New Democrat (Monrovia)
“He threw me in prison with men so that I could be used before the day,” remembered one of Liberia’s best-known artists and political activists, Miatta Fahnbulleh.
“He is a very wicked man,” she added, in reference to the one-time all mighty Justice Minister of the ruthless military junta, the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), Jenkins Z.B. Scott, now on his knees begging for food in garbage dumps.
There were more victims of this era with Mr. Scott at the top of its commanding height. Mr. Yarsue Weh Dorlia, now a Commissioner at the Governance Commission (GC), remembers his ordeals at the hands of the unquestioned Justice Minister.
“He declared me a wanted man and that I should be brought before him in whatever form”, the calm and soft-spoken man said.
This meant where ever he was seeing, he could be shot and his body brought before the government’s enforcers in whatever form.
These were was the same orders that were given when this writer escaped, with the Government, Minister Scott at the forefront, declaring that I was “armed and dangerous.” and shout be shot wherever I was found. There was no need for charges or trial for crimes committed.
Mr. Dorlia after his imprisonment without charge or trial, said he was released, with Minister Scott telling him that he was letting him go because it would be better to have him out than in prison, again implying he was game out there. Anyone could shoot him.
Mr. Scott loomed high in the system and he was Justice Minister when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as an opposition figure, was arrested and thrown in prison, also with men. Insiders at the time say he ordered her arrest, naturally upon orders from his boss, Gen. Samuel K. Doe.
It was evident that Mrs. Sirleaf, like others on the same platform who dared to question the excesses of The junta, were hated figures in the eyes of men like Scott. So when he declared her unfit to contest the senatorial during the 1985 elections, it is also certain that he never contemplated on time’s unpredictable verdict, which is that one day she would be president, and that he would ask her to be her shoe-shine boy, a request she would dismiss, urging him to use his skills and training as a lawyer in a now emerging competitive setting.
In the mid 1980s following serious mismanagement and sanction plundering of state resources that on one could question without being declared ‘enemy of the state, the US Government sent in a team of financial experts who were stationed at the Ministry of Finance. To avoid counter-checking and scrutiny, officials at the Ministry, with fingers pointed at then Minister Guy Jones, sat key financial documents ablaze. The US experts would leave the country in despair.
But it was the Justice Minister, Jenkins Scott, who ordered the arrest of several journalists and dumped them in prison for daring to write the story.
In 1985 or so, this writer was arrested with claims that he was brainchild of series of anti-military junta articles, particularly the underground leaflet REACT (Revolutionary Action Committee, based at the University of Liberia). There were several interrogations at the National Security Agency (NSA), then notorious as a torture chamber. The interrogators found no evidence of the allegations, but I was ordered flown to Belle Yalla, the site of what used to be the country’s maximum prison primarily for political prisoners and hardened criminals. On the day I was ordered flown to Belle Yalla and accompanied by a squad of well-armed soldiers, the pilot, later killed, rejected the orders, a highly risky act at the time, without the relevant court documents justifying the imprisonment. Despite threats from armed soldiers, many of them illiterate and kinsmen of the military ruler, the pilot refused. As I was bundled to be taken back to NSA prisons, the pilot shouted his memorable words: ‘Tom, you’re lucky! You’re lucky ooh!’
But Jenkins Scott, capable of making all such things possible at the time, found the solution to make the flight possible. He immediately signed the prison papers for the next day after carving his own charges. That day never came, because I escaped and disappeared into exile, convinced I would have been executed.
As I left the fascist and notorious NSA and Government security explaining why I was leaving, and the reason was that the regime was lawless and brutish. I could not submit to it.
Jenkins Scott missed me. Again, like in the case of Mrs. Sirleaf, it never occurred to him that I would one day run a newspaper that would bring his plight to public attention for salvation.
The excess under the government, with Jenkins Scott as its enforcer of the ‘law,’ were many and extreme. Arbitrary executions, disappearances, torture, all ranked high, necessitating the war for which many good people are blamed because of its excesses since it was led by the same individuals that greased the military junta, Charles Taylor and Jenkins Scott, the latter hired after the government he protected fell apart.
Ms. Fahnbulleh recalled the mutilation, alive, of John Nuah, a military officer from Nimba County, then considered enemy land. “I didn’t know him, but the way the killed him…”
He was arrested on the normal charge of planning to overthrow the government mad brought before the government’s key members. One was Harrison Pennoh, later killed in 1990 at the Free Port after Prince Johnson captured President Doe. They first cut off his ear, she recalled as she heard from insiders. As he bled, they cut off the other ear. He lost consciousness. The executioners ordered water to be poured on him because they wanted him to feel the pains and agonize. As he gained consciousness, they began to mutilate him until life ran out of his body. Jenkins Scott was the Justice Minister.
Ms. Fahnbulleh believes such men reap what they sow. She said there are many ordinary people needing mental help, and that to single out men like Scott and ignore them is unfair. This is still a country without mental help clinics.
“He was very wicked man? she said. Indeed, there are many walking the streets, except that they have not yet reached Scott’s level.