Toe: Welcome, Mr. Abu.
Abu: I thank you very much.
Toe: Sam, could you tell us about yourself, if you don’t mind?
Abu: Eh, you called my name earlier: Samuel Abu, a journalist by profession; also a teacher. I was assigned to Washington , DC seconded by the Ministry of Information, Republic of Liberia to work as Minister Counselor for public affairs at the embassy in Washington , DC . I’ve been here since 2005 May, and I think my working relation with the Liberians in the Diaspora has been very good; and I guess my working attitude has been proven very excellent. But before we go further, I just want to make a little assession on your earlier statement. I have not refused to return home. My only problem I have presently is that since I decided to raise the flag on whatever allegations that were made on me. The government decided without an investigation to recall me and at the same time subsequently dismiss me from job without giving me a day in court. And apart from that – that happened about three weeks ago – and since then I have not even received a letter of recall or even a letter of dismissal from the government. So therefore based on that it is not that I do not want to go home, but it’s because as a diplomat when I am assigned into a mission I am given a letter of assignment; so when I am going to be recalled it is a matter of civilization, policy and protocol that I be given a letter of recall and subsequently may be a letter of dismissal. But all of these have not been served to me. I am here with my family – not that I don’t want to go home, but when you recall me you should make a proper arrangement to ensure that I return home with my family. But in the first place I am still the Minister Counselor for public affairs and I have not been dismissed because I have not received any letter and I challenge anybody to tell me that he has dismissed me,
Toe: Just for the record, Mr. Abu, what in definitive terms is the role of the Minister Counselor in the embassy?
Abu: Well, I am the media advisor assigned to the embassy. I manage the embassy’s information, process it and give it out to the public as it’s supposed to be. .I am the spokesman for the government, and I am supposed to advise the ambassador on media relations, work along with the Liberians in the Diaspora to see how can build up an amicable relationship with the government of Liberia, the embassy at the same time and to see what we can do, what assistance we can give to the Liberian community to encourage them to see their country as a country that has come out of war; and we are willing to encourage them to return home.
Toe: Just for the sake of record, I have visited the Liberian embassy on several occasions, and on each occasion there seemed to have been a cordial working relationship among members of the embassy staff. That spirit of cordiality has evaporated lately. What is happening to the embassy?
Abu: Yes, what is happening to the embassy is the matter of insecurity with one another. You know, we live in the new era of diplomacy. We have learn how to practice public diplomacy; that is, learning how to live with the community in order to be able to amicably or to efficiently to translate our government’s policy to the people in the Diaspora. But if we decide to live like we are still in the cold war, you know those things would have to be happening; and we are still living the cold war, one live in the embassy like we keeping secrets from one another. The embassy is not all together. We are just about twelve persons working in that embassy – six of us are diplomats, the rest of the people are local staff. But they say, typical Liberian people tell it: a fish gets rotten from the head. If the head is not trying to encourage people, you learn to live by divide and rule; call Mr. Toe and tell him look, Steven is against you; anything they are doing he is not doing anything in the interest of this embassy. Then, you bring it on my side; later they go to Steven and tell Steven, Mr. Toe wants to do this to you and he is trying to see how he can break the embassy down. Then he gets him to his side and the same time pushing you one side. So this is what has been happening to the embassy, and I can tell you we do not have a cordial working relationship, because we all come from the same country we come here we should be the first to build our community so that the Liberian community can see it and learn to live like that in unity. But we are there; I don’t know where you live. The next persons do not know where the other person lives. We do not get involved in anything; we act like we are spying on each other. So the embassy breaks away. So this is the problem at the embassy. For me, personally, I have been accused, based on insecurity, the ambassador tells me, why, that he has been informed that I am taking government’s information – what he called sensitive and confidential information to give it to the enemies of the state. And I start to ask questions, who are the enemies of the state?
And what this information that I am giving to them? And who are your sources of this information? You cannot give them to me, and I continue to ask him to give this information to me. And apart from that, if he’s working with me in good faith, then I would also want to suggest: Charles Minor, if you think you want to work with me, why is it that, if you know that I Samuel Abu as a public affairs coordinator that you see me friendly with Mr. Toe and you have some suspicions that Mr. is an enemy of the government, why can’t you warn me to learn to be careful with dealing with Mr. Toe. You rather decide to put allegations on me and giving a blanketed statement that you wouldn’t know? Why are you telling me that I should not have any friends, and my work entails making friends with people both among the Liberian community and the American community?
Toe: A couple of weeks ago, you told VOA Ambassador Minor had been plotting to sack you. Why so?
Abu: I have told you earlier, it is based on insecurity.
Toe: Insecurity on whose side?
Abu: Mr. Minor is not all secure with me. He believes that I am too advanced for him. He believes that I know so many things that he does not know. And I can tell him, if we talk about Liberia . He knows about Liberia and America , and I know about Liberia . I have lived in Liberia from the day they shot the first gun to begin the war to the time they shot the last gun to end that war in Liberia . So know the politics of Liberia today and all of the time I was a practicing journalist and at the same time I was in government; so I knew the interplay of both institutions. I know who the politicians are; I know how the politicians think. He is not a politician; he’s an economist who has been here carrying on things I don’t know. But when he was appointed we all accepted as a challenge. I did go to him on several occasions. My dear friend, I want to learn from you as a senior brother. My intention is not to undermine you in this institution. You know, this is after he had told me on some occasions that he had heard from people that I am giving government information. And he did not stop that far. He decided to humiliate me, to intimidate me to depress me at that embassy. He took my access key to the embassy. He retrieved; he took it from me forcefully based on his own design. How could he expect me as a diplomat, if I’m out there, if I’m chased, where do I go for rescue? I am supposed to go to my embassy, where I will be and do all my talking. But I cannot stand outside and do any talking. He has taken the key away from me; he humiliated me among the local staff – that I am even working , the local staff are going home they tell me Mr. Abu, we want to lock the door; Ambassador us we must not leave you here; and put me in this kind of intimidation, harassment, you know.
And apart from that, he also unilaterally decided to stop the payment of my rental allowances which were approved by the president, and he told me I must go back to the president because he knows that he continues to block us when the president comes so that we cannot have direct access to her, you know. So continued to humiliate me. Then at a certain point he’s trying to see how he can do things to bundle me out of Washington , DC back to Monrovia . Where he is not ready to go he wants me to go there.
Toe: Just for the record, what is Charles Minor like in terms of his leadership style?
Abu: Charles Minor’s leadership style is just very, very, very poor. I doubt if he even knows how to run his own family than coming run people in the embassy.
Toe: That’s serious. You also said that Christopher Nippy, the political affairs secretary of the embassy, had been stalking or tailing you. Do you have any recollection of specific times, dates and places he pursued you?
Abu: On many occasions. When I came earlier, I knew that Philadelphia had a greater Liberian community. And one of my mandates was to insure getting through the Liberian community. I go to Philadelphia . They call me to give speeches. They call me to attend programs every time there is this, I write a memo to the Ambassador to tell him they have called me to do this. Now, Christopher Nippy, who has nothing to do with it; he wants me to look like a boy under him. I am a Minister Counselor, and Christopher Nippy is a First Secretary. I am above him in diplomatic circles. I am above him and he continues to it look like because I am not from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so therefore I should be working under him. I should report to him, and I have told him I do not report to you, OK. In addition to that, once I spend a weekend and come, ‘eh I heard, they say you were in Philadelphia ’. Oh, how did you know? ‘But I was there. I get my eyes there’. Oh, so that’s what you came here to do? Now, in addition to that, every time when we are at the embassy, the same divide and rule thing, everybody meets Minor in an open forum, When Christopher Nippy goes to meet Minor he normally locks the door behind. What they discuss, what they don’t discuss when they come out Minor calls somebody to put allegations on them – not only me.
Toe: In other words, the ambassador seemed to have got on well with Mr. Nippy. What did you make of the relationship?
Abu: At first, they were not having any good relationship until Nippy decided to make himself a bootlicker to the ambassador. And that is, giving him information that was not true or information that he thought that the ambassador wanted to hear- the information he needed to hear but the information he wanted to hear; that is, tailing after people, OK. He even went so far to attack the ambassador in my presence – why the must ambassador send me on this assignment and he is the first secretary for political affairs; why they can’t send him and they were sending me, you know.
So he had to look for something to craftily get me out of the ambassador so the ambassador will not have trust in me. So it is from this point when he continued to put points on the ambassador; the ambassador started feeling a little skeptical in dealing with me.
Toe: You seem to know a lot about Mr. Nippy’s role, his security role in Monrovia . How well did you know him before he came to Washington ?
Abu: The first thing is, Christopher Nippy, that name was only synonymous with playing soccer in Liberia – and not for the modern day people. Those who were adults or young stars in the seventies could have heard his name; they did not even know him. I heard his name, I knew him. But Christopher Nippy all of a sudden, after the war, I understand he was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as assistant director for security. What his connections were when he had the appointment to come as first secretary – such a catapulted promotion, you know – an assistant director for security. But I know that, what, I don’t know, really what was responsible. His mandate could have been a little different. Maybe, he would have come under a different nomenclature, but he was brought under nomenclature as political affairs officer. So we are all here to find, to see how we can easily assist Ambassador Minor in running the office of ambassador in our various capacities. I did my area, in the area of the media. I did advise him; I did come up with a brochure on what is happening in Liberia . I did inform the people on the daily basis. I mad use of the internet, I made use of information from Monrovia , ok. But I am surprised that he Nippy reduced himself to a security dealing with deportation and at the same time setting up list and other things.
Toe: You also seem so sure of Mr. Nippy's authorship of the e-mails that Mr. Minor is now accusing you of passing unto Front Page Africa. Could describe for us the events that led to the publication of these emails or this email?
Abu: The first thing is, if I tell you, from all indications, I did not see that email until it was published. But I know the power of the internet. When Nippy came, Nippy did not know how to put on a computer. I taught him how to put a computer on. Nippy came to Washington , DC , I taught him, I established an email address for him. I taught him how to deal with the computer. He ran to my office several occasions. Come and do this for me. Come and save this document. Come and do this. I did lots of things for him. That document that is coming out today, I did not see it. But I believe, we were all assigned various email addresses under the embassy of Liberia thing; and that is Nippy's email address. It did come from his email address. He may not have been the one that did, but I don't know who would have been the one to enter into his email. But oanother thing I believe is that it is under his email. He should be able to tell us whether he did or somebody did it for him. Because some time if you are illiterate people can write your own name and tell you that is your mother's name. So I believe that Nippy - he says he did not do it - but let's not look at who did it or who did not do it. And let us not try to concentrate on who gave it to the press.
The man continues to tell us, the journalist who wrote this, I talked to him personally in my own official capacity and he told me he got it from the National Security Agency in Monrovia . Now, why are they alluding it to me? It is based on the same insecurity - feeling that I have a good relationship with the press so therefore I give information out to the press that I am not supposed to. But in as much as my job calls for maintaining a good relationship with the media I will always maintain that relationship. And that I did... But I did not give any information out to the media.
Toe: Well, Ambassador Minor says you should return home. Of course, you have your reservations. What do you know is going on or happening in Monrovia that might endanger your life there? In other words, do you ever imagine that somebody can be torture in Ellen Sirleaf’s Liberia ?
Abu: Look, we are the spokespeople for the government. We see it happen to people, and we have learned to do the culture of denial. We tell people those are isolated cases. They have happened. They do happen to people. If you look on the internet, you look in the newspapers everyday, there are human rights abuses. But some of them we can tell you they are not the policies of the government; it is not the government that is doing it. But we know that there are overzealous security people. There are overzealous people who work for the government who decide to abuse the rights of people, ok. Now, I don’t want to expose myself to such dangers, ok. I don’t want to expose myself to overzealous people who want to do things where the government will end of apologizing to me. If they go and castrate me, the government will apologize and I will the torture in my mind the rest of my life. Mr. Andrew Dorbor, who is a retired colonel presently, facing treason trial in Monrovia . He did appear in an open court and testified voluntarily – without any duress – he voluntarily testified to the open court – Criminal Court A at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia that he was indeed tortured, candlelight was placed under his testicles. He was beaten by plank, ok.
Toe: By the security forces.
Abu: By the security forces.
Toe: Under Sirleaf
Abu: Yes. He was not arrested before Sirleaf’s time. And those are things that he had said. And these are the same things Minor is telling me that they accuse me, they will charge me with espionage. I know espionage is punishable by death or life imprisonment, and I am not going to be investigated by any other group but same NSA that has tortured Andrew Dorbor. Now, if I go and expose myself to them they may do similar thing to me because I have continued to deny, I’ve continued to refuse the idea that I am of the allegation of Mr. Minor that I did not do it. The security forces in Monrovia do not have any scientific means of investigating people.
When I continue to say know I do not know about it the next thing they want to do is to torture me so that I will either lie on myself or lie on people. And I am not ready to do that. So the best thing is not to expose myself to them. And at the same time, my brother has called me from Monrovia and told me that security forces, plain clothes people did visit our compound in Monrovia – outside Monrovia in Paynesville and they met the children were asking about my background – where was I born, who are my people – What are those questions for? Are they waiting for me? I know what it is. When the government sends for you under such situation my passport is going to be seized at the airport, I will be asked to report to NSA. And until the government gives me a concrete assurance that nothing will happen to me. And let it be written, not just by open mouth; that is the only thing that can take me to Monrovia now. But, presently. I am still requesting first, let the government know that six months ago stopped paying rental arrears, my rental allowance, and I am in rental arrears. My landlord wants to take me to court for it, and I am not going to leave the house until I pay his money. And apart from that, I have my family here of about seven persons and they should be able to transport all of us, along with my belongings from here to Monrovia . Not just telling me you have recalled me. And let me make a strong note: I was appointed to this mission by the Executive Mansion, that’s the presidency of the Republic of Liberia ; at that time it was a transitional government. I have a commission, so no minister has the right to dismiss me. Only the president of the Republic of Liberia will dismiss me, and as long as she has not done it I still consider myself as Minister Counselor for public affairs at the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia , Washington , DC .
Toe: But the President seems so silent. Why so?
Abu: Well, silence means consent. Maybe she has realized that the people did make a mistake. They are overstepping their boundaries. But I know, as time goes on she will come in either to cut the cake, either to tell me, Abu, come home, Abu, you’re dismissed. Then I am ready to adhere because I know she did appoint me. She withheld my appointment because she came she met me at the mission and she withheld my appointment. So as long as she has not given me another instruction. Minor continues to tell me to turn over things. I am not going to turn in anything to Minor until I receive a letter. Or Minor should tell me that he has received instructions which he should show me because that is not how I came to the embassy. I did come with a letter which was sent to the State Department for my accreditation. So Minor cannot think that he can throw me out of that embassy. I am still, while I am not going work I am still on my sick leave. That’s why I am not going to work.
Toe: Let’s get back to this culture of denial that you’ve just referred to in the Sirleaf Government. Can you put a finger on specific cases?
Abu: It is not only in the Sirleaf Government; that is something. It’s almost embedded in the Liberian community or in the Liberian political scene just as how we have corruption embedded in that country. Every public relationship officer, every government person will learn to always deny things that they know that are true. They can even look at you and tell you that a blue color is a white color or a red color is a brown color. We do that! We are public relations officers. As long as you have not informed me I will tell you well we have not heard about it. It does happen in Monrovia . I can play stations now and you will listen to some of the things. My boss man in Monrovia , my boss, the Minister of Information; that’s what they teach us to learn to fool the public.
Toe: In other words, Sirleaf’s government is not different from any other government in Liberia .
Abu: In terms of the denial of things that are happening; they have not changed. I know she is doing her best to make sure that we break form the past, but in breaking from the past there are particular things that will just be difficult. Just how corruption cannot go, the information arm will always remain a denial place. If you listen to the radio stations that I can play for you now, Star radio, it continued, when they had a talk-in show grilling the Minister and everybody tells you that the Ministry of Information just continues to deny, to lie to tell people everything. So I believe that this culture of denial of things and of swaying the eye, the mind of the people just in the interest to maintain our jobs continues to remain.
Toe: Wow, that’s a breach of confidence in the government. I mean, if the Sirleaf Government is not different from past governments which we know were notorious.
Abu: I don’t want to lay a comparison line between Sirleaf’s government and other governments. What I am telling you, Mr. Toe, is that this culture of denial has come a long way – not only from Sirleaf’s government – from Tubman’s time, Tolbert’s time. I have lived, let me tell you, I have lived and shaken hands with several presidents and leaders of Liberia – starting from William V. S. Tubman, Richard Tolbert, Samuel Doe; I’ve met all of them and talked to them. Amos Sawyer, David Kpormakpor, Wilton Sankawolo, Ruth Sando Perry, Charles Tayor, Gyude Bryant and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It’s about ten leaders of Liberia I have dealt with. And all of them, I can tell you, I have very much been conscientized, as an activist and I know what it takes – until we came to the level where we have to be speaking for the government.
Toe: The Minister of Information, Dr. Larry Bropleh who is apparently your immediate boss, reportedly urged you to return. He even disclosed that he, several months back, invited you to Monrovia . Why not yield to the call of your boss?
Abu: My minister remains just another public relations officer. There is something he does not want to do. He doesn’t want to put pen and paper to give me instructions. And we do not run a government by just talking bla, blab, blab; that’s not it.
Toe: In other words, he talks blab, blab, and blab to much.
Abu: If he did want me to go to Monrovia , you write me a letter. We did discuss it. After I started having series of problems with Minor, I did tell him. And I suggested to him the best way to get rid of it is I don’t want it to reach to a boiling point. So one thing I want you to do transfer me from this mission and he told me the only way you can be transferred from the mission you have to come to Monrovia ; and I told him no. If you want me to come to Monrovia, you have to buy a 2-way ticket as a guarantee for me that I am going to come back and you have to pay my rent for two months and also take care of my family, give me a perdiem to take care of my family while I am away. So I am not going to Monrovia now and the next time I called him he had been trying to encourage me to go to Monrovia; and I knew it was a cat-and-mouse operation they were on based on Minor’s own connivaance with him.
Toe: So in other words, Minor and Bropleh are colluding to have you in Monrovia .
Abu: He acted like he was on my side because he was being bombarded and pressured by Minor. He and the president. So they want me to come to Monrovia , so that when I come to Monrovia I will not have to return to the United States .
Toe: Are you saying the President is part of this whole collusion?
Abu: The president is informed about all of these things that have been going on against me.
Toe: And yet she has not come up say anything about.
Abu: .Why did I raise my flag? It’s because I had made several representations; I have written to my minister everything that happened at the embassy. I did write to my minister to inform him, ok. And he took no action, so I felt well that I was left in the middle sea. I mean no one wants to talk for me. So as a matter I believed that it was the time to raise my flag. Now, when I raised the flag, they did not see that there was a reason why I raised the flag. Let’s investigate this young man for raising his flag. They decided to dismiss me. I agree, they did dismiss me, but let them send me a letter to me that you have been dismissed. Nobody wants to write a letter because they have cut themselves. Bropheh has no reason; he has no right under this sun, he has no right under the Liberian constitution to even dismiss me.
Because if you look in the constitution it says it is the president that appoints ambassadors, minister counselors, deputy ambassadors, and consular officers of embassies. So I don’t see no reason why Bropleh wants to act like he is the president. He is not!
Toe: So he cannot recall you.
Abu: And he cannot!
Toe: Mr. Abu, you are apparently carrying a stigma of sedition. How are you going to clear yourself, your name?
Abu: I am willing to have Mr. Minor first of all convince me first by telling me who the enemies of the government are, two who gave him the information, and three what are the information that I have given out to these people that he believes that seditious. But in as much as he is not ready to do that then I say that all his allegations against me are fabrications, baseless, and they have no iota of truth. He is rather to be investigated.
Toe: Samuel Abu, the Minister Counselor of the Liberian Embassy.
Abu: Thank you.
Toe: Ok, thanks, Mr. Abu.