The former chairman of Liberia’s last transitional government, who played a pivotal role in guiding the country from civil war to the election of Africa’s first female president, has died.
Gyude Bryant died Wednesday at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia after a protracted illness. He was 65.
Bryant led Liberia’s sixth interim government from October 2003 to January 2006 as the consensus choice of the three major warring factions -- Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), and Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia.
Chief Cyril Allen, chairman emeritus of Taylor’s National Patriotic Party and principal negotiator during the Accra peace talks, said Bryant was a level-headed individual of good temperament who worked closely with the country’s warring factions and the United Nations to transition Liberia to democracy.
“He did not have enough time through a period of two years to make any significant impact, but the role he played was the role he should have played, to transition the country to democratic elections. He did that successfully and I think he should be given a lot of accolades for that,” he said.
Allen said Bryant was chosen to lead the transitional government because he was viewed as a neutral person.
“I think he was nominated and accepted by the three warring parties, including former President Taylor, because he was a neutral person who was not involved with any of the warring parties,” Allen said.
Allen said, although Bryant was at times frustrated by the actions of the dominant warring parties, he kept his eyes on the prize, which was to work with the international community to transition Liberia to civilian democratic rule.
“I think he was level-headed and had a good temperament, and was willing to work along with the international community to bring some semblance of peace and democracy to Liberia. He will go down in history as one of the champions of the peace and democracy that we enjoy today,” Allen said.
Allen expressed regrets that neither the Liberian government nor friends of the late Bryant in West Africa did anything to help Bryant receive proper medical care during his ailment.
“Not being a party of the government of the day, people might think that I’m just being critical, but I don’t think he was given the recognition that he should have been given. I don’t think he was given the kind of support and accommodation that he should have had as a former leader,” Allen said.
Bryant was questioned by police in 2007 regarding alleged corruption during his time in office. The government dropped charges in 2010 when it failed to prove the case that Bryant’s government had embezzled more than $1 million.
Allen said Bryant presided over a government made up mostly of individuals who owed their loyalty to warring faction leaders and not to him.
He said the prosecution of Bryant was an example of a witch hunt.
“No one had any loyalty to him as an individual. Everyone that was in the government was handpicked, and each person was the lord of their ministries and agencies of government, and they carried out acts of corruption that he could not control,” Allen said.