I am no poli-sci guy
Let's get that out of the way. My degree was in something like art or someshit - which, my friends, is doing me very well (not really).
If I were a poli-sci guy I would have a nice term for "f'n idiot world leader".
But, I don't.

Let's Learn about Liberia
As a rule, us Americans have no idea what is going on in Africa. Sure, our ancestors went over there and grabbed slaves, but they apparently just went in and grabbed the people and didn't look around.
No one has any idea what goes on other there - I mean apart from the Discovery Channel's documentaries on lions or cheetahs.
Cheetahs - they are nutty.
They are like the hummingbirds of the feline world (that's the smartest thing I have written this week).

South Africa - forgot about them. We know a tiny bit about them. That catchy Sun City song.

Our news media have kind of embraced this whole Charles Taylor / Liberia thing - I mean more than they normally would for an African conflict. They love the story about Liberia being founded by freed American slaves, which, yes, does make a good story.
The current conflict I think may have a lot to do with Charles Taylor being a f'n idiot. The more I read about him, the more I see him as a delusional ego-maniac (BTW, he says the same about me).

OK, so here is the Liberia story - robot style...

Let's Go Liberia
The country of Liberia was founded by freed American slaves. Sort of. The whole movement was organized and funded by white Americans, primarily slave owners who were happy to get rid of the more troublesome slaves. The first boat load of freed slaves left the US in 1816.

That's great, right? They all get to start a new society in their country. But, of course we are forgetting that people already live in the area that is now called Liberia. D'oh! The new Liberians upon arrival adopt the techniques of the cracker-ass-crakers in trying to convert the natives to worship Jeebus and embrace civilization. I suspect Native Americans rolled their eyes when learning this - "Here we go again".
Oh, and the native people greatly outnumbered the 15,000 new residents - smell trouble?

The new Liberians had a hard time getting things going in their new land. Disease, different farming requirements, and a lack of support from the USA made the going rough during the first years. They became an independent country in 1847 and the new Liberians stayed in power by denying the native people voting rights and using them in forced labor.
"Forced labor", which I think some would think define as "Slavery".
Irony!? Yes!

The 1900's were a bit kinder to Liberia. Sort of. There was corruption and the native residents barely had rights, but industry and trade and all that fun stuff began to grow and the country became wealthier and stronger (they exported a lot of rubber and diamonds).

Where Chuck Taylor comes in
Taylor was born to a native mother and an Americo-Liberian father. As a child, his favorite stuffed animal was a gorilla named Gipper (oh wait, that was me).
In his twenties Taylor went to the US to study economics where he became involved in a group called the Union of Liberian Associations (ULA). He protested against the current Liberian leader William Tolbert, and actually debated Tolbert when Tolbert made a trip to the states. Tolbert was impressed with Taylor and invited him to return back to Liberia.

In 1980, while I was playing with Star Wars figures and listening to pre-new wave 45's, Charles Taylor was coming up. Taylor returned to Liberia just as Tolbert was overthrown by Samuel Doe who became Liberia's first native president of Liberia.

OK, let's break this down so I don't get confused.

Tolbert: president. Meets Taylor. Likes Taylor. Says, "come back to Liberia, dawg".

Taylor: rises to head of ULA group in the US. Debates against Tolbert, but does so well that Tolbert gives him props. Taylor returns to Liberia just as Tolbert is overthrown and murdered.

Doe: Overthrows Tolbert. He's old-school Liberian.

Chuck's first idiot move
All hail president Doe.
Doe hires Taylor to work in the government in some of purchasing job. Somehow, Taylor finds himself accused of embezzlement (almost a million bucks) and flees to the United States.
This is where it gets weird. The Americans arrest Taylor for embezzlement and jail him while deciding if they should send him back.
Taylor friggin breaks out of jail and vanishes. Oh, the conspiracy theories I can imagine. I can't find crap on how he actually escaped, but there are many theories, including involvement by the US government.
The rumor is that he ran to Libya to hang out with everyone's favorite tyrant, Qaddafi.

So, let's review again:

Doe: President
Taylor: handles money. Steals money. Runs to USA. Arrested there. Jail break! Goes to Libya.


Nep Fell
Chuck returns to Liberia as head of a guerilla force called the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in 1989 (pronounce Nep-Fell) (I just made that up). Their goal was to overthrow President Doe (all hail Doe!).
Now, I can't find out why he wanted to overthrow Doe - my readings have not disclosed this fact. Maybe Taylor was mad about the embellzement charge? Maybe Doe was screwing up the country?
My theory? Taylor is a f'n idiot and wanted to run the country himself.

Now, this is where my f'n idiot indicator went off again - upon the NPFL's arrival in Liberia and the beginning of successful conflicts with the government troops, the NPFL splits into two.
The NPFL, now split into two groups defeats Doe's forces and the head of the second group, Prince "my name is f*cking Prince" Johnson kills Doe and his pals and occupies the city of Monrovia in 1990.

Idiot light goes off again when the two NPFL factions now have a civil war against each other for control of Liberia. Real mature guys! In 1995 they agree to a cease-fire, but fighting begins again.
Taylor's faction finally wins and Taylor becomes president in 1997.

And here we are
Chuck has now left Liberia (again), but has promised to return (again). You kids can now take it from here.
Of course I am glossing over lots of human rights abuses and shady arms deals. I also neglected to mention Taylor once saying, "Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time" when being interviewed about human rights abuses.

Nor did I mention Chuck and his pal Pat Robertson being pals in a gold-mining venture. Pat's company is named, get this, Freedom Gold.
But you can read a lot more about Chuck and the Liberians on the interweb - here are some of the articles I have read during the past week.

  • lonley palnet intro

  • general travel tips @ Lonely Planet

  • "Monrovia has no sights and even the market is not an exotic place since mainly Chinese goods are sold there. Other than walk in the streets and mingle with the people not much is offered."

  • state department report

  • the CIA Factbook

  • History Of Liberia: A Time Line

  • Slate: Was Liberia Founded By Freed U.S. Slaves?

  • In Tuesday's Washington Post, an editorial urging President Bush to send peacekeepers to civil war-wracked Liberia noted that the country was "founded by freed U.S. slaves." Is that true?

  • History Haunts War-Torn Liberia

  • BBC Country Profile
    BBC time line

  • the final call's pro-taylor stance

  • http://www.hrw.org/africa/liberia.php

  • Charles Taylor - preacher, warlord and president

  • PBS- A Profile of Charles Taylor

  • pat & Chuck like gold

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