Margibi County – Widening the chances for the comeback of the Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP), another former lieutenant of his has accepted a petition to contest the Liberian presidential elections in October.
Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper could not divorce himself from the NPP, but claimed to be clean – no stain or connection to Liberia’s years of civil atrocities which were significantly staged by his former buddy – Taylor.
Sen. Cooper brings to three the number of Taylor’s loyalists eyeing the presidential seat. Benoni Urey, now the head of the All Liberian Party, served as head of Maritime during Taylor’s regime.
Sen. Jewel Howard-Taylor, former first lady, is opting for the vice presidency under soccer legend George Weah in a tricky NPP-CDC Coalition.
Sen. Cooper who now stands as an independent candidate got elected to the Liberian Senate during the 2011 election on the ticket of the ruling Unity Party, after leaving the NPP in 2005.
He left the Unity Party in 2014 when the party failed to support his ambition to become the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate.
Divorcing Himself From NPP
The close associate of Charles Taylor claims to be free of blemish with no connection to the civil. When he was asked by our reporter whether he had any fear that his ties with the civil war would be a stain on his presidency, he answered: “No issue because Senator Oscar cooper has been a good person to the people of this country.
I don’t have bad record, son. If you follow me, I left NPP in 2005 -- of course I was one of the big supporters of UP. Two years ago I left Unity Party, I am an independent person."
Stained And Booked
Contrary to his claims of spotlessness, Cooper was one of several persons enlisted by the United Nations Security Council for travel ban. He is also one of several actors of the country’s war recommended by the now defunct Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to be banned from holding public office for 30 years.
A 2009 Global Witness Report titled ‘Taylor Made: The Pivotal Role of Liberia’s Forests and Flag of Convenience in Regional Conflict’ named Oscar Cooper and his brother Maurice Cooper as joint owners of Inland Logging Company (ILC).
The company’s logging activities go back to the early 1990s during the war, when they extracted and exported logs from ‘greater Liberia’; the parts of Liberia then occupied by Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
The ILC, according to the report, had a private militia in Sinoe County, which harassed and intimidated the locals regularly. The ILC managed the port of Greenville under the direct supervision of Oscar and Maurice, the report said.
A row between the company’s executives and locals developed at a citizens meeting in Greenville on 14th March 2001, resulted to a visit to the region by Liberia’s Vice President, Rtd. General Moses Blah, Attorney General, Cllr. Edington Varmah and Internal Affairs Minister Richard Flomo, on the orders of Charles Taylor, to deal with the rising tension.
The meeting had been called by locals to discuss the conduct of logging companies in the county and was attended by a senior local official, Superintendent Solomon Kun, and Presidential Media Advisor Milton Teahjay.
Several complaints were brought against logging companies (mainly the ILC) in the county, ranging from harassment and intimidation of peaceful citizens to wanton destruction of the forest.
A demonstration was planned for early April that year to present a formal list of complaints to the government through Superintendent Kun. On his return to Monrovia, Teahjay held a press conference and severely criticized the companies, following which President Taylor immediately dismissed him “for engaging in acts inimical to the security of the state”.
The demonstration was foiled and Solomon Kun was dismissed from his post as Superintendent. Following intimidation by Police, Teahjay attempted to leave the country a few days later but was denied exit by immigration officials at the border (Dulay crossing point) with Côte d’Ivoire. He subsequently escaped the country and into exile in the US.
The Global Witness also reported that in its maiden (and final) edition, The Journalist newspaper (17th April, 2001) detailed citizens’ complaints against the ILC.
The paper, reflected popular opinion, asserted that “the economic and political powers which logging companies seemingly wield in the country are reaching nerve-breaking proportions nowadays.”
The Ministry of Information closed the paper before its second issue, citing internal managerial squabble as the reason for its intervention.
Oscar Cooper is also said to be the brother of Liberian ‘Diplomat’ Gerald Cooper, who was declared persona non grata by the United Kingdom Foreign Office in 1990, ostensibly because he shipped a jeep with gun mountings to Liberia from the US, via Britain, in violation of the UN arms embargo on the country.
Despite being an independent candidate, the ambitious senator prefers being a lone fighter to joining forces with already well-grounded aspirants. He quickly dispelled rumors of him being picked as running mate to Urey who also left the NPP. “I am seating senator, how can I second to someone who has not tasted an election?
I was elected by the great people of Margibi County with over 36,000 votes, has Urey been elected, how can I go second to Urey? We might not have the same vision, so how can that be possible?” he said.
Conspiracy To Return To Base
A political commentator who asked for anonymity told FrontPageAfrica that recent political development which involving former and current NPP officials engaging the presidency from all sides shows that Charles Taylor’s recent order for all his supporters to “to return to their base, the NPP.
The NPP grew out of the NPFL. Return to your base – and everything will be alright.” was in the making long before it was announced.
According to the political commentator, Taylor is playing his cards from all angles – slimming the chances of non-NPP/NPFL members and at the same time widening their own odds in the election.
He also mentioned the Allan White’s VOA revelation, noting that “All these are carefully thought about pieces of plans being gradually and simultaneously executed.
For these people, from what I see, it doesn’t matter which one of them wins the presidency, what matters to them is they should have at least one of them in power with a significant number of them in the next government.
"It does not matter if they are NPP members or not, what matters is that they are all Taylor’s loyalists.”
Former President Taylor gave to order for his supporters to “return to base” in a telephone call from his prison cell in the U.K. on the occasion of his 69th birthday a fortnight ago.
The former President, who turned 69 two on January 31, assured his supporters that he never abandoned them despite being in prison.
The chairman emeritus of the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), Cyril Allen, a week ago, said he believes there’s nothing wrong with resuscitating Taylor’s regime.
“Well they should bring the Taylor regime back to power - there’s nothing wrong with that."
"It is part of the political process and the political history of Liberia."
"I don’t see anything wrong with that - the NPP is a political party united under a coalition if there is victory don’t you think the NPP should be part of the governing process of Liberia?”
Allen made the statement while speaking to the NPP’s collaboration with the CDC.
He described Senator Taylor as the best candidate who has the potential to bring votes to the CDC during the general and presidential elections in 2017.
Standing Tall As Senator
Senator Cooper is part of a legislative body that has failed to disclose their salaries and benefits despite several attempts by FrontPageAfrica through the Freedom of Information Act to do so.
However, he is record for calling on members of the Legislature to slash their salaries by half during the 2015-16 Fiscal Year in order to be able to pay staffers of the Legislature better salaries. None of his colleagues, however, harkened to his call.