Ambassador Myrick served in Liberia from 1999 to July 2002. He praised what he calls the deep family ties between Liberia and the United States. But he says while the two countries benefited positively from such a relationship, its negative trait has been an attitude of Liberian dependency on the United States. Ambassador Myrick says this dependency and the failure of Liberians to solve their own problems have created what he calls a traumatized society.
He says "symptoms of the trauma that I witnessed personally include a breakdown in traditional kinship relationships, widespread fear of government security operators and a sad acceptance of intimidation, the quick use of violence to resolve disputes, the shameful abuse of children, especially female children."
Ambassador Myrick says the Liberian government created such an environment and therefore must lead the country out of the trauma. But he says the government is wrongly led by those who do not respect democracy nor care about the plight of its citizens.
He says "the government has done little to curb intimidating abuses by its security establishment. So, most Liberians, including many senior government officials live in fear. Citizens have no protection against their homes being invaded or being arbitrarily arrested without the benefit of due process of law."
Ambassador Myrick says it was shameful that U-S educated senior officials of the Liberian government would not speak out for fear of losing their jobs or be harmed by the government. He called on all Liberian civil society groups to be more involved to reclaim their country. "I believe that organizations such as the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas can mobilize public relations and media support, which highlights Liberia’s potential and constructively condemns those who are intent on keeping Liberia in the global wilderness."
The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas was established four years ago in Washington to seek the interest of exiled Liberian journalists as well as advocate for press freedom and democracy in Liberia. Isaac Bantu – the outgoing president and co-founder of the organization – reminded his colleagues to be vigilant in the execution of their journalistic duties. "As ALJA transitions from one leadership to another, we should guide its independence and be aware of temptations of becoming a PR arm for a bloody regime. We should remain critical. If we condemned Samuel Doe yesterday, why not Charles Taylor. He should be condemned for gross human rights violation in our country. And whoever comes after him should be condemned as well."
The President of the Press Union of Liberia – James Kiazulu – commended the level of cooperation be between Liberian journalists in the Americas and the Press Union of Liberia. But he called for reflection. "Back home we have heard a lot of condemnation when it comes to the issue of the arrest of journalists, the detention of journalists, the flogging of journalists. But I think there’s a need for us to move from mere words to action. I think we are at the point where we need a lot of people back home. We cannot run away from our obligation. We have a challenge we have to face it. The country you come from is dying gradually."
The new president – Cyrus Badio – says the Association of Liberian journalists in the Americas will continue to be active in the pursuit of freedom for all Liberians. "It needs not be said that freedom is borne of democracy. Make no mistake my friends, ALJA is never and will never be a bystander in efforts by all well-meaning international or pressure groups to restore true democracy to Liberia."
Mr. Badio praised local Liberian journalists for continuing to be major players in the fight for the restoration of true democracy in Liberia. He promised continued cooperation between the Press Union of Liberia and his organization to adopt what he calls a common approach to the difficult challenges facing the press of Liberia. Mr. Badio says the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas has established a scholarship fund to assist journalism students at the University of Liberia.
I’m James Butty for the Voice of America in Washington.