Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BONDING WITH QUIWONKPA: 25 Years Later, Ellen Faces Slain General’s Widow

- Rodney D. Sieh
Source: FrontPage Africa

Monrovia -

The last time Tarloh Quiwonkpa saw her late husband, Thomas, was some 26 years ago. He had just walked out of the family’s Silver Spring, Maryland home in America, along with an old friend, Harry Yuan. It was 1985, the year Samuel Doe officially turned in his military fatigues for a civilian line of clothing in his quest to make the transition from a military man to a democratically-elected head of state.

Hidden agenda behind niceties

It was Yuan, who suggested that Larmah Quiwonkpa (Thomas’s sister), Yormie, and Tarloh relocate to Minneapolis, Minn. and reside with Miss Joanne Toweh. But Tarloh would later come to the reality that the niceties and kind gestures were a prelude to something bigger, something tragic and what has now become one of the major events in Liberia’s history.

As a key member of the Samuel Doe-led People’s Redemption Council, Quiwonkpa was one of the popular of the bunch of new rulers, which enjoyed early support from a large number of indigenous Liberian tribes who had been excluded from power since the founding of the country in 1847 by freed American slaves. But as paranoia sunk in, Doe soon began to clear his circle of those deemed as possible threats. One of those happened to be Quiwonkpa. Doe promised a return to civilian rule, but the 1985 election that saw a narrow victory for Doe was widely condemned as fraudulent by international monitors. It was in the aftermath of those elections that Quiwonkpa, the former Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia who Doe had demoted and forced to flee the country, attempted to overthrow Doe's regime from neighboring Sierra Leone. The coup-attempt failed though and Quiwonkpa was killed. Doe’s anger turned on Quiwonkpa’s homeland and large scale crackdowns followed in Nimba County in the north of the country against the Gio and Mano tribes where the majority of the coup plotters came from. The mistreatment of the Gio and Mano tribes fueled ethnic tensions in Liberia, which had already been rising due to Doe's preferential treatment of his own group, the Krahn.

Prior to the Quiwonkpa-led invasion, Tarloh would tell FrontPageAfrica years later that the gesture of Yuan and others to she and her family was a prelude to the 1985 invasion.

“Harry Yuan used the fraudulent 1985 presidential election in which Samuel Doe was declared winner, and the incident in which Doe ordered the beating of Thomas’s mother to convince him that he should over throw the Doe regime,” Tarloh told FrontPageAfrica in a 2006 interview.

‘Will bring final closure’

Tarloh says it was after Yuan’s explanation to Thomas about the manner in which “Samuel Doe ordered his soldiers to beat Ma Mango” (Thomas’ mother), Thomas was convinced that it was necessary to remove Samuel Doe from power. “Yes, Thomas Quiwonkpa was independent and capable of making his own decisions, but let us remember that persuasion is a powerful tool, particularly when the persuasion is coming from a confidant and best friend. I was hesitant to let my husband leave our residence but Harry Yuan looked at me and said “Tarloh, I will be your eyes, your ears, and your nose and I will do exactly what you will like to see as though you were there in Sierra Leone.” Since the death of my husband in 1985, Harry Yuan has avoided me for 20 years. I need answers to these critical questions from Harry Yuan or anyone that was connected to this trip that led to my husband’s gruesome death. Answers to these questions will be helpful for his children understanding, and perhaps enable them to accept and deal with the circumstances surrounding their father’s death. Equally so, it will bring final closure of his death to me as well as the rest of the Quiwonkpa family.”

Over the years, Mrs. Quiwonkpa’s anger was clearly visible in her writings and rare interviews and interaction with FrontPageAfrica. The widow laid the blame on her husband’s long-time friend and one of the minds behind the ’85 quest to rid Liberia of Samuel Doe, Ellen Sirleaf, now President of Liberia.

Now decades later, it appears the late general’s widow is ready to make peace and reconcile with Sirleaf. This week, Sirleaf made sure to hit home the point in her first meeting in more than two decades with Mrs. Quiwonkpa, assuring the generals widow in a meeting at the Executive Mansion, that national reconciliation remains a priority item on her national development agenda.

According to Sirleaf, infrastructural development can be meaningful and sustainable if it is built on the foundation of freedom, peace, and unity.

Sirleaf says a series of violent events in Liberia’s recent past challenge all Liberians to forgive each other and work together in unity if the prevailing peace in the country must be sustained and national reconstruction must be accelerated. She said peace-building will remain the pillow of her Administration so that Liberians, foreign investors, and our foreign partners will continue to maintain confidence in the country and contribute their quotas to the reconstruction of the country.

The Liberian leader encouraged Mrs. Quiwonkpa, who is based in Minnesota, the United States, and other professional Liberians in the Diaspora to consider returning home to contribute their quotas towards national healing, economic empowerment, and infrastructural development.

Widow ‘Willing to campaign for Ellen’

Earlier, Mrs. Quiwonkpa, who is in the country for the first time since the death of her husband in November of 1985, thanked the Liberian leader for what she referred to as her “many humanitarian contributions to the Quiwonkpa family over the years,” especially since the death of the General.

Mrs. Quiwonkpa, who arrived in the country recently at the invitation of President Sirleaf, informed the Liberian Chief Executive that she has visited several areas of Monrovia and its environs, and intends to visit as many counties as possible before returning to the United States. She expressed satisfaction over what she called the marvelous infrastructural development projects the President has undertaken in a short period. Mrs. Quiwonkpa also welcomed the President’s decision to run for a second term, and expressed her willingness to return home during the 2011 elections to help mobilize votes for the President’s re-election.

Their husbands were close friends unfortunately torn apart by selfish advisers and political circumstances beyond their own understanding and control. Doe killed Quiwonkpa, and a revenge war killed Doe. They are both gone, but they left widows and children that need to put the past behind them and move on. Because the conflict between these two former friends eventually led Liberia into a protracted war, I believe national reconciliation should begin with the surviving families of Doe and Quiwonkpa. Knowing the details of the conflict between Tom and Sam, I do not believe their immediate families had any role in it. What happens between these families now will surely reverberate across the entire country. They started their war, and they must end it. I believe their followers will be happy to see them together. Your role as leader and mother of the country challenges you to try your utmost best to make this happen.

Reconciliation a boost for 2011

Ahead of the 2011 elections, Sirleaf’s reconcile with Quiwonkpa’s widow is expected to boost her reelection chances in vote-rich Nimba County.

It remains to be seen whether other efforts to reach out to other friends-turned-foes Thomas Woewiyu and Dr. Byron Tarr would be successful.

Relationship between the pair is said to be irreparable although there have been attempts in recent months to put the angst between the pair under the bridge. In 2007, Sirleaf sued the former NPFL second in command, claiming five million U.S. dollars for alleged damages to her character. Woewiyu, during the 2005 presidential elections campaign, published an open letter to Madam Sirleaf who was Standard Bearer of the Unity Party. The letter outlined what Mr. Woewiyu considered the role Madam Sirleaf allegedly played in destabilizing Liberia. Said Woewiyu: As I stated in my 2005 open letter to Madam Sirleaf, she played a very important role in the first version of the NPFL led by the late General Thomas Quiwonkpa during his failed coupe in 1985. I said, she asked me to see Quiwonkpa in order to give him my blessing for the mission which he was about to embark upon. I told her that I did not want to have anything to do with Quiwonkpa and such a mission. She sent him anyway. He asked Madam Sirleaf to apologize to the people of Liberia. Sirleaf’s lawsuit was later dropped after a meeting between the pair.

UP next: Tarr, Woewiyu? Not so easy

Despite the recent merger between the ruling Unity Party, the Liberian Action Party and the Liberian Unification Party(LUP), Sirleaf has struggled to receive the full blessings of Dr. Byron Tarr, one of her long-time friends who in recent years have been on opposites sides of the friendship line. Sirleaf and Dr. Tarr, according to senior government sources have met twice in recent years and the President has reportedly encouraged government ministries and agencies to seek Tarr’s advice and tap into his knowledge on economic issues. At least one ministry, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs has reportedly followed on the President’s directive.

Tarr, a macroeconomist specialized in public finance, has held three Cabinet positions in as many Liberian administrations and has co-author of two books. His writings have appeared in professional journals and as chapters in books. Dr. Tarr is an international consultant, specializing in political and economic governance.

Tah recently helped the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs draft the Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Capacity Building Project (LIMPAC) and his recommendations are now said to implement by the Ministry. But Tarr, now a member of opposition Liberty Party has not hidden his views on the merger of LAP with the ruling party. “My understanding of merger is the party ceases to exist, I am not active in politics nowadays, but I am not happy with the future of the party, it is not committed to the founding principles, fighting corruption, elitism, elite rule. Once elites rule, when anything happens to people that are not amongst the elites, nothing happens. This is not why we founded LAP to do. LAPP has failed miserably”, Tarr said in a 2009 FrontPageAfrica interview.

In 1988 Tarr published an article in which he said that as Founding Secretary General who had gone to jail after the 1985 failed Quiwonkpwa coup, he was the voice of LAP. “I said that on reflection that it is better that LAP did not win the 1985 election because it would have performed as badly as Doe or even worse than President Samuel K. Doe did. LAP was not ready to lead because it could not change things, this is evident by performance of people who left LAP and went to other political parties, they are today doing the worse things, so we were not prepared, we would have done worse, I can only regret and sincerely regret and it reminds me of a question two of my friends asked me at that time, one alive and one is dead. They asked me Winston Tubman and the late Emmanuel Wureh both prominent lawyers in our society. They invited me to a lunch and asked me. Do you know the people you are working with to take leadership, my answer to them was yes, I know them. But from what I have seen, I now regret my interactions with those people.”

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Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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