WHO BORN SOLDIER

     He could eliminate the distraction but he was certain to give up his desire to win, since it had been rather too long now since he came to it. He detested the idea that he would have to succumb to the whims of his captors.

   But it was all over. The former chief executive of the country sat 
at the mercy of his captors, and he looked at the world with eyes unable 
to understand the trick that fate had played on him. Any sense of eagerness
 he had entertained faded from his eyes, leaving them cold as a winter sky 
after sunset.

     They wanted him to resign and he refused. As the last moment of his life went on, and pains searing through his head as blood oozed out of where his ears had once been, Samuel Doe could only bend his head in anguish.

  He did not want his captors to see his eyes, though he felt humiliated, and he could only bend his head to avoid the shame. It became apparent to him that his captors could not let him live, and so as one by one, they poured questions at him, wanting to know what had happened to the country’s money and then the economy, he could only hung his head, and insist that he wanted to talk but he needed to be released.

    He said, “I am in lot of pain.”

   They ignored him.

   The man, who had taunted him since he was brought at the INPFL Caldwell Base, said, “Where are you keeping the Liberian people’s money?” He ignored him, and hung his head. He knew barely a miracle could anyone rescue him.

  But, who would rescue him? He remembered the massacre that had happened when the Field Marshal (Prince Johnson) and his forces had forcibly entered the Freeport of Monrovia, and had, without warning, launched violent attacks on his unarmed men.

   Given the chance he could take his captors on. But when the Field Marshal and his soldiers invaded the Freeport of Monrovia, and when he found out he was without his weapon, and none of his men had any weapon, he realized that he had fallen into a trap of no return.

   But then they were supposed to be peacekeepers from other West African nations, and in fact he had come to meet with Gen. Arnold Quanoo, but where was he when he needed him most? Truth be told, the field commander and his forces that could help him had all bolted, due to the intensity of the Field Marshal’s fire-power.

   Doe regained the sense of reality when someone from behind him grabbed his head and pulled it backward exposing his swollen face.

   “Doe talk,” a voice said.

   He said, “I want to talk but release my hands because I am in a lot of pain.”

   “I can release your elbow,” the soldier said, “but not your hands.” He knew he still held some power over them, despite the truth that he had been captured, when he had no chance to challenge them, on one to one. He saw the unfair advantage that his captors had over him.

   Samuel Doe sat there, not believing what was happening to him. The pain on his face reminded him of the physical assault he had received from his captors. They wanted him dead, but why was death coming so late? Dying as a soldier was part of his duty. He had heard many soldiers said one bullet one man, and hence in all probability he was not afraid of death. As the war raged and many called for his resignation, he had declared to fight till the last soldier was dead.

   John Yormie said, “You said Nimba County would be wiped out from the face of Liberia…”

    Doe, like he was in a court of law, defended himself.

    “No, I never said that.”

    He knew they would not believe him, and it was less of his concern now. He lowered his head and gazed shockingly at his legs, as his captors had tied them together, after several shots hammered them. He felt no power in them and he believed even if he survived the ordeal; he would have less use for them.

   As he waited, his mind went to the tragic scene that led to his capture. How could he allow anyone, much less one of the leaders who had planned to murder him, come over and engage him into any discussion, as he did with Prince Johnson? Why at all did he believe him? It was a question that though at such a late hour, tortured him.

   Until his capture he had been able to manipulate his enemies and the cat and mouse game had frustrated them so much that he was convinced to insist whatever happened, and particularly to his capture, was influenced by the hand of God.

  He said, “What’s happened was ordained by God.” He could not make any sense of his eventual capture and now he was being tortured, he could only wait in vain.

   Behind him, a young soldier held a blood-soaked knife that they had used to forcibly slice his two ears off. Then he felt water being poured on him, and someone saying, “I’m doing you a lot of good, Doe.” He did not provide any answer, and hung his head, waiting for the end.

   Though he needed medical attention, it was evidently clear he would not have any.

   Looking at Yormie, he told him: “I’m in a lot of pain,” with his eyes as wide and dried as ever. Though he was in pain, Doe did not want them to think that they had broken him; he knew a soldier was born to defend and even if it need be, sacrifice his life. He was also aware that a soldier was to fight gallantly, but what had happened was far from the marks of a true soldier. When Prince Johnson and his forces stormed at the Freeport of Monrovia, none of his soldiers had a weapon. And for starters, Johnson had visited him at the Barclay Training Center some days earlier, and had indicated his willingness to join his forces so that they could fight their common enemy.

   It was clear to him when, before Johnson ordered a rebel soldier to cut off his ears, said, “Doe I fooled you.” It was a mark of deceit, for a soldier, he knew was the one who would stand up to his true calling. He wanted to fight and engage his opponents, one by one.  He remembered when he told Johnson about the lack of sincerity among Liberians.

   “Prince,” he had said during the visit, “you must be sincere with me.” Remembering his admonition to the man who turned out to be the cause of his current humiliation was too much to bear.

    Someone, whether he was a journalist or not, Doe could not determine, sitting across from him told him, “Say I Samuel Kanyon Doe,” the vanquished president repeated after him, for it was clear that the end had come.

  In the end he said, “I said my government has been overthrown by Field Marshal Prince Johnson, and it is time we rebuild our country.” Despite the physical demolition as well as human destruction, Samuel Doe felt the need to re-echo the urgency to rebuild the country that was weeping to be saved.

   Again, he felt cold water pouring over him, and the pain increased.

  He shook his head to the right and then to the left, to ease the pain that was building in there. His puffed up face, as a result of the physical assault he had received from his captors, stunned him and rendered him speechless.

   Doe then remembered the dawn of April 14, 1980, many years ago, when he made his first announcement that the soldiers had struck, and the True Whig Party was no more. He could still hear in his mind’s eye, the dancing and rejoicing by majority of the people.

    He was not too sure, but he could hear on the national radio, ELBC, the shrill voice of the singer:

   “Who born soldier ooo mama?”

  “Who born soldier ooo papa?”

  “Country woman na born soldier…”

  “From 1847 to 1980…”

  Yes, those were the days he was hailed as the redeemer of the people. Now all had changed, and he could recount events up to that time. With Liberia in tatters and thousands having lost their lives, Doe saw his end as the culmination of what fate had stored for Liberia in general, and for him in particular. In fact he had warned Liberians that a town trap was not for rats alone, but they did not heed his advice. He had also warned them that when two elephants fight, the grass would suffer, and they also did not heed his advice. He wanted to scream and ask: Are there no wise men in Liberia? And so in the end he felt that Liberia’s suffering was its own. He wanted Liberia to be rebuilt, which as he looked at his current situation, did not think too much about.

   Doe knew the war was lost, and he also knew it would need the committed effort and sacrifice to get the country back to its feet. In his heart, he begged the old man above to restore Liberia to sanity, after he was gone. He would be gone by then, which was not too much of a problem for him. But all things considered he knew he would be remembered, for all he did and did not do. Due to the soldiers’ failure to redeem Liberia, he told Liberians in his heart to forgive him. He wanted to rebuild Liberia and not to destroy it.

   He could not bother himself with what others might think about him. He wanted to hold his young children, and tell them how much he loved them, but knew it was rather too late.

    In his situation he needed medical assistance, but as the young rebel soldiers, disorganized and shouting at each other, with no apparent leadership structure, moved back and forth. And with those considered leaders determination to humiliate him, asking childish questions, he knew only death would release him from his suffering. He would die, and go, and rest for eternity, which would also be at the whim of his captors. That’s how the man died.

The End

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THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES TAYLOR

By Omari Jackson

     The announcement that he would be concealed from the eyes of mortal men for almost a century did not come as a surprise to him. What concerned the former Liberian president were the intrigues that characterized the entire charade. So while he received the news about his concealment with a sense of foreboding, his mind was afar, hunting the experience he had gone through in The Hague.

    Though he must count his days, Taylor could only stare blankly at the prison walls, and beads of perspiration formed on his forehead, despite the humming air-condition, with its attendant mild temperature. But in examining the road he traveled so far, Taylor could sense that he should have had a premonition of his eventual fall into the hands of his enemies, especially the day he predicted that he would return, if God willed it. In his temporary prison cell, he knew the die was cast. He had come so far to cross the Rubicon, and yet, the Rubicon was so far away. That his chances of gaining freedom were gone, was nothing much to worry about.

   All said and done, he had fought a good fight. What else could a mortal do? Now that he had been condemned and presently caged like a violent animal, he willed himself away to God.
   He thought of his final days in Liberia, and particularly after he was assured of maximum protection by his presidential peers. That day was unlike any other day. It was after much consultation and self-examination before he reached the road of no return. He could see the day of all days. He was dressed in his lovely all-white attire and to the observers, from representatives of the United States to anyone interested in the history making epoch, he appeared well collected in his thoughts and in high spirit.
   But before he came to deliver his last farewell and departure message to the Liberian people, he had had the time to shed sincere tears at his residence. He could not understand why life was haunting him. Well, by every account he had reached the end of it. And it was either he remained stubborn and died like Samuel Doe, or he learned from history and preserved his life. He had chosen the latter and here he was on his way to deliver a message, clearly explaining the major reason he was about to give up the throne and not only that but also leave Liberia, at least, he believed, for a while. After the initial salutations, Charles Taylor appeared emotionally overpowered. His voice was somber, reflecting the days he had wept for the decision he knew he must make.
   In a voice indicating a man who had lost any hope he had for redemption, Charles Taylor justified the actions of the war. “The people’s revolution had been justified as former President Samuel Doe’s administration was corrupt and responsible for numerous atrocities and human rights abuses.” He knew too much was at stake, but the soon to be forgotten president was prepared to claim self-righteousness for the destruction of Liberia. He told of the beginning of the LURD rebels and pointed accusing fingers at the United States.
    “Our friend and ally the United States refused to acknowledge the existence of war,” Taylor said, with reference to the LURD rebels. In the beginning, many entertained the belief that there was nothing like the LURD rebels and that Taylor was creating imaginary enemies to perpetrate himself into power. “The international community, led by the United States and Britain, had denied Liberians the right to defend themselves by imposing arms embargo,” he said. Since he had lost all shades of trust, the international community realized that it was too dangerous to allow the government to make arm purchases for the war.
   So now that he was being sent away, Taylor went on, “A UN travel ban prevented government officials from visiting Western nations to defend our cause and timber sanctions starved our country of revenue.”
   “[The United States] caused this war… but we appreciate their presence. They can call off their dogs now,” Taylor said bitterly. After a lengthy diatribe against the United States, Taylor said, “I’ve decided to make the ultimate sacrifice, and be the “sacrificial lamb”, the “whipping boy”. That was the crust of the matter. Presently, Taylor recognized that he was day-dreaming and doing a lot of thinking. Why did he forget his own prophetic message that he was a sacrificial lamb? Now he was seeing the writing clearly on the wall. The only difference was that he was seeing it on the prison walls. Long before he agreed to go into exile and spared Liberia of bloodshed, he failed to note that he was a doomed figure of little or no consequence. And whatever anger he had against the United States and Great Britain, he realized that he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. His disappointment was the extreme power that other countries wielded over others.
   But he considered the ultimate sacrifice, which hung over him like the sword of Damocles: “I must stop fighting now.” But was Taylor making the decision out of fear? No, that could not be. He said, “I do not stop out of fear of the fight. I stop now out of love for you. For me it is no longer important that I fight. What is important is that you live and there is peace.” Like a dream, Taylor remembered his parting words to a stunned nation. It was a period of tears, anger and frustration.

   “”I’m stepping down from office of my own volition,” Taylor declared. “No one can take credit for asking me to step down.” But at the same breath, he contradicted himself, for leaving Liberia was too hard for him. “I did not want to leave this country,” Taylor said, choked with emotion, “I can say I am being forced into exile.” But now he was concerned about the suffering in Liberia. He said: “I can no longer see you suffer, the suffering is enough.” All along Taylor was fighting back tears while the women wept for him. The parting was unbearable!  But in his characteristic manner, Taylor prophesized: “God willing,” he said, “I will be back.” Remembering these thoughts ignited the sentiments of sorrow and regret that had buried deep in his heart. He wanted to return as a triumphant leader and not as a fugitive in shackles. Taylor saw it as the end of the world.

    For all his troubles in this world, Charles Taylor believed he was a good man. Though the world considered him otherwise, he had always believed that there was much humanity in him. The fact that he had been condemned for events he was far away from fitted his conclusion that he was like a sacrificial lamb, being disposed off for others. Yes, he made the ultimate sacrifice and willingly allowed himself to be sent into, what he had thought, would have been a brief exile, where he could have returned home to the loving arms of his people.
   For the last couple of hours, Taylor had been reviewing the road he had traveled so far and the people who had all contributed, and ganged up against him. Questions that kept coming back to him were: was my sacrifice, since the epoch year of 1989 invasion of Liberia, worth it? What did he achieve so far that now that he would spend eighty years sitting in jail, he could look back on as his legacy?  His heart beat faster and the thought that he was a failure or had been a failure because of the involvement and manipulations of powerful nations frustrated him. For the last fourteen years, whatever he thought he was determined to achieve for Liberia and its people failed miserably. But was he really a failure?
   Even if he was, he reasoned it was due to the involvement of powerful nations who had some stakes in the matter. “It was a system of divide and rule as usual,” he said to himself. “And the African just went for it, swallowing it without asking any question.”
   Then his mind went on the period when the revolution was launched. With hundreds and even thousands of volunteer soldiers, his forces swarmed across the entire land mass of Liberia. While his forces made significant gains, thousands of the young soldiers died, or were cut down by the enemy.
    As he reflected in German, “Heute rot, morgen tot,” in which by the rough understanding, meant, “Today red, tomorrow dead. Here today, gone tomorrow.” He was bitter that many thousands of his teenage soldiers in arms were gone.
   Taylor believed that his teenage soldiers who died for the revolution were the real heroes of the Liberian war. In pain, the former president reflected in Latin, “Heu, vitam perdidi, operose nihil agendo,” in which it is translated, “Alas, I have wasted my life, industriously doing nothing.”
   He could argue against that opinion since he succeeded in removing the despot whom at the time all Liberians, with some exception, wanted to be removed from the throne. Perhaps, Taylor realized that the lessons of the Liberian war could mean that at least one should not base his hopes in adventures that may eventually call into question the real motive. Like Ovid, (in Metamorphoses, 1, 190), Taylor could say, “Immedicable vulnus ense recidendum est ne pars sincera trahatur,” meaning, “An incurable wound must be cut out lest the sound part be infected.” This was the principle he had applied when he launched the ill-fated war. And still, it is what his enemies would want him to experience. He was highly convinced that he was on the right side of history. His captors provided a pseudo “Onus probandi” that is to say, “the burden of proof,” for the crimes (lies) he was accused of. At least he had shown to the world that he was a man who stood up against a tyrant and won. So now that he was being sent away for good, he could say, in a manner of consolation that, “Here The Man.” He looked at the temporary prison walls, and by calculation, he knew he had been up for the last four hours, unable to sleep, since he heard the number of years he would be put away. Even he realized that nature had denied him repose.

   It is the beginning of a long and a tortuous road that would eventually destroy him. Ghankay knew, and had been aware that the world had already condemned him. But, whether the condemnation would lead to his death, he did not care. In those days where he was king in what he described as Greater Liberia, he remembered how the youths had sung his praises.
“Anybody say no more Taylor we’ll kill you like a dog…”
“Ghankay?”
“Our leader.”
“Looting?”
“Our pay.”
   Those were the days that had passed like a dream. He heard a voice from afar and the former Liberian chief executive stretched his head to see what it was. The time was far spent. He felt his body sagging and he leisurely lowered his head; his eyes shining as he thought about the end of his adventures.

The End

IN THE SLAMMER

By Omari Jackson

         He sat there waiting for it. No, he had long known that it would come to this. And now Ghankay’s eyes lowered below his chest, unconcerned, as the verdict was read to a roomful of spectators.

    “The court,” the judge said, “finds you guilty of aiding and abetting the tragedy in Sierra Leone.” That was the conclusion, and he felt insulted about it.

    The judge went on: “In a few days time from now, you’ll be sentenced to serve your time, and may God’s kindness descent on your soul.”

    Looking suddenly aged, Ghankay Taylor could not hide his emotions, but he would not give in to them.

   “It will give them a chance to deride me,” was his thought.

So it happened that after six years of back and forth trial, the misfortunes of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor came to an end.

   Ghankay bowed his head and what appeared like painful smile came across his face. Was he surprised at what had happened to him? Did he not inform the court, when the trial was in the second year, that he would not have justice? Now that the result of his being guilty had been pronounced, what was the difference he had expected?

   None.

   Now they would throw him into the slammer, and maybe forget about him, leaving him to rot and die like the others.

Ghankay’s heartbeat increased as his mind centered on those unfortunate ones that had gone before him.

Saddam Hussein of Iraq, he read the report was hunted down and hang like a dog in his own country.

    Muamar Gaddafi, who had then transformed his country to work against violent groups, was also brought down and his body dismembered in his home in Libya: both Hussein and Gaddafi’s children becoming victims in the course of their tragedies.

   Then tears filled his eyes, for he was aware of the tragic end of his son, Chucky, who was also hunted down and now residing in a prison somewhere in the United States.

   For 99 years, he heard when he was still being mortgaged to be packaged into prison, as they had done.

   Though his chances of freedom he had known was long gone, he could not fail to laugh when he heard that his guilty verdict would serve as a strong message against such behavior in the future.

    “What behavior?” he had asked in his own defense, at the prosecutor, “is there any of the witnesses who could tell if they saw me doing those falsehoods they claimed I was responsible?” Like a defense counsel, Ghankay had moved back and forth, his eyes directly at the judge.

   The roomful of spectators remained silent.

   His defense, seated at the far corner in the room, waited for a response. Ghankay told them he was a president of a sovereign nation.

“We declared independence when much of Africa was still under the yoke of colonialism,” he said, “and we spearheaded the formation of the OAU.”

The room was silent.

“After over one hundred years,” he said, walking back and forth, “our country was,” his voice broke; choked with emotion, “Liberia was like a village and my people were torn asunder by a despot,” that part was drowned by the judge’s banging gavel.

Referring to what he described as pack of lies, Ghankay said, “My downfall is the end of Africa’s right to choose or die.” Lifting his right hand, he mobbed his face with a white handkerchief, and resumed his summation of what he considered as the plot by evil men against him.

   “Today,” he said in sadness, “I’m a doomed man of no consequence, and like the Christ I am being sacrificed for my people, but at the whim of my enemies.” Ghankay’s eyes were red in color, and not wanting to give the impression that the tragic consequence of his struggle to reclaim Liberia from the throes of a madman, is something he would regret, he swiftly turned around, and pointing at the judge, said, “This is the end.”

   With dramatic effect, Ghankay folded his hands behind his back, and marched across to the defense table and with a remarkable dexterity, lifted and shuffled a number of papers.

   Across from him, directly to the right of the prosecution’s table, sat relatives and friends who had traveled from Liberia and the United States to give him moral support.

   He wanted to look them in the face and encourage them, but the time was different, as he was being prepared for his doom.

    Ghankay remembered back in Africa, in particular in Liberia when it became necessary that he resigned his post as the legitimate president of Liberia where he proceeded into exile in Nigeria, he told his countrymen:

   “I’m not leaving because I’m afraid to fight,” he said, “I’m leaving so that the killings will end, so that you will live.”

Those words presently came to his assistance, and began to haunt him.

   “I’m being sacrificed,” Ghankay said, “I’m like a lamb for the slaughter.”

That day, more than six years ago, he had watched as many Liberians wept for him, and it was then that he realized how his people loved him.

Though he had indicated at the time: “One day,” he said, amid thunderous cheers, “I’ll be back,” that prophecy would not be fulfilled. In the end, Ghankay could not bring himself to believe that the world had been overshadowed by evil men, who had no delight for the plight of the suffering.

Presently, as the bailiff told him to go and not look back, he could feel perspiration forming on his forehead. There was so much a man could take. All he had done was leading a revolution to remove a despot, but now he was being sent to his doom for another’s crime.

“Where is justice,” he said, eyes lowered below his chest.

He did not deny his relations with Foday Sankoh and his marauding soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front, but that he aided and abetted their actions, was far from the truth.

As Ghankay walked to his doom, he could not imagine a world where individuals had no choices for their nations and people’s sake.    He had fought a good fight, and whether his fight caused thousands to die, the world had indicated they did not care. He could be satisfied if he were being judged for his actions in his native Liberia, but now he knew the world did not care about those whose lives wasted on the Liberian theatre.

    Remembering his parting words to the Americans the day he set out for his Nigerian asylum, Ghankay repeated it to himself: “They should call off their dogs,” now that he was being thrown in the slammer.

    He knew he would soon be forgotten, and lost to oblivion. And that was the part, like a cancerous tumor, defeated his resolve to remain optimistic.

The End