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|Tribute to the Conscience of Liberian Society - Archbishop Emeritus Michael Kpakal Francis||| Print ||
|Written by Cousin Nicholas, Contributing Writer|
|Wednesday, 05 June 2013 00:58|
I knew Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis since my secondary school days; Bishop was my entire family fabulous friend and customer from Nimba, Gbarnga and Logan Town days. When I was a young boy at Standard Stationery Stores I used to supply all his stationery and he used to tell dad, da your son will become an important person in the community…(I am sure he would have faint if he see exactly how I am suffering nowadays)….I always counted on his advice. When time comes for paying bills, Bishop was hard to spend, Bishop hates money as much he hates to spend it, he always demand a big discount by saying, “Coz, this is Church money and you suppose to charge us on the cost price”.
Indeed he was very careful when spending money, in fact he doesn’t like to keep money and for days he used to be without a cent in his pocket…On June 24, 2001, rogues ransacked the secretariat office on Ashmun St. and Bishop Francis was asked by reporters and police whether they stole any money, His Grace smiled and said, “I don’t have any money and they wasted their time”…I am also sure that he had no personal bank account at all neither he own a house. His Grace our beloved Bishop Lewis Jerome Zeigler will let us know if Bishop Francis left any financial assets behind…
On December 19, 1976 Bishop invited dad and me to attend his ordination as Bishop of Monrovia, the occasion touched my heart and I must admit since then, I barely missed a Sunday Mass and became closer to GOD the almighty.
During 1985 election I was the mediator between his Grace and Uncle Jackson F. Doe (JFD), many times he used to tell me that JFD life in danger and he must be careful.…both of them met at my house many times and he supported him wholeheartedly. Once I arranged a meeting at my house for both JFD and President Samuel K. Doe (SKD) and when his Grace heard of it he told me to tell JFD that SKD was fooling him. He laughed when I told him that both were fooling each other……Once Bishop, JFD and myself were having lunch at my house on By-Pass and he saw a photo for me and SKD dated September 1982 at the UN National Assembly in NY framed on my wall and said, you will soon replace this photo with JFD own…I know you the business people, you will use the same frame always….the three of us laughed…....Once he asked me in JFD presence, “Why are you involving in politics? I replied, we have to put an end to the current brutal government…he said, but you are part of this brutal government, every day you and the officials are together and too close to this government than any other, I said, time like this you expect me to be openly with JFD? He laughed and asked me what I expect JFD to do for me when he becomes president? JFD promised to appoint me Minister of Finance….Bishop laughed…..When 1985 election was rigged, I crossed carpet (Liberian way like all others who stayed in Liberia) to SKD camp and when Bishop read my articles and saw my staunch activities with President Doe and his people he asked me, “Coz, how you manage to penetrate with those people? I replied, SKD was fast improving and he was beating the drum and we were dancing for him………” Bishop laughed and advised me to be careful……
Few days before 1997 election, at 8:00 am Sunday Mass at our Lady of Lebanon Church, his Grace stood and spoke for almost 30 minutes fiercely condemning the fighting, the fighters, the killings, the stealing, the war lords, the candidates, their supporters and warned us voting for any of the war lords and supporters, Bishop also condemned the so called incoming transparent election when the arms and ammunition spread all around…..he concluded, don’t accept that rice and money to vote for them…...its polluted…..its dirty…..its filthy…….. its mucky…its rotten……at the end, he asked the Choir to make a selection and asked who knows his Anthem?
Without a pause I raised my hand, and said, “What a friend we have in Jesus”…he laughed and we all stood and sang it together…most of the parishioners were in front of me looked at me with smiles among them the staunch Christian and highly intellectual our beloved sister Clavanda Williams-Payman….though he was red faced and stern when he was condemning the election, the candidates, the time, the atmosphere, Etc…Etc…Etc… but when we were singing his favorite hymn he was relaxed and comfortable.….indeed I was worried for his life and precisely at 06:00 PM, I strolled from my 3rd St. residence to his 8th St. residence and within few minutes I was sitting with him at his living room and there were no person around to ask me who I came to see or to search me.… Bishop was relaxed, comfortable, watching news and right away I started, “Coz, how come a Bishop like you, everyday you are making degrotary remarks against the politicians, the war lords and they consider you an eminent foe, no guards around your house, you drive your own jeep at the time the country was boiling and today at 08:00 am Mass you made lot of criticism and derogtory remarks against the war lords and though I agree with you but you see the country is not safe and as you already said the arms and ammunition spread all around, don’t you worry for your life? We in Liberia need you, we cannot afford losing you and I jokingly concluded that we don’t have money to cover a state funeral for you….……His Grace was listening attentively to my sincere remarks, smiled and said, “Coz, any one stopped you when you entered my house? You saw any guard around my house?
You remember how President Kennedy was assassinated? The sky, the sea, the roads were secured and he was assassinated, you remember, how Presidents Anwar Sadat, Bashir Gemayel and William Tolbert were assassinated? With all their guards and precautions they were assassinated….Coz, when my time comes it comes, neither you nor any person can stop it, then I said, “Coz, God the almighty said, Be careful and depend on me…..He didn’t say go and condemn people holding arms and I will protect you”…Bishop smiled and said; God time the best…….before leaving, I tried hard to have his blessing to support my candidate and I failed for many reasons and he sent her a message with me.…..of course I didn’t relay it because it hurts me deeply and it was against my wishes……..I accepted a soft drink and when leaving he asked me what I will get if my candidate wins? I said, “By GOD Grace there will be no second round and I will be the first non-black Finance Minister”. He shook his head and said “You Will Not Get Anything From Them”.…When I begged that he augment the security around him…..he smiled, tapped my back and pointed his finger at Virgin Mary photo as his guard……then he presented me with a portrait of Virgin Mary.
I still keeping it because the fighters who stole and later burnt my house had no use for it… later his Grace walked me to the gate and advised me to keep distance from politics, its dirty, as a white man you will never ever get anything from Liberia politicians besides their animosity and because of ignorance they believe white man will buy Liberia…they only know you when out of office..……then I asked whether he was trying for a white man to own land and vote? He said, Coz, I am tired with this issue; Liberians need additional 200 years to accept it. I am tired talking for nothing…I concurred with Bishop because for the last 30 years I have been advocating for it to no avail…I reiterated it in most of my articles and speeches and at the university several times to no avail……..When he or she out of office they support me whole heartedly and added; we must amend the constitution and look at you coz, who know you in Lebanon? Something must be done….when behind their desks he or she would say, “Coz, it is untimely….you see our people not ready yet and all kind of B.S…..”so so promises.... while walking back to my house, I remembered that since boyhood, I heard the same from Dad, Hykal, Hage, Abi Jaoudi, Khalifa, Saad, Solomon among others……I thought all of them were wrong and I was right……Indeed I admit, they are absolutely knowledge and wise people and I am categorically ignorance……and stupid to believe them…I repent, I apologize and I regret. I regret…..I regret. You right BISHOP…..GOD BLESS YOU and sorry for not listening for your sincere advise.
Once in 1995, Bishop Francis stopped at my house on 3rd. St. and the minister of Defense then General Sandee Ware was having lunch with me, both of them embrace each other and spoke lengthily about the situation, both agreed we were approaching war and disorder, when he left Minister Ware who was a staunch Muslim told me, “Coz, if we have FIVE God fearing men like Bishop Francis, the war ended ever since….”. The following day I relayed it to Bishop who also praised Minister Ware as an able soldier, a God fearing man and he envied him for controlling the army in this critical period and little resources.
Prior to 1997 election I met his Grace almost weekly and I must admit that I failed to have his blessing to support my candidate and when the result was announced, he saw me worried and weary, he told me, “Coz, Da man (Charles Taylor) will never complete his term and more wars ahead of us in Liberia”. I went home and prayed……….On May 28, 3023, at 11:00 am a close friend of mine from boyhood gave me a lift from 10th St., he extended his sympathy for Bishop loss and was surprised to see me without a vehicle and he asked me of that Cuttington University professor whether he is still in Jail, I told him he was released by his son a member of the House of Representative also a Dr., a Rev. Hon. Isaac Roland Jr. and since then neither of them responding for court order… He dropped me on Camp Johnson Road and advised me to see that Lebanese man to talk for me…he has contact with the entire first family….I told him I have my pride and it is a shame for a man in my integrity and talent to ask someone for help..I concluded, “Coz, GOD time the best, nothing last forever, all of them met me here and will leave me here.” He agreed with me and said, I can count on him for any help anytime.
On Sept. 10, 2001, the country was boiling and the front page of the Inquirer news paper captioned, “The whole of Liberia is corrupt, remarks by Bishop Francis at a symposium for Catholic School teachers in Monrovia.” I was worried for his life, I called and begged him to take it easy………The following day his Grace was called by Government authorities and certainly he fiercely defended his remarks. In the evening I stopped at his house and he explained to me how he sternly challenged them as well. Again I reminded his Grace that the country was boiling and arms and ammunition were spread all around…he smiled and reiterated, Coz, when GOD on your side, talk the truth, speak the truth, act and fight for the truth…….. The whole night I didn’t sleep and was worried for bishop life because that time we were ruled by the gun….no justice at all… Many people blood were not dried yet…even myself was imprisoned many times for my relationship with the opposition….(in fact nowadays and to my greatest disappointment and dismay, few of those who intimidated and molested me and many others are occupying top positions in this government)….the following day Monrovia Guardian newspaper highlighted it on the front page…….GOVERNMENT QUESTIONS BISHOP FRANCIS’ RATIONALE and in the afternoon the 9/11 New York horrible attack…covered all news………….I called for his Grace advise and he reiterated to me, “Cousin, you remember what I told you many times, see these innocent people died while at work, you see some of them left their homes for work and didn’t return, some left to bring food for their children and didn’t return, I told you that when a person time comes no one can stop it………..” Let all of us add them in our prayers, Bishop concluded. On October 26, 2001 before leaving for Lebanon to attend my beloved daughter wedding I passed at his house to invite him to bless my daughter wedding, he thanked me and assured me he will mention her in his prayers….during my stay in Lebanon Bishop called me twice a week.
On January 15, 2002, I returned to Monrovia and at the airport I was asked many extraneous and irrational questions, my diplomatic passport was seized and was asked to report to NSA….The following day I reported to NSA and again I was asked many immaterial and irrelevant questions, among them as why I stopped at President Sirleaf house in Abidjan on my way to Lebanon on October 26, 2011 to invite her to attend my daughter’s wedding in Lebanon and that I was spying for her and that I was condemning Taylor government at all my meetings with diplomats and at business venues both in Liberia and abroad and I was against Charles Taylor government (all their charges were enormously and absolutely accurate and it was the first time in Liberia history NSA agent didn’t contrive or engineer any charges…). I was kept for many hours till I called Bishop Francis who came for my release………Once during the investigation at NSA one of their ignorant guys who was a rebel CO (in 2010 I was told he was vanished same as he vanished many others…GOD TIME the best) all the way from Bhutto to Monrovia said, “You see we are going to release you on a condition that you will be our man to report to us information on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her supporters and I will be compensated”…certainly I looked at him with hatred, dismay and disgust and said, my man, I will never ever be someone man and people have been my men before, I am disqualified for this wicked job……I don’t need such mucky money ya…the best thing you do is to deport me, I am a professor by profession and I can find a decent job any place in the world, you may offer this superior position to those 3rd grade foreigners who already on your payroll, I concluded…he looked at me with his rebel, smoky, hazy eyes and said, we been told that you get big mouth……..… from 1997 to 2003, I was collected several times, Bishop, General Ware and Victor Haikal and many others rescued me. Once Bishop came for my release and on our way back Bishop told me since birth this is the worst government he interacted with and certainly I agreed with him……Bishop was in sympathy with the way I was treated and the constraints I was facing…..Now its worst with me…Once I was having launch with him at his house, I jokingly told Bishop that I am travelling for Lebanon because my people petitioned me for senator, he laughed and said, where in Gbarnga? Coz, who know you in Lebanon?
In November 2002, when the media announced that Bishop Francis and Dr. Amos Sawyer were accused by a legislature they were behind the Carter Massacre and was categorically denied by both of them, I contacted Bishop and offered to write against such diabolical accusation, Bishop stopped me from writing by saying, “Coz, don’t give those boys any credence..”.. At the end Bishop described those allegations as, misleading, diabolical and mischievous…….
In late 2002, Bishop was happy when he saw me renovating my burnt building on By-Pass, he stopped and asked me, “Coz, who is financing you?”, I replied, Virgin Mary, Mr. Walwitz the general manager of Cemenco, Mr. Eli Hykal and Mr. Kassem Fawaz and I will ever be grateful to them, he told me he will show gratitude when he meets any of them. Then Bishop reminded me when he saw me after April 6, 1996 looting war when all my assets were burnt and looted and it was the first time in my life without a house, money, goods, equipment, a vehicle, clothing even food Etc…Etc…,he said, GOD tests the believer, by GOD Grace I will get everything double and just keep the faith…(Indeed I got them more than double but 2003 looting war was the jackpot and once again all were gone again)... Then I took the opportunity to ask him to talk to Ministry of Finance and National Bank of Liberia officials to pay some of my arrears, he sternly refused because he heard that they were charging 50% for any payment…I concurred with him by adding and kissing their feet as well…its true from 1993 to 2005 (Few demanded it before we were allowed to sign for the check, few collected it and didn’t pay us…but now they and their children are suffering) that was the prevailing rate for any payment from Finance ministry, no head no tail, JOHN PALM OIL WASTE ON JOHN RICE and I always happy when I meet any of them suffering nowadays because all their fraudulent and corrupt money vanished…(Please read my Tribute at the Inquirer February 13, 2013 P-3) ….I also disregard when I see any of them because they left scandalous records behind them, in fact at times a foreign business man used to bless the Thursday payment list and many business people used to crawl to him for blessing (Of course not me)……Once in 2004, I asked Brother Willis Knukles to talk for me, he told me that he was asked to pay in advance USD5,000.00 for his allotment as chairman of the board….……so so rogues and only GOD the almighty was listening to our grievance………
Few month ago I went to the airport at 03:00 am to pick up a friend but he missed the flight when a big man was in charge of paying vendors between 1993-2005 now an ailing man who used to bluff us and demand huge amount of commission for any payment asked me for a lift, of course I returned empty and refused to give him a lift. I didn’t even give him a look and in fact I am still happy that he is sick because many of my colleagues whom he bluffed and deceived passed away due to his greediness and selfishness even I was hospitalized twice due to his greediness and self-interest..…GOD watching all of us and in JESUS name he would shortly be in the past tense because the other day I saw his daughter and she told me dad is sick, of course I was happy….in 2011, a colleague of mine in Lebanon asked me whether this bastard is still alive? He was happy to know that he is seriously sick and me toooooooo also happy……few months ago I hopped a taxi for a diplomatic reception and saw one of those rogues disembarking from 2013 new jeep attired with Pierre garden outfit and acting like a lamb duck, certainly I passed by him and I told a foreign diplomat, you see that guy, he was so and so and so…then the diplomat asked me whether he is working nowadays, no need to work, he stole millions of dollars, I replied..…….last year, I was also happy to see one of them at Charif pharmacy waning and cannot afford buying medicine because all his stealing money gone, he looked at me and said, “Coz, I am dying, I told him, “You will smell your own dead body in Jesus name.” Certainly I neglected him…...” GOD is on our side…they are dropping one by one……..Names and figures are available if requested…
During 2003 looting war. (Bishop used to enjoy me describing it looting war), I was living on the corner of Broad and Randall St. He and many other diplomats, friends, relatives, business men, GOL officials used to call me every ten minutes to find out;
Whether we were safe? Virgin Mary is protecting us I replied…Amen Bishop said…….
Who was in control at our area? So so rogues, armed robbers and smokers I replied ……..Bishop laughed…..
Whether the fighters were still exchanging shelling? They were busy looting, smoking and drinking I replied ……. Da all they looking for, Bishop said.
Whether I had enough food at home? All the fighters were my cousins and they share with me some of their looting foods I replied …..You lucky with such cousins, Bishop said with laughter………
His Grace used to enjoy my adjectives….by adding, “Coz, I am not worried because you know how to handle them.” For two days we lost contact and I called our mutual friend U.S. Ambassador William Blaney who told me that His Grace left for Washington DC to speed up the peace process. Amb. Blaney also offered me lodging and assistance that I graciously appreciated it as well. Few hours later my phone rang and it was his Grace calling me from USA that he met top US officials and there will be cease fire by mid night…I was happy for the news and that he was out of country because I was worried for his life because he always fiercely condemning the regime, the war lords, the fighters, the invaders, the politicians, the criminals, Etc…Etc….Etc…Etc… among others…..he used to call me several times a day to find out about the cease fire and the situation……once he called to find out about the situation, I replied, “Your Grace, all the fighters from all factions are negotiating with business men to sell their lootings and now they are meeting to share the positions in the new government”………….I ended up, John Palm Oil Waste On John Rice…….. THIS TOOOO LIBERIA. He laughed…..
In 2003, I wanted to attend the peace keeping talks in ACCRA but Bishop Francis stopped me and advised me to keep distance… because I will only get the people animosity. Indeed he was right….politics is dirty especially in the third world….
The brutal murder of our beloved 5 Catholic nuns in 1992 by NPFL rebels during the famous “Operation Octopus”, dejected and downhearted all of us especially Bishop’s heart and he considered it as a personal challenge, his heart was so burning and ablaze, a pain to make bishop to weep as profusely as he carried it with him to the great beyond. I believe it was the most agonizing/distressing/stressful/painful and unpleasant episode in Bishop’s Life, his curse and our curses as well to the perpetrators is tracking them even in their grave yards……Each time I enter Sacred Heart Church (At times twice a week), I cross my face when I look at our five sisters statute at the entrance because I knew them well and I remember Bishop Francis tears……..GOD BLESS.
There are some deaths that bring to families, people and nations different degree and magnitude of sorrow and loss but the loss of our Bishop a God fearing, experienced, tested and trained humanitarian is grievous and irreparable……in her inaugural speech in 2006, H. E. President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf described Bishop Francis as the conscience of Liberian society ……Indeed he was the conscience of Liberian society. …… We concur with President Sirleaf.
At the wake on May 31st. 2013 at 08:00 pm, I deposited a wreath and paid my last respect to his Grace.
Below are few of Bishop famous slogans;
One person can make a difference and every person should try. - JFK
Peace will remain elusive unless true justice flourishes in post war Liberia.
Have we given sufficient thought to how the “poorest of the poor” in our society might be given real assistance.
JPC is not a state foe……if the government has any friend, that friend should be JPC.
If we train our children to respect themselves and their fellow persons, we are bound to have the upcoming generations that will respect the fundamentals rights of all people they interact with.
The respect for fundamental human rights will only be a reality in our society if our children develop a culture of respect for these rights and responsibilities.
 In Lebanon last year I met a Bishop at many occasions and he invited me to his office, one day I was passing by his area and decided to pay my respect, at the gate I had to fill 2 pages and answered tens of questions as slow as my grand-father age and denomination..After 30 minutes I was ushered at a large living room where many other diplomats and VIP waiting to see his Grace….While waiting I recalled this incident.
 I remember I mentioned it to Bishop Karnley and both of us laughed.
 I reiterated it in many of my articles and speeches.
 I mentioned it to President Sirleaf as my own prediction on October 26, 2001 at 10:00 am, at her Abidjan residence when she was an opposition leader, then she asked how? I replied, I heard it from many foreign diplomats, clergy and Liberian people and its all of us wishes in Liberia because we are tired with that brutal government…..
 Fugitive Dr. Isaac Roland Sr. who stole all my furniture, clothing and car and he was freed from Jail and now he is still teaching at Cuttington college and no one want to listen to me…….. I also told him it’s the first time in Liberia history someone serving jail sentence for theft of property and was receiving his salary checks from Cuttington college periodically as he was on annual leave……Indeed fugitve Dr. Isaac Roland was in jail for 5 consecutive months and was receiving his salary checks from Cuttington college at the time students were denied exams because of arrears…I am sure if I were the defendant, I would have served life sentence with hard work…Only GOD the almighty would listen to you…..….THIS TOO LIBERIA.
 A City in Bong County, Liberia where the Bishop grew up and where I was born.