Charles Gyude’s Chairmanship: Is There Anything To Remember?

By Atty. Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Since his death last month, much has been said about his contributions to the Liberian society. Liberian businessman Charles Gyude Bryant was elected Chairman of the transitional government following the peace talks in Accra, Ghana, which culminated to the signing of what is known as the ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)  signed by stakeholders, including the then warring factions in August 2003. Principally, as head of the transitional government, the late chairman was among other things ensured the disarmament of the warring factions, as well as the holding of democratic elections, which were uninterruptedly done and on time.

It may interest you to know that during the marathon and painstaking peace talks in Accra, Ghana, the name of Chairman Bryant was never thought of as one of those who could head the interim government. The names of top politicians, including Madam Sirleaf were those anticipated to head the government. At one point during the talks, a non-delegate at the talks, who had preferred Cllr. Winston Tubman to head the transitional government, confided in me that there was indication that the fallen Chairman, then, Chairman of the Liberia Action Party (LAP) had shown interest in the Chairmanship and was determined to go through it.

Based on this, when it was learnt that a Liberian businessman, as he was described, was contesting the chairman of the transitional government, it was really not strange, had I have been informed of this by the non-delegate, who predeceased Chairman Bryant. Mr. Bryant went through it and came out successfully to head the Liberian National Transitional Government of Liberia (LNTG) for two years, after the holding of elections.

As stated earlier, there have been eulogies about the work or contribution of this great son of the soil. He was praised for his role in the church and also as an entrepreneur in the country, who established a business, as an economist from the former Cuttington College and Divinity School, now Cuttington University. As a statesman, he was hailed for executing those mandates as contained in the CPA, especially the holding of free, fair and transparent elections, which ushered in the first female democratically elected president or head of state of Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson-sirleaf.

In her Panegyric on behalf of the Liberian government, President Sirleaf described the fallen Chairman as a courageous and committed leader who served his country magnificently. President Sirleaf said the death of Mr. Bryant will have a long shadow on Liberia considering his pivotal role in bringing peace to the country.

“Bryant will always be present with us as we continue to remember his service to the state and humanity. Liberia has lost an astute leader, a courageous, committed and devoted son of the soil. He was a gentleman in every service of the world. He was farsighted, had good concentration and served the country very well. The Liberian leader furthered, “Bryant demonstrated knowledge of national affairs; the passing of Bryant calls for political parties and others to introduce new institutions. I call on all Liberians that as we celebrate this year’s national Unification Day let us give reference and memory to the late Chairman Bryant.”

Similarly, in his discourse, the Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia, the Right Rev. Dr. Jonathan B.B. Hart, described the late Chairman Bryant as a man of peace and a soft-spoken person whose only priority was to bring peace to a country that has been devastated as a result of nearly 14 years of civil conflict.

Bishop Hart also remembered Bryant as a devoted Christian who though he was Chairman of the NTGL, stood to the door of the Church every Sunday and ushered in those coming to Church. “Liberians must emulate the good qualities of Chairman Bryant and avoid the act of cheating, corruption and other vices that have the propensity to bring disgrace to the country,” Bishop Hart told the congregation.

Indeed, much has been said about this son of the soil for his role in the church, society and the state. Notwithstanding, one thing that the former Chairman did for which I still hold him in high esteem is the way and manner in which he handled a particular incident during the electoral process that President Sirleaf won.

During that process, a particular political party tried to create a situation that could have led to constitutional crisis, meaning that the elections should not have continued on the run-off, something that could have given rise for an interim administration, thus thwarting the democratic process. But as chairman, the deceased meticulously managed that crisis that led to the holding of the run-off elections.

I take interest in this matter because the Chairman at the time, because if the then chairman had not exercised restraint, selflessness, tolerance and maturity, things could have “CHACKLIED,” and as it is often said in this country, “IF THINGS CHACKLA, THEY WILL CHACKLA FOR ALL”, as it would have been to the detriment of the society.

Hence, it is for this that I join the many voices who are giving encomium to the fallen Liberian leader for his role in ushering in the democratic government of Madam Sirleaf, in a process hailed by many, including the international community.

Since this is about death, I cannot rest my case, as I usually do, but all I can say is FAREWELL Chairman Bryant; you have left the footprint on the sand of time; your name will be recorded in the chronicle of this country for ushering in the democratic process that the country enjoys today after years of conflict.

NB: Atty. Wesseh was among many Liberian journalists who covered the peace talks in Accra, Ghana from June to August 2003.