-An examination of a candidates claims
By S. Tiawan Gongloe
July 7, 2005
Recently “Zack G. W. Sharpe, III” OF THE Friends of Brumskine wrote the following quotation on the ULIBSAA forum:
“I have heard that there are fifty candidates…. I stopped counting after ten. But I am happy I took Taylor on at a time when no other candidate would…and now the door has been opened for forty-nine others. If I had not had the courage to stand up for Liberians then, I would not have the moral strength to face Liberians today…for now I would be an opportunist. I know I stand apart from all other candidates, not because I have the education and experience; I have been tested. I have worked for one of the worst governments in the history of our country and I came out clean…not corrupted by money nor power. I stand apart because of the love and passion I have for my fellow Liberians.”
Charles Walker Brumskine
If the above quotation represents statements made by Presidential aspirant, Charles Walker Brumskine, then there is reason to raise some issues with him. The statement is loaded and needs careful analysis, if only to find out whether it holds some truth or it is a political statement intended to woo voters. , Humility, self-effacement and demonstrating honest respect for the truth must be the distinguishing characters of the next leader of our country. Self-proclamation without evidence to support can become a disservice, and Liberia needs a leader that will be trusted in what she/he says and does. After I read the above quotation attributed to one of Liberia’s Presidential aspirants, Charles Walker Brumskine, I wondered if his actions in the past conform to the statements. I am still wondering whether he is within the zone that will appropriately fit what he claims to be. It is therefore out of my concern for the truth that I have decided to analyze the above quotation.
First, the above quotation assumes that the man Charles Walker Brumskine has done so much for the Liberian People; that his ambition for the presidency is solely for the benefit of the Liberian nation and its people; that he is such a clean man without any fault, and that he left excellent records from the Taylor Government. But the question is, are those assumptions correct, do they constitute statements of facts? According to Scriptures, “The truth shall set you free.” Is the presidential aspirant telling the truth?
Blowing ones own trumpet speaks volume about a person. Sometimes it is an indication that the person does not have people to blow his trumpet or that the available people cannot find any valuable reason to voluntarily and honestly do so. Blowing trumpet could also be an act of desperation or a deliberate attempt to amplify the importance of what may appear ordinary and inconsequential to any reasonable and knowledgeable person.
For example, when a student says to his parents that he/she made an A grade in school without cheating, and expects special treatment because he/she did not cheat, he/she could leave them wondering why is it that not cheating is an important issue. Parents always expect that their children will score A grade points without cheating. It is normal! More than this, in the case of Brumskine, one wonders whether self-praise does not contradict the core value that drives his campaign- the repeated declaration that he is a born again Christian, that he was inspired by God to make the decision to campaign for the presidency of Liberia, that his vision is “God’s vision for Liberia”, and that God will give him the wisdom and wherewithal to lead Liberia.
Now let’s examine the claims of Mr. Brumskine. “I took on Taylor… when no candidate would… If I had not had the moral courage to stand up for Liberians then…” How did Brumskine take on Taylor that distinguished him from the other candidates? How does he define the claimed moral courage he had to stand for the Liberian people? What did he do for the Liberian People? What evidence is available for his claimed love for the Liberian People? How did he come out clean from the worst government he served?
Since I lived in Liberia throughout the war and under the reign of “the worst government”, which Charles Walker Brumskine served, I want to retrospect some of the events that took place. By presenting these events, the public may be in a better position to answer the questions I have interposed above.
In November 1997, just three months into President Taylor’s tenure, Samuel Dokie, his wife, sister and cousin were brutally murdered while on their way to Sanniquellie, Nimba County. There was evidence pointing to government security forces, and the government promised to investigate, the result never came. A woman then called NowaiFlomo was brutally murdered and either eaten by the cannibals of Taylor forces or secretly buried, as her body was never discovered or her grave identified to this day.
The government detained Liberian journalists regularly; the offices of newspapers were closed arbitrarily. Star Radio Station and Radio Vertas were ordered closed by the government without due process. ELWA and other radio stations run by religious institutions were commanded by the government not to broadcast news. In September 1998, President Taylor sent his team of security and military forces to Camp Johnson road to “arrest” General Roosevelt Johnson. Instead, innocent citizens were brutally murdered with impunity. Human rights groups were frequently intimated, arrested, and made to live in fear at the instant of the government that Charles Walker Brumskine served. The Justice and Peace Commission, a human rights institution of the Catholic Arch-diocese of Monrovia and other human rights organizations at the time, made public declarations regarding human rights abuses committed by government forces throughout Liberia, yet nothing was done.
What did Brumskine say or do when all those things occurred in Liberia? He was President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, and was respected among his colleagues. What did he do to show his love for the Liberian People during those hurtful moments? What did he do to stand for the Liberian People? In the face of all those terrible developments while Brumskine occupied a high place in government, how can he honestly claim that he came out clean from that government? May be the Presidential aspirant is exonerating himself of any wrongdoing as an individual. But does that hold when he occupied a very important position in the government, and was so close to President Taylor? Why is he now giving himself a “clean record”? Can the Liberia National Bar Association of Liberia give Brumskine excellent marks for his time in the Government of Liberia? Can the Press Union of Liberia, human rights groups and other civil society organizations in Liberia testify in favor of Brumskine in the court of public opinion?
The learned lawyer should know that one may condone or aid and abet by silence, or by being a part of government that was so corrupt and displayed reckless disregard for human rights. This is so true for him, because he was not just an ordinary member of the government; he was in the center of decision-making. He went to “White flowers” (the residence of Taylor in Congo Town, which was so named by his security) and often met President Taylor. Brumskine certainly cannot deny that he had unhindered access to Taylor.
He was in the corridor of power. He was part of the policy machinery, an insider that contributed to making the Taylor government that he describes in his own words “the most corrupt government in the history of Liberia”. By what parity of reason, does he give himself a “clean record”? Indeed, this is simply blowing his own trumpet out of a desperate effort for the presidency of Liberia. In fact, when did he realize that Taylor’s government was the worst government that Liberia has ever had? If it was such a bad government why did he not voluntarily resign from this “worst government”? Is it not true that Brumskine departed Liberia because he could not face the humiliation of being a non-ranking member of the Liberian Senate after being pressured by Taylor to resign his position as President Pro Tempore of the Senate? To an extend, Taylor did Brumskine a big favor by pressuring him to resign from his position in the Senate, because had he not done so Brumskine probably would have been placed on the UN Sanctio
n list, Also Brumskine used Taylor’s action against him to raise his political profile by his claim that Taylor wanted to kill him, although he “escaped” the country via Roberts International Airport, where Taylor’s most trusted security men and women were assigned. It is important for the Liberians and international observers to critically examine the claims of the candidates in the up-coming general and presidential elections.
It was public knowledge that revenues collected by the Ministry of Finance of Liberia were regularly taken to President Taylor at “White Flowers”. It was a way of life for government officials and their business allies to live in luxury in Monrovia, enjoying the comfort of electricity and water, while the citizens lived in the City of Monrovia without such benefits. These basic social services were denied the citizens. President Taylor even had the nerve to tell the Liberian People “if you want electricity, buy your generator”.
Senator Brumskine like other elites of the Taylor government enjoyed electricity and water to the exclusion of the population. The senator then lived in the luxury of Hotel Africa with electricity twenty-four hours while the surrounding areas of the hotel and other parts of Monrovia were in darkness. What did he do for the people of Liberia who did not have electricity and water, and still do not have those basic social services today? Since he campaigned for the election and served in the worst government in the history of Liberia, the records made by that government are part of his political legacy as well as all key players in that government. Given all of these developments does Brumskine truly want the Liberian people to believe that he left with a clean record, and can he honestly boast of such clean record? Does he have any confidence in the ability of Liberians to remember and understand what happened less than a decade ago?
Let’s consider some of the events that took place under his leadership in the Liberian Senate and then make a judgment on his record.
First, Senator Brumskine sought to create constitutional crisis when he argued that the president Pro Tempo was the head of the senate. This brought a rift between him and Vice President Dogolea. In fact this caused confusion in the senate and for a while, Senator Brumskine presided over the senate concurrently with Vice President Dogolea.
Second as a lawyer, who served as Senator and also close confidant of President Taylor, he took steps to immediately consolidate the power of the presidency, following the inauguration of President Taylor. One of such steps was an act to restore full sovereign authority in the government of Liberia. The emphasis on the exercise of sovereign authority played a major role in the departure of ECOMOG, the West African Peacekeeping force that, by the agreement of all parties to the Liberian conflict was charged with the responsibility of training and restructuring the Liberian military. ECOMOG’s refusal to be subordinate to the Executive Mansion led to its departure. While Brumskine spearheaded the enactment of a law that restored the Liberian Constitution and all its provisions, he ironically sat in the Senate while the constitution of Liberia was violated in many ways.
For example, he supported President Taylor in carrying out the unconstitutional act of replacing the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court without cause and without following the procedure provided by law for the removal of judges, after the restoration of the Constitution of Liberia. Both Senator Brumskine and James E. Pierre, Senior Legal Advisor to President Taylor, played a major role in the appointment of judges of courts including judges of courts not of record, replacing those who had been appointed during the tenure of Ruth Perry on recommendation of the Bar.
The two lawyers argued at the time that the members of the Supreme Court, the judges then serving were appointed under interim arrangement; so the President Taylor could make new appointments. This argument in mind was and still is not tenable because once the Constitution of Liberian became fully operational, the three branches of governments were restored; so President Taylor could not legally replaced the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court without cause as provided in the constitution. Worst still, the justices and judges that were appointed largely on the recommendation of Brumskine and his colleagues created the worst judiciary in the history of Liberia. Yet, in the face of this, Presidential aspirant Brumskine claims that he had been tested. But did he pass the test? What then was his contribution to Liberia and its people for which he now blows trumpet?
Senator Brumskine as President Pro Tempore and partner in the Brumskine and Associate Law Firm became more attractive to business firms looking for lawyers of influence under the “worst government in Liberian history”. Is it not true that USTC and Firestone retained Brumskine and Associates as additional law firm( before that Varney Sherman was the only retained lawyer for this two entities), while Bumskine was serving as President Pro tempore and Counselor James E. Pierre serving as Legal Advisor to President Taylor? His fame as Senator Pro Tempore did not only attract major concessions in Liberia to become his clients or clients of his law firm, but his presence regularly at the law firm was a promotion of his private business, using his influence to achieve his business objective.
Whatever went on in the law firm when he met with businesses or corporate clients are within his certain knowledge. The presence of Senator Brumskine at the Brumskine and Associates on Broad Street was always a scene of attraction, with his security officers opening his car door and stopping everyone around until the Senator enters his office.
Brumskine saw nothing wrong with being a President Pro Temp and engaging in the private practice of law. His argument was that there was no law against such practice. Was it a clean way of doing business? Was it not a conflict of interest? Was that a clean way of running government? Why is it that Senator Brumskine did not take any step to enact a law against conflict of interest as called for by the Constitution of Liberia? It is best to leave this issue to the jury, the Liberian Public. Whenever the worst government in the history of Liberia is audited, then the truth will come out; until then, I think it is better for the Presidential aspirant to stop re-writing history by blowing his trumpets of “clean record”.
What did Presidential aspirant do for the Liberian People when he returned to Liberia in 2003? He went to declare his ambition for the presidency of Liberia. He started to set up office for his campaign and began to recruit supporters. These activities were purely for the achievement of his own ambition, a normal way of doing politics. How did the Liberian People benefit from his arrival? Did he not run campaign while human rights advocate Aloysius Toe, journalist Hassan Bility and others were languishing in Taylor’s prisons without a word from him on their behalf?
Perhaps when the Presidential aspirant claims that he took on Taylor, his reference is on the welcome he received by Monrovians, who were tired with Taylor and were only looking for another a savior. So he enjoyed the support of the crowd at that time; but does this hold today? What Presidential aspirant Brumskine does not say is that before he arrived there were other politicians on the ground that stood firm; there were human rights groups who stood firm; there were news media that made the difference; there were religious leaders who spoke fearlessly; there were citizens of Liberia who spoke against the ills of Taylor’s regime.
Was there anything courageous about Brumskine going to Liberia in 2003? My answer is no. Brumskine was no threat to Taylor. Taylor has on many occasions said that Brumskine is his cousin and that it was he who made Brumskine politically known. Before Taylor hit the political scene in Liberia Brumskine was only known as a corporate lawyer. He had no known view on Liberian politics. Inside sources in Taylor’s party allude to the fact that Taylor instructed members of his party in the Senate to “elect” Brumskine as President Pro Tempore. Taylor had the majority in the Senate; hence, it was a foregone conclusion. Taylor could not have considered Brumskine a threat.
Those he considered a threat were either killed like Dokie, or were out of the country like Kofi Woods, Amos Sawyer, ConmanyWesseh or were in detention like Aloysius Toe, Hassan Bility etc. For Taylor it was a vindication that Brumskine return to Liberia without the least threat to his life. His return helped Taylor who needed something to show that he accepted dissent. The other thing is that Taylor needed participation in the 2003 election to legitimize his stay in power and Brumskine meet that requirement by presenting himself to the public as a credible candidate. Had Liberia had elections in 2003, Taylor would have undoubtedly won again and Brumskine’s participation in those fraudulent elections would have made Taylor “a democratically elected president,” as it was customary in old Africa of the 1960s and 1980s.
Finally, lets reiterate that if, as he claims, God wants him to become President of Liberia, Presidential aspirant should humble himself to God and seek his guidance instead of blowing his own trumpet. He does not have to do so, because the Scripture reminds us that promotion comes from God, and it is He who brings one up and puts another down. In any case if God wants Brumskine to be President of Liberia , then he need not to campaign because God will make all the voters vote for him. Let us wait to see the best that God has for Liberia. The people of Liberia have gone through a lot, and are still going through so much; and they should know their candidates in and out to make a right decision in October 2005. A comprehensive examination of the track records and declarations of the candidates is a very important contribution to voters’ education for the coming general and presidential elections.