats of the hangmen in our country but grew up knowing that the only way to change things in our country was to consistently struggle for such changes. Fortunately, I have never been an opportunist like our dear Martin-Tamba. Maybe, like slim shady (listen to Eminem), let the real Tamba please stand up”.
Allegation #3: Maude’s Son Insurance Money
Mr. Ousman-Martin Tamba went a bit too far into Mr. Woewiyu’s personal affairs to say things he knows nothing about, and you shall see who the liar is.
“When Maude got the doctor’s diagnosis, she flew to Liberia to get her husband’s support. She got none. Instead, Woewiyu was too busy concentrating on his live-in girlfriend and showed utter contempt for his wife. Maude left Monrovia heart broken and returned to the United States to fight her battle alone. Upon her return to the United States, Maude changed her living will designating her son as the sole beneficiary of any insurance monies. News has it that Woewiyu later arrived in the United States when Maude was terminally ill in an irreversible state. Tom did not care to see or comfort his wife in her last moment. Instead, information has it that he callously concentrated on writing another Power of Attorney on which the wife’s name was scribbled. This version of the Power of Attorney is said to have designated Tom Woewiyu, Sr. as the beneficiary of the wife’s life insurance policy. The money was all that interested him. Maud died; Woewiyu took his version of the Power of Attorney to the insurance company, which declined to honor it. Woewiyu took it to court, but the court ruled against him. For once, he was in the land of justice. His dirty tricks did not work. The court ruled that the son was the legitimate beneficiary. But the saga was not over. Couple of weeks ago, Tom Woewiyu’s son was found dead. The family is swarmed with rumors as to circumstances and motive for his death. Who is the beneficiary of the son’s life insurance policy and the money he inherited as a result of mom’s death? That is the question many are asking”.
“But the saga was not over. Couple of weeks ago, Tom Woewiyu’s son was found dead. The family is swarmed with rumors as to circumstances and motive for his death. Who is the beneficiary of the son’s life insurance policy and the money he inherited as a result of (his) mom’s death?” wrote Martin-Tamba.
OUR DISCOVERY: You see what rushing to the defence of Ellen has turned Martin-Tamba into – a liar! For his information, Mr. Woewiyu’s son, Somah that died is not the son of his late wife, Maude. Maude’s son is presently living with him. The late Somah is the son of Mr. Woewiyu’s first wife, Virginia (an American). So, Martin-Tamba got his so-called facts WRONG. The next time, he should get his facts together before he accuses another person; if not, says Mr. Woewiyu, ”I too can play this kind of gutter politics; only this time, I will drag Ellen into it, I promise”.
Allegation #4: Resigned from the NPP
“To facilitate his scheme of returning to the political stage, Woewiyu recently resigned from the NPP for the second time in ten years…”
OUR DISCOVERY: “I never resigned from the NPP. The last time I checked, I was still a member”, says Mr. Woewiyu.
Allegation #5: Woewiyu is Part of the Varney Sherman Campaign
“…Woewiyu sits in the United States dancing to the tone of a different master –the Varney Sherman campaign”.
OUR DISCOVERY: “Maybe Varney Sherman would like for me to a part of his campaign, but I have no part to play in his campaign in the United States”, says Mr. Woewiyu.
CONCLUSION: Points Missed in Mr. Woewiyu’s Open Letter
To reiterate a point we made earlier, it is clear that Mr. Woewiyu has in no way dissociated himself from being a part of the ACDL nor the NPFL. All he said was that there were others like Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf who played major roles, but have now decided to dissociate themselves from the (Enterprise) because they are running for the Liberian presidency. On the one hand, Ellen admits that she raised the initial capital of $10,000.00 for the NPFL incursion against Samuel K. Doe and during the heat of the war, she publicly instructed Taylor, the General (during a BBC interview) to “Level Monrovia, we will rebuild it”, but now says her statement was taken out of context; what she meant was, “Level the Mansion, we will rebuild it”. This is not true! BBC has the recording! It is this kind of outright falsehoods by Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and company that Mr. Woewiyu alluded to in his open letter to her. Unfortunately, Dolo, Martin-Tamba and company has no qualms with such a practice.
Based on our conversation and research, it appears that Mr. Woewiyu is an individual who makes his views or positions known; he did it in 1994 when he felt that the NPFL was heading in the wrong direction; then in 2001, when the country was again at a critical crossroad; and now when we are preparing to take another leap into history. According him, “I make no apology for what I personally feel is the right thing to do and what I believe my citizenship responsibilities required of me. I am playing my part and I hope Dolo and Martin-Tamba and every Liberian for that matter, will do likewise irrespective of their political allegiances, for the sake of our country. I believe Liberia comes first irrespective of partisanship or not”.
According to an old sage who made the following statement: “The way to lasting peace in Liberia is to institute a framework for accountability for violation of human rights and humanitarian law during the on-going civil conflict. Demanding accountability for past violations of human rights and international humanitarian law is the best way to guarantee lasting peace in Liberia, not pacification and cover-ups. There will be no lasting peace in Liberia until and unless justice is made an integral part of the framework for peace. The failure of the Liberian people and the international community to hold parties to the 1989-1997 Liberian civil war accountable laid the foundation for the 1999-2003 Liberian civil war”.
Herein lays the real issue: accountability. We all must be accountable to ourselves, our people and our country. If peace must come to Liberia, those who contributed immensely to Liberia’s destruction should be held responsible - including Mr. Woewiyu and the “IRON LADY ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF”. If the Liberian people fail again by electing those that are responsible for the destruction of lives and properties, the next time around, they will say, “Destroy Liberia, we will rebuild it”, and then LIE ABOUT IT to their audience in America.
Finally, when Mr. Woewiyu was asked what he thought about the attack against him, he said, “My final word on these allegations is that I raised issues with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in order to remind the Liberian people that as our country come out of 14 years of civil war, we should reflect soberly in order to make informed choices about the type of leaders we will be electing come October 11, 2005. One of the reasons why I say this is that Liberia deserves better and for once our people need a leader that will be accountable to them and not someone who will callously, arrogantly and contemptuously relate to our people as if they were all morons. If we were critical of people vying for leadership of our country over the past 158 years of our independence, perhaps we would not be where we are today. I think the acolytes and pawns that are tied to the political apron strings of Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf; I mean people like Dolo and Martin-Tamba should realize that in post-war Liberia, sycophancy is not the way forward. On the contrary, Liberians need to be honest with each other and this is my personal crusade against those who want to con their way into the Executive Mansion. What else can I say?
“Thank God, my conscience is clear”!
About the author:
Mr. Theophilus K. Stephens is a Liberian and an Industrial Engineer living in Tokyo, Japan. He is the Chairperson of a support group of Liberians called: Concerned Citizens for Accountability and Justice in Liberia (CCAJL). He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org