COUP PLOT N° 1 : Mere Speculation, Manipulation or Real?
By James Thomas-Queh
Be as it may, this is yet another reason that all democrats and freedom loving Liberians must keenly follow up on this case until the end for transparent, fair and equitable justice. Because our failure to do so, and should the public perceive otherwise -we may either end up breeding another generation of potential rebel leaders in prison or tarnishing our national image and credibility.
- Rtd. Col Andrew Dorgbo. Apart from being a retired army officer, little else is mentioned of his past by the press. Reading through the lines though, it would seem, his purported revelations linked the alleged coup to general Julu. And like the General, he seemed to have been struggling financially.
- Hon. George Koukou. Former Speaker of the National Transitional Assembly (2003-5) and a steward of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and NPP of former President Charles Taylor, convicted for war crimes at the Hague. His purported email exchanges with his former camrade and liberator in arms has put him at the epicentre of the alleged coup. Reading between the lines of the purported emails, his financial situation may not have been so enviable either.
- Hon. Tom Woewiyu. Former VIP of NPFL and Minister of Defence of NPFG (National Patriotic Front Government) who later became the Hon. Senator from Grand Bassa.. His current role is the “great patriot” or the “whistle blower” the man who apparently exposed Hon. Koukou to the state authorities by revealing their purported exchanged emails on the alleged coup plan. And as such, obviously, he has become an important state witness, and must be present at the trial for questioning by defence counsels.
Reading keenly through the purported communication of revelations (see www.newdemocratnews.com 24th July 2005), couple of things took my attention. First, I said to myself “ if Liberia was not so terribly in need of national reconciliation, there was no way Charles Taylor could be in the box alone at the Hague and Mr. Woewiyu is not by his side, at least.” Because it is impossible that a Defence Spokesman/Defence Minister of NPFL/NPFG from Dec. 24, 1989 to 1994, could not tell his side of the story on how more than 250 000 innocent Liberians were massacred in cold blood and their country destroyed. Perhaps the TRC would need his testimonies, at least.
Second, Mr. Woewiyu began his revelations by saying: “I am acutely aware of the danger this revelation will place on my life..” This is the first time in the history of Liberian alleged coups that a man who classed himself as a “conscientious senior citizen of the Republic; a stakeholder in the peace, security and stability of the country; a Christian and a believer in the sanctity of life ( you better believe that!); and driven by the conviction that the country and its people must be spared another round of bloodletting..” reveals an alleged coup plan to an elected democratic government, and yet sees a danger the revelation may place on his life; and when, in fact, he should be a national hero and given the appropriate honours. So why? Where does he see the danger? From whom? Col. Kaddafi, George Koukou or the partners directly mentioned in the purported emails or who else? The trial needs some further explanation. But as far back as a I can remember, only Charles Taylor carried out the gangster style killing of his traitors.
The third and most important is the ease with which Mr. Woewiyu decoded the purported emails from Mr. Koukou. And releasing how compromising that was, he was wise enough to justify that “Any Liberian who participated in the civil war can decode the emails.” Well, that is not true unless one was initiated and highly placed in Taylor’s NPFL killing machine as he was or his purported emails’ sender. What this would mean for me, and even most troubling, is that more then 18 years since Taylor launched Liberia into a killing field, and 4 years after his dishonourable dethronement into exile and prison his subterfuge mafia/finance agents, supporters, foot-soldiers, agents, etc. are still very active, communicating in codes whenever necessary.
And lastly, Mr. Woewiyu made an allusion almost like a man haunted by his own past and conscience: “The fact was not lost on me that I had been maneuvered into the epicentre of the national elections when I provided less than flattering accounts of some of the events attending the planning and implementation of the civil war. Some ranking elements of the Government were aggrieved and did very little to conceal their anger. Obviously, I would not be considered their most favoured citizen. Was I being set-up for a payback? These chicaneries and machinations could hardly pass as strange occurrences in Liberia.” Clearly, these purported emails may also be a God sent blessing for Mr. Woewiyu’ rehabilitation by those “aggrieved ranking elements of government.” Thus like he abandoned Taylor in 1994 and made the news headlines (but survived under his regime), but curiously fears for his life under an elected democratic government he has made the scoop that merits him an official treatment, transportation fare to and fro from wherever he is, plus per diem and 24 hours protective security to enable him sleep in peace as a prime state witness. At least that is my fervent hope.
So what does these alleged principal actors have in common to unite and plan an alleged coup or subversive activities against the Liberian state?
The ethnic theory is already thrown out of the window. General Julu and Rtd. Col. Dorgbo are Grand Gedeans; while Hon. George Koukou is from Nimba and Mr. Tom Woewiyu the ”whistle blower” comes from Grand Bassa. What is left then to explore is the fact that both Julu and Dorgbor are two former army officers; and Koukou and Woewiyu were members of NPFL. And secondly, having been out of the orbit of power for almost two years, perhaps, they may all be dried up financially and thus susceptible to manipulation. Because the Liberia civil conflict was not on ideology but purely power and economic, there were those who made their living by always soliciting funds for the “cause” whether imaginary or real. And this takes us to the next question.
If at all the alleged coup plot were mere speculation, manipulation or real to give the impression that Liberia was ungovernable and unstable under the current leadership it will be most in whose interest or benefit: Ex-AFL soldiers and defeated politicians as mentioned by the Justice Minister or Charles Taylor, the supreme commander of NPP/NPFL, currently on trial as well at the Hague?
To start with the “defeated politicians”- For now lonely Mr. George Koukou cannot be representative of the hundreds of defeated politicians during the past general elections. Well, perhaps the state prosecutors still have their tramp cards. Because Justice Minister’s statement accusing “defeated politicians and Ex-AFL soldiers” dates back to May, while the purported emails between Koukou and Woewiyu occurred from 29th June to July 6, 2007 (see www.newdemocratnews.com -3rd Aug. 2007).
As for the Ex-AFL soldiers, even with their wives have formed now something almost like a pressure group, demonstrating periodically and publicly for their pay or benefits. So that by now the authorities should have their names, addresses, age, sex and the rest. And once the demonstrations are peaceful, orderly and grievances justifiable and can be attended to that is great to nurture a democracy. Now, would such a group want to revert to subversion? We can leave that to the trial.
But where are the members of the equally disbanded parallel army, the fearful Special Anti-terrorist Unit (SATU) of Mr. Taylor; or the where about of Benjamin Yeaten, his henchman and other famous Generals. Well, they have disappeared into the wilderness, underground; no demonstrations, no talking and no one knows how they survive. And we have a saying in Liberia: He who does not talk, quiet, is deep.
Finally, former President Charles Taylor is currently on trial at the Hague; and we all know this government, if not the President is his Enemy N°1. And since the beginning of our national tragedy, Taylor has been the only individual who has had a clear, defined and persistent modus operandi a pattern of diversion against his enemies. He has known the weak-links in our society and weak points of successive governments on which the man has easily preed with his network of mafia/financiers, agents and foot soldiers. He has been the only one that has had the capacity, with financial inducements, to manipulate compartmentally -elements from every faction in the Liberian civil conflict.
Since Taylor’s trial was scheduled for the middle of this year, I have noticed a steady and alarming, dangerous increase in criminal activities around the country, almost at an urban warfare level. As the trial got under way and begun, criminality reached a pitch (and of course, because the conducive socio-economic conditions are also present), and the suddenly we found ourselves into an alleged coup (not yet a riot as in 2004).
So while the entire country is now focused on the alleged coup trial, Liberians have forgotten, in effect, that the most important trial of their national history, is in fact taken place at the Hague. True, it might not at all be Taylor’s diversion (because there are now complex, diverse foreign powers interest in our country), but let us give this Grand Master some credit. Because how else could anyone in his right mind would want to plan a coup and plunge Liberia into another civil conflict, ignoring that sooner or later he or she would be in the identical box as Mr. Taylor.
So the alleged coup trial goes on to clear the mystery. But whether it turns out to be a mere speculation, manipulation or real - it should never serve a pretext for this government to slam the door on democracy. It should resist the temptation, the soothsayers -because the socio-economic problems are there, very real, enormous- and cannot be ignored. And if you cannot feed an hungry populace, avoid an additional humiliation by suppression of their civil liberties; the risk is too high.
Thus if I were this administration, I would emulate the current route of the Afghan government. Faced with such monumental national challenges, I would call a general national conference after this alleged coup trial the tribal chiefs, elders, political parties, foreign partners, etc. and let us dialogue together, examine our progress thus far; pinpoint our failures, errors and seek for an honest and collective resolution.
At our age, we have made history and nothing more to gain and want, but only to ascertain that we leave Liberia united, progressive and prosperous in democracy. A noble legacy, indeed!