A VOICE FROM THE GRAVE
The Blojlu Journal
Tarty Teh’s Letter to Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
March 18, 1991
Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
6056 Estate Drive
Alexandria, VA 22310
Dear Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf:
With this letter I acknowledge receipt of the curt, one-paragraph, undated letter you sent me, which I received on February 12, 1992. Because I will not allow myself to be swatted away like a fly, I am prepared to answer your letter and the attitude it represents.
Since your letter was so short, I will not inconvenience my readers with interpretation of its contemptuous mood without first letting them see it–all of it.
6056 Estate Drive
Alexandria, VA 22310
Dear Mr. Teh,
I wish that you would be honest enough not to attribute to me,
as a quote, statements that I did not make.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
That’s it. I have said quite a few things about you outside of the quotation marks. Apparently you do not take issue with me about those. I do not, however, take it to mean that you have no problem with everything else that I have said. I also understand that the mere fact that you find unpleasant anything that I have said about you does not mean that what I said is not true. It has only to do with your not being comfortable with some of the things you have done. And I can understand that.
I accused you of having your children on Liberian government scholarship–all of them–when you were Minister of Finance. I am merely establishing facts. Some of the best minds in Liberia may very well belong to your children. If that is how they ended up on Liberian government scholarship, so be it; but my main focus is the fact that your children were on scholarship at the Liberian taxpayers’ expense.
I did also quote you as announcing at a November 1990 meeting in Washington, D.C., that Tom Wowiyou [Woewiyu], President Charles Taylor’s Minister of Defense, bought a new BMW for his wife. (I would think that’s the least a Minister of Defense can afford.) Do you want to register some protest in case you find it convenient to reconcile with President Taylor? Of course you knew that theirs was a criminal enterprise. You can’t claim that upholding the law was your aim when you got someone who escaped from prison to head your crusade.
You were well aware of the charges on which Taylor had been convicted in the U.S. Taylor, among other things, had shipped from Liberia to Boston, U.S.A., some of the cars he had brought with money diverted from government procurement accounts.
One of those cars was a Jaguar. Taylor probably set a record in dubious commerce, being the first Liberia to import cars from Liberia to the U.S. He was convicted despite being defended by a former U.S. attorney-general. With your support, Taylor could afford the best lawyers in the market. This does not mean that Taylor was not rich in his own right.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t blame Taylor for all the lives he has destroyed. I am blaming those who sent him on that mission. I am blaming you. People in prison normally don’t have much to lose. If you are looking for ruthless people, you would first check the prisons. That is what you did.
So, if you think it is worth your while at all to address me on these questions, spend a little bit more time talking about your motivation for sending Taylor in the interior to kill women and children and to burn down villages.
I am aware that you are not enamored of Interim President Amos Sawyer, for double-crossing you by wiggling his way into the interim presidency while you stand alone to ward off charges of hiring a criminal like Taylor to kill our fathers and mothers.
Sawyer committed that same crime along with you. But he looks clean by comparison. I can see why you were angry. I quoted you as angrily asking for Sawyer’s resignation. Do you deny it also?
I understand that you have taken a “sabbatical” from Liberian politics. (The quotation is from my source; I don’t know if that’s the exact word you used.) I would say you’ve earned your vacation. More than 10,000 dead? Even Hitler would take a break.
One of the pieces of baggage I carry around is the fact that I was born in a place that also yielded a man named Samuel Doe, even though he and I shared neither tribal affiliation nor political beliefs. Far from it, we were antagonists.
I don’t think you can say the same thing about your relationship with Charles Taylor. You supported Taylor politically and financially. Your support has caused the death of thousands of Liberians, many of whom would not know what this letter is about if they were given an opportunity to read it.
Well, I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with supporting Charles Taylor or, for that matter, Samuel Doe, as long as you are willing to stand up and accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions. Right now I see you hiding under the table, refusing to face the fact that your active support of an escapee from a U.S. prison has led to the loss of thousands of lives and has left thousands more without a means of obtaining a decent meal, let alone a shelter or a means of a rough equivalent of a clean shower, which you and your children take for granted in the United States.
Speaking of support, I supported Samuel Doe until he died. But I supported not his actions but the fact that a democratic process–however imperfect–legitimized his claim to the presidency of Liberia. I extended the same support to President William Tolbert, and advocated that, no matter how he died, he should be buried like a president. (He currently lies in a mass grave with almost all of his cabinet members.) is that too difficult to understand? Well, it’s called prudence, decency, and honesty.
I don’t think you care terribly about prudence, decency and honesty, but you have guts enough to raise the question of honesty with me. So that’s what we are going to talk about. Are you honest? When your children were on Liberian government scholarship at least during part of that time I was Press and Cultural Counselor for the embassy of Liberia in Washington, D.C. During one of my many trips to the Office of Financial Affairs, I saw your children on a number of occasions making phone calls from the office of Mrs. Louise Summerville, Financial Counselor, to their mother–you–in Liberia. When the Liberian government was in financial squeeze, the Financial Office staff were instructed to make sure your children got their money even if it meant employees’ pay would be jeopardized. Do you see anything honest about that arrangement? I don’t.
Prudence. I don’t think you know a whole lot about it. But this is how it goes. Even if all of her children were the smartest of all the current crops of potential Liberian scholars, prudence would force many a proud mother to make room for others less endowed. That’s my demonstrated definition of prudence. Without honesty and prudence, what’s the point in discussing decency?
I know that your letter clearly state that what bothers you most are things I said about you in quotation marks. I quoted you as calling the Nigerians “undesirable[s]” in Liberia. You also accused them of stealing cars from Liberia. I’ve got to look up the exact quotation on that; but I don’t think you could plausibly deny saying so. Maybe you are looking for technical or semantic victories. Something like: “I said their presence was undesirable; not that they themselves were undesirable.” Even that won’t wash. Anyone or group of people who will steal cars from dying people cannot escape the charge of ‘undesirable,’ whether it refers to their presence or their persons. I don’t even know if that’s the quotation you have problem with since you didn’t say.
I think all this boils down to one thing, which I also charged you with in an earlier article in the Blojlu’s Journal–recklessness. You talk at a rate greater than your speed of thought.
That will be all for now. If you feel like being more specific, if you can write more than one paragraph next time, I am willing to respond more fully.
Blojlu’s Alliance for Constitutional
About The Author:
Mr. Tarty Teh was a culture, political, social advocate, and a Freelance Journalist. He wrote for several national and international media on various topics; especially, Africa and Liberia in practically. He is an original member of the Liberian Internet Chat Room that gave birth to Liberian Internet web magazines.
Tarty was born on July 18, 1946 in Pallipo, a village in River Gee County, Liberia, West Africa. He died in Liberia on February 15, 2012 after a protractive illness.
He graduated from Laboratory High School, now Tubman High in Monrovia; and he earned a master’s degree in English and Journalism from the University of Maryland, USA. He served as Liberia's Minister Counselor at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC from the late 70's to early 1980's. He returned to Liberia and served as Assistant Minister of Information for Research, and later served as Deputy Maritime Commissioner at the Virginia Office (USA) during the Interim Government of Gyude Bryant.
Tarty Teh epitomizes his true character, a thinker who sought to expose propaganda and denounced rhetoric that could hurt national pride. While his writings were sometimes challenged in other quarters of the society it was equally embraced in other parts and therefore invariably inspired others. His inquisitive approach in probing the conscience of most Liberians cannot be compared to anything but excellence and patriotic; for which, he was affectionately called Geesayfahnnonkon Kloba Bodioh (in Grebo and Klao/Kru Language which means “Leopard has no fear”). (1991: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive).