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ULAA's toothless bulldog – Part V

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor    Siahyonkron-Nyanseor1-130x150

 

  First, let me extend my sincere apologies to those who have been waiting for the conclusion to this series, which is Part V of “A Covenant Betrayed: Partisanship within ULAA and its Chapters, subtitled: ULAA’s toothless bulldog. In order for all readers to better understand the discussion, let me give some background.

I will begin with the exchanges between Mrs. Mydea Reeves-Karpeh, who was the National President of ULAA and the Chairman of the National Board of Directors, and Mr. Augustus E. Majors. This should permit you, the readers, to fully understand the source of ‘power struggle’ in our once civic organization.

This power struggle reminds me of a story told by former US Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, in a speech he delivered at the Democratic National Convention in Madison Square Garden, New York City. He said there was a farmer who had two cocks, which he had trained for a cockfight. As he was driving to the event, the cocks were fighting in the back of the truck. When the farmer reached his destination, he opened the back of the truck and found out that both cocks were dead. Upon  reflection he said, “Look how pitiful they look. They did not know that they were on the same side [team].”

This story of the two dead cocks mirrors my arguments; Liberians in the Diaspora and at home are having all the time about our beloved country. Whether you are from Sinoe, Bong, Montserrado or River Gee, we are all Liberians! This truth makes us emotional when discussing issues related to Liberia because we are very concerned about the future of our country. There is no choice to be made; we are “on the same side or team!” However, instead of engaging in spirited discussions about our ONE country and its ONE people, we behave rudely and abusively towards each other – using not so pleasant words on the Internet to express opinions because of our various views about the country we passionately care about.

 The greatest obstacle Liberians face is not knowing how to reconcile their differences due to the bitter souvenirs of experiences since the days of JJ Roberts, and the 14-year civil war. We have the bad habit of sidestepping these pregnant issues for the sake of “What’s in it for me” syndrome as a result of all sorts of ‘DEDEEBYS’ we are involved in.

As a case in point, check out former ULAA National President Karpeh’s communication to former National Chairman of the Board of Directors Majors, and his response published in Part IV of “A Covenant Betrayed: Partisanship within ULAA and its Chapters”, published in the July 7, 2012 edition of ThePanAfricanAgenda, and other on-line news magazines.

The former Chairman’s response did not address the issues President Karpeh raised in her memorandum regarding the many problems her administration faced that prevented her from executing her official duties and responsibilities. The Memorandum is clear on the following: Policy clarification regarding former President Korto’s “Constructive Engagement Policy; Internal Structure, Registry of Board Members, Internal Rules and Regulations, Issues of the Past Administration, Elections Laws, Financial Management Procedures, ULAA Development Corporation/Tax Exempt Status, Benevolent Policy, Grievance Policy and the Board’s Budget (“to submit their Budget to be included in the Union’s Budget”).” Fourteen months passed before Chairman Majors replied to President Karpeh’s communication. Karpeh’s Memorandum can be found in Part IV of this series. Find below excerpts of Chairman Majors’ reply:

During its quarterly meeting held in Silver Spring, Maryland on September 8, 2001, the Board of Directors deliberated and resolved several matters of the Union. I have been directed by the Board to submit these decisions to you for your information and immediate action.

STATUS OF YOUR ADMINISTRATION: Due to the fact that the two-year term of office of your administration expired on August 21, 2001, the Board opted not to extend the term until the General Conference and Elections scheduled for November 16-18, 2001 in Columbus, Ohio. This decision was also taken based on the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the Board and your Administration…

Chairman Mayors’ response to President Karpeh’s Memorandum is in total disregard for the mutual respect the ULAA Constitution requires from its leader. In the first place, the Board does not have the constitutional authority to dismiss an elected officer; much more in the person’s absence. There is a provision in the Constitution that outlined the process of removing an elected officer from office. In fact, the Board violated the Constitution by not adhering to that provision. Moreover, to state that This decision was also taken based on the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the Board and your Administration… is what Swenju Juah alluded to in her article entitled: “ULAA Board at Loggerheads.”

Juah wrote:

“The board’s calculated attempt to remove Karpeh as ULAA president speaks volumes about the ‘whims and caprices of internal and external forces against the best interest of the Union, and Liberia.”

The Chairman’s behavior regarding reminds me of the book: The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude, written by P. M. Forni. According to the author, “Disagreeable is Cold, antagonistic, or outright hostile, deep down the disagreeable are often just insecure. Their unpleasantness may not be a personal attack on you but rather an effort to maintain control” (p. 49).

The power struggle and infighting that ensued between Korto/Majors versus Karpeh had much to do with Korto/Majors’ attempts to use the Union to support the Taylor Administration’s policies through the “Constructive Engagement” policy espoused by the Korto Administration.

This behavior is typical of Liberians wanting favors from the political party in power in Liberia. Regarding constructive engagement, this does not surprise me of the Korto administration’s policy. Liberians have the tendency of copying ‘everything’ coming out of America and applying it to the Liberian reality, which in most cases does not work. Constructive Engagement was the name given to the policy of the Reagan Administration regarding its dealing with the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1980s. Based on an article found on Focus Website:

…Constructive engagement, as an approach to security and strategy concerns, first emerged as an American response to the problem of its relationship with South Africa between the 1970s and 1985 (Coker, 1986). It was adopted, as a foreign policy, in a world in which the Cold War and the nuclear deterrent shaped the security debate and policy initiatives. The nuclear balance of power was essentially controlled by the two super-powers.

This policy was a way of dealing with the contentious debate over sanctions and the isolation of South Africa demanded by the liberal constituency in the West at this time. It provided an alternative and mediating strategy that recognised the illegitimacy of the apartheid regime, and so acknowledged and responded to the concerns of the domestic lobby in the USA, but avoided isolating South Africa. Rather the objective was to use the continuing relationship, and the inclusion of South Africa in the western international community, to influence its internal policies.

Constructive engagement has been extensively criticised (Coker, op. cit.: Skinner, 1986) and is generally regarded as having failed to deliver the anticipated benefits (http://focusweb.org/node/1254).

Korto’s Constructive Engagement Policy

President Karpeh did not buy into President Kortu’s ‘Constructive Engagement’ because the policy was neutralizing ULAA, while Taylor and his supporters were having ‘field day’ with the Liberian people. Chairman Majors described President Karpeh’s reluctance as not acceptable behavior, therefore considered it as … the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the Board and your Administration…” As the result, President Karpeh got no support and cooperation from the Chairman and the Board.

My question is, while couldn’t the Korto Administration create its own policy based on the Liberian experience; instead of copying something because it sounds good? Constructive Engagement as policy is a good approach provided both parties that are engaged in this arrangement or discussion benefit in one way or the other. In the Korto’s Constructive Engagement policy, only the Taylor Administration benefitted. I salute President Karpeh for taking the position of not having ULAA to serve as the public relations organization of the Taylor administration in the Diaspora. I believe President Karpeh’s insistence on doing the right thing, kept political partisanship out of ULAA. Her stance is somewhat similar to the statement by the late Albert Porte several years ago. It reads:

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented (taken from: “The Porte-Tubman Combat,” The LIBERIAN ORBIT, Minneapolis, June 12, 2001).

 The Taylor administration had several former ULAA members and officials in its government; some of whom were Nyudueh Monorkomana, Blamo Nelson, Jucontee T. Woewiyu, Tambakai A. Jangaba, Thomas Bodio Collins, Wellington Tehniwehti Toe, Joe B. Tate, Jr., and others. Through them, Taylor ‘tried hard’ to neutralize the Union as I stated earlier. Taylor did not succeed by using the Union to promote his government’s policies in the Diaspora.

The denigration of the Union started during the Taylor Administration.  There were continued conflicts during the leaderships of these chairmen: Patrick Roques (1990-1994); Mathu H. Gibson (1994-1996), and Augustus E. Majors (1997-2002).  The power struggle between the Board and the Administration reached its zenith during their tenures. One may ask why was it so? The answer is these Union leaders were caught practicing the same thing they accused the administrations of the True Whig Party (TWP) and National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) of doing. They too were caught doing the same because Taylor was one of their own.

In fact, a September 15, 2001 article published in the New York City-based Liberian magazine, Palava Hut, written by Swenju Juah, referenced ULAA as an ‘“incubator of Atillas.”’ In that article, Liberians were warned by the writer that their organization was being used as a “breeding ground for future tyrannies in Liberia.”

The Hut article also said “…After Mrs. Mydea Reeves Karpeh, president of ULAA eloquently testified against the NPP-led Government of Liberia at a special session, ‘Confronting Liberia,’ before the United States Congressional Subcommittee on Africa March 14, 2001, ULAA Board Chair Augustus E. Major allegedly said Karpeh would ‘never be able to go to Liberia again’ for having called President Charles MacArthur Taylor a ‘subregional terrorist.’”

Moreover, the conflict got worse during Chairman Majors’ tenure. From here on, every illegal and unconstitutional practice that ULAA fought against in Liberia, which served as its hallmark (honor, democracy, respect for human, civil and constitutional rights of the Liberian people) were all set aside for Korto’s “Constructive Engagement Policy.” The organization became a Public Relations organization in the Diaspora for subsequent Liberian Governments. Its major activities consisted of planning town hall meetings for the Government to promote its policies and at the end, ULAA officials took pictures with visiting government officials, and had the photos disseminated on the Internet. This practice became contagious in 2008, and beyond.

 The Restructure Plan

ULAA’s July 1996 “Restructuring Plan” serves as the point of departure from the “Original Intent” of the founders and framers of ULAA’s 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 that the Board of Directors approved the “Restructuring Plan.” See the Liberian Democratic Future’s Commentary, entitled: “ULAA Abuses Her Own Constitution,” published in the 1996 Edition of theperspective.org. This information can be found in Part III of this series.

 How the conflict got started!

This is how the bad blood that split the Union got started. In an article on September 13, 2008 entitled: “Let’s Play Hard Ball,” the author writes:

Reliable sources say the ULAA Board will convene in two weeks to determine the condition and procedures for replacing the Weetee [Wettee] administration thereby paving the way to set up an Interim ULAA administration, in keeping with Article 73 of the ULAA Constitution. Massaley, a no nonsense Leader will move quickly to exert his authority in all ULAA chapters and will shake up things especially in places like Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Jersey where those chapters’ administrations were under Kesselly’s control.

A Massaley aide in Connecticut speaking on condition of anonymity said the Massaley led Interim Administration will move to recognize and establish chapters in places like Ohio,  Massachusetts and South Jersey if need be, but assured that all states that are currently part of ULAA will remain an integral part of ULAA. The aide said the Massaley administration will however, first work to reinforce chapters which have become infested with the ‘Kesselly bug,’ but it will be up to those chapter leaders to determine whether they would like to come onboard or become irrelevant in the new reordering of ULAA. The aide said the Massaley Interim Administration would bring in at least 10 additional new states in ULAA.

The aide said they would opt for two years of interim leadership to enable Massaley to transform the landscape of ULAA, build its capacity and make it relevant in responding to the new challenges facing Liberians in the Americas and realigning the new priorities back home. The aide said the Massaley Interim Administration would ensure that all ULAA chapters will become vibrant and functional in order for them to contribute actively and financially to the programs of the Union. According to the aide, the Massaley Interim Administration would target at least 5,000 Liberians to contribute $5.00 per pay period towards Liberia’s reconstruction.

‘We will show to Kesselly, Kunney and Wettee that ULAA is a voluntary organization where you will need to persuade people to contribute to, and to let them know that ULAA is not a government that can put gun over the heads of people to shoot them into submission’, the aide said. When we begin to build clinics and bridges, support schools and communities in Sinoe, Rivergee and other counties, the Liberian government and the Liberian people will know the power of ULAA.

…The aide said Massaley would nominate to the Board some of the finest, brightest and best minds to serve at different levels of the interim administration, and the induction of the interim leadership will be held in Rhode Island in early December that would attract a minimum of 500 Liberians from all states across the United States.

Change is on the Way in ULAA (http://groups.yahoo.com/group).

The Election Guidelines that the Elections Commission was authorized to use in electing the new corps of officers was the October 4, 2008 Guidelines. Article II, Section 1 of the Election Laws reads: “The National Elections Commission shall be comprised of 13 members. . . .”. Thereafter, the Massaley and Wilson Presidential and Vice-Presidential team received a communication stating there will be only 6-member Elections Commissioners – on the grounds that it does not have the constitutionally required 13 members. In response, Massaley and Wilson camp expressed serious concerns regarding the legitimacy of the 6-member Elections Commissioners instead of the required 13 Commissioners. This issue was not adequately resolved. Instead, certain principal candidates, including members of the Massaley-Wilson Team were excluded from the approved slate of candidates for the scheduled elections on the ground, and they missed the Commission’s filing deadlines.

Many individuals and groups from various quarters of the Liberian community intervened by appealing to the ULAA leadership to have this issue resolved amicably, but to no avail. Since the issue was not resolved satisfactorily, the organization split into two fractions.

It is About the Liberian People!

ULAA, our advocacy is ALL about the Liberian people, and not about our personal or the sole interests of our individual political parties! However, in recent time, both ULAA leaders on the National and local level have violated, and continue to violate the very covenant that the founders of Union established with the Liberian people at home and in the Diaspora.

Regardless of our political affiliation, it has been a cardinal policy of the Union to put the concerns of the Liberian people at home FIRST, since most of us  have opportunities available to us here in the Diaspora. The opposite has occurred. Today, ULAA has departed from its basic principles that called for advocating on behalf of the Liberian people at home. ULAA leaders on both the national and local levels have become too partisan in their advocacy. These leaders openly support the ruling Unity Party (UP), and therefore fail to speak against the ruling party’s abuse of power and violation of the Liberia Constitution; corruption and mortgaging of the country’s resources is the order of the day. In the past, the Union and its leaders did not let such situations escalate without letting those in authority know our position.

One example of proving blanket support to the ruling Unity Party took place within the Georgia Chapter when ‘so-so’ Unity Party members were acknowledged. The occasion was held on Thursday, March 29, 2012 at The International Christian Fellowship (ICF) church. I chose not to attend because the leadership (President & Board Chair, both Unity Party partisans) did not include opposition party members in their honoring program. The officials who participated and were honored are: H.E. Joseph N. Boakai, Vice President; Hon. Ciata Bishop, Executive Director, NIC; Hon. Miatta Beysolow, Minister of Commerce; Ambassador William V.S. Bull, Sr., Liberian Ambassador to the U.S.; Hon. Mary T. Broh, Acting Mayor; Hon. T. Nelson Williams, Managing Director, LPRC; Hon. Sam Stevquoah, VP Chief of Staff; Hon. Morie Nemah, VP Special Assistant; Hon. George Saah, Protocol/Media; Mr. Joe Mulbah, Business Associate; Mr. Sidikie Konneh, Trade Officer; Tambaa Woundaa, VP Security Agent; Daniel Forleh, VP Personal Attendant; Mr. Cherif Abdallah, Liberian Chamber of Commerce; Hon. Sando Wayne, Public Policy Advisor; and Mr. Henrique Caine.

At this occasion, the Liberian Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA) listed as their Special Guests the following personalities: Hon. Gbehzongah Findley, President Pro-Tempo, Liberian Senate (UP), Hon. Binyah C. Kesselly, II, Commissioner/CEO, Liberia Maritime Authority (UP), and Hon. Christopher Z.  Neyor, Outgoing President, NOCL (UP).

Furthermore, at LAMA’s 27 Inaugural Ceremony, held on Saturday, March 31, 2012, Distinguished Service Awards were presented to: Hon. Mary T. Broh, Acting Mayor, Hon. Binyah C. Kesselly, II, Commissioner/CEO, Liberia Maritime Authority, and Hon. Christopher Z. Neyor, Outgoing President, National Oil Company of Liberia. These individuals were all Unity Party members. LAMA could have awarded Distinguished Service Awards to other party leaders in absinthial who also made contributions to our country.

Unlike LAMA’s partisan’s approach in 1987 when I was National President of ULAA, the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), which at the time was the ruling party, wrote my home chapter, Georgia – to have a meeting with its members to update the chapter of their government’s policies. Since I had a larger facility, the chapter president asked for the community to use my facility to host the occasion. As a lifetime Liberian People’s Party (LPP) partisan, I agreed without reservation. In the past, we always granted audience to both the ruling and opposition party leaders visiting the United States.

Truly speaking, individuals and advocacy groups in the Diaspora have taken over – rightly so, what use to be the exclusive domain of ULAA (a watchdog organization on behalf of the Liberian people). Nowadays, ULAA is the new public relations organization for the Liberian government in the Diaspora. The government skillfully uses ULAA and its chapters to promote its policies without critically evaluating these policies. It appears that ULAA has taken over some of the functions of the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC.

I now wonder if the new ULAA leaders and its members really understand the role the organization is expected to play regarding the Liberian government and the Liberian people at home. When ULAA was created in the 70s, its main role was to serve as an advocacy organization – a watchdog, to make sure that the Liberian government’s policies are in the ultimate interest of the Liberian people, and NOT a selected FEW.

As one observer puts it, since the Unity Party came to power, “The leaders of ULAA, both national and on the chapters’ level cannot wait to have their pictures taken with visiting Liberian Government officials in order to have them uploaded on the Internet.”

In view of the above, the only group that benefits from this relationship is the Liberian government. The Unity Party government’s strategy is to make ULAA irrelevant in the Diaspora and at home.

Most of my writings are based on research, and not opinion. However, when I started this series, I came under attack by two individuals who at one time used to refer to me as Comrade Nyanseor or ‘Bo’ when we were advocating for “Rights and Rice” on behalf of the Liberian People at home. One attacked my advocacy as “infantile”, while the other referred to me as a “pseudo” historian. Since they have quickly forgotten the recent past and now choose to disagree with my views.

The first individual that attacked me after Part I of “A Covenant Betrayed, Partisanship within ULAA and its Chapters” was published is still stuck in Wilfred D. Best’s Student Companion book. This book was very popular in the 1960s with my generation. It contents “single words for phrases and sentences; figurative expression and their explanations, proverbs, choice quotations for special occasions, small words for big ones,” etc.

When I was in the 8th grade at Zion Academy Junior High School on Benson Street, Monrovia, I made a big fool of myself when I tried to impress a girl I had interest in; she was in the 5th grade. Having consulted my Student Companion, I met the young lady during recess. I said to her, “You look very nice, I won’t mine osculating you.” Not understanding the meaning of the word, she responded, “You got some nerve to use that bad, bad word on me. Please don’t bring your friskiness to me!” And when I told her what osculating means = KISSING, she said “Why didn’t you say so in the first place and you had to use the big word on me?”

That’s the treatment one receives when one tries too hard to impress others with our education.

At an early age I was referred to as an assistant Griot by my cousin ‘Sergeant Moore’, who was the Griot of our community – the unpaved side of Clay Street, Monrovia.

To the second individual that attacked me after Part I of this series was written I can only say, individuals that write history do so because the telling and writing of stories is their interest or passion. Men and  women such as: Abayomi Karngar (History of Liberia – 1926); Nathaniel R. Richardson (Liberia Past and Present – 1959); Ernest Jerome Yancy (The Republic of Liberia – 1961); A. Doris Banks Henries (Heroes and Heroines of Liberia – 1962); C. Abayomi Cassell (Liberia: The History of the First African Republic – 1970); Joseph Saye Guannu (Liberian History Before 1857: A Reference for Elementary Pupils – 1977); G.E. Saigbe Boley (Liberia: The Rise and Fall of the First Republic – 1983), etc., that contributed to the writing of Liberian history did not earn degrees in the discipline of history.

I am not to be excluded! I am the author of the History of ULAA, History of the Pennsylvania Chapter of ULAA, History of the Georgia Chapter of ULAA, Brief History of UCEP, and most recently, the author of the History of Tejajlu Social Club.

Many of us from the ULAA of yester-years feel that today’s ULAA, with its new breed of leaders and membership, simply ignore our contributions. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, et al who are considered the founding fathers of this great experiment called America are men who were far from being perfect, yet today, they are being quoted as the source of the American democracy; a system of government that is second to none.

But today, the leadership of ULAA refuses to learn from those of us that founded this organization. Instead, they invite keynote speakers and installing officers to their inaugural and other programs who regurgitate old tales about how Liberia was the first independent Negro state in the world; one of the founders of the United Nations; the only African country to support the creation of the State of Israel, etc. This is ancient history, which has no relevance to the present realities of Liberia.

Read the keynote address I delivered in Columbus, Ohio at the 28th Annual General Conference of ULAA (held August 9–10, 2002). The title of the address was: “Conversation with Our Benefactors Regarding the Original Intent of the Founders of ULAA.” I mentioned in this speech how those who now benefit from our blood, sweat and tears are behaving towards us.

In 2012, two founding members and former chairs of the National Board of ULAA died, i.e., Mr. Tarty Teh and Dr. Robert J. Boakai. At their memorial service and funeral, no representative of ULAA National Administration or its local chapters were represented these events. They shamelessly treat former leaders in this ‘don’t care fashion’ yet they attend weddings, birthday parties, and also attend the funerals of so-called new breed members and, still expect ULAA Eminent Persons (organization of former National Presidents and former National Board Chairs) to participate at all of their activities in the Diaspora and endorse their non-advocacy policy pertaining to the Liberian people at home. We might be old, but not bunch of fools. We paid our dues!

The U. S. President Barack Obama should be these so-called new breed of ULAA leaders’ role model. He acknowledges the contributions made by the previous generation. He often says his presidency could not have been possible if civil rights foot soldiers had not matched in order to change the American system that was based solely on race.

This brings me to what I refer to as the ‘Liberian historical dementia.’ We tend to insult anyone who attempts to mention what happened to our people and country in the past, to avoid recycling danger. One such example is the exchange between Chief Gonpu E. A. Roger, D. Chewlae Jah and Dr. Lawrence Zumo on the Liberian listserv.

In response to a posting dated March 4, 2013, Chief Gonpu E. A. Roger wrote:

Mr. Jah,

You can call Mary Broh and her job at City Hall all the names you want, but that she is indeed a serious reformer of our time is indisputable.

To which Dr. Zumo provided this response:

When you let exogenous substance take over reasoning power and you feel untouchable, surely your behavior will get in the way of good work and blessings – it’s only a matter time. Mary Broh coming from America, where ample examples of such [behavior] should have known better. But again she was riding on Cloud 9 “girlie power” until Rep. Solomon George and others said Enough!!

Those of us that questioned Ms. Broh’s approach in carrying out her duties are aware of some of the great works she has done for Liberian people in such a short time. However, she didn’t have to perform them with such ‘don’t care’ and reckless fashion because she’s the best friend of the President.

We, who engage in the Liberian Discourse here in the Diaspora and at home, are all on the same side. This means that we want the best for Liberia. But due to blind loyalty, sectionalism, county affiliation and to get piece of the spoils of wasted government resources which actually belong to the Liberian people, we are consumed by greed and selfishness, and no love of country to get our share. CORRUPTION has nothing to do with illiteracy as some socio-political commentators want us to believe. Most corrupt practices in Liberia are committed by the so-called educated people.

The Issue of ‘Dual Nationality’

In 2008, I wrote an article regarding the debate on ‘dual nationality’, entitled: “Weighing in on the Dual Nationality’, discussed in ULAA’s Constitution.’’ In that article, I differed with my brother and colleague, Eminent Bai M. Gbala, the 6th ULAA President (1979-1980), and those who argued that the framers were wrong for inserting the provision of “Dual Nationality” in ULAA’s Constitution, since Liberia does not recognize dual citizenship. This discussion received compelling arguments in support and against; individuals like: Nat Galarea Gbessagee, Nyenpan Tarpehdoe, Sam Togba Slewion, Anthony Varfilay Kesselly, James A. Kollie, Jr., J. Nagbe Sloh, Benjamin Arthurson, Abraham Gasuma Massaley, Arthur B. Dennis, etc., all contributed to the discussion. In summary, this whole issue had to do with some elements within the Union who intended to exclude a particular candidate from seeking the position of the President of ULAA. My article can be found in the January 17, 2008 Edition at www.theperspective.org.

However, permit me to briefly state other points I argued at the time.

Article III – Membership

Section 1: Membership of the Union shall be reserved and restricted to Liberians and their local organizations in the areas included in the territorial jurisdiction of the Union. The non-Liberian spouse of those eligible for membership may be recognized as full members provided a written declaration of intent is filed with the appropriate officers of the Union. (As Amended by the General Conference of the Union – July 4-5, 1975)

CHAPTER X – Election of Officers of the Union

Article 58: The National Administrative Officers of the Union shall meet the specific qualifications and requirements of their offices as contained in the National Elections Law of the Union. In general, all candidates for the national offices of the Union shall be 25 years or older, maintain Liberian citizenship (by birth or naturalization or dual nationality); a high school graduate or above; legal resident of the USA or North and South American Countries, member in good standing with a Union member-organization, and demonstrated leadership in a Liberian organization.” (Drafted September 29, 1996 and Ratified July 8, 1997)

Article III, Section 1 – Membership states, “the non-Liberian spouse of those eligible for membership may be recognized as full members provided a written declaration of intent is filed with the appropriate officers of the Union.”

This article made the right assumption that some of spouses may not be Liberians; so, a written declaration of intent was required from them. Therefore, adding ‘dual nationality’ in Article 58 was unnecessary. I expressed, then, that I considered some of these amendments unnecessary changes and revisions to ULAA’s constitutions.

The April 21, 1974 Covenant was established in accordance with the Laws of the host country, not Liberia. Therefore, the replacement of “A person of Liberian origin, children and spouse” or “Liberians and their local organizations… and their non-Liberian spouse” circumvented the original intent of the framers of the constitution. The inclusion of “Dual Nationality” changed the original intent and purpose of forming this august organization. In fact, I do not understand what is meant by “Dual Nationality” when the April 21, 1974 Convention had already established a “non-Liberian spouse” as a member.

The most important factor that came into play during the formation of ULAA was, as citizens of Liberia, we came together to form this organization for the sole purpose of associating with one another and to promote the welfare of the Liberian people and persons of Liberian origin and their spouses living in the Diaspora. Since some of our members were already married to Americans and have had children through these unions, we could not deny our spouses and children from becoming members of ULAA on the grounds that our country of origin/birth does not recognize “Dual Citizenship! This idea was never a part of the discussion. Our concern was how to support one another here in the Diaspora and at the same time make valuable contributions in Liberia. The direct result of this concern was the formation of the Liberian Students Association (LSA) in 1972. It is from the 1972 Constitution of LSA that succeeding constitutions of ULAA evolved. In the 1972 Constitution, the requirement for membership was: “A person of Liberian origin, offspring (children) and spouse,” period.

As a point of fact, I was a naturalized American citizen when I became President of ULAA; so were Arthur Watson, Emmanuel S. Wettee and others. For example, the wife of a Liberian, Moses Johnson served as Administrative Vice President during the Thomas Bodio Collins’ Administration (1980-1982). Mrs. Barbara Johnson is an African American; her participation was based on her marriage to Moses Johnson.

Based on reliable sources at the time, the Dual Nationality issue was raised by key members of ULAA’s chapters in the North who intended to confuse and misinterpret the Constitution in order to disqualify a certain Liberian-American lady from Chicago who was seeking the office of the presidency of ULAA. However, their argument to exclude her was unsuccessful. Now here we are today campaigning for Dual Citizenship.

The Current Dual Citizenship Campaign

The campaign to reinstate Liberian citizenship on behalf of Liberians who lost their Liberian citizenship on the basis of naturalizing as citizens of another country is commendable. The birth rights argument is applaudable! Nevertheless, while the birth rights argument makes sense, I personally feel that the advocacy for those who lost their Liberian citizenships to have them regained will succeed. These are my two reasons why: 1) I feel the current law is unfair to Liberians who naturalized as citizens of another country to lose their Liberian citizenship, while the Liberian government can do nothing about those individuals whose countries recognize Dual Citizenship, and are naturalized Liberian citizens. 2) Presently, there are several persons in the Unity Party government who are citizens of another country; particularly, the United States, and some these individuals are holding top positions in the government.

On the basis of my two points, I support ULAA and those organizations that are campaigning to overturn this unjust law. But here is where I differ with them. As a founding member, former National President, and now Acting Chair of ULAA Council of Eminent Persons (UCEP), Inc., I am very disappointed with this once august organization’s departure from the principles and objectives for which it was founded. These original principles and objectives are very plain and simple, they are:

1.     TO ESTABLISH a system of communication among Liberians in the Americas through unification and integration;

 

2.     TO STIMULATE and encourage scholarly endeavors among Liberians in both the Americas and Liberia;

 

3.     TO CREATE a framework for the examination and discussion of issues relating to the welfare of Liberia as well as for the presentation of views and opinions;

 

4.     TO PARTICIPATE actively in Pan-African and related affairs aimed at promoting the welfare of Africa and its people; and

 

5.     TO PROVIDE and/ or coordinate services to Liberians and their local organizations in the Americas as may be determined from time to time (ULAA’s Amended version of the July, 1982 Constitution).

While I support the Dual Citizenship campaign, it comes at a time when there are pregnant and pressing issues in Liberia that need the urgent attention of Diaspora organizations, especially ULAA. There is recent article written by the publisher of The Liberian Dialogue online. The title of the article is: “Latest Dual Citizenship drive proves there is hope for Diaspora Liberians.” The article was published on April 12, 2013 by Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh. He made the following observation provided below, which I support:

ULAA, however, has not done a good job in its advocacy of other equally important issues such as decentralization of the Liberian government, accountability and transparency in the Liberian government, corruption and nepotism in the current Liberian government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the reduction of term limits of Senators from 9 years, and Representatives from 7 years to lesser years; and has not pushed electoral reform and presidential appointments and manipulation of the National Elections Commission (NEC), and other issues the way it has aggressively pushed the dual citizenship issue.

Thank God, I am not the only one to be nominated for the TROUBLE MAKER award, for raising these VEXED issues!  I take courage and inspiration from my late mother Kpan Sarkpah Mardea Worhwinn (May her soul rest in perfect peace; her *‘Dinko’ has not changed). Elie Wiesel, the 1986 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize reminds us of such commitment. According to him:

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest…

I [will] never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented (December 11, 1986 Nobel Lecture).

Liberians at home who are ‘catching real hell’ each blessed day; majority of them go to bed hungry every night. These are the people ULAA and her associates should be spending most of their political capital on. These people are faced with high unemployment, poor environmental conditions, the lack of safe drinking water, poor sanitation, no sewer system, deplorable health services, the lack of electricity, bad roads; high crime rate, a corrupt legal system, and the abuse of power that goes unpunished. Corruption and nepotism have reached their highest level in our country’s history. During the past six years, corruptions’ twin sibling – RAMPANT CORRUPTION – has exceeded the era of the True Whig Party. See the recent publications on the Liberian Listserv: “Why Monrovia is Liberia” by Labeth Varh (March 14, 2013) and “Why Monrovia is Liberia So true!” by Roberta B. Williams (April 8, 2013).

As I was putting the finishing touches on the conclusion of this serious, I received the e-mail provided below from my niece in Monrovia.  This e-mail did something me that I can’t explain. The e-mail reads:

Sehday’s children’s mother, Rebecca, died on April 12 (Friday) in a tragic motor accident on the Bomi Highway while on her way back from market day. Her body was taken to Buchanan where burial will take place. Rebecca just got back from Nigeria sometime last year with the children after long time in exile due to the series of war. Very sad indeed!

With the deplorable road conditions that Liberians at home are facing day-in and day-out, for ULAA and these organizations to spend all of their political capital on Dual Citizenship does not make sense to the ordinary citizen in Liberia. Parents can barely afford to send their children to school, let alone buy uniforms.

In the President’s memoirs, This Child will be Great, our first lady president of Africa, who came to power promising to fix those things that were broken during both Doe’s and Taylor’s administrations, wrote:

He [Doe] speaks of love for a people, but a people who are feeling the brunt of a steady economic decline which has left them impoverished. Unemployment, spiraling cost of living, the lack of medical facilities, inadequately equipped schools, little means of transportation and a depleted national capital stock are common conditions which they face. Even their culture and traditional ways of life are being threatened by wanton environmental degradation.

Is this the same Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who is the President? What a difference six years can make. Doe might be turning in his grave, and Taylor in The Hague is saying, “I warned everybody, but no one wanted to listen to me. You didn’t know what I knew about Ellen, now you are seeing and experiencing it for yourselves; it was always only about herself, her son Robert, and her close friends and allies. I told you, you think I’m bad, try Ellen!”

Those of us who know the history of this this period can speak and write based on our experiences. Where Taylor failed in the 90s to have ULAA revive his failed ‘propaganda war’ in North America, Johnson-Sirleaf has succeeded with ‘flying collars’. Swenju Juah, the author of the article, “ULAA Board at Loggerheads,” quoted in its September 15, 2001 publication – the statement from the New York based Palava Hut magazine. It reads: “The board [ULAA] comprises elements on GOL’s payroll. By making public speeches against the ills of the Taylor regime, Mydea Reeves-Karpeh poses a serious threat to lifestyles of those who receive money from Monrovia.” Is this happening today? Based on ULAA’s inaction regarding the Unity government’s treatment our people at home, one could easily reach the conclusion that many of these leaders are on the government’s payroll.

Having reflected on Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s records, it is safe to say she has become the PRINCESS of ‘Machiavellian Politics’. She uses the Machiavelli approach cleverly, which is – the “end justifies the means.” In Ellen’s world, one should do “whatever it takes” to achieve their goals.

 Conclusion

On August 31, 1985, I delivered a paper at the National Board of Directors’ meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, entitled:  “A Brief Assessment of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, 1974–1985.” This paper can be found on The Perspective’s website. I said then that the agenda for the future of the Union calls for the organization to become more aggressive and program-oriented. I added that the Union in the last year or two has begun returning to those progressive principles for which it was established. It has further stretched its arms to reach out to all Liberians across the United States, which was a good sign for the health of our nation. Also, it provided such a feeling that will make every Liberian feel part of their polity.

I went as far to say, the Union cannot be satisfied with these present efforts or strides. The future agenda demands that the Union makes itself accessible and becomes more aggressive internally and externally. By internal, I meant, the Union must pursue more active and progressive-oriented policies that will bring further growth and development to the organization and its membership. The local chapters must organize in such a way that will enable them to engage in concrete programs that will attract and motivate the interest of their base.  Externally, the Union must broaden its relationship; cultivate ties and friendship with other Liberians, and non-Liberian organizations.

Above all else, the Union must continue to remain steadfast and even more vocal in its campaign for democracy and genuine social change in Liberia.  This indeed should be the organization’s road ahead and the way forward into the future as the Union goes through the mid 80’s and enters the early 90’s.  As we move forward, more pages will be added to its history.

If anyone should disagree with some of the issues raised in Part V, that person may do so with counter arguments, and not with the same old diatribe. What I have written I can defend. I pray that individuals or groups will not fall into the trap of what Corey Sandler and Janice Keefe (2008) referred to in their book entitled: Fails to Meet Expectations: Performance Review Strategies for Underperforming Employees. According them:

VERY FEW OF US enjoy making threats, and even fewer of us take pleasure in carrying them through. Yet this is the basis of the employer-employee or management-subordinate relationship: If you want to hold on to your job or your title, you’ll have to do what we ask of you and do it well.

 This statement can be applied to our relationship with our government. WE, the Citizens of Liberia, are the employer and those that run the government – the Executive, headed by the President; the Legislature, and the Judicial are our employees. The Constitution is the Contract to which they pledged to follow. Whenever any of our employees fail to meet the job’s expectations, that individual receives verbal or written warning; and if the violation continues, other corrective measures are taken, and if that person makes no improvement, he/she is either suspended or dismissed from the position.

What I have noticed regarding the Unit Party’s incompetence is — supporters of the government usually defend it with statements like: “Why can’t you people give the oldma chance self?” “The oldma is trying her best!” “Show me a government in which there is no corruption!” “If they put you there, you will do the same.” “You can’t blame her; it’s the people around her.” These are ALL poor excuses! In most organizations, it is the head that is blamed or takes the credit. Therefore, we should not apportion blames by making other people the fall guys. Instead of apportioning blames, her supporters should do some critical assessments of the government.

 Recommendations

I recommend that we do away with these behavioral patterns:

 

  • The belief that the President is above the law
  • The belief that the Executive Branch of government have supreme power, compared to the Legislative and Judicial branches
  • The practice that both the Legislative and the Judicial should support the President even when the President’s actions are in violation of the Constitution
  • The practice of amending portions of the Constitution in order to meet the interest of the President and her supporters
  • The practice of telling the President what she wants to hear and not what she needs to hear and know
  • The President or those who are considered ‘Big Shots’ should stop the practice of knowingly violating the laws without facing the consequences under the law, and
  • The Liberian people should stop condoning the practices of Corruption, Nepotism and the Abuse of Power; those who do so should be dealt with according to the letter of the law

Restore ULAA’s original logo (symbol) that was done away with during the reconstruction process. Today, most members of ULAA are not aware of the meanings of the current logo that looks like a bird in the Map of Liberia.

 

Find below the original logo with its interpretations:

 

Original Logo

  The RISING SUN – represents the dawn of a new day; it also indicates a new beginning for new ideas and progress.

The THREE HUTS – depict our African Heritage/Culture. They also represent the coming together of the Settlers, Indigenous and later, the Emigrants with the focus on Community and Unity.

The PALM TREES – represent Diversity and Wealth.

The TWO CUTLASSES – signified Bravery and Strength in defense of our Country and Beliefs.

The letters ULAA – is the acronym for the UNION OF LIBERIAN ASSOCIATIONS IN THE AMERICAS.

Also, websites are developed to provide the public with accurate information about a business or an organization. If a website is not complete, it should not be in the public domain. Websites carry information about a business or organization, i.e., history, programs, past and present leaders, special information that the public needs to know about the organization. Websites should not be the exclusive domain of the President and Board chair. The webmaster should check that information on the site is current, corrected in a timely manner.

Finally, the Gaye Sleh administration missed a great opportunity to have called for a National Reconciliation Conference in the Diaspora after his election to extend ‘olive branch’ (a symbol of peace and unity) to the Seton group that UCEP’s decision went against. Instead, his administration doesn’t care if the Seton group is referring to themselves as ULAA and using the official logo the organization. This makes one to wonder if this is a calculated strategy to make ULAA a ‘toothless bulldog’ in order for the Ellen administration and the opposition parties to not be responsive to the needs of the Liberian people. With pressure not coming from the Diaspora, both the ruling party and the opposition parties can always work out deals for their own benefits, leaving the Liberian as pawn in the arrangement.

But better late than never; for the sake of unity, it is about time the Gaye Sleh Administration call a Diaspora National Reconciliation Conference in the same way ULAA has done the under the all-inclusive leadership of Eminent Emmanuel S. Wettee to once and for all end the disunity in the Diaspora. Many of us will be glad to get on board to make sure unity is achieved. This is the “Jesus Way” to do as my Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. William BGK Harris of the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) usually says.  The Jesus’ Way of Peace is summed up in the passages below.

The Jesus’ Way of Peace

The Jesus’ way of peace is not like the predominant vision of the people of Israel as their leader David did in organizing:

An invincible army, defeats their enemies, and establishes an independent state. Jesus presented a different way of peace. He taught about the Kingdom of God, envisioning it as a transnational, trans-ethnic, global community of people who would live together in love, health and justice. He embodied this vision in his ministry, life and death.

Rather than defeating the powers of evil by violent means, Jesus set about to defeat the powers of evil by the power of good. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, promised justice for the poor, and proclaimed the possibility of human forgiveness of sins and reconciliation. The resurrection was God’s sign that Jesus’ way of peace was divinely sanctioned and triumphed over the way of violence which God decried from the days of Noah.

Jesus’ way of peace was not deliverance of people from the powers of evil by superior military force. Nor was it passive resignation and endurance of the powers of evil by spiritual communities that withdraw from the world. Jesus’ way was active engagement with the powers of evil in the world by persons and communities who knew and believed in the power of love, forgiveness, and mercy.

Following Jesus’ way of peace begins with repentance, a turning of the mind and heart away from modes of domination, revenge and violence. It is nurtured by acts of sacrificial love and resistance to wrong-doing. It is empowered and sustained by spiritual disciplines that focus attention on God and train the heart in forgiveness (http://gotell.org/pages/wayofpeace.html).

Let me end this series with the inspiring and profound words of my friend and brother Chewlae:

“We can all enjoy this small country called Liberia if we graduate from the pre-historic thinking of everything based on tribal linkage. Let us promote the idea of each individual being accountable for his/her own actions and taking personal responsibilities. We are so much inter-related and inter-connected that it makes no sense to perpetually be “tribalizing” our daily activities as a people. Whether we fight, fuss or [having] fun, let it be because we live together and not because we are from this tribe or that tribe; this religion or that religion.” (Dennis Chewlae Jah – 3/28/20013)

  Elder Siahyonkron Nyanseor is a poet, a Griot, journalist, cultural and political activist. He is a retired Mental Health/Developmental Disability Specialist and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. He is a founding member of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), Inc. and the organization’s 11th President and its historian. He is a founding member of ULAA’s Eminent Persons, and its Acting Chair/Secretary. Also, Mr. Nyanseor is co-founder and treasurer of the Liberian History, Education, and Development (LIHEDE), Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting indigenous Liberian history and the advancement of human and civil rights of Liberians. He is the publisher of the theperspective.org online webmagazine, and Senior Advisor to The Voice of Liberia newsmagazine. Mr. Nyanseor’s has thirty-one years of professional experience in the public and private sector providing administrative/management services in the areas of healthcare, human service delivery, and staff development. In 2012, he Co-authored Djogbachiachuwa: The Liberian Literature Anthology. Mr. Nyanseor has a BSW in Social Administration and MBA in Management. He can be contacted at: siah1947@gmail.com.

 

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