End October 2004 The fight with FOGOW that lasted 5 months

The fight with Friends of George Oppong Weah (FOGOW) dogged us for nearly 5 months (October 2004 to February 2005) and was arguably one of the major reasons, among several others, that slowed us down.

As the talks with Kofi Woods came to the end around the weekend of October 15, it wasn’t long before the fight with the group calling itself FOGOW intensified. Remember that on October 8 these guys had used the opportunity they had to malign us to Amb. Weah causing the Ambassador to treat us with disdain and lack of enthusiasm.

When Dtweah received the call, again, from Amb. Weah that “those guys are coming to Florida” and I want you and Kollie to be here; like soldiers, we were ready to obey the order. We searched again for cheap tickets and this time, due to Dtweah’s work schedule, he could not make the flight on Friday because he had to work late. For me, I called in sick and hopped on the flight that Friday, October 30, 2004. Dtweah would join us on Saturday afternoon. This was a political battle that I wouldn’t miss for anything in the world.

As I got to the Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP) International airport, I saw some of the members of FOGOW at the airport. For some, we were on the same flight and others were on different flight. I remember that Stanley Ford, Ciapha Diggs, Patrick Chea and a few others were at the airport. We were not friends with these but it really didn’t matter. I met Stanley Ford for the time when he moderated our October 9 meeting with Amb. Weah. For George Yuoh, I knew him because we were all AIESCERs from Liberia but we weren’t close.

I am in the airport and my blood is boiling. I am as angry as hell because I felt what these guys were doing to us was horrible. They were the same people who had informed us that the biggest problem with Amb. Weah is that he has “thin skin” and listens to gossips and then rather than try to mitigate these weaknesses they were trying to exploit them to their political advantage? In my mind, I am wondering what kind of friends are these?

It is important to make clear here that both Dtweah and I were not friends with Amb. Weah. I am not sure that point in time Dtweah had ever met Amb. Weah. For me, because lots of Amb. Weah’s friends (Alex Nyenkan, Papie Pearson, etc) went to Zion College with me, I had had the opportunity to bed him to sponsor some on my school projects since I was President of the Student Union. Additionally, because I graduated as Valedictorian of the Class of 95, I had the opportunity to come close to the Ambassador since he was a platform guest and I had to give a speech. That was the closet we had come to Amb. Weah before engaging in the grassroots effort so you can understand our apprehension.

Besides, these very same people were the ones who told us that we were unserious and joking when we indicated to them that we were exploring the possibility of a political future for George Weah and we wanted them to connect us to the Ambassador. I remember Dtweah and I went to meet with them on the ‘Ablaawo’ field in Brooklyn Park. We left from there feeling stupid and confused. Are these really friends of George Weah?

So when I considered what they did to us that October 8 night and then they were on their way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to outline how they could make George Weah president, I am about to lose my mind. I am exasperated and infuriated; I want to choke some folks with my bare hands.

Anyway, I managed to maintain my cool and calm but did not laugh for a minute with any of them because what I was planning for them required me maintaining a warlike posture so that I wouldn’t change my mind or lower my tempo.

And yes we got to Florida and spend the Friday night to prepare for the big meeting on Saturday, October 31, 2004. The guys had their act together and they brought in a lot of other folks from around the United States. I know that Aaron Davies from New Jersey; Toyuwa Harris (NJ), Eric Daniels (MA), Mr. & Mrs. Greene from Georgia, Dr. Clarence Yaskey, Ciapha Diggs, and Alexander Garley from Minnesota, and off course the usual suspects like George Yuoh,   Patrick Chea, Stanley Ford and several others were in Florida. Oh Yes! Meme Gono and Carica were also there.

It was a beautiful Saturday and we were ready for the meeting but to our surprise and to the discouragement of many, we spend all morning playing soccer, tennis and basketball because the Ambassador wanted us to do. I can remember that Mr. Akex Garley was visibly furious on grounds that he did not fly from Minnesota to come and play sports. He wanted to get to serious business but as usual, the Ambassador carried the day and we spend all morning engaging in extra curricula activities.

It was not until around 2 or 3 p.m. that we convened for the meeting and the FOGOW guys came with their Bye-laws and Constitution,  campaign strategy that included messaging, they had a fund raising plan, they had a prototype of a website, and host of other things to impress the Ambassador and take over the entire operations.

As soon as they started and before it got interesting, I got up and fire the bombshell. I informed the group that what these were attempting to do was equivalent to undermining the legitimate political structure and had the propensity to create parallel power centers and derail our cause. If these guys, who are calling themselves the friends of George, really want to help their friend, I think they should join the political structure and try to strengthen it so that we can have a strong “institution” to guide this process. But to begin to organize ‘quasi-political structures’ to undermine our efforts was wrong and bad. I informed them that those of us who started this enterprise are not friends of George and really don’t care about his friendship but rather want to work to build a strong political institution. I asked what would happened if another group came and said they were the “friends of the friends of George Weah” then what will happen?

I went further and recounted the history and formation of this group that happened on the night of October 8 by folks who had dismissed the idea of any political relevance for George Weah and then I see them here today calling themselves the Friends of George Weah. Are they really his friends? I concluded by requesting that all those who wanted to play a part in the political process should kindly try to join the organization and help strengthen it or they can remain friends of Weah and provide their support privately or through other means but we will not give them political relevance or stature.

Based on my presentation, Amb. Weah decided that we suspend the meeting and let FOGOW and LNC meet to iron out their differences. It was at this time that some of those invited to the meeting as friends of George got this information for the first time and some thought that it was important for us to work together and many of them like Eric Daniels started leading the organizing efforts in Massachusetts and working with St. Tomalin George in Rhode Island.

For all practical purposes, this was the end of the meeting. Many of the guys were surprised that I could disrupt the meeting. They really didn’t know me and saw Dtweah as the talkative person. Little did they know that I am silent weapon: a quite radical who has the capacity of waging intellectual civil war but I usually prefer not to. I love to always be the last but this time Dtweah’s flight was delay and so I had to intervene.

Well, when Dtweah finally got there, the damage was already done and so we all agreed that when we got back to Minnesota, we will convene some meeting to smooth the rough edges. We should have done that long time ago.

And so FOGOW parked everything they had and took them back to Minnesota. The prototype never saw the light of day and all those strategies and messages never left the laptops. Though that was the end of that meeting, the fight with FOGOW was really, truly, just starting because some guys were there saying “what’s wrong these pekins?”

That fight would really continue until February 2005 when Amb. Weah comes back to Minnesota and he and his friends finally fall off.

What was astonishing and absurd about this fight was that it shouldn’t have continued for week or even a day but the Ambassador, though he despised the group (FOGOW), he wouldn’t tell them straight up that we are going the route of the party.

Anyway, that was how the FOGOW’s fight started.

Stay tune…

I am coming back with November 2004

  1. We go Staten Island – I will tell you who all were there
  2. Consultation continued in Philadelphia
  3. George Weah accepts the petition to run for President on the CDC ticket and returns to Monrovia in a hero style

Did you know that

  1. In February 2005 there were whispers about J. Dwalu Beyslow been considered for VP? I will talk about how it started and what the Ambassador said about it.
  2. I will talk about the Washington DC conspiracy to make Carica the Chairman of the CDC and how it was resisted. This will show a major weakness of the decision-making system but seem to have been the only way to get a certain thing done. I will tell you how and why…
  3. In June 2005 we approached Judge Luvenia Ash-Thompson to be VP. Yes the grassroots movement approached Her Honor. I want you to imagine how this would have destroyed the grassroots movement. I will talk about how it died.

I will come back after the elections with more details but for now I have to get back campaigning…

October 2004 – Part 2: Ending the Kofi Woods Talks and Starting the FOGOW’s Fight

The political undercutting and infighting really hurt us. And recovering was from the self-inflated wounds was extremely difficult. This, I believe, caused us everything.

So after our very terrible meeting with Ambassador Weah that October 8 weekend, he and his team left for Florida and Georgia on Sunday, October 10. As I indicated previously, at the end of the meeting between Ambassador Weah and Kofi Woods at Al Jerome’s house, Kofi had indicated that we should meet soon. And so on Tuesday, October 12, Kofi requested that Dtweah and I should meet with him. Though we were not happy with Kofi for not informing us that Al Jerome had brokered a meeting for him with Ambassador Weah but we were excited that the senior brother wanted to meet with us and so went to see him that Tuesday evening (October 12, 2004) at this apartment in St. Paul. Because of Dtweah’s work schedule, we went to Kofi around 1 a.m. that morning.

At this point, things were moving very fast, at speed we were truly unable to comprehend. However, we did inform Kofi that we were prepared to fight the guys calling themselves FOGOW even it if meant derailing the vessel.

Anyway we left Kofi on a very good note and he had informed us that he and Amb. Weah were talking. We felt good about that but also troubled that it appears he was on the side of our opponents (FOGOW).

Then on Thursday, October 14, Dtweah got a call from Ambassador Weah that he (Dtweah) and I should join him in Florida on that weekend because Kofi and his guys were going there. We quickly tried to purchase our tickets so that we could make it there. It was not an easy thing to get the information on Thursday that you are needed in Florida on Friday. But because we needed to savage our infant political enterprise, we did not complain.

I was able to secure 2 tickets for Dtweah and myself but there was no way we could get there on Friday. The earliest we could get there was Saturday, October 16 around 1 pm in the afternoon. Those cheap tickets have a way of making several stops and so even though we were leaving early on Saturday morning, there was no way we could get there before 1 p.pm on Saturday.

Now, up to that time when we were getting on the flight to Florida, Kofi had not informed us that he had been invited to Florida but he had all his men informed and they were able to all get to Florida on Friday afternoon or evening which meant that they had sufficient time. The only person who got there about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning was James Verdier (yes JV). I guess he had to leave work before heading to Florida.

Others on Kofi’s delegation were Calvin Dwuye, George Yuoh, and Tarnue Mawolo (TM, now deceased). Patrick Chea (now deceased) was also there but I can say he was part of Ambassador Weah’s team. Patrick was the primary link between those calling themselves FOGOW and Amb. Weah. Off course Meme Gono and Carica were also there.

So Dtweah and I were busy hopping from one airport to another so that we could get to Florida in order to participate in the discussions. This meeting, for us, would demonstrate that we were still in the game. Thanks to Meme for vouching for us.

As the groups convened in Florida that Saturday morning, discussions started between the two teams: Team Weah and Team Kofi. At this point Dtweah and I have not made it to Florida yet so everything I recount here is what I was told by our side.

The information is that Ambassador Weah and Kofi Woods went in a separate location to hold discussions; to find time to bond more and to build the chemistry. On the other side were the 2 teams: Team Weah had Meme Gono, Carica and Patrick Chea while Team Kofi had James Verdier, Calvin Dwuye, Tarnue Mawolo and George Yuoh.

As the group started discussions, Team Weah proposed that it would be a good idea if Kofi Woods would honor Ambassador Weah’s request to join him as his vice running mate. Team Kofi, represented by James Verdier, screamed that it is was ridiculous and impossible for Kofi to run with Ambassador Weah as vice running mate because he didn’t think that Amb. Weah was capable of being president. This infuriated Team Weah and a shouting match ensued.

The loudness of the shouting caused Amb. Weah and Kofi to intervene. They calmed the group down and encouraged them to continue the conversation. So they went back into the second round of talks, the same shouting match ensued and this time it was uncontrollable and both sides decided to end the talks.

At this point, both principals had to disengage and the agreement was that they would reconvene at some point in time. It was during this break that Dtweah was able to locate Calvin Dwuye’s number and placed a call to him. Dtweah then informed Calvin that he and I were enroute to Florida and would be there in the next hour or so.

It was at this time that Kofi and team had the slightest idea that we were invited to the meeting too. At this point, I am angry and plotting how I would either express myself to Kofi or revenge against him for not been forthcoming with us even though we have tried to be with him.

So we got there and the mood in Florida was tense and horrible to say the least. We spoke to Kofi and his guys and then went to join our side to get proper briefing. Immediately upon receiving the briefing, I suggested that we should abandon the talks because it was useless to continue. My position was based on three (3) cardinal points:

  1. That the dismissal of Amb. Weah as head of ticket coming from James Verdier meant that it was Kofi’s position. If it had come from someone else then we could negotiate but from James Verdier? That is Kofi’s position;
  2. The assertion that Amb. Weah is not prepared to be president but could be a vice president didn’t make sense to me at all because the vice president could be president at any minute;
  3. That if a vice president so openly coverts the presidency then it is bad idea to make that person vice president because they could overthrow the president anytime.

On the basis of those three (3) points I thought that there was no utility in continuing the conversation.

Again, the mood remained very tense and awkward in Florida for the rest of Saturday even though the groups had dinner together and later went out to the club at Miami Beach but that was it.  While at the club, Calvin tried to see if he could talk to me and Dtweah to try to revive the talks; little did he know that I was one of the proponents that we should end it right there and then.

And that is how the Kofi and Weah discussions ended in Florida and Team Kofi left Florida on Sunday, October 17 at various times.

When Team Kofi left, Amb. Weah asked me and Dtweah to stay behind and spend an extra day with him so we changed our flight from Monday to Tuesday so that we could spend some time holding discussions we didn’t have time to do in Minnesota.

I must admit that those few hours we spend in Florida with Amb. Weah after everyone had left, in hind sight, turns out to have been the best, ever. I am serious! This doesn’t mean that we discussed the world; it means that we never ever had time to discuss anything serious again. We were either playing basketball or football and having some dinner or some other programs. It always worried me because my concern was that we were talking about the lives of 3.5 million and we can’t spend time to discuss what we will do when the Liberian people entrust us with power? Well sometimes my colleagues argued that we needed to play on the Amb.’s turf sufficiently and then when he is comfortable, he will play on ours.

While we were in Florida on that Monday, October 18, Kelvin Swebe did call and Amb. Weah asked me to speak with him. My job was to properly situate and contextualize the grassroots revolution and I did that very well. I spoke with Kelvin and we exchanged email addresses. He did pledge his support and told us to keep him abreast of developments. On October 19, I did send Kelvin an email as promised and on October 22 he replied.

So this is how the Kofi story ended but then remember that the fight with FOGOW was just about to begin. It turned out that FOGOW had secured a meeting with Amb. Weah for the weekend of October 30 in Florida. Again, Amb. Weah asked us (Dtweah and me) to join him for this meeting.

This would turn out to be an open ring fight and I did take on the group (FOGOW); holding no punches. I will go into much details in next piece. Just keep tune…

The Press Release after our October 2004 meeting with Amb. Weah in Minnesota

Liberian National Press Release

This release was issued as we tried to repair the damage done to us during our terrible meeting with Ambassador Weah in Minnesota. I will never forget that October 8 weekend.

Many argued that at that point, we should have disembarked but it was difficult because then it would have shown that we didn’t have the backbone to fight for what we believed. How could we have terminated just after the first shock when the fact was that many more shocks would have come and they did.

Remember, we are getting ready to go to Florida….

October 2004 – Part 1: The dangerous tactics that significantly undermined the grassroots organizing

If only we had managed October 2004 properly, I believe the commentaries today about the grassroots efforts would have been different. But the initial missteps and mishaps marred our struggle for a long time and arguably still do today.

When Chairman Dtweah informed us that Ambassador Weah had accepted our invitation and would be coming to the Twin Cities on Friday, October 8, 2004 and then would be meeting with us on Saturday, October 9, we were extremely delighted and enthusiastic about the opportunity to discuss the future of our country.

Our plan was to hold an honest and frank conversation with Amb. Weah regarding our political thinking and then solicit from him, his thinking as well. We had series of meetings among ourselves to prepare our presentation and talking points. In fact, we had George Yuoh attend one of our preparatory meetings in which we wanted to pick his brain. We invited George Yuoh to our meeting because we thought he was honest and frank with us when I had a phone conversation with him about our intentions to work with Ambassador Weah in the ensuing 2005 elections. In that conversation, Yuoh informed me that he was not a friend of Ambassador Weah but had several friends who were closed to Ambassador Weah. However, his honest assessment, from what friends had told him was that Ambassador Weah had “thin skin” and so that was something we needed to be aware of.

I had called Yuoh because of the September 18 article published on The Perspectives website in which he said some positive things about Amb. Weah in the immediate aftermath of Cllr. Izetta Wesley and company manipulating the rules to stop Amb. Weah from contesting the LFA’s presidency.

(http://www.theperspective.org/2004/sept/georgeweah.html). I believe that it was this singular action by the political elites that gave our organizing efforts the momentum it needed because it made Amb. Weah to favorably consider or entertain the idea of running for President. I think he was desperate at that point and so the idea of running for president made perfect sense. It might have been for the wrong reason but his frustration and our “youth adventurism” became a match made in heaven.

Well and so that Friday, October 8 came and we were dressed in our suits to go and receive Amb. Weah from the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. We had rented a Lincoln Navigator and were prepared to rent a hotel for him because we wanted the meeting to be very serious by treating him as our official guest. But the Ambassador decided he stay at his friend’s house.

Amb. Weah had informed us that he was passing thru Atlanta, Georgia to pick up a female youth activist and will also be accompanied by his friend, Sylvester Williams (Carica or Vo as we called him). So, the Ambassador’s delegation included him, Carica and Meme Gono.

But two (2) things happened before Amb. Weah’s arrival: first, I got an email from George Yuoh informing me that Patrick Chea (deceased) had informed him that Amb. Weah wanted his friends to manage the upcoming meeting; and then we got another message from Abu Massaley (Puchi van duchi) that Amb. Weah did not want us to go at the airport to receive him so we should turn the car over to him so they can go and pick up the Ambassador and delegation.

In the first case, Yuoh and I exchanged emails in which I raised serious objections to having our meeting with Ambassador Weah managed by his friends. I insisted that they could attend the meeting if they wanted to but to be the ones to manage the meeting? I found that very offensive and insulting. However, Yuoh was only delivering a message and so I couldn’t do anything to him.

But the next request that we turn over the rental car to Puchi who will then go to receive the Amb. Weah was very frustrating and demoralizing. We all began to wonder what was going on? But we decided to take it in strides. We were entering the game of the big boys and we needed to be able to withstand some shocks and maybe this was the first test.

As frustrated as we were, we remained calm and collect. But then we never heard from Patrick Chea from 11 am that Friday morning until around 12 mid night when he, Patrick, turned his phone on and called Dtweah to inform him that the Ambassador was at his (Patrick’s) house and if we wanted to see him we should come quickly.

Are you kidding me? If we want to see him? We were the ones that invited him to Minnesota and so how can anyone ask if we want to see him? It became very troubling, confusing and shameful.

However, we decided to soldier on. We got in our cars and drove to Patrick’s house around midnight. When we got there, we saw a number of senior brothers : Dr. Yaskey, George Yuoh, Patrick Chea and number of other folks.

Surprisingly, our guest, Ambassador Weah could not even spend a minute with us. As I remember, less than a minute after we entered the house, Ambassador Weah informed us that he was going to bed. It was Carica who came and sat with us for a few minutes. And then I recognized Meme Gono, the youth activist that accompanied Ambassador Weah from Atlanta. It happened that I had known Meme Gono for years: our mothers were friends and I even tutored Meme and her brother Gabriel as their study class teacher when their cousin, Dr. J. Emmanuel Moore (Opa), left for studies in the US.

So, we chatted with Meme and Carica for a bit and then we decided to go home to catch some rest for the next day. Actually, the environment at Patrick’s house felt very uncomfortable for us.

That day, Saturday, October 9, 2004 was supposed to be our big day but as the saying goes, “if your Christmas will be good, you will know from the eve.” Our eve, that Friday, October 8, 2004 was the worst day ever. The shame, the frustration, the disgrace, the belittlement, the bewilderment, and you name it were vexing and perplexing. We began to wonder as to what had really happened.

And we all got ready that Saturday morning for our big meeting with the Ambassador. As it turned out, we had to wait at my house until we got a call that the Ambassador was ready to see us. Under our plan, we wanted a whole day of interaction and discussions so that we could establish whether there was a fit or not. We wanted to talk about what we were looking to achieve and what we thought were the impediments. We wanted to talk about the issue of “thin skin” and the personal sacrifice that would be required to make the transition from the football field into the political arena. We were excited about discussing the political future our country. We were idealistic in our approach as history now reveals.

As it turned out, we got the call to go and meet Ambassador Weah around 2 pm that Saturday and we were informed that we needed to be quick as the Ambassador had other planned meetings. For Heaven’s sake, what is going on? We wondered. And so we had to rush there and prepare ourselves to live within the window that had been created for us.

What was supposed to be an all-day affair of interaction and discussions, turned out to be a moderated forum in which the Liberia National Congress (LNC) was given 5 minutes to make a statement. The forum was moderated by Stanley Ford. I am sitting there wondering what is really going on. I am embarrassed and shame like hell but at the same time trying to understand and appreciate the dynamics. Things were moving really fast. Dtweah ended up reading what amounted to a petition of Amb. Weah to run for president. This happened to be the first major contradiction of our organizing efforts because we had castigated others for “petitioning” people without serious conversations. Now, here we are been forced by the circumstance to do the same. Any, we justified forgiving ourselves and we moved on.

Then Dtweah was informed by Al Jerome that Ambassador Weah and Kofi Woods would be meeting at his house so we should join them. While all of these are going on, our colleagues, the less political ones, are demanding answers from us and we too are asking questions in our heads. But we cannot come across as though we don’t know what is going on and so we jumped in Dtweah’s car and raced behind Amb. Weah and party to Al Jerome’s house. This is probably around 6:30 to 7:00 pm that evening.

If the meeting with Amb. Weah had gone as we had planned, it was during this meeting that we would have asked for Ambassador Weah to meet with Kofi Woods in furtherance of our combined political discovery. But we never had the chance to do that; however, Al Jerome had succeeded in arranging a meeting between Amb. Weah and Kofi Woods at his house.

My problem with Kofi Woods was that we had agreed for the LNC to arrange a meeting with Amb. Weah; if for any reason he managed to secure the meeting using another person, I thought I deserved the courtesy of been informed. But no!

Anyway, I met Kofi Woods at the meeting and so I counted it against him because I had tried to keep him informed along the way.

And so the meeting at Al Jerome’s house took place that night and even though we were frustrated and confused, we believed that a political marriage between Amb. Weah and Kofi Woods would have achieved 2 things:

  1. It would give the comfort we needed to mitigate any perceived shortcomings of Amb. Weah; and
  2. We believed then it would ensure victory for the grassroots efforts.

To the best of my recollection, in that meeting, Amb. Weah did inform Kofi Woods that his (Weah’s) people had petitioned him to run for President. And that he had heard a lot of good things about Kofi Woods and he (Weah) would be delighted if Kofi Woods could join him even though he is still holding consultation on the petition. Kofi Woods informed Amb. Weah that he took note of the request but thought that they should do more talking and build a relationship.

At the end of the meeting, Kofi had requested that we (he, Dtweah and I) find time to meet during the week.

Everyone thought that meeting ended well. In fact, this was the only good news we had to report to our people: that the meeting with Ambassador Weah and Kofi Woods went very well. This made us to buy time with our members until we got to the bottom of the mess.

And so Ambassador Weah and delegation left town on Sunday, October 10. Before they left, Meme Gono and I had exchanged numbers and she told me she would call me as soon as she got back to Atlanta. And true to her words, she called me and began explaining what had transpired that Friday.

She calls me Kpadeh! She said “Kpadeh, I didn’t know you were part of this group but what those guys said about your, the Ambassador did not even want to see you people. Those guys had said all kinds of terrible things about you people, especially Dtweah. But anyway, I will talk to the Ambassador and inform him that I know you and that what those guys said were all lies. I will inform him that you are not that kind of person.”

And so by Monday, Ambassador Weah called Dtweah for them to compare notes and so we knew that Meme had talked to him.

What was puzzling about everything that had happened was that these same friends were the ones that said Amb. Weah’s greatest weakness was that he had “thin skin” and then rather than help him, they exploited that weakness on that Friday night to turn Amb. Weah against us simply because they referred to us “those pekin.”

I sincerely believe that we should have made a turning point decision on that weekend. In fact, several colleagues did but for some of us, we thought giving up would be a sign a weakness and so we decided that we will fight. We will not allow those calling themselves Friends of George Weah (FOGOW) to hijack this political process that we had begun. Many of them had castigated us for believing that it was possible. They never believed that a George Weah could ever be seriously considered for anything in the field of politics.

On Tuesday, October 12, Dtweah and I went to see Kofi Woods at his St. Paul’s apartment. I was very clear in that meeting with Kofi Woods that those guys calling themselves FOGOW were playing dangerously and were trying to undermine our efforts and that we would not take it lightly. I asked him to encourage them to desist. Anyway, we talked and he said that he and Weah had started talking and we will see where it goes.

By Thursday, October 14 Dtweah receives a call from Amb. Weah that he (Dtweah) and I should join him over the weekend because Kofi and team will be coming to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Friday, October 15 for some political discussions. Gosh! It’s Thursday. How do we get tickets to travel on such short notice? Anyway, we had decided to enter the adult’s game and at this point we are struggling to savage our political enterprise that is under severe attack. But it’s politics and you don’t cry foul. The game has no rules!

Stay tune…

 I will stop here for now so that you absorb the first half of October 2004. It is at this point that we go to Florida, the famous Florida meeting in which Kofi Woods and his team go to discuss the possibility of political collaboration. I will name names of those who attended the meetings and what unfolded. I will also talk about how our in-house fighting started between the LNC and FOGOW in the US and how it continued until February 2005.

A thing or two about winning elections

Here is something I know about winning elections: I am sure that in a horse race of at least a dozen candidates, the strategy of asking one candidate what have you done over the last 12 years will not get you there. The simple fact is that there are, at least, eleven other candidates who will be splitting the votes of those who don’t like the answer that will be given and so if you want to win, really win and not just participate, the strategy will have to involve more than that question.

One of my senior brothers will react to this post and say “Jimmy, you are a good man and I love you very much but what do you know about winning elections?” He might be right that I don’t know a whole lot about winning elections but I do know a thing or two about winning elections.

The voters, in my estimation, will want to hear what you will be doing differently to improve the their current condition. So rather than all other candidates asking one person the same question, let them start figuring out what is it that they intend to do that will have better outcomes for the people.

And oh, the people know that a lot has been done over the last few years and so to want to make them believe that nothing good has happened in the country over the last 12 years, will make them to not trust you. They want someone who can acknowledge that though challenges remain, we have made progress notwithstanding. The admission of this simple truism will create trust with voters and then they might be inclined to listen to what you have to say in the form of offering some kind of solution.

The game is about differentiating yourself and offering something that voters can believe in. Voters usually look at the messenger, the message, the associates, and the past and then wonder in their mind about believability. If they don’t believe you, they not vote for you.

These elections will, no doubt, be interesting and we will be watching. Not true! We don’t be watching; we will be fully participating.

Friday, October 7, 2004 Memory Lane

Excitement is an understatement of the feeling we had when we were informed that on  Friday, October 7, 2004 around 11 am, Ambassador Weah would be landing at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). My colleagues and I decided that we would carry a high power delegation to receive the man we had been longing to meet to have an honest conversation about the future of our country.

We had paid for a rental car – to be exact, a Lincoln Navigator (SUV). Little did we know that a plan was in the works to cut us off from meeting Ambassador Weah and yes, in spite of been properly attired and mentally prepared, we were told that Ambassador Weah did not want us to meet him at the airport.

Hmmm! In my next piece, I go deep into the intrigues, the shenanigans, the mischief, and the chicanery, as well as the individuals that participated in the ploy that set the LNC (later the CDC) on the wrong path, I will argue.

Photo is courtesy of Patrick Meniboon…




Is Residency Defined in Liberian Law?

I have heard a few colleagues say that “residency” is not defined in Liberian Law and so no candidate in the ensuing elections can be disqualified on the basis of the 10 year residency clause in the Constitution.

First, it is important to mention that the application of the residency clause to the 2017 elections is settled matter as per the Supreme Court.

And then, I was able to find out that Section 1.1(h) of the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia does define “residence” as

      (h) The term “residence” means the place of general abode; and the place of general    abode of a person means his principal, actual dwelling place in facts without regard to intent. A residence may be continual without an uninterrupted physical presence;

The language above looks pretty clear to me; doesn’t seem like there will be any difficulty in its application.

your take…

Chaotic September 2004 But the grassroots organizing continued

When we entered the month of September, hopes were high as the organizing efforts were receiving a lot of traction especially since the publication of the press release announcing the formation of the Liberia National Congress on limany dot org. https://jameskolliedotnet.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/lnc-first-release.pdf

Since that September 8th publication, we began receiving lots of interest in the organization. We were extremely excited by these expressions of interest even though we were still not clear on which way we would be going. The issue of the “critical mass” in its pure form and sense versus the “George Weah as the leader of our generation” were conflicting positions that were difficult to reconcile. We struggled in this quagmire but our abilities to articulate our vision with clarity in spite of the ambiguities and confusions that surrounded the process of achieving that vision probably gave us that “life line” or “breathing space” that made the organization to continue to survive. However, some other folks laid particular goal post and drew certain lines that once we crossed, they would disembark. The good news is that the defections were far less than those who were expressing interest and joining the movement and so this handicap was never prominently observed but I kept the records and most of these personal friends.

As I look back, I can only confess that those who left (like Sekou Dudu, Patrick Meniboon, etc) were smarter than we were and I will justify these observations later.

So with the enthusiasm, energy and hopes we had then, we moved full speed with the organizing efforts. Within that month, we completed our registration with the Minnesota Department of State (our file # was 1025366-2) and also applied for and received our Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS (the number was 01-0820454). We also registered a mailbox number with the local UPS  store in Brooklyn Center and we were therefore given the address:

6066 Shingle Creek Parkway,

Suite 240

Brooklyn Park, MN 55430.

We were not physically present at this address but could receive our mails there. With these three coordinates in place, we had everything required to open a bank account and begin to receive donations and contributions like any other organization.

Based on developments and suggestions from folks who had seen and read our press release, we decided that the mass rally in Minnesota, originally planned for September, should be moved to October. This was intended to allow us to do some consultations with various Liberian organizations and influential individuals in Minnesota. We wanted to consult with some religious leaders, former officials of government, and county organizations. We believed, as advised, that this would make more people to feel respected and therefore supportive of our efforts. It did work!

During this month, we had charged Patrick Meniboon with the responsibility of drafting the Constitution and By-laws of the movement. Patrick is a very smart colleague with whom I had the opportunity of sitting in class with in 1987 and we had reconnected in Minnesota. He continues to enjoy my respect and honor.

Now, while we are doing all of this, I got up on September 20 and got a call from a colleague, Theo Addey, that I should check out the BBC website. I asked what was it? He said that a group named Liberia National Congress (LNC) had petitioned George Weah to run for president in the 2005 elections. I told him it couldn’t be true because we had not yet established the LNC in Monrovia.

Well, I decided to check out the story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/africa/3672792.stm and behold it was true. I immediately called Chairman Dtweah and informed him about the unfolding situation. Then I also send out an email to the group that we had a crisis on our hands but we were doing everything to address it.

The issues we were battling at time were a make or break situation:

1.     Will we distance ourselves from this group and inform the world that we had not petitioned George Weah for president even though we would be meeting with him in the next few weeks? What if after our meeting we decided that Ambassador Weah understood the “call of history” and that we needed to collaborate? How would we look? Would we have just damaged our own credibility?

2.     If we didn’t distance ourselves from this group, would it then confirm the belief that we had all along been organizing this movement for the singular purpose of making Ambassador Weah president and have therefore been deceiving our colleagues?

3.     Because we had met with Kofi Woods and informed him that this was a generational effort with no particular individual in mind, I wondered whether we would lose credibility with him and many others like him?

When we informed our colleagues that we had a crisis, these were the issues bothering us. There was no easy answer and this moment drew a line in the sand.

When we looked at the story, Chairman Dtweah was able to contact Thomas Doe-Nah who gave him Ledgerhood Rennie’s number and then Leg was able to give Cole Bangalu’s number to Dtweah and then we were able to establish contact with the person who read the “historic” petition that the BBC carried. Cole Bangalu was then the Secretary General of the LNC in Monrovia.

What remains a misery till this date is whether or not the LNC in Monrovia was truly an independent group that, by coincidence, had the same name as we and had similar plans in mind? For those of us who spoke with Cole and James Boker at that time, I am still suspicious that the LNC in Monrovia was an arrangement that undercut us. I believed, then and today, that they may have followed our organizing efforts and then decided to jump the gun and do what they did. I don’t have evidence to prove this but when we asked Cole at that time to share with us some organizing documents, he was unable but pleaded that we collaborate in this effort. I am not sure we will ever get to the truth in this matter because everyone wants to be the founding father of what is now the CDC so it has been agreed, as a compromise, to live with the narrative that “two groups were simultaneously organizing” and then came together. I guess we have to settle since no one will give in.   

Once we established contact with Cole and James Boker, we tried to find out some details about the LNC in Monrovia but it was difficult to get anything out of the comrades. The chorus was that we find a way to collaborate and move on. Because things were moving pretty fast, it was almost impossible to stop, investigate further, and then move on which was what some of our colleagues wanted. We got comments from the likes of Inyene Ekah and Norris Tweah that we should change our name and continue with our original direction rather than try to join forces and conform. Some of them classified this as a hijack and that we should not negotiate.

We were in a very difficult position at that time: the movement was about to veer course and take an historic, accelerated leap into the center of Liberian body politic and become the biggest thing in town. Did we want to slow that down on ideological, philosophical and procedural grounds? We were terribly conflicted and I must admit that probably this is the point where we ceded ownership of the movement to Ambassador Weah and probably looking back, the other comrades were right: we should not have negotiated.

But what made us to have felt not too guilty, in the moment when the decision was being made, was that I decided that I would call Kofi and inform him about what was unfolding. Remember we had met Kofi a few weeks earlier and laid out our vision to him and now we are at a point where we have become another petition toting group of young people. So I called Kofi who was still in the US. He had gone to Virginia or thereabout to visit with His Holiness Arch Bishop Michael Francis (deceased) during his ailment. When I called Kofi and told him that a group with the same name in Liberia had petitioned George Weah and we were thinking whether we should dissociate ourselves with them or not, Kofi said that he didn’t think that would be a good idea; instead, since Weah was coming to Minnesota, we should wait for him to come and have a discussion with him. It was then that Kofi and I agreed that he (Kofi) would return to Minnesota when Weah was there and then it would be a good thing if we could arrange a meeting between the two of them. Al Jerome succeeded in arranging that meeting and I became an “intruder” not the organizer of that meeting. I will explain the implications of this later when we enter October.

Immediately following my conversation with Kofi, I informed Chairman DTweah and then called Cole and informed him. At that time, the thinking was that if we could get Kofi to go as running mate to Weah, the election was over. Our colleagues in Monrovia agreed with us and said they were thinking similarly. At that time, the major points of contact in Monrovia were Cole and James Boker. We never got to talk to the other folks including Jerome Verdier (yes TRC Verdier) who was the lawyer for the group.

 With that calm position from Kofi, we decided to moderate our position and started working with the colleagues in Monrovia. Because we did not move fast enough to distance ourselves from the LNC’s petition, the likes of Norris Tweah and Patrick Meniboon, would use this as a point of departure but the struggle continued.

There was confusion in Monrovia as I tried to get Levi Demmah, Steven Howard and Dixon Seboe to try to make contact with the folks in Monrovia and put things under control, they could not break through. It was during this time the Monrovia group, while trying to file paper works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed that the name, Liberia National Congress (LNC) was already taken. Once Cllr. Verdier informed the group that the name was not available, everyone agreed to immediately get to work to find a new name. We in the US had informed our group that we would be taking suggestions for a new name to be communicated to the group in Monrovia for possible consideration. Monrovia started to call the shots!

From there we started working with the group in Monrovia as we in the US planned for the arrival of Ambassador Weah. Then on September 27, Chairman Tweah informed me that Ambassador Weah was in the US and had called him. I immediately informed the group. At that point we had not settle on a date for his visit to Minnesota but since at least he was in the US, we could begin to plan for our “big discussion” with him.

And the month of September, though appeared chaotic, seem to have pushed things too fast and maybe most of the critical mistakes of the movement was made during this month.

But October is even more interesting; this is when we eventually meet with Ambassador Weah and our program is hijacked by a group named and styled the Friends of George Oppong Weah (FOGOW). The dangerous gossip peddled by this group and how it affected our relationship and therefore the revolutionary efforts is very intriguing. I will hold no punches as I narrate events that would unfold in the months ahead. The infighting between FOGOW and the LNC turned CDC would last until February 2006. I will reveal what they told Weah about us and how we fought back. Most of the witnesses are still alive!