Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Former Charles Taylor justice Minister eyeing Legislature in Liberia

By: Sam K Zinnah
Dover, Delaware

It is now becoming clear that Cllr. Eddington Amadu Varmah, ‘the man who constantly defended the actions of one of Liberia’s notorious dictators, Charles Taylor, is now trying to elbow his way back into a political position in the government of Liberia’.

Cllr. Varmah is a Liberian politician who hails from Gbarpolu County (formerly Lower Lofa County). Created in 2001, under the hands of then Justice Minister Eddington Varmah, Gbarpolu is one of the youngest of Liberia’s 15 counties. It is situated in the northeast of Liberia, occupies an area of approximately 1,263 square miles, and was estimated to have a population around 131,227 inhabitants before the civil war.
Gbarpolu is bordered by Lofa County to the north, Bomi County to the south, Bong County to the west, Grand Cape Mount County & Sierra Leone to the east. Gbarpolu County consists of five districts:

1. Bopolu
2. Bokomu
3. Belleh
4. Gbarma
5. Komgba

The vast majority of Gbarpolu consists of forest. Mining was the primary economic activity in Gbarpolu prior to the Liberian civil war, in addition to subsistence farming. However, the civil war devastated all sectors of the County even before the 2001 legislation that granted legal County status to the newly created County. Prior to the creation of the county, lack of development was amongst the major problems in the area. To date, Gbarpolu is behind other counties in the current, ongoing development activities in Liberia.

On August 29, 2007, Gbarpolu County Senior Senator, Samuel Tormetie, was pronounced dead in Ghana in the process of recovering from medical treatment in that West African Country. Tormetie represented the
Liberian Reformation Party in the Legislature and was seen and described by many of his colleagues as very influential and hardworking. Few hours after the pronouncement of Senator Tormetie’s death, a surprising crossover was made by Cllr. Eddington Varmah, the former senator from Lofa County and later justice minister under the Charles Taylor led NPP.

On August 30, 2007, the Daily Observer in Liberia carried a caption, “NPP stalwart crosses carpets to UP.” This caption caught the attention of many Gbarpolu citizens and other political commentators and observers around the world. Many questions began emerging from different political backgrounds.

One observer said “the essence of democratic representation is for the representative to express the views of those represented but this was the opposite view or belief of Cllr. Eddington Varmah when he unceremoniously walked away from his elected senatorial position in 1998 to take on a presidential appointment under his political mentor and creator Charles Taylor”. Another commentator described Cllr. Varmah as someone who is only interested in personal enrichment. He said, “Every individual is entitled to his or her personal opinion or decision”. Eddington Varmah “like any politician” had the right to resign his senatorial position in 1998, but he was under the moral and traditional obligation to at least to inform his constituency that he was leaving his position as their senator to serve as justice minister for Taylor. The commentator expressed his disappointment over the way Cllr. Varmah left his people in the cold without any respect or remorse. The commentator concluded by saying the only price for such behavior is: for the constituency to say no to Cllr. Varmah the next time he comes asking for their votes.

Prior to his appointment as justice minister in Monrovia, Cllr. Varmah served as justice minister in Gbarnga, “the administrative headquarters of the defunct National patriotic front of Liberia (NPFL)”. During his administration as justice minister, Cllr. Varmah defended the actions of the NPFL, NPRAG, and NPP. After President Taylor was forced to resign from office in mid-2003, Cllr. Varmah was chosen to serve as deputy speaker of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly of Liberia (NTLA).

The NTLA was created as part of an August 2003 Peace Agreement that ended a civil war between the government forces of Charles Taylor and two rebel groups: The Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and Liberians United for reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). The agreement also called for the broad-based transitional Government that would rule for two years, ending with the holding of elections in October 2005. The NTLA replaced the bicameral Legislature, which was elected in 1997.

On March 14, 2005, Cllr. Varmah was involved in a USD $150.000.00 scandal at the NTLA. He and his boss along with two of their colleagues at the NTLA were suspended indefinitely for their alleged role in the $150.000.00 scandal. Since then, Cllr. Varmah has been a political bull dog especially with the indictment of his political creator, Charles Taylor, who’s presently deposited in a jail cell in the Netherlands awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

The recent decision by Cllr. Varmah to cross carpets to the ruling party seems rather suspicious. Some citizens from Gbarpolu County described the counselor’s action or decision as “evil” since in fact Varmah’s decision came at the time of the county’s bereavement. A lot of Gbarpolu citizens continue to raise the questions of sympathy over political interest. Why would Cllr. Varmah cross carpets hours after the death of Honorable Samuel Tormetie, so as to attempt to fill the vacant senatorial seat from Gbarpolu County?

Cllr. Eddington Varmah’s plans or intentions to escape justice

Cllr Varmah’s efforts to link himself to the ruling Unity Party and to subsequently contest the senatorial vacancy in Gbarpolu County is not actually to serve or represent the people of Gbarpolu. It may be a means for him to escape possible criminal probe for the USD $150.000.00 scandal at the NTLA. In March of 2005, Cllr. Varmah was suspended for alleged corruption when he served as deputy speaker of the NTLA. That case is still pending prosecution. Whether that allegation is true or false is totally one that lies with the court system, and how soon that case will be called in for prosecution is also not known. But what is known is that Cllr. Varmah, a former senator and a former justice minister is quite familiar with the law as well as the benefits of being a legislator. So in the event that he’s prosecuted and found guilty, there will be penalty, be it in fines or jail sentence while he is an ordinary citizen as he is now. But as a senator, he may not be subject to prosecution for political reasons, so the alleged corruption case will cease to exist and I guess this is what Cllr. Varmah wants.

However, I do not suggest that Cllr. Varmah is guilty of the allegation made against him by his action or intention to contest this senatorial seat that has been created by the death of his kinsman. I rather want to see Cllr. Varmah--a former statesman and former prosecutor demonstrate a truth statesmanship by calling for a speedy trial of this case so as to clear his name from such an ugly act which has no resembling of a character of a statesman. In the absence of such action on the counselor’s part, the argument that he’s trying to escape justice may hold true.

But why would Cllr. Varmah try to represent the people of Gbarpolu County as their senator even if the corruption scandal were not present. During the short time Cllr. Varmah served as senator for Lofa County in the Taylor government, there is no record (to my knowledge) of him attending even a town hall meeting with the people he represented, let alone mentions about initiating or advancing any idea that could bring about development in the county. Unlike other senators at the time, Cllr. Varmah had huge opportunities to better the situation of his people given the level of connection or closeness he had with his political mentor, Charles Taylor. Instead, he chose to build a bigger house, establish a supermarket and to sponsor immediate family members in universities in the United States while his Lofa County citizens struggled for wide yams and green leafs in displaced camps around Monrovia. Let’s assumed that Cllr. Varmah “as a senator” was too busy to personally visit the displaced camps to access the conditions of his people. But did he ever send a representative as a way of showing concern to his people? The answer to this question is resounding “NO”. He has always been all about himself and not about the people he claimed to represents!

What will Gbarpolu County be telling the rest of Liberia by electing Cllr. Varmah as senator at this time when this is the man who deliberately refused to prosecute those who rained assault on the sons and daughters of the people of Liberia in the March 21 incidence at the nation’s highest institution (The University of Liberia). If Cllr. Varmah as Attorney general at the time could not defend those armless and innocent students who at the time selected the path of education rather than war, how can he justify a truth statesmanship? I think Gbarpolu county “though a new county” is matured enough to realize that to reward someone like Cllr. Varmah with a senatorial seat in less than ten years after attempting to destroy the fabric of the Liberian society is a demonstration of the highest level of indecency in the history of it existence.

More besides, it would have been wise enough for Cllr. Varmah “a former statesman” to show some level of respect for a fallen statesman by first expressing regret for the death of the senator and by joining the rest of Gbarpolu in mourning the death of the senator and ensuring that this fallen senator received a funeral befitting that of a statesman before attempting to mention anything about politics. Instead, Cllr. Varmah elected to give his political desire a priority over the death of his kinsman. What a shame and lack of remorse?

I know that my judgment of Cllr. Varmah may not go down well with the few who support him. I urge them to show the people of Gbarpolu an act of true kinsmanship for which Cllr. Varmah deserves to be remembered for in Gbarpolu. I, on the other hand, communicate from personal experience, having actually seen the many odds regarding Cllr. Varmah.

Ruthless rule by Cllr. Varmah and his political mentor “Charles Taylor”

In August of 2000, a member of the notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) told some of his colleagues that he was ready to give information to an Amnesty International investigator who was investigating news of abuses on Taylor’s ATU base in Gbatala. The Amnesty International investigator was taken to Gbatala. On the way, he was blindfolded (cloth tie on his face) up to the entry to Gbatala. Arriving at the ATU “Gbatala” base, the cloth was loosen from his face and he was made to see many horrible sights. According to a 2001 Amnesty report on Gbatala, some prisoners were placed in holes filled with water up to their necks or throats. Others were made to run on broken bottles with their bare feet.

In March of 2001, Amnesty International wrote the minister of justice “Eddington Varmah” providing further details of human rights abuses witnessed by Amnesty International’s Investigator at Gbatala “ATU” base. The letter asked justice minister Varmah to inform his boss “Taylor” about the dehumanizing condition at Gbatala ATU base. The letter requested a response from Minister Varmah and his government with regard to the situation discovered in Gbatala, but no response was ever given up to the unceremonious departure of Taylor and his human hawks. Violence and abuse of human rights were probably the best definitions or descriptions of the notorious National Patriotic Party (NPP) under the leadership of Cllr. Eddington Varmah as Justice Minister.

In another episode in 2001, fifteen students of the University of Liberia, mostly of the Student leadership; Student Unification Party (SUP) and the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU) were coerced to flee to Ghana for safety of their lives. The students had taken precautionary measures in lieu of statements made by Charles Taylor’s war lieutenant and Justice Minister Eddington Varmah that the students were “collaborators” of what he and his NPP referred to as “dissidents” in Lofa county at the time. It was under the leadership of Justice Minister Varmah and his political mentor “Charles Taylor” that the continued repression of Students was reinforced not only at the University of Liberia but at other higher institutions of learning in Liberia. Even though university students were branded “trouble makers” in the 70s, the liberal atmosphere under the Tolbert regime, allowed student activism to reign its voice which became consolidated by the formation of the Liberian National Students Union (LINSU), the umbrella organization of various student associations in Liberia. Even amidst heightened repression in Liberia, students have always showed resiliency and served as a constant thorn in the flesh of government “especially a ruthless one like the notorious NPP”.

The tenuous relationship between the NPP and the University of Liberia came to a head-on collision on March 21, 2001, when the University of Liberia campus was invaded by the notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU). The ATU was well known for their brutality against not only students but innocent civilians as well. Upon arrival on the campus of the University of Liberia, the ATU began flogging students who were hosting a peaceful rally and fundraising organized “by students” in support of four journalists of the independent “The News” news paper who were also imprisoned on bogus charge of ESPIONAGE for reporting the NPP government for misusing public funds to repair helicopters and buying gifts for Charles Taylor’s personal friends and family members.

During the same March 21, 2001 invasion of the University campus, University professors and some administrators were also severely flogged. Cllr. Eddington Varmah again stood in defense of his ATU and NPP as justice minister. In a press conference after the UL campus flogging, Justice Minister Eddington Varmah charged that there were students on the UL campus who were “collaborators” of what he referred to as “dissident forces in Lofa county at the time’. “Based on evidence gathered by our intelligence sources, we have confirmation that there are dissidents operating on the University of Liberia campus”. Those were the exact words of Cllr. Eddington Varmah.

If Cllr. Varmah could defend the NPP to that extend, why is he crossing carpets now to the Unity Party? Is he trying to use the ruling Unity Party to elbow his way back to power? And does he think that the people of Gbarpolu are so illiterate that they cannot even remember any of his activities in the past?

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