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.

Author: JAMES F. KOLLIE

I am a Liberian professional with passion for pro poor economic development and grassroot political organizing. I have read public policy, corporate finance and accounting at various levels. I have worked in government, private sector and non-profit sector.

2 thoughts on “October 2004 – Part 1: The dangerous tactics that significantly undermined the grassroots organizing”

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