I beg your indulgence to present the facts since most of you — the readers of this series are unaware of the issues that brought ULAA to this ongoing conflict and division.
Part II of this series ended with the question – What are the changes, which put ULAA in this condition today? One observer summed it in this manner: “ULAA finds itself in the present conflict due to the behavior of the “Know it all Johnnie come lately 1990 leaders.”
These new leaders, for some reasons refused to respect and adhere to the organizing principles upon which the Union was founded in 1974. And that ULAA is entirely a new organization not concerned with advocating for the greater good of the country and the 99% of the people for which this once great organization worked tirelessly.
Part III will look at the impact of some of the exchanges between the former chairmen of the National Board of Directors, Mr. Augustus E. Majors and this writer.
ULAA’S RESTRUCTURING PLAN OF JULY 1996
We will begin with the “Restructuring Plan” of ULAA, which serves as the point of departure from the “Original Intent” of the founders and the framers of the constitution. The National General Conference held on July 5 – 6, 1996 in Newark, New Jersey is where the action plan that culminated into the “Restructuring Plan” was hashed. It was during the chairmanship of “Honorable” Augustus E. Majors and the Board of Directors approved the “Restructuring Plan.” See the Liberian Democratic Future’s Commentary: “ULAA Abuses Her Own Constitution,” Published in the 1996 Edition of theperspective.org.
Find below the letter sent to Chairman Majors:
July 18, 1999
Mr. Augustus E. Majors
Chairman, Board of Directors
Union of Liberian Associations
in the Americas, (ULAA)
C/o P. O. Box 980
Boston, MA 02118-0980
Dear Mr. Chairman:
The Liberian Democratic Future (LDF) is well known for its zealous commitment to confront difficult, often non-popular, social and political issues, which affect our communities in the Diaspora, and for the advancement of pluralistic democracy at home. In this role, which we have chosen to accentuate common human decency, social justice and universal human rights in Liberia, we have often clashed with other Liberians who believe liberty is the exclusive perquisite of a select few.
It is in this context that we note with interest recent developments within the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA). These developments could stifle progress and hinder broad-based participation of Liberians in ULAA’s activities. But we are not surprised that the situation has reached crisis proportions to warrant the impending closed door emergency meeting slated to be held in Trenton, New Jersey, on July 31, 1999.
Three years ago, we made a careful review of the Board of Directors’ action, which culminated into the July 5 – 6, 1996 Newark, New Jersey General Conference at which the so-called “Restructuring Plan” was adopted. In addition, we submitted the restructuring plan along with ULAA Constitution to our counsel for review. Based on that analysis, our counsel determined that the Board’s actions leading to and provisions of, the restructuring plan violated the Union constitution. Those violations, which we outlined in an article, were transmitted to Union officials and published by The Perspective, rendered both the restructuring plan and its ratification illegal.
Further, our counsel advised us that as an organization, the LDF and its publication, The Perspective, had standing to enjoin the Union until corrective measures are taken to reverse the illegal actions.
Since that determination, we have not taken any action mainly because the Union lacks incorporation documents to stipulate its legal existence. In the absence of articles of incorporation, however, the LDF was advised that it could seek legal actions against any Union official in the state where that official resides. In order words, if ULAA is not incorporated, then its officers can be severally and individually liable for actions taken by the organization.
In view of the above, and the apparent illegality regarding the proposed election guidelines, the LDF is prepared to file an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief in support of any legal action against the Union officials. We believe it is about time for Union policymakers to repudiate this culture of reckless disregard for constitutional mandates or risk the consequences, as these proposed guidelines also contravene the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.
As an advocate for democracy, the LDF will support any person or organization which seeks to broaden, not restrict, mass participation of Liberians in this country in the activities that impact us directly here, or matters concerning the wellbeing of our people at home. It is in this spirit that we urge those in ULAA’s hierarchy to do the right thing to avoid a bitter, divisive legal fight.
In the Supreme Interest of the Union and the Liberian People at Home and Abroad, I remain
Signed: Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor
Chairman, Liberian Democratic Future (LDF)
Cc: Dr. J. D. Zeakedoe Korto, President, ULAA
M. Tatu-Sio Wotorson, Secretary General, ULAA
Willie Kim Kamara, Chairman, 1999 Elections Commission, ULAA
T. Gbuo-Mle Bedell, Presidential Candidate
Mydea Reeves-Karpeh, Presidential Candidate
Arthur K. Watson, Presidential Candidate
Tarty Teh, Chairman, Board, ULAA – 1975-76
Find below Chairman Majors’ Response to my letter:
June 20, 1999
Dear Mr. Nyanseor:
I thank you for your letter of June 7, 1999 and the issues you commented on. I completely and carefully read your letter with great disappointment. I hope the following paragraphs will shed some light on the issues raised and clarify the misrepresentations to wit:
1. As a founding member and former president of ULAA, it is fair to assume that you would have made every reasonable effort to gather and ascertain all of the facts before making some of the conclusions that you have so confidently expressed in your in your letter to me. However, I am afraid; your allegations are baseless and warrant this reply.
2. Let us begin with your first statement (I suggest that you get your letter in order to properly follow along with my reply). “While the Board’s decision may be honorable, the decision taken on May 20, 1999 is unconstitutional (instituting an electoral delegate system). “Your claim is very far from the truth. Please let me refer you to the constitutionality of our actions and the issue. Additionally, for your information, the revised ULAA Constitution was ratified during the ’97 General Conference in Philadelphia, PA and you were not in attendance. Your chapter (Georgia) was represented and participated in the ratification process.
This version of the constitution was based on the Restructuring Plan of the Union and reflected some revolutionized changes. One of those important changes was that ULAA was no longer an organization of individuals, but rather one of organizations. This is the constitution under which ULAA now operates. Your sources were either not at the conference, or were there, but not paying attention to the deliberations.
3. Now to the issue of constitutionality. Article #48-e states very clearly: “the Board shall enact all necessary and proper laws, rules, regulations, and procedures for the lawful execution of powers and authority vested by this constitution (Article #37) in the various institutions of the Union.”
Similarly, Article #37 clearly empowers the Board to act in this manner. It also states “member-organizations” (not just members) and friends of Liberia (institutions) shall participate in deliberations, “but voting rights on policies and decision making issues… shall be reserved only for “official delegates of member-organizations of the Union accredited to the Assembly.” It further states that “numerical strength of accredited delegates shall be determined by the National Board of Directors, in a fair manner.”
Again, the Constitution has assigned specific duties and functions to the Board because the Board is the representative body of the member-organizations. These are the functions that the Board has carried out, nothing more, and nothing less. Where is the contradiction? Where is the unconstitutional act? Perhaps you may consider revisiting the Constitution on this issue. I am also hoping that we are both referring to the some sacred document.
4. In your paragraph referring to the Ghanaian proverb, etc., you implied that people who speak out are considered troublemakers. You did not indicate the issues that they speak out about or the half-truths and misinformation that they sometimes deliberately write or talk about. People who write and/ or speak the truth will be unfairly categorized as troublemakers.
During of the days of my public life, I have advocated for the freedom of expression and the tolerance for differences of opinion, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and beliefs, etc. I have always welcomed opposing views because they can help in distinguishing between fact and fantasy, hypocrisy, arrogance, propaganda and misrepresentations.
Forgive me, but I think that either you misread the applicable articles or the wrong constitution. I would like to assume that you are deliberately attempting to manipulate the facts in compliance with your modus operandi of attempt to disrupt, undermine and discredit the present leadership of the Union. This process is something you have unsuccessfully carried out since 1996. I hope that I am wrong, because you could still be an honorable person and will not attempt such cowardly acts of factual distortion.
5. Your assertions that “As a matter of fact, the framers of the Constitution of ULAA intended for such matters to be handled by the General Assembly.” Again, I am disappointed by such a statement coming from you who always claim to be politically correct and matured. Anyone can make such a determination about any portion of the Constitution. However, do you expect any reasonable person to accept what is not written over what is written? Or should we accept it because you said it? I don’t think so.
When I took the oath of office as Chairman of the Board on September 13, 1997, I swore to uphold, defend and protect this Constitution. If the framers wanted it to reflect what you have said, they would have written it, as they did in other cases such as the payment of dues, officers and other constitutional issues. They wrote in a manner to make interpretation simple and easy.
6. You may raise the issue of Article-contradiction (#37 & 38). Similar issues have been raised and will be raised again and again. Some feel that some of the articles of the Constitution are weak, ambiguous or simply irrelevant. However, there is a proper way to address it, and I am sure you are familiar with the process.
7. I am sorry to say that your research was quite incomplete and poorly carried out. Many principals of the Union (past and present) could have provided much credible information than you seem to have received. Simply put, you sought information from people who were just as misinformed as you are.
8. On the issue of contradiction, I am sure you will agree (I am assuming that you are familiar with other constitutions of nations and organizations) that the supreme body has the authority to delegate powers to other branches of the same entity. As a founding member and former president, you are fully aware of the dynamics of our conferences.
For example, most issues brought forward by resolutions or other means, are not always discussed in details. They are either assigned to committees or other sub-bodies for the appropriate action.
Since the Board is the second highest authoritative body and because it is composed of elected representatives (not appointed) of its member-chapters, it makes good since to have such a body expand the perimeters of discussions on any relevant issues to be able to make sound and reasonable decisions. Most democratic bodies follow this process. The General Assembly gave the Board a clear mandate—clean up the election process, which has plagued ULAA since its inception. This is something you and many others could not do. If this was something you desired and attempted many, many years ago, as you are claiming, you should be a strong advocate for it today.
9. You made mention of some dates and certain documents. Again, your statements are not accurate. I have no idea where you are getting these and events from. Perhaps you might consider sharing the ‘real names’ of your ULAA sources so that we can check them out also.
10. You quoted Article #43 correctly; however, this was not an amendment to the Constitution. These reform policies and election rules were done under Article #47-e and #47-f. Please present substantiated evidence to support your claim that the Board’s action was an amendment to the constitution. Because it was not an amendment, it was not a violation of Article #88, as you are trying very hard to imply. In my opinion, this is another one of your attempts at witch-hunting.
The Board has acted within the allowed perimeters of our Constitution throughout this election preparatory process. Chapters were notified to attend several meetings last year to address these and other issues. The responsible board members attended, others did not have the interest or the time to be in attendance. Two separate committees were appointed to review the old rules and develop solutions and recommendations. This decision was taken in a fair, just and constitutionally supported manner.
11. Your statement-“to insist on conducting the scheduled elections with the new guidelines will only cause trouble” is also troubling. Perhaps you are aware of those who intend to disrupt the ’99 elections as similarly attempted by you and some of your collaborators in Georgia in 1996.
12. Perhaps the troublemakers want to use the same “Bus-loads-of-voters” methods used by you and some others in the past to unfairly and unconstitutionally assume the leadership of ULAA.
13. Perhaps the same troublemakers, who denied the any affiliation with ULAA a few years ago, now see ULAA as a viable entity and a vehicle for the pursuit of their own agenda.
14. Perhaps these troublemakers who believe that confusion and violence are the only means, by which they can be seen or heard, intend to disrupt a well-planned forum.
15. Perhaps the same group of troublemakers, who tried fruitlessly to destroy ULAA in Philadelphia in 1994, have regrouped and want to repeat history.
Let me assure you, and those who intend to cause trouble that the new ULAA embraces all peace loving and true democratic Liberians. Our efforts are designed to protect our membership and their rights to elect new leaders. Our efforts are intended to ensure an atmosphere of matured dialogue, comradely, unity, equality, and fairness.
Membership into the Union was extended (under the Restructuring Plan) beyond community organizations. This was done to embrace other legitimate and non-political Liberian organizations across this nation. The doors of ULAA are still open and there is a very big sign of WELCOME! I must inform you that certain things have definitely changed; -
1) The days of alcoholic beverages at conferences are gone,
2) The days of “BUS-LOAD-VOTERS-POLITICS” are gone,
3) The days of threats, intimidations, and ethnic insensitivity are over.
This is a new dawn, where all players shall play by the same rules. This is the day of equality of all member-organizations. This is the day of constitutional and representative democracy.
Finally, in reference to your passages in your last two paragraphs, about the Board proving you wrong, by producing records to prove our case, again, you have misjudged the caliber of people in the Board. Have you forgotten that in this system of jurisprudence (U.S.A.), the accused is innocent until proven guilty? You see, you are the accuser. The burden of proof rests with you. You are the one who has to prove that our actions violated the Constitution of ULAA. It is you, who have to prove that you are right.
Liberians today, are better educated, more exposed than the ones you boldly manipulated many, many years ago. We have a new wave of “thinking Liberians.” I am not surprised by reactions to the new rules; however, I did not expect one from someone like you, who is a founding member and former president of ULAA, as well a past victim of distorted facts and half-truths.
In addition, since you did not qualify the “trouble” that will come during the ensuing conference, I have no choice but to assume the worst kind. Thanks for the warning. I will immediately inform the Conference committee and the good people of Columbus, Ohio, that you have information about possible trouble during the up-coming conference. This will enable them to take appropriate action to safeguard our venue and deliberations.
Let me assure you that ULAA has changed and it is still changing. New ideas, matured minds and sacrificial manpower are needed to continue this process of progressive change. As a founding member and former president, you will always have a place and the opportunity to participate in ULAA. I sincerely suggest that you follow your conscience and join the ranks of dedicated, innovative and non-violent Liberians to constructively rebuild ULAA and our glorious land of Liberty.
Augustus E. Majors
Chairman of the Board
Cc. Dr. Joseph Korto
Mr. Michael Wotorson
Mr. Willie Kamara
Mr. Gbessie Kemah
Mr. Emmanuel Wettee
Board members of ULAA
Find below my response to Chairman Majors’ letter dated June 20, 1999:
July 20, 1999
Mr. Augustus E. Majors
Chairman, Board of Directors, ULAA
C/o P. O. Box 980
Boston, MA 02119
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I was elated when finally I got a response from you. It was dated June 20, 1999 and post marked July 14, 1999. I think it was about time that one of you (Korto/Majors) respond to my correspondences, since one of them was written September 18, 1996. Anyway, I am satisfied that this time I was successful in provoking a response from you.
Having read your response to my communication of June 7, 1999, in which I raised several concerns, I was not surprised regarding the manner in which you chose to reply to me. I gathered from the approach you selected that you were angry. The arrogance displayed in your choice of words suggests that. Your advisors should have advised you of the proper protocol that an individual in your position should use in responding to concerns raised by one of your member.
In view of the above, I want you to know that those who act with anger or frustration do so at a high risk of increasing their blood pressure which could lead to physical or academic paralysis. Furthermore, I found it hard to follow your line of reasoning. Instead of addressing the issues I raised in my communication, you resorted to issues unrelated to my letter. As a public servant, it would do well if you refrain from this approach in the future.
As a historical precedent, let me share with you the so-called disagreement that occurred between President William V. S. Tubman and Representative Didwho Twe. Twe’s crime was his desire to become President of Liberia. Whereas, Tubman saw it differently! Based on Tubman’s analysis, Rep. Twe posed a serious threat to his re-election. Rather than Tubman debating Rep. Twe on issues that affected the nation, he chose to call Twe all sorts of names. For example, he referred to Twe as a liar, a traitor, ungrateful and a disgrace to his tribe. Tubman avoided the issues. Eventually, Rep. Twe was charged with treason, a charge that was fabricated because Tubman did not want Twe to take part in the presidential election.
I noticed some similarity regarding your approach to that of Tubman. Again, I am not surprised! Because “a monkey can never wash his hands clean”. And you being a product of the TWP, your orientation will always be that of the TWP. Therefore, your reaction was something that I expected. You repeated TWP’s history; and your reference to former ULAA leaders as beer drinkers, is understandably a natural response. You seem not to understand or appreciate the dynamics of history. If you did, you wouldn’t have made such sweeping statement about those who made it possible for you to occupy your current position. It was through our farsightedness that you are where you find yourself, today.
Mr. Chairman you remind me of a child who claims “as a matter of fact” that his mother did not give birth to him but rather he was born into this world all by himself. The conclusion one derived from this type of reasoning can be equated to the TWP/NPP authoritarian practices. Moreover, individuals who engage in compromising the democratic tradition of amending rules and laws approved by, with and for the people belong in the distance past. No wonder, you and your associates are considered “compassionate loyalists” of Mr. Taylor. The similarity is too obvious!
Well Mr. Chairman, since you refused to see the merit in the issues I raised in my correspondence, you leave those who the Board’s recent decision intent to exclude with one choice, and that is, to take the matter to another level; because you failed to realize the seriousness of the matter.
I want you to know that my position remains the same. I know that I am right. Any reasonable person would have realized by now that since it was the constitution that established the ground rules for the “election process”, by which votes are conducted, and that to change the process would require an amendment to the constitution. But from the way it appears, you are afraid that the candidate you intend to support might not win if the legal process of voting is followed. Therefore, few of you met in Washington, D. C., at an ad hoc meeting and you decided to circumvent the process. Perhaps, your main reason is the “bus load” you alluded to. However, I know of no other way for a candidate to transport his/her supporters to the General Conference where he/she intends to be elected, especially, when the election will be held in the state he/she does not reside.
Finally Mr. Chairman, if this matter is not resolved by the 31st of July 1999, we will take the appropriate action to insure proper and legal resolution.
In the Ultimate Interest of the Liberian People at Home and Abroad, I remain
Signed: Siahyonkron Nyanseor
Founding Member & Former President, ULAA
In order not to be accused of being bias, let me cite Professor K-Moses Nagbe’s evaluation in this matter. Professor Nagbe who is an outsider, identified where ULAA’s current problem derived (i.e., the New Jersey Restructuring Plan). Find below the observation by him, which can be found in his book titled, My Compatriot Your Compatriot: Surveying Forces and Voices That Inspired the Union of Liberian Association in the Americas:
ULAA was birthed by the eastern states, proclaiming proudly:
We, the citizens and descendents of the Republic of Liberia, residing in the Americas, cognizant of the need to promote unity amongst us, provide for our common good, and advocate for political, social, and economic development in our country, do hereby ordain and establish this Constitution for the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, our umbrella organization.
ULAA’s organizational structure was less cumbersome in the
early days. There were three layers of governance (Emphasis
The annual general conference
The board of directors, and
Administration or executive
As time passed, the organizational structure swelled in such a way that positions instead of institutional mission apparently became immensely important. Of course this was not possibly the intension. However, any institution which gradually bulges at the seams becomes soon or late a battlefield for personalities and not for clear and effective operation. As such, if the route of implementing actions become cumbersome, the institution is likely to feed on frustration and discontentment.
The 1996 constitution is amended in 2009 has a long-stretched
list of layers of governance (Emphasis is mine):
The general assembly
The board of directors
The national administration
The national leadership council
The semi-autonomous commissions
The national elections commission
The national auditing commission
The national social services council, and
The national standing committees
This list may break loosely into two tiers, one, policy-related and the other, action-related. This dichotomy is not really hard fixed, since operationally even some of the policy-related layer (e.g. national administration) may be action-related, taking instruction from the general assembly or the board of directors.
It may be argued that this expanded list was necessary, owing first to the growth of chapter membership and, second, owing to the issues which ULAA inevitably dealt with. But that does not obviate the fact that the expansion came with the unintended consequences of bitter rivalry that eclipsed the original intent of approaching national issues with one national mind and soul.
…The 2009 constitution amendments affecting board of directors and the national leadership council. Each provision appears the mirror image of the other.
While it may be clear on the surface that the board of directors has by far greater authority than the national leadership council, it cannot be doubted that on the premise of Chapter XVII, any member of the national leadership might stir some confusion reading the tacit authority to advise as being the direct authority to instruct on appointments, programs and projects, and mobilization and utilization of financial and material resources. Or who is to say that the president of ULAA who may wish to manipulate ULAA’s power dynamics couldn’t lean more on the national leadership council rather than on the board of directors. It may be an unconscionable move. But it is possible.
Howbeit, for the most part of ULAA’s early years, the organization somehow prioritized the idea of making national leaders in the home country restive, if they did not account for their policies and actions. That is to say, as long as those leaders seemed insensitive to the plight of the mass poor in Liberia, they had to be held accountable in whichever way. (Emphasis is mine) (pp. 27 –29)
The ascension to the leadership of our country by one of our own, Charles McArthur Taylor produced for the first time issues we had never experienced. The Korto/Majors twosome did everything within their power to support the Taylor Administration, while the vast majority of us were opposed to many of his policies. To which the late Tom Kamara observed in an article titled:“Harbingers of Truth & Reluctant Converts,” published in the March 19, 2001 edition of theperspective.org. It reads:
Testifying before the sub-committee, Ms. Mydea Reeves-Karpeh, president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, ULAA, called Taylor “a terrorist.” In an earlier meeting with Taylor’s delegation to ULAA, the organization indicted the government for gross human rights abuses, including the continuing barbarity of Taylor’s security forces. Ms. Karpeh denounced the “flamboyance and undemocratic” posture of Government officials and Taylor’s links to the RUF which the delegation flatly denied. Yet, despite the available evidence, ULAA advocated “active constructive engagement” with the regime, which in Liberian political language means passive cooperation with the powers that be, no matter how heinous they are. But one-year after this marriage of “active constructive engagement”, Ms. Karpeh now says:
“In spite of the unfavorable climate in Liberia, the long historic ties between the United States and Liberia demand that the United States lead the international community in addressing the need for ensuring democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Liberia. Mr. Taylor is no longer just a Liberian problem; he is now become a regional terrorist. The United States should therefore commit itself to assisting Liberia in respect of the following”. An admission coming too late!
However, ULAA finds itself in a difficult position. The political structures and value system now permeating Liberia came from those values learned and copied from ULAA itself. The most influential members of Taylor’s clique are all former officials of ULAA, including Taylor, who was Chairman of its Board of Directors. It was within ULAA that Taylor found the base of political opposition against all Liberian regimes; carrying coffins in the streets of America to symbolize death for any leader he disapproved. ULAA’s current Chairman of the Board, Augustus Majors, who said he has been accused of being a “Taylor apologist”, told a cheering Taylor delegation, few months ago, that they were not the only ones condemned for backing terror. “Some of our people want us to be the same we were (in) 1974 – always condemning, condemning and nothing else to offer.” A few months after, ULAA would condemn its former Chairman (now Liberian President Taylor) as a “terrorist” dangerous to West Africa. Again, an admission coming too late and why!
The proverbial snake is a good comparison to the way many of us – Liberians behaved. These snakes do not move in unison, as the result they allow each to fall prey to the hunter’s stick. It is the same with many of us– we do not address vexed problems with united front, always cutting corners. I truly believe that if we face our pregnant problems with honesty, we as a nation, would be able to find a lasting solution or solutions to some of our pressing problems. No individual, group, or, a single ethnic group will be able to bring division amongst us. However, our greatest obstacle to achieving this goal continues to be sidestepped by many people in our society, who for the sake of “What is in it for me syndrome,” engage in all sorts of DEDEEBY.
Part IV will continue to address the impact of the ongoing quarrel or ULAA’s Internet Soap Opera has on the organization, and the reasons it is having difficulty getting its “Groove Back” like Stella.
Stay tuned for Part IV!
Mr. Siahyonkron Nyanseor is publisher of both ThePerspective.org and ThePanAfricanAgenda.org, Internet web magazines. His research and writing interests fall largely within Africa, with particular emphasis on the history, economics, politics, sociology, ethics, and theology of people of African-origin living in Africa and its Diaspora. He is a poet, journalist, and cultural and political activist. He can be reached at: email@example.com