It is customary that at the funeral, the unsavory side of the life of the deceased is not mentioned.
So it was when families, friends and loved ones paid tributes to the fallen Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Charles Gyude Bryant.
They said of the former Chairman that his life did not harm anyone, neither did he deceive Liberia during the tough transitional period in 2005, when he handed a peaceful Liberia over to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Several officials representing national institutions including the president of the University of Liberia, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, the board and members of the B.W. Harris School (Episcopal owned), the Episcopal Church, and others noted in separate statements that the late Chairman Bryant chaired and co-chaired boards that supervised many of those institutions.
UL president Emmet Dennis in a special way recognized the fallen Liberian son as a Visitor of the University of Liberia, who transitioned the academic institution from a time of turmoil to peace, emphasizing that Bryant appointed his (Dennis’) predecessor, Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, who led the university up to 2009 prior to his (Dr. Dennis) takeover.
In all the statements, care, humility, humanity, diligence and consciousness were among words that went to late Chairman’s credit.
Tributes were also made by the ECOWAS Commission, Cllr. Varney Sherman and Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee.
For the ECOWAS Commission, its statement noted that during Liberia’s tough times, it took rebel leaders and government of former President Charles Taylor 61 days to reach an agreement for the establishment of a transitional leadership in Accra, Ghana in 2003, resulting in the Accra Peace Accord.
“There was a need for a neutral person to head the leadership; and Bryant, [chosen] through popular votes among the warlords and members of the civil society, was elected for this great task,” the statement read.
The statement further noted that the chief peace negotiator at the time, General Abdul Salaam Abubakar, advised that for peace to be restored to Liberia, it would take the collective effort of all Liberians.
In consonance with this advice, the ECOWAS Commission said Bryant took the challenge to head a leadership of warlords whose rebel groups took instructions only from themselves and their bosses.
The Commission acknowledged that Bryant followed the guidelines and rules of the Accra Peace Accord and ensured that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration took place, and that elections were held, turning over leadership to a democratically elected government.
Cllr. Varney Sherman, who chairs the ruling Unity Party, described Bryant as a kind and compassionate man who was humble and full of humanity.
Cllr. Sherman, a one-time member of the Liberia Action Party (LAP), told the audience that Bryant’s life did not harm anybody, and that his role in Liberia’s peace process cannot be forgotten as evidenced by the transition of power that brought Liberia total peace.
Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee in her tribute recalled that the transitional period from beginning 2003, was a memorable period that will not be forgotten in Liberian history.
Madam Gbowee said during that period, Bryant did not divide Liberians but strived to empower Liberians and respect the rights of others.
However, the praises showered upon Chairman Bryant for his role in the governance process of Liberia during the transitional period may not be in consonance with what transpired after he handed over power to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led Administration.
Upon turning leadership over to Madam Sirleaf in 2006, Bryant faced the wrath of her administration’s “fight against corruption.”
The Sirleaf Administration took Chairman Bryant and some officials of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, including Montserrado County Representative Edwin Snowe, to court for corruption.
Bryant at one point in time during the trial, was incarcerated; however, at the end of the trial Bryant and those accused were acquitted.
When he died at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center on April 16, family members stated that Bryant had written in his will that he did not want a state burial or any government participation in his funeral.
Alleged ill treatment meted against him after turning over to the Sirleaf government is publicly presumed to be one reason why the fallen leader had allegedly ruled out government participation in his burial. As such, the former president did not lie in state as is customary for officials at that level of government.
Since the Sirleaf Administration took Bryant to court for corruption, the fight against this national menace seems to be failing as doubt arises in every sector about the performances of public officials.
Even the President herself has been criticized for the appointment of her children and cronies in key lucrative public positions, which the public considers nepotism.
General Auditing and Anti-Corruption Commission reports have reflected the names of many public officials, but not much effort has been exerted to fully prosecute those involved. The recycling of key confidantes of Madam Sirleaf between public offices has over the time also sparked criticism, as the public claims it contradicts her advocacy for social justice in Liberia.