Dear Editor,With each passing day, the excessively vulgar behaviour of the now illegal Granger-led APNU/AFC clan is becoming more and more frontal in adding to Guyana’s constitutional crisis. In the face of amazed global and international observers, the cabal continues to demonstrate its lack of concern for the democratic observance and rights of the majority of the citizens while effectively defacing the nation’s image. The APNU/AFC coalition has taken to displaying a heightened pretence of concern while abusing the nation’s public purse. This is only because the Opposition Leader’s No-Confidence Motion (NCM) has driven them in this direction.The sequence of events leading up to this embarrassing fiasco indicates the extant characteristic, defiant and abusive nature of the cabal, for which the majority of citizens have long demonstrated a loss of confidence. Their previous and current actions place no holds on the abundance of radicalism and unlawful dictatorship that they attempt to force, while illegally occupying the seat of Government.Guyanese are experiencing serious survival difficulties associated with the sky-rocking cost of living due to impositions of a laden tax system, escalating scary and dangerous crime situations, while people cannot provide the basics for their children’s education and healthcare. We are now witnessing substantial fraudulent giveaway of State lands to persons reflecting a significant conflict of interests in the instance of SARA and other public persons that is most worrying. Further, this entire nation is in tension, as our people live under an illegal and unconstitutional regime.At the time of penning this letter, it was plain for all to see that President Granger, who now has the responsibility of ensuring elections are held within 90 days in keeping with Section 106 (7) of the Constitution, remains in his go-slow mode. He still had not responded to the Leader of the Opposition’s acceptance to his invitation to meet on the urgent critical matter of appointing a new Chairman of the GECOM, urged by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).From the top-heavy self-aggrandising APNU/AFC Government officials to the many bullish agents of the cabal, there is a wickedly utilised approach of de-stabilising Local Government Areas where the Government lost support so they suffer the population. It is also clear that the Government knew all along that their abuse of the people was intolerable and that they became illegal with the passing of the NCM on December 21, 2018. Mr Harmon and Mr Nagamootoo at the recent Bartica Public meeting affirmed that the Government was very clear that their case at the CCJ had no basis, but yet continued to deliberately frustrate our democracy and the nation while spending lavishly and creating further debts.The Government’s resistance to the CCJ’s rulings is an outright assault on our democracy. On one side, the Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo’s call for “war” is inciting and most worrying, and this would be confirmed by the older population that the PNC never wants to adhere to free and fair elections. On the other, President Granger’s slurs, together with the rants of the senior APNU/AFC Ministers in their open criticisms and rejection of the CCJ and against the acceptance of the CCJ decisions, is most distasteful and unacceptable.As it turns out, the PNC/APNU/AFC has been forced to accept that the former Chairman of GECOM, Justice Retired James Patterson had to go. It was indeed silly to know that President Granger was questioning the ruling of the CCJ, on the ruling that Chairman Patterson was not properly appointed.The fact that the CCJ ruled in favour of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM), makes it clear that we will have to get Regional and National Elections within ninety days. With the ongoing lack of urgency and due diligence given by the President regarding the CCJ’s advised consultations with the Leader of the Opposition, the resulting unwarranted delays make it absolutely clear that time-bound directions must emerge in the CCJ’s consequential orders.Given the posture adopted and publicly demonstrated by the President, however, these orders, critically, should pave the way for the immediate appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission and the time schedules for the organisation to hold free and fair elections within the time established by the Guyana Constitution. Obviously, with all of the increasing waste of time and taxpayers’ monies in this respect by the Government, it is understandable that the Leader of the Opposition has signalled his party’s decision of not going back to the National Assembly to grant additional time.Over the last three years, it has been really painful to follow the poor performances of Guyana ‘PNC’ Attorney General Basil Williams. Most disgraceful is his recent lies and misrepresentations to the eminent Judges of the CCJ. We are indeed ashamed as citizens to be receiving related calls from people in the diaspora, and worst of all, to listen to them talking about the incompetent Basil Williams.It is indeed heartening to hear that the Leader of the Opposition, Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, is willing to reach with President Granger albeit, on a daily basis in order to resolve the appointment of a Chairman of GECOM. Further appreciated are his stance and urgings by the diplomatic community to all stakeholders to respect the CCJ’s rulings. The mirrored willingness of civil society, in particular, the Private Sector body, is also most welcoming and demonstrative. Indeed, the CCJ’s ruling, so far, is final and the highest in the land, which must now be followed up with specific timelines to stop this blatant bullying and illegality.It is clear that the coalition Government will only respond to pressure and they have no respect for the Constitution and the highest court of law. As the wanton, rampant thieving, and unlawful spending continues, our people are boiling up. It is of note that the coalition Government lawyers alluded to the massive spending by GECOM to train nine thousand enumerators in preparation for House-to-House Registration and this is very serious. This column already hinted at the significant wastage and non-accountability at GECOM. All of the monies being spent on the enumerators will achieve much less than will be acquired in one week of the Claims and Objections cycle in preparing the Preliminary Voters’ List.Inside sources at GECOM have already publically declared their readiness for holding Regional and National Elections and this is the only acceptable way forward. The CCJ must, therefore, assert themselves and rule, giving directives on the viable way forward for immediate efficacy in upholding constitutionally required elections in Guyana.Sincerely,Neil Kumar
Deadly prison riotA Trade Instructions Officer at the Camp Street Prison was temporarily blinded after inmates threw liquids on him during the deadly riot on March 3, which left 17 prisoners dead.Prison Officer Owen Charles told the Commission of Inquiry that the liquid substance thrown at him was a mixture of “Jeyes fluid, pepper and another unknown matter.” His blindness he said lasted for some 4-5 minutes.Charles also stated that he was rushed to the prison infirmary where the medex used saline water to restore his sight. WhenChief Officer of the Guyana Prison Service Peter Barker testifying on FridayTrade Instructions Officer Owen Charles teaches joinery and carpentryKitchen Officer, Gordon Danielscommissioners asked the witness why prisoners would have Jeyes fluid in their possession, Charles explained that the inmates are usually given the disinfectant to clean the bathroom area and often times they would retain.Charles also told commissioners that when he was on the catwalk, he witnessed inmates with their improvised weapons. He noted that at this point there was no other choice than to comply with the order to lock the door as inmates could have possibly escaped the prison compound.“I had to comply with that order because of the aggressiveness in inmates at that time… had they overrun us on the landing and make it into the yard, what wouldda be the end result… if they make it over the fence, society woulda be in chaos,” stressed the Trade Officer.The witness also told the CoI that he teaches inmates joinery and carpentry so that when they leave the penitentiary, they can find employment. He noted that one of the former inmates he trained is now a construction supervisor.It was suggested that prison beds be made out of “low density” hard wood and ply board so as to prevent inmates from utilizing bed metals as improvised weapons.Chief Officer of the Guyana Prison Service, Peter Barker, who joined the service 14 years ago told the CoI that he remember when one of his officers had pushed the key in the door but could not turn it. This testimony comes in light of the account of numerous witnesses that inmates had tampered with the door before the time of the fire.Barker told the CoI that the Capital A door was opened on March 1 and 2. He professed that in the prison, there are “no faulty locks”.He also recalled that while firemen were battling the blaze, he ensured the safety of all of the divisions at the jailhouse. After these checks were carried out, the Chief Officer attempted to go into Capital A division to assess the situation but he could not continue as the scene was too “horrible” and he “could not take it.”Kitchen Officer Gordon Daniels also testified at the proceedings to defend the effectiveness of his department’s operations. He noted that he normally eats the food which he prepares and he further observed that the food is tested both internally and externally. He further noted that inmates are fed thrice daily with meals that are balanced.Daniels told the Commission that many inmates assist in the preparation of meals and noted that the kitchen needs modern equipment to make its operations more efficient. Some of the cooking is done via firewood. The witness expressed that the food prepared is “fairly satisfactory”.The hearings resume on Monday.
The Alim Shah Stores have been re-added to the list of entities for the school uniform voucher programme just in time as the distribution for the new school terms begins.According to a business representative, the stores’ Regent Street, Georgetown; and Rose Hall, Berbice branches have received official notification from the Education Ministry that it “is pleased to be partnering” with the business in this year’s School Uniform Voucher programme.Alim Shah store on Regent StreetThe letter was signed by Ms Patricia Stephen, Assistant Secretary to the Education Ministry.Alim Shah Stores started to accept school uniform vouchers since last week after being assured by the Ministry’s chief accountant that the business continues to be on the official database despite the advertisements which have appeared in the press in which the business is not listed as being on this year’s programme.The proprietor, Alim Shah, was concerned at the omission and felt that it was reprisal from the Government for the columns that his daughter, Ryhaan Shah, writes for Guyana Times.In an invited comment to this publication, he expressed relief to have received the official notification since both stores had already ordered and started preparing their stock of school pants, shirts, underwear, haversacks, and other items for their back-to-school business.He said that the business has built up a good working relationship with the Education Ministry over the years and he expects that the good relations will continue under the new Administration.Interestingly, when Shah initially raised concerns of being dropped from the programme, the Education Ministry immediately released a statement positing that the business was at fault.The statement explained that the Ministry noted that it publicly advertised for ‘Expressions of Interest’ to participate in the Uniform Voucher programme in 2016 and that the business under the name Alim Shah never indicated any interest in participating in the programme, hence their name would not have been on the published 2016 list.“They subsequently communicated with the Ministry, indicating that they erroneously assumed that since they were on the list in previous years they would have automatically been included,” the statement noted.According to the Ministry, the matter has since been resolved with the entity.Distribution of vouchersMeanwhile, the Ministry is ready to distribute approximately 150,000 uniform vouchers to parents and guardians of children attending public schools in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-Berbice), Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), 10 (Upper Demerara), Bartica, in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) and Georgetown, in Region Four.Each voucher is valued $2000 – an increase from $1500 in previous years, and is valid until October 31, 2016.Parents are reminded that vouchers are intended to be used for the purchase of school items only and that all vouchers can be redeemed at participating businesses/suppliers, a list of which has been published in the press and is available at the respective schools and regional departments of education.A valid form of identification is required to uplift the voucher.Every child attending a Government school is entitled to uniform assistance under the National Uniform Programme. On the coastland, the Education Ministry administers the Uniform Voucher Programme while in Hinterland communities, the assistance is administered by the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry.Public schools will be closed for a period of eight weeks from July 11 to September 2, 2016.
– discusses rehabilitating access roadRegion One (Barima-Waini) Chairman Brentnol Ashley along, with members of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), on Tuesday met with residents of Port Kaituma to address their woes.Regional Chairman Brentnol Ashley meeting with the residentsThe visit was initiated following protest action taken by the residents of Port Kaituma to have the access road running from Port Kaituma Central to Baramita urgently repaired.According to reports, the RDC has been calling for the road to be rehabilitated for almost a year; however, preparations have not been made to remedy the situation.Just last week, several trucks overturned while attempting to use the road because of its current deplorable condition. The road is said to be slushy with deep water-filled holes. It is also said to be eroding.Speaking with Guyana Times on Tuesday, Ashley said he, along with members of the RDC met with residents to address their issues, noting that focus will be placed on addressing and formulating plans to have the matter concerning the Port Kaituma road looked into urgently.“We are currently meeting with the residents to make plans for them and also to hear from them their issues and concerns. We hope that we can have their issues corrected,” he said.Some of the concerns voiced by residents were those of travelling fares which have been drastically increased because of the state of the road. Motorists are complaining of the costliness of maintaining their vehicles.Last week, Communities Minister Ronald Bulkhan along with a team, visited the region but was met with a dismal response from residents.Minister Bulkan noted that he is committed to working along with the RDC and the people of the region to address their various challenges.
Officials in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) are pressing for foreign languages, including Spanish and Portuguese, to be taught at more schools around the region, after it was highlighted that only a few schools benefit, given the lack of qualified personnel to take up the responsibility.Regional Chairman Renis Morian in a quest to improve the situation has asked that the Region 10 Department of Education assist in facilitating the hiring of trained personnel. Morian asked about the number of foreign languages presently being taught in schools acrossRegional Chairman Renis Morianthe region and the availability and accessibility of qualified people to teach. He alluded that Portuguese and Spanish are two important languages which should be learned by students in order to break the language barrier.“We find ourselves at a disadvantage when it comes to training and doing business since we can’t communicate,” the Regional Chairman said.Meanwhile, Regional Education Officer Marcia Paddy Andrews noted that qualified persons can be employed to teach the subjects on a part-time basis, a move which the Department of Education is willing to assist with. Chairman of the region’s Education Committee Denise Belgrave also suggested that sign language be taught inside regular classrooms throughout the region, noting that it will be a positive step in assisting students with special needs.
United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) gradual drawdown is instilling fear among Liberians and foreign residents alike as a result of numerous lapses contained in the Security Sector Reform (SSR) exercises spearheaded by that body.These lapses are clearly evident in the performances of the national security apparatus, especially the Liberia National Police, a detailed study conducted by an official of the Governance Commission, has revealed.The study was conducted by Dr. Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae, one of the commissioners at the GC with oversight on decentralization. It reveals that the manner in which LNP officers were recruited, coupled with the manner in which they were trained has created a bad public perception about the force thereby lowering public confidence in the police. That situation is detrimental to the maintenance of law and order (peace and stability) in the absence of UNMIL.Making a presentation on the SSR yesterday in Monrovia, Dr. Dorliae said the purpose of the study was to understand how UNMIL’s training affected effectiveness of performance and public confidence in the ability of the LNP to maintain law and order, that the result proved otherwise. The presentation was titled: “UNMIL Training of Liberia National Police: Effectiveness, Results, and Future Implications.”Analysis of UNMIL’s reform exercise revealed mixed results and impacts on the effectiveness of police performance in the country. The findings further indicated that the adverse impacts are not entirely training related but also resulted from the behavior of the Government of Liberia towards its police force. Some of these negative impacts are the results of low salaries, lack of incentives and lack of logistical support.Quantitative data were used to address impacts of UNMIL’s police training on the maintenance of law and order. The data, according to Dr. Dorliae, were collected through a researcher-developed survey which measures recruitment, training, effectiveness of performance and public confidence in the police. Participants were 120 persons drawn from government officials, some of them senior officials, UNMIL officials, LNP and members of the Civil Society Organization (CSO).He also indicated that a qualitative semi-structured interview data were also gathered from 18 additional participants to address the challenges for quality improvement in the performance of the police.The findings indicated that there were some lapses in the recruitment process conducted by UNMIL because people who committed heinous crimes during the civil crisis were recruited. Sufficient background investigation was not done during the recruitment exercises, leading to criminals being recruited.It also indicated that recruitment and vetting were exhausted, candidates were not investigated with due diligence regarding their character and human rights records.The findings indicated that people were afraid to speak during the recruitment process because they were afraid of reprisals. “People did not feel free to express themselves because there was no guarantee of confidentiality.”People even in high ranking positions in the LNP confided that the training exercises were disjointed, the finding reported.The finding alleges that the government does not see the police as its responsibility, but rather as that of the international community because it was the international community that spearheaded the entire process with little or no interest from the government.Quantitative findings also indicate a moderately significant correlation between police perceived knowledge and job performance, thus implying that UNMIL’s training effected some changes relative to the maintenance of law and order.However, the diversity of trainers from contrasting policing jurisdiction produced an outcome that lacked a country-specific context for Liberia, a common law country with a criminal justice system and policing tradition patterned after that of the United States.The findings showed that the government failed to take ownership of the LNP reform exercise and to provide leadership and adequate resource support to complement the training due to its weak commitment.On the level of performance, the findings overwhelmingly showed that it is capable of maintaining law and order, though some of their training cannot be put into practice as a result of lack of some essential logistics.“Some police officers have been trained in forensic investigation. They learned these things in well equipped laboratories where they were trained, but they cannot apply that knowledge here because of lack of logistics,” the report quotes a high ranking LNP official.Lower ranking police officers are not effective in performing their duties because of constant interference from the boss or higher-hands. The finding indicated that the police is state-centric rather than people centered; as a result they tend to protect the powers that be than the public. “International police reform has become an integral component of post conflict peacekeeping and state building operations of the UN, with the overarching objective being to build stable democracies in those post-conflict fragile states. This has not always been the case though an effective police force is a critical component of sustainable state-building and democratic governance.Liberia’s democratic theory justifies the necessity for an effective police force as an embodiment of state authority for upholding the rule of law and protecting the democratic political and socio-economic processes (human rights, investment that provide jobs, elections) that are crucial to maintaining stability in a democracy.He, however, recommended that government and UNMIL must collaborate to professionalize, depoliticize and structure the LNP as a semi autonomous service institution; and situate the force in its common law criminal justice system with organization, structure and rank catalog harmonized with its police tradition.The UN post-conflict international police training mission in the future should be driven by what is required to implement training specific to host country’s policing needs and not by availability of funding and donors.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Thousands of Liberians turned out on Saturday, February 13 at a packed Antoinette Tubman Stadium, to pledge their support to identify with outgoing Central Bank Governor, Dr. J. Mills Jones.In their various statements, the citizens from across the country’s 15 counties and various organizations around Monrovia said, “Dr. Jones, even though you are going out of the Central Bank, we will always be there for you in whatsoever initiative you undertake in public life.” They said Dr. Jones is the only Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia with a history of reaching out to the common people to relieve them of their economic difficulties.The head of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA), Lusu Sloan in her remarks, said “Dr. Jones’ ten years of service at the Central Bank positively touched lives of his people in every sector of the Liberian economy.”Village Savings Loan Association (VSLA) president, Esther Nagbe, also said, “You have made the voices of Liberian women heard by economically empowering them. Wherever you go, Dr. Jones, we will forever remember you and will identify with you in whatever you plan to do in the Liberian public.”It is yet unclear what will be Dr. Jones’ next step after leaving the CBL; however, many of his admirers at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium bore placards expressing gratitude and support. “You have our support, Dr. Jones, we will petition you for any high public position,” they said. The multitudes were all attired in T-shirts bearing an image of Dr. Jones and inscriptions stating the names of their groups.In a shocking remark, former Chairperson of the ruling Unity Party, Dr. Charles Clarke, said it was his first time seeing an outgoing Governor of the Central Bank to be highly honored by such a multitude of people.In his own reasoning, Dr. Clarke, who also once served as president of the Liberian Business Association (LIBA), said Dr. Jones deserves the honor because during his regime he touched the lives of many people, noting, “This is not a mistake that he receives such an honor.”The honoring ceremony for outgoing Central Bank Governor was organized by the Grand Coalition of Liberian Organizations (GRANDCOALIO), which comprises various organizations, including business, sports and students, in the 15 counties of Liberia. Its chairman, Dee Maxwell S. Kemayah, who is also president of the Liberian Business Association (LIBA), had said earlier that they were honoring Dr. Jones because had it not been for him (Jones), Liberian owned businesses would not have tasted a bit of the proceeds from the resources of the country.Mr. Kemayah, known for his consistently blunt remarks that the Liberian business community does not need to beg for their own resources, indicated that they are watching every public official to know what impact their services will make on Liberians.He said it is based on their evaluation that they have to reciprocate Dr. Jones’ endeavors because his services at the CBL had significant impact on them.The CBL under the leadership of Governor Jones provided US$5 million through commercial banks to enable members of LIBA receive loans to foster their businesses.Mr. Kemayah recalled a remark he made about two years ago, during the funeral service of Dr. Jones’s mother, saying, “Governor Jones, we have come to just sympathize with you today, but what’s for you shall see your face.”In response to the honor, Dr. Jones commended the people for the honor and said Liberians are the only ones to help one another.He said though critics see his achievements to be detrimental to their philosophies, he believes that without a Liberian like him to help Liberians, they (Liberians) will not be lifted out of poverty.In the wake of the many honouring ceremonies that have been held for the outgoing CBL Governor, he has not on any occasion pronounced what his next course of action is in the public domain.On almost all the occasions, Dr. Jones has only been rhetorical in his speech, without a clear position on what he thinks about future positions.It may be recalled, however, that in September 2013 the Council of Elders and Chiefs honored Jones in the Fendell Community for his services. At that program he said, “I know what you people are thinking and we will get there.”Just last Monday, February 8, he mentioned in his speech at a dinner organized by the Central Bank in his honor that “I am leaving the Central Bank of Liberia, but I am not leaving public life.”These statements have left many with the notion that the outgoing CBL Governor would probably contest a position in the upcoming general and presidential elections in 2017, not ruling out the Presidency.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The abrupt closure last Saturday of Benoni Urey’s radio station, situated at 10th Street, Sinkor, is a highly disturbing development indeed. A Ministry of Information press release issued Sunday by Deputy Minister Isaac Jackson said the closure action was executed by the Civil Law Court. But the press as well as bystanders and passersby observed a full contingent of officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), clad in full riot gear, standing outside the radio station, as though in full readiness for combat.One bystander remarked that the scene was a vivid reminder of the frequent attacks which the Samuel K. Doe and People’s Redemption government launched against the Daily Observer newspaper in the 1980s. What is most disturbing about this terribly unfortunate incident is that this is the third time the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government has moved to close down a media house. That is apart from the closure in November 2011 of Kings FM, Love FM (now LIB-24) and Power FM/TV. These closures were in connection with a riot at the party headquarters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), executed on the eve of the election run-off between the incumbent President Sirleaf’s Unity Party and the CDC. The GOL said that in taking that action against the three electronic media outlets, GOL attempted to preempt a Rwanda-style radio broadcast that incited people to riot and kill. The three closures we refer to in this editorial are directly related to actions by these media houses which GOL deemed were particularly critical of the presidency. The first was in 2014 when government summarily shut down The Chronicle newspaper owned and operated by Philipbert Browne. This newspaper had been launching a persistent campaign calling for an alleged “interim government” that it said was in the making to unseat the incumbent national leadership headed by President Sirleaf. The second, which occurred on July 4, 2016, was the closure of the Voice FM operated by Henry Costa, whose highly controversial talk show were very critical of the country’s current political administration. Costa then moved his talk show to Mr. Urey’s LIB-24 FM. Costa’s prime offense this time was a letter allegedly written by President Sirleaf to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, proposing a certain change in the statues. Costa conjectured that the letter had something to do with the Global Witness allegations of several government officials who involved in changing some of the country’s laws and regulations to accommodate the mining interests of the UK-based Sable Mining. Costa, in his talk show last week, interpreted the President’s letter to the Speaker to mean that she was the one whom Global Witness called “Big Boy 1.”That, too, was, in Costa’s typical style, highly explosive; and that may have tipped the sudden action against Urey’s station, which Costa was now using to air his broadcasts.It is not clear how or whether Costa definitively linked the President to any wrong doing by her letter to Tyler. We do not see how the President’s letter to Tyler linked her to any impropriety. Be that as it may, we are deeply saddened by the government’s over reaction. There are two reasons: first, this has brought the whole Global Witness allegations into sharper public focus and has forced people to sit up and think and listen and speak out and do their own investigation in a matter that seemed to be dying down already.We are deeply saddened, secondly, because we cannot see how this closure of yet another media house can help the President’s image—and legacy. There have been numerous criticisms against her administration. However, the one thing that people have unequivocally credited her with is her tolerance of media criticism. Here is a Liberian President who has staunchly followed President Tolbert’s lead in rejecting the iron bar that President Tubman imposed on freedom of speech and of the press. As far as Tubman, Doe and Charles Taylor were concerned, these freedoms were nowhere in the Liberian Constitution. And yet they were—and are—and despite the draconian laws still on our books, President Sirleaf has effectively avoided using them against the media, and actually constantly advocated their repeal.That is why she became only the second African leader to sign the Table Mountain Declaration.We pray that the President will maintain the tolerance she has exercised since her tenure began in 2006 and deal evenhandedly with the media on the high moral ground of constitutional faithfulness and tolerance.At the same time, we urge all our media colleagues to be equally evenhanded and fair to all whom they cover.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
ST. KOLLIE TOWN (SKT) was the gateway to the central Liberian town of Gbarnga, the headquarters of the rebel movement. Here, barely four hours since their vehicle left the outskirts of Mount Barclay, deep inside rebel territory, James Zonn and his companion, along with other Liberians, were stopped. It was around two in the afternoon, and there seemed to be a flurry of activities going on here.SKT, Zonn guessed, might have had no more than seventy mud houses on either side, since the dividing line of the town was the access road, directly towards the city of Gbarnga. It was reasonable that being the link to the rebels’ command center and residence of their leaders, security would be on high alert. Similarly, SKT was the home of the Liberian Agricultural Company (LAC), where modern residential houses were located. And rightly, the leaders in Gbarnga were using the lodgings as residences.But it was apparent that James Zonn had not thought about meeting with any experience worth its name. But considering the splintered nature of the rebels, there was everything to imagine that misunderstanding, even on a trivial issue, could result in the loss of precious limbs or life. And the rebel soldiers did not let Zonn to wait further, when fifteen minutes after their arrival, what appeared as an apparent confusion brewed ahead.There were a number of rebel soldiers, their guns at the ready, moving about in a hurry. “I can take care of that bitch,” he heard a soldier say, and then another, probably twenty, his face lined with worry, and unable to discern between life and death, said,“If you kill me today I die and my business is finished.”It was then that Zonn saw that the source of the contention was apparently the murder of three members of a family. Their bodies sprawled across the road, and there were still other people standing by in tears. Among the dead, Zonn learned was a woman, a Gio, who had defended her husband, who was a Sarpo.“The woman said the man was her husband,” a young man told Zonn, as the vehicle was finally released to go, “she would not hear the soldiers’ decision that the man should be killed, and as a result she chose to die with her husband.”“What about the third body?” Zonn’s curiosity moved him to ask. “Why did she die?” The other, his eyes downcast, said, “She was standing across the road when another soldier called her, and told her she was a Sarpo and before she could defend herself, he shot her dead.” As the vehicle hummed along, Zonn turned his attention to the road as it raced toward them. All of Liberia had become a jungle, and there was no Liberian alive who was safe. It was a hard judgment call, but whether anybody would survive the civil-war could be anybody’s guess. In fifteen minutes, Zonn felt the bus slowing down to a halt.“This is another check point,” the other told him. It was apparent to Zonn that his informer was a frequent traveler in this part of Gbarnga, and as Zonn looked him in the face, the young man said, “Our suffering is beyond reason. We are unable to understand what crime we have committed to be treated this way.”“Wipe your tears my friend,” Zonn urged him, when he saw his new friend in tears. “Believe in God, and pray for survival as long as the war continues.”“Yes,” his new friend also looked into his eyes, “our treatment is beyond insanity.” Zonn felt the rush of emotion gripping him, and turning around he saw Klubor soundly asleep. He felt some urge within him, but knew that till they reached the city of Gbarnga, the various checkpoints would present another barrier after another. But then he had given everything he had, and committed it into the hands of God. For, he believed that for whatever Liberia had become, God had a way for them to stay alive. He would find it, and search for it if he did not find it the first time. Then he would lead the campaign to save lost souls back to God.IT WAS evidently a case of having lived to fulfill his wishes, for what the Creator did for him. He knew he could not have it any other way. Death had come so close and yet, the hand of God had intervened, and it was no accident that he was alive. If for anything at all, James Zonn knew that he had had his demons destroyed, and it was time he lived true to his vows.For now, it was nearly three years since the war ended, and it was just the period he had anticipated. What was more, the church that he was presently officiating as the lead pastor was making more progress, and sometimes he felt the blessings of God on him and it was time he concluded his aim. As he contemplated on his past, his present and his future, there was every indication that he was among the blessed in the land that had enjoyed horror and sorrow. Who could he blame? He could blame the founding fathers of the land. And what was their crime? Why, did they neglect to remain true to the land of their adoption? Where were the schools or educational institutions that were supposed to help many of the people out of their ignorance? Wasn’t it true that when the rebels, mostly those of his countrymen, gained considerable control of the land, they killed anyone with an Identity Card? Didn’t they kill even those who shared the last name of the president of the republic whom they had been sent to eliminate? And it was true as he survived the war that his people, the very ones who were abused, rather took it upon themselves to just kill their fellow Liberians for sport. Weren’t their actions as a result of pure ignorance, since majority never had the privilege to have an education, and to know the difference between an enemy and a sympathizer?He could argue against that because the leaders of the war were all men and women who had had valuable education. But again, he was horrified that his people, and later joined by other ethnic groups, like the Mandingos, slaughtered others at will. But supposed Liberia, the land of his birth, had been developed, and educational and other opportunities were plentiful, would it not have gone without saying that they would rather have been involved in more productive work, than joining the rebel armies, which circumstances caused their very existence? No, James Zonn, now the man of God was not trying to offer any form of justification for the crimes committed on the land by his countrymen. Yes, he was making an effort to understand the insanity that went beyond the ordinary cause of events during the fifteen years that the Liberian war lasted.Now, across from him, Rev. Zonn watched at the figure seated before him at their Logan Town residence in Monrovia. Since the end of the war, and the formation of the new government, many things had happened, and very fast too. His beloved Klubor, sitting nearby, was mending a shirt that she very much wanted him to wear for this Sunday’s church service. Their three children, the oldest nine years old, played alongside his siblings, and the man of God felt blessed.With his church drawing people to the Lord every Sunday, and the country recovering in a slow pace, the reverend agreed that more sacrifices were needed from all to redirect the future of Liberia. But he could not agree with those who had been clamoring for a quick recovery to the period that they had passionately called, “the good old days.” As a man of God he believed that if there was any period in the history of his country known as the “good old days,” those days were yet to come.The events that resulted into the agony of the land were because of the mistakes of the past, yes, the same past others were calling the “good old days.” The people, he admitted, would have to develop a strong aversion to dealings and attitudes of the past when actions were taken for granted. The period when many of the people would not pay utility bills and individuals simply lived their lives for fun. It would have to change, and from that change one could say there could be some good days to come.The man of God considered the fervor of the spirit demonstrated during the recent national elections, and admired the spirit and resourcefulness of the young people. He realized it was the same spirit the youths showed with vim during the course of the war. “If they can translate that attitude and spirit to nation building,” Rev. Zonn, mused, “there is every chance this country will enter into a period of goodness.” But the man of God didn’t believe that such a spirit could ever exist; and if it existed at all, it would not be utilized. Here, he saw his role as a man of God clearly, and in it he saw the heavy burden on his shoulders.Rev. James Zonn had been a man of God for the last three years, and in those years, he had been able to draw many of the former child-soldiers to his church. There were some of the former child-soldiers that he recognized and many that had always stood before the congregation giving their testimonies. It was a situation that the man of God considered not only a miracle, but the kindness of God. And as a result he had commended the Liberian people for their outright forgiving spirit.In some instances, some of the former child-soldiers had wept, and requested Rev. Zonn to call God’s anger on them so that they would die. In such instances, Rev. Zonn had made use of the Scriptures, and had opened several areas, and read God’s mercies to the frail souls of the former child-soldiers. And the reverend had on several occasions used their agonies to caution the now emerging new nation. Now was the time, Rev. Zonn had always said, whenever he had the occasion to pull the former child-soldiers from the pit of their sorrows. They had become more prone to shedding tears, and they reminded Rev. Zonn of the Scriptural admonition that in the last days, there would be mourning and the gnashing of teeth as God’s mercy drew near. Though Rev. Zonn considered the outburst of the former child-soldiers as signs of total repentance, he wished economic issues would move faster to make them self-sufficient to sustain themselves, a condition that was unknown to them for fifteen years, and therefore strange to the former child-soldiers.Now as the man of God whispered a favorite gospel tune to himself, his eyes glowered with satisfaction, and he saw clearly the saving grace of his Creator. He felt sustained and blessed, for Liberia would continue to exist in peace and could result in prosperity, for the glory of God.THE ENDShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
– Advertisement – Liberian-American writer/blogger Chantal Victoria has released her first children’s book, Janjay, set in Liberia.The plot of the book centers around 8-year-old Janjay, a smart, curious, energetic girl who one day neglects her responsibility of collecting clean water for her family to join a friend for an afternoon adventure.According to a press release, the story is packed with humor and local language dialogue to capture the essence of Liberian culture.Children everywhere can enjoy the tale because of relatable characters, relationships, and experiences. There is a strong message on the global issue of access to clean water that resonates with millions of girls around the world.The book is available on May 24 in paperback, eBook, and audiobook versions everywhere books are sold including on the author’s site (www.chantalvictoria.com/books), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, audible, and iBooks.About Chantal VictoriaChantal Victoria (Chantal Victoria Kyei, nee Bright) is a first generation Liberian-American. Due to the civil wars in Liberia, her family sought refuge in the United States where she grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She holds a Master’s with a concentration in Environmental Management from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science.She resides in London, England with her husband.For more information about Janjay, please visit www.chantalvictoria.com or contact by email at email@example.comShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)