Staten Island, New York-
|David D. Kpormakpor|
Kpormakpor’s family members broke the news to FrontPageAfrica late Thursday night, said he had been ill for a long period of time. He died at his resident in Staten Island, the United States of America, Thursday.
The council of state consisted of a civilian chair, as well as members representing warring factions. Isaac Musa represented Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia, while Mohammed Sheriff represented ULIMO and Philip Banks represented the past civilian interim government. Also serving as a member was Dexter Tahyor.
A mourning family member told FrontPageAfrica late Thursday night that the late head of state was a very straight man. “He never liked cheating and he never took bribe.”
Following a year of political stalemate, the Kpomakpor council was succeeded by another council headed by Wilton Sankawulo and including factional heads themselves rather than representatives as in this version of collective presidency.
Sankawulo, who succeeded Kpormakpor died from congestive heart failure on February 21, 2009. He was 71 years old.
Kpormakpor, a former Supreme Court judge, a law school professor and an intellectual was one of Liberia’s well-respected statesmen. But during his last days and despite his illness, he was battling deportation and living on welfare.
In 2007, just short of his 72nd birthday, the former head of state underwent two surgeries to remove a tumor in his brain.
Like most Liberians, residing in America, Kpormakpor benefited from the annual reprieve granted Liberians in the U.S. on Temporary Protective Status(TPS).
The temporary immigration designation has been extended annually to those fleeing the war-ravaged country since 1990, offering a fallback option for those who could not obtain legal immigration status through work or marriage.
In recent years, Kpormakpor's health has been on the decline amid failing memory and has lost much of his cognitive functioning, family sources say. Although the former head of state had toyed with idea of return to Liberia, family members says he did not feel he would get the best treatment in Liberia as he required assistance from a full-time home health aid. Even if he could survive the long trip to Africa. In Liberia, there has been a push in the national legislature in recent years for benefits for former heads of state but not much has been done to assist those who once served as leaders.
The Staten Island Advance, the state newspaper where Kpormakpor lived before his death reported in July 2007 that when the U.S. government notified Kpormakpor of his changed immigration status this summer, they also cut off his Social Security benefits. Now, the First United Christian Church in Tompkinsville pays his bills. "He's not a charity case. We'll take care of him. He just wants an opportunity to stay in this country," said associate pastor Lloyd Land, who the paper said, had been helping Kpormakpor with his petition for a green card.
Kpormakpor originally applied for a green card in 1961, as a college student in California. He had the opportunity to study there because a missionary from Mississippi recognized him as a promising young man, and secured him a place at the prestigious College of West Africa in Monrovia.
"A bush boy" raised by Gola tribe parents who could neither read nor write, he finished third in his class and won scholarships to San Francisco State University and later to UCLA Law School. He returned home, became a professor of law, and was appointed to the Liberian Supreme Court by then president Samuel Doe. After Doe's assassination in 1989 and years of bloody civil war, a group of West African states, backed by the U.S., set up an interim government. Kpormakpor was appointed Interim President of Liberia between 1994-1995.
As Interim President, he had little power, but access to millions of government dollars. While many of his colleagues plundered, Kpormakpor said he kept his reputation as the only honest politician in Liberia. Others called him a fool.
"They said anyone who doesn't take money is an ass," Kpormakpor told the Advance in a 2007 interview at the Vanderbilt Nursing Home, where he was recovering after another stint in Richmond University Medical Center. "Well, when it's not in you, it's not in you," he added.
After Charles Taylor took over the government, he threw Kpormakpor in prison for two months. He then spent two years living on a military base guarded by African peacekeepers who broke into his home twice, stealing everything he owned.
Kpormakpor returned to the United States in 1997, broke and already in failing health. He has remained relatively unknown outside his native country and the borough's Little Liberia community. In 2005, he was introduced to Jason Price, an NYU graduate student who was volunteering with survivors of African civil wars. The chance meeting sparked the creation of a short documentary, "The Professor," which was screened at the Staten Island Film Festival in the summer of 2007.