From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[ENS] Liberia's interim leader is Episcopalian hailed as
"Mika Larson" <email@example.com>
Mon, 25 Aug 2003 16:53:34 -0400
Liberia's interim leader is Episcopalian hailed as consensus builder
[ENS] The announcement that Charles Gyude Bryant, described by friends
and associates as a mild-mannered and politically obscure businessman,
will lead the interim government of war-torn Liberia into a hoped-for
democracy is being hailed by Episcopalians in this country.
"He is a pillar of the [Episcopal] Church, a man of integrity and a man
of vision," said the Rev. Theodora Brooks, rector of St. Margaret's
Episcopal Church in the Bronx, New York. "I'm sure he will have the
support of people in Liberia," said Brooks, who is Liberian and a member
of the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace and
Justice Concerns. "People want a change so badly."
The Rev. Burgess Carr, a brother of the new Liberian leader, said he
plans to travel to Monrovia soon from his home in Stone Mountain,
Georgia. "Everyone is happy; I'm getting telephone calls from the ends
of the earth," said Carr, who served in the 1980s and '90s as Africa
partnership officer and director of Episcopal Migration Ministries at
the Episcopal Church Center in New York.
Gyude (pronounced "JOOD-eh") Bryant, 54, is chairman of the board of
trustees of the Episcopal Church in Liberia and a 1972 graduate in
economics from the church's Cuttington University College. Five years
later, he founded the Liberia Machinery and Supply Company, a
distributor of mining and port handling equipment, that he still heads.
Observers said his political neutrality helped to secure his appointment
by the warring factions August 21 at the end of 78 days of peace talks
in Accra, Ghana.
"I see myself as a healer," Bryant told New York Times correspondent Tim
Weiner. "I see myself as neutral. I side with no group."
Carr said he was "half expecting" the appointment when he saw the list
of the three candidates. "Guyde is a very careful and cautious person,"
he said. "He is a man of deep faith. He is a fair person, not
ostentatious; he is soft-spoken and knows his mind."
Carr said his brother built a coalition of several disparate and diverse
parties, took them to Ghana for the peace talks and held them together
as a strong negotiating force against both the former government
officials and armed rebels.
Monumental problems exist
Calling for a "cooling off period" to end a civil war that has destroyed
the nation's infrastructure and created a huge refugee problem, Bryant
acknowledged that the government faced monumental problems. Among these
are 450,000 displaced people living in Monrovia amid a crippling
scarcity of food, water and medicine; an 85 percent unemployment rate;
and thousands of still-armed combatants. As well, the World Health
Organization warned on August 22 of rising cholera cases that could
escalate into an epidemic.
Bryant is so unknown by U.S. officials that his biography at the embassy
in Monrovia said only that he was chairman of the Liberian Action Party,
a minor political group that was equally critical of former President
Charles Taylor and the rebels.
Unlike many others, Bryant remained in the country, importing and
operating heavy equipment, during all of the upheavals during the past
14 years. Now, much of his machinery lies in ruins from recent shelling
at Monrovia's seaport.
The interim government, headed by Bryant, will try to lead Liberia on
the road to peace until elections in October 2005. Under the accord, the
administration assumes control on October 14 from the former
vice-president, who Taylor selected before going into exile to Nigeria.
Because allies of Taylor will hold half of the cabinet seats, Bryant may
have a tough job getting the former enemies to work together for a more
peaceful and prosperous future.
He said his priorities were to work with the United Nations to hold
elections, to demobilize fighters, to establish and maintain order and
to restore basic services, such as electricity.
The interim leader has the ability to work towards decision-making by
consent, said Dean Jonathan Hart of Trinity Cathedral in Monrovia. "In
the church, we want decisions coming out of discussions, not unilateral
decisions," he said.
Reginald Goodridge, the government's minister of information, hailed
Bryant as "an excellent and efficient man" who is totally non-partisan.
"He's exactly the kind of man who we need for reconciliation," Goodridge
said. "He has never been involved in conflict in the country. He's never
been in exile, and it's important, because his continuous stay in
Liberia means he knows perfectly the problems in the country."
-- Based on staff interviews and press reports distributed by Friends of
Liberia, BBC World service and the New York Times.
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