Was Eric that evil? Another view of the Duncan story

By Tennen B. Dalieh

The mid-term senatorial election is scheduled to be held on October 14 2014, about a week from now but as it is and from all indications, election will not be held on 14, October. Article of the Liberian constitution states under Article 83(a) that “elections are held on the second Tuesday of October every election year….”

No doubt elections cannot be held due to the Ebola outbreak. In August of this year, consultations were been held with political parties and Civil Society groups in Liberia by the National Election Commission (NEC) to gauge their views on the possibilities of holding election. A month and half later all activities leading to Election Day were suspended. No one ever argues the LEGALITY in this matter as Expediency is the way out.

On September 19, 2014 Mr. Eric Duncan left Liberia to the United States. On September 30, 2014 he was diagnosed of the Ebola virus by the CDC and died on October 8, 2014. He was the first to be diagnosed of the virus and the first to die of the virus there
On September 19, 2014 Mr. Eric Duncan left Liberia to the United States. On September 30, 2014 he was diagnosed of the Ebola virus by the CDC and died on October 8, 2014. He was the first to be diagnosed of the virus and the first to die of the virus there

On September 19, 2014 Mr. Eric Duncan left Liberia to the United States. On September 30, 2014 he was diagnosed of the Ebola virus by the CDC.[1]

As there are many sides to the story, Eric got infected with the virus- knowingly or unknowingly. The “golden opportunity” came for Eric to fly to America. Like anyone will do, Eric traveled to America. Many have argued including the President that Eric was selfish and was only concern about himself. Take a break for a moment, have we tried to enter his mind and simulate his thought processes? And as an aside, who thinks or considers another person when their own life is at stake? Such heroism is feigned, especially I the Liberian mindset that I know. How many of the government officials and even mid-level bureaucrats that will not budge even if they know they are directly culpable for a breach? No really holding brief for Eric at this point but looking at the wider Liberian psyche for a moment.

Every year our government officials spend from the national budget for ‘medical checks abroad even our president goes to the same America for “routine health checkups”. So where are we? Take a look at all editions of the world Human Development Index report, Liberia is one of poorest countries with, arguably, the worst health care system. Ebola simply brought exposed this!

The entire health dis-system[2] (for lack of a proper antonym) simply degenerated into shambles. It is great to see the government taking responsibility for Eric’s purported deceit…but have you seen the form where it is reported he gave false information? I argue that he could not have known that the lady he is reported to have been helping had Ebola! He is not a doctor…and having been refused at the hospital, like Representative Forh’s daughter…no medical certificate could be issued at the time of death. As always, sadly, the burial crews arrive faster than the ambulances, what can we say?

Now, throwing it back at the government of Liberia, The Anti-Eric fan club, most especially Her Excellency, mother of the Nation, Fountain of Honor- a Ellen; where did Eric go wrong? Let’s retrace his steps; Eric left Liberia on the 19th of September 2014, reported ill on the 24 and was sent home with antibiotics and became symptomatic after another two days which was the 26 of September he and confirmed to have Ebola on the 28th nine days after leaving Liberia. Did he have the power to foresee that by helping the late lady he would be endangering himself? Regardless of which side of this argument you stand, was this a selfish person acting?

I am moved by my judgment of this singular act, of kindness I must add, that the ongoing backlash by the government and some Liberians in and out of Liberia is absurd to say the least and borne out of the eagerness to please. Instead of wishing Duncan a speedy recovery and extending alms to this family back home, we find pleasure in discriminating, demonizing, stigmatizing and handing down guilty verdict on him while he struggles to survive, with ultimate thoughts of what ifs running through his mind.
Nothing is more deceptive than knowing that the government like over the years is still carrying on ‘selective justice’.
The pioneer exporter of Ebola, if we see him as such, American-Liberian Patrick Sawyer, left Liberia under the watchful eyes of the authorities at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health to Nigeria for an ECOWAS meeting after every hospital record showed that his sister had died from the Ebola virus and he Patrick had direct contact with her. It’s almost three months and no one person has assumed responsibility for that. No one has been prosecuted since Patrick can’t be. Do we care to look at how he got his clearance to travel? Do we care to look at who withheld information that could have stopped him boarding that plane? It ended with his death; and in his trail he left a few Nigerians dead…any formal condolence message from the government of Liberia to the families of those who lost their loved ones ue to Patrick’s presence? No idea.

Do we even take note that the naturalized American was traveling to Nigeria with an official Liberian passport to an ECOWAS meeting as a Liberian? To date, Liberian laws forbid dual citizens citizenship. This was a major point in Liberia history or debate as it concerns “dual citizenship” and its impact especially when the wife of the late Patrick Sawyer claimed her husband was an “American” and not a “Liberian”.

As always, one of his bosses at the time Mr. Sebastian Muah claimed he cannot be held for approving the travel of Patrick. “I am a medical doctor?” he asked in an online posting. “Take me to the international court since I am guilty of approving a travel.”[3]. Like in many transparency and accountability issues, this Patrick Sawyer’s case eased its way into history. No one will ever know, if truly this human bomb, as President Goodluck Jonathan would call him could have been prevented from boarding that plane. NO WAS PROSECUTED AND NO ONE WILL EVER BE PROSECUTED!

Little Shaki Kamara was shot in the leg and died afterwards. A Board of Inquiry was set-up to investigate. The report was concluded and report sent to the president. It is one month plus since the incidence and report concluded yet the public those not have an idea on what the findings are neither the recommendation.

So, why all the noise about Eric, who if he had not left Liberia, would have been just another number or indices within the statistics? Did Eric really have chance and choice? Did he knowingly take Ebola to America? Was he so cruel as to plan a deliberate infection of his girlfriend, relatives and friends in the US? Then he must be a mad man. Since I don’t think he was a madman, I am compelled to take the other side; Eric did not know, had no proof or inclination that he was a carrier and was only excited to be leaving Ebola zone; only excited by the prospects of seeing his family and dear loved ones. Eric has no blame.

Your Excellency, Madam President, Mother of the Nation, Fountain of Honor and Iron Lady, I understand ‘you cannot bite the hand that feeds you’, but in this case you had the constitutional responsibility to front for Duncan. Ebola was brought to Liberia on two separate accounts from two neighboring countries; Guinea and Sierra Leone, what did we do? We did not blast citizens of those countries that brought it, We could not even identify our patient zero! More disturbingly was the fact that we could not even muster the courage to close our borders because we “need PEPPER and BITTERBALLS” from those countries. This is what DEPENDENCY does. Now we have pepper and bitter balls but can’t eat in peace.

Please Madam President, I know you have noticed but let I feel compelled to remind you that the country is already overwhelmed with this Ebola outbreak. The one this we require more than any other is for you to concentrate on this matter rather than use the ‘red herring’ on us.. You might not notice, but already Liberians traveling to other countries have suffered enough discrimination even before the Patrick Sawyer incident and it has not gotten better. Exposing your citizens to other countries in this life-threatening time is the worst any government will do.

Now that he is dead, hope the President still finds wisdom in prosecuting his ashes!


[2]Not a word…a coinage for emphasis referring to the disorganized health structures and functionaries



Author: D K Sengbeh

Danicius Kaihenneh Sengbeh (author of Sengbeh's Weblog) is a respected and renowned Liberian journalist, poet and writer with with journalism experience since 2001, of working both as a mainstream journalist and a communication/media consultant in Liberia. He is Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia (elected Dec 2013). He was Assistant Secretary General of the Union Dec 2011 to Dec 2013. He is also Editor-In-Chief of The Informer Newspaper—one of Liberia’s credible dailies. Before joining the Informer, Danicius had served as reporter, chief reporter, sub-editor and News Editor at The Independent Newspaper between 2002 and 2006. Before then, he was reporter at the defunct Patriot Newspaper and Kiss FM 2001-2002. Danicius is a UN Media Fellow and Liberia’s first UN Medal Award-winning journalist for his contribution to journalism and for being the second Liberian journalist in 15 years to qualify for and successfully attended the United Nations’ Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalist Fellowship Program in New York and Geneva, Switzerland in 2012. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Mass Communication and Sociology from the University of Liberia and a Diploma in Journalism from the International School of Journalism. He holds several awards and recognitions both in and outside of journalism, and carries dozens of certificates in journalism and communication from studies in Ghana, China, United States and Switzerland, among others. He volunteers as Chair of the Information and Communication Committee of his local Bardnersville community. He can be quickly reached via (+231) 886586531/777586531/777464018/ dakasen1978@yahoo.com

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