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Liberia: History Not Judging Chuckie, Jenkins Scott & Others Kindly; Why Give Free Passes Now?

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Dear Readers,

For more than a century, history has been unkind to oppressors of free speech and so-called powerful men who in their prime, once had access to the ears of powerful rulers, dictators and presidents.


The Rise & Fall of Jenkins Scott

Jenkins K.Z. Scott, perhaps the most powerful justice minister of his generation during the days of Samuel Doe is still referenced by historians and Liberians for his no-nonsense display of arrogance that made him the favorite of Doe while cementing his place in the history books.

In the aftermath of the November 12, 1985 foiled Thomas Quiwonkpa invasion, Scott was the voice trumpeting charges against the likes of James Holder, president of the Chamber of Commerce; Robert Phillips, a businessman; Anthony Marquee, a former army major, and Harry Graves, Jr., son of the vice chairman of the opposition Liberia Action Party. Scott went as far as stating that the four had ″voluntarily confessed their involvement.″

When the Doe government accused Father James Hickey, an American priest, of engaging in the doctrine of liberation, on April 10, 1987, it marked a turning point for Doe’s relationship with the United States. There was no judicial process for Hickey who had been residing in Liberia for 20 years – and Scott was at the center of it all.

We certainly did not put words into Mr. Davis’ mouth, he expressed what he said all by himself. We are only reporting what he said and raising questions in the backdrop of Liberia’s recent history and the implications of such utterances, drawing similarities to the conditions that led Africa’s oldest republic to a brutal civil war that killed thousands.

Months later, in his testimony to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Father Hickey would give a good account of the Liberian justice system.

Paul Gifford, documenting Father Hickey’s ordeal in his book, “Christianity and Politics in Doe’s Liberia”, wrote: “He(Father Hickey) was never told what offence he had committed. His archbishop could not leave him alone after his arrest, in case he ‘disappeared’. Justice Minister Scott ‘seemingly found himself in the difficult position of putting the best legal face on what he knew was a precipitous arbitrary decision taken by Doe without any reference to constitutionality, law, international agreements and human rights. And finally, Scott descended to the ridiculous in trying to badger the Catholic Church into paying for the deportee’s air ticket. Jenkins Scott was also responsible for Liberia’s gaols, where conditions were truly appalling. Scott defended these. In 1989 there was a case of a defendant so affected with leprosy that he was not allowed to go to court; instead he was kept in an overcrowded gaols with all the other prisoners where he died. Many of these gaols were never charged with any offence.” 

As it was then, and it is now, the right to freedom of speech was guaranteed by the constitution, but in some instances, it was never honored in the First Republic, and it was not under Doe’s regime in power. “The security apparatus President Tubman erected continued to exist,” Gifford wrote.

Hickey was detained overnight and ordered to leave the country after the government declared him to be an undesirable alien,” apparently because of his political views. 

Although the section of the immigration law cited by the government in the case requires a conviction before deportation, Father Hickey was neither charged with a crime nor convicted. At the time, several Lebanese nationals, accused of customs fraud and other economic crimes, were summarily deported in 1987, also without the benefit of judicial review. 

Sadly, Mr. Scott spent his final days eating out of the garbage dump, ironically pleading with then President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, one of the victims of his arrogant displays, for help. It is still unclear whether he was conscious, during those final moments of his life – or the legacy he was leaving behind.

Mr. Scott often drew comparison to Mr. Joseph J. F. Chesson, known to many in his time of the Tolbert administration as Perry Mason, a popular fictional Los Angeles criminal-defense lawyer. Chesson told Tolbert that he had the security situation under control and his guest for OAU 1979 could walk freely in the streets of Monrovia. But on April 12, 1980, his security could not stop the coup and Chesson was later executed among the thirteen former government officials.

Over time, the list of strong men with access to power grew, synonymous with Liberia’s rugged history. Justice Ministers Chea Cheapoo, Oliver Bright and Wellington Campbell, who headed the National Security under Tubman. 

We owe no explanation to anyone but it is good at times to remind Liberia and Liberians of an ugly history that if not corrected, will continue to keep us in a recurring state of uncertainty with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Cheapo was asked to resign after the issue with judge Haper Bailey and Monah Stubblefield. Cheapo accused them of trying to bribe him. Doe sided with Bailey and Cheapo was asked to resign. Bright was dismissed because of April 14, 1979. Tolbert felt he was deceived by Oliver Bright because Bright and Defense minister Holder told him that they could control the crowd.

Under Taylor, the likes of  Joe Tate and Paul Mulbah and the list goes on. By the time Sirleaf came to office in January 2006, even she knew the boundaries and limitations, declaring that anyone wanting to serve in her government would have to pass her integrity, competency and honesty test. Her attempt to bring back Mulbah backfired.

The Noise Over Paul Mulbah

Key figures in the current ruling party and the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) voiced their opposition to the appointment of Mulbah, a former Police Director, as an advisor to Inspector General, Beatrice Munah Sieh-Brown, warning President Sirleaf that history would judge her harshly if she appoints the controversial former police chief. 

Mulbah was chastised for not have any good human rights record to serve in that position. 

Cllr. Aloysious Toe, head of the JPC at the time alarmed: “The JPC wants to warn President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that history would harshly judge her if she goes ahead to appoint Mr. Mulbah as Advisor to the Police Inspector General, because he [Mulbah] has no moral credentials to serve in this position.” 

Toe said the JPC was not necessarily against the President’s giving of a job to Mr. Mulbah; but not as an Advisor to the Police Inspector General “because during his tenure as Police Director, Mulbah’s administration was characterized by gross human rights abuses and violations without respect for the rule of law”. 

Like a fart in the wind, Mr. Mulbah vanished from the limelight, falling ill in his final days before succumbing to his death, leaving behind a legacy of public flogging of bus drivers by members of his Special Operation Division (Sod). Although Mulbah took the blame by disrobing one of his officers, and later apologized to the drivers and the people of Liberia for the undisciplined behavior of his officers, he never recovered from other incidents under his watch.

He had succeeded Tate, another one of Taylor’s stalwarts renowned for various human rights violations. 

Even Mr. Taylor’s own son, Chuckie, remembered as the mastermind of the infamous reign of terror during his father’s time, was the most feared men in the country as commander of the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), the president’s personal security force.

The tragic reality is that, if we continue to allow things to slide, continue to give those we consider our friends, loved ones or social media buddies, a free pass, Liberia will never progress to where it should be, but rather continue a regression to its ugly past – time and time again. The bigger question becomes, why is history being so mean and so unkind in continuing to shame those we consider the demons of yesteryears, while willingly giving free passes to reincarnated variations and self-interpretations of the evil, characterizing so-called strong men of yesterday? 


The Rise & Fall of Alison

The signs of the times have been glaring for Liberia. 

Gray D. Allison, was another powerful one. As Doe’s powerful and influential minister  of national defense, Allison was both unstoppable, perhaps only by Doe; and at times unbearable by the rest of Liberia.

His end came in July 1989 in the aftermath of what Doe claimed was an assassination attempt on the presidency.

The once revered Alison would later be relegated to only a shadow of himself on national television, demoralized and brought down to earth.

Things were so bad for Alison, during that ordeal that his trial became a spectacle as many of those he once wreaked havoc upon, saw him arrested and charged on national television in shame and disgrace. 

To top it all up, a police inspector, Joe Lesolee, told the court martial hearing,  that Mr. Alison’s wife, Watta, persuaded him to help her make a human sacrifice to further her husband’s career.

Inspector Lesolee told the court that he killed Patrolman J. Melvin Pyne on orders of former Defense Minister Gray D. Allison and with help from his wife, Watta. Pyne’s body was found with his heart ripped out on a railway track near Monrovia.

The Los Angeles Times, reported: “Lesolee said Watta Allison proposed they make a sacrifice. When he suggested a sheep, she replied: “A sheep? Lesolee, my man, I thought you were a man. What we want with sheep?”

She said they needed human blood. Lesolee said he and Watta Allison recruited officer Pyne and got him drunk. Lesolee then hit him with an iron bar. A nurse slit Pyne’s throat and drained the blood into a bucket, Lesolee said.

At the time, no one knew whether the revelation from Lesolee bore any semblance of truth – and many are still unsure, even today, whether the patrolman was coerced into making up the story as part of Doe’s ploy to finally part ways with Alison.

The Wahala Over Nominee, ‘Zoey Zoe’

Over the past 24 hours, social media has taken keen interest in our cover story of Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.

Some have resorted to raining insults, threats and innuendos while questioning why we decided to delve into the  derogatory and inflammatory statements made via a Facebook Live video of Mr. Tarplah Z. Davis, President George Manneh Weah’s Deputy Minister of Defense for Operations.

The reason is simple. Mr. Davis, who goes by the Facebook name Zoely Zoe threatened to “kill” would-be protestors of the ‘Weah Step Down Campaign’ and critics of the President. “The symbol of everything that I have worked for personally is in Liberia. And I told people, anybody tries my property, I will kill them. I have said it and will continue to say it openly,” he said.

For the record, FPA has categorically stated that it does not support any undemocratic removal of President Weah and has in fact, called on all to allow the President to end his term, just as his predecessors did, since Liberia began its bourgeoning democratic sojourn. What we do support, is protest of any kind of dissatisfaction, whether it is students over teachers’ pay, or civil servants over the government’s failure to pay salaries.

In the live video session, Davis promised to defend the government of President Weah, his family and others with plans intended to thwart or go against the Liberian Constitution.

We certainly did not put words into Mr. Davis’ mouth, he expressed what he said all by himself. We are only reporting what he said and raising questions in the backdrop of Liberia’s recent history and the implications of such utterances, drawing similarities to the conditions that led Africa’s oldest republic to a brutal civil war that killed thousands.

Mr. Davis said he will never ever sit in America while people are thinking about covertly overthrowing the Government of Liberia and thinking about looting the resources of Liberia. “When they carry out their wicked plan, I will not sit in this America and witness my country in chaos. I will defend my properties, I will defend my government and people, I will defend my family and do everything possible to ensure that those people who have their devilish intention of trying to subvert the Constitution, their plans are reverted and the Constitution will take over. I will never even accept any undemocratic removal of President George Manneh Weah. If it causes me to risk my life, I will do so.” 

Mr. Davis, who previously served in the US army, according to what we have gathered, has an “Other Than Honorable Discharge”, meaning he was discharged from the military for something he may have did.

Valid Scrutiny Demands Valid Answers

In the army, there are three types of discharges: Honorable- when an enlisted officer’s term expires and the officer choose not to re-enlist or when the officer retires.

Dishonorable – when an officer is kicked out of the army for disciplinary reasons.

Other the Honorable – when an officer is kicked out of the army for disciplinary reasons but the chain of command feel that you should be able to draw your benefits.

One US military veteran explained to FPA that “The difference between the two is left with the commander’s discretion. In other words, if the officer was a good soldier but made the wrong choice, the commander can separate the person from the army, but not use dishonorable discharge. Other than Honorable looks better on your record.”

No Beauty Contest Here

For a little more than a decade now, FrontPageAfrica has established itself for thorough investigative and analytical reporting that has led to withdrawal of nominees to critical positions of government, brought down many corrupt officials and probably saved Liberia millions, if not billions of dollars due to explosive reports involving top officials and shady concession agreements that were terminated or suspended because of our reporting.

We did this in the last government – and nothing and no one will stop us from doing so now, no matter how hard they try – or how many threats, insults and innuendos thrown our way!!!

We take pride in our work and feel strongly about what we do and the impact it has on our society and existence.

We may not bring the news to you as pretty as you would want at times and we do have a tendency to ruffle a few feathers here and there that has landed us in trouble, in prison and even closure but we are proud of that – and we can live with that. After all, we do not have to be pretty because we are not in the beauty pageant business but rather in the news business.

What we cannot live with, is the fact that some people would like for us to forget our history, forget that so many people before us were maimed, jailed, killed and even forced into exile because of men like Jenkins Scott, Joe Tate, Gray D. Allison and so many more.

Sadly, some are even still around today and still advocating for the very things they experienced and witnessed yesterday.

Mr. Davies may have made his Facebook Live prior to his appointment, but those elected by Liberians in the Senate – and Liberians themselves deserve to hear from Mr. Davis, what he meant by what he said on his Facebook Live, especially after President Weah believes in him so much that he has tipped him to a position of such magnitude and implications to Liberia’s national security.

It is on this basis that we, as a media institution with a pulse on the nation took the decision, as we always do, to flag this.

We owe no explanation to anyone but it is good at times to remind Liberia and Liberians of an ugly history that if not corrected, will continue to keep us in a recurring state of uncertainty with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Lingering Circle of Impunity 

During the civil war and even the brute years of Doe and Taylor, many lost a friend, a brother, a sister, mother, father or loved ones, due to the overzealousness of men like Mr. Davis, who use their access to the powers that be to showcase themselves for a job by trumping down on the perceived weak and powerless.

How many people died during the war because some Tom, Dick or Harry pointed them out from a line of refugees looking for safe haven; for doing something they never remembered- or perhaps never imagined taking place?

How many of you lost a friend, relative or loved ones to a child soldier or rebel on drugs, with an M-16 or AK-47 rifle – and an ax to grind and nothing to lose?

How many?

While you’re thinking about that, think about how history will judge you tomorrow – or even the media, for not flagging a man nominated to head “operations” at the ministry of national defense.

Keep in mind the millions of dollars spent after the civil war by international partners to rid Liberia of overzealous men with minds like Mr. Davis from setting foot in the reformed Armed Forces of Liberia.

No Room for Free Passes

Today, a lot of you are quick to side with people the media write or talk about because that person is a friend, relative or loved one.

To us, they are simply subjects of a story – and nothing else.

Like we always say, we bleed red, white and blue – with a star in the left hand corner.  No one person is bigger or stronger than that flag; no one is bigger than the republic – or have more love than the other.

Tubman May have felt it during those 27 years that ranks him as the longest-serving president; His successors Tolbert, Doe and Taylor may have at one point during their reign, even considered it. Even former President Sirleaf, the history maker with her many hanger-ons actually believed or perhaps flirted with the thought that forever was in their cards.

Keep in mind the millions of dollars spent after the civil war by international partners to rid Liberia of overzealous men with minds like Mr. Davis from setting foot in the reformed Armed Forces of Liberia.

Sadly, and maybe rightly, history always has a funny way of dealing the bad hand when we least expect. This is why it is important for us to remember and learn from our past and do all we can to curb; if not, eliminate the culture of impunity that exist amongst us. 

The tragic reality is that, if we continue to allow things to slide, continue to give those we consider our friends, loved ones or social media buddies, a free pass, Liberia will never progress to where it should be, but rather continue a regression to its ugly past – time and time again. The bigger question becomes, why is history being so mean and so unkind in continuing to shame those we consider the demons of yesteryears, while willingly giving free passes to reincarnated variations and self-interpretations of the evil, characterizing so-called strong men of yesterday? 

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