By Norris Tweah
As news of Jasper’s death filtered around late Saturday morning on 25 January 2014, I was at a funeral with two people who knew him very well. My brother Samuel D. Tweah Jr., who and Jasper became standard-bearers of their respective student political parties on the campus of the University of Liberia in the 1990s and Thomas Doe Nah. We were in utter disbelief as many others were upon hearing the news.
In 2004, Thomas, Jasper and James Thompson founded the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), now a respected civil society organization in the country and the local chapter for Transparency International (TI). Jasper served as CENTAL’s first program manager and its second executive director.
G. Jasper Cummeh, III, was an influential member of the Liberian civil society community. In 2008, he founded Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternative (AGENDA), an organization committed to promoting transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation in the country’s governance process, becoming its first Senior Policy Director. He died at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia. He was 43.
From the first time I met Jasper, at the University of Liberia, he always worked around the clock–247–during something with extraordinary passion. Jasper recruited me into a literary organization he founded called VISION 2000 and assigned me the lead role as the protagonist in a romantic tragedy he had written.
The movie script had more than 1500 pages with several scenes set in Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. The cask met on weekends, usually on Sundays, most times at Adeline Sompon’s house on Gurley Street. But as the lead actor, I spent hours with Jasper going over my role, reciting and mastering my portion. And that’s when I discovered Jasper was a workaholic.
And that was before he entered student politics; before SIM-STUDA Coalition and all the drama regarding whether the coalition should continue or each party should contest on its own merit. That was when student politics was student politics, and Jasper was at the epicenter of it all, and he deserves much credit for contributing more than a fair share to the culture of intellectualism on campus, as well as he blended his voice with others to the shouts and slogans that stimulated student politics.
As SIM’s chairman, Jasper was visible, relentless and ambitious. He wrote SIM campus press releases; his handwriting was seen on its posters—as if that was not enough—he plastered them on the walls of T-H and FQ himself. That was his nature—work and work.
And as an academic, Jasper, along with nine freshmen, were placed in a special English section which was taught by DrKatheleen List, a former US Embassy Political Advisor, after scoring a high mark in English on the UL Entrance. In 2001, he graduated as a member of the Golden Class with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and was only a course away from earning his LLB in law from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law.
So few hours after it was confirmed that Jasper had died, his body was taken to ST Moses and then friends began calling in disbelief.
“Whose Body?” asked a closed friend.“Yes, his body is now lying at ST Moses,” I answered.
From there on our dear friend became a body lying at ST Moses. On Friday Morning, January 24, the day before he died, Jasper was on the battlefield, during what he knew best, this time at the Carter Center training health workers from around the country on how to advocate for increased budgetary support for the mental health program in Liberia.
Carolyn MyersZoduah, who worked with Jasper for the last four years as AENGDA’s program manager, remembers her former boss as “someone who was quick to see the potential and makes sure that the potential comes out.”
“My work was on gender issues, I no idea on budget, policy analysis, research, or corruption issues and he introduced me to a lot of things,” she said. I worked with him for four years; he will always say, ‘Carolyn, you can make it’. And he was always good at putting me on the spot, but in a positive way.”
But Jasper did not only put Carolyn on the spot in a positive way. He put others on the spot as well, including the Government. At the International Right to Know Day celebration in Buchanan, Grand Bassa, in September 2013, Jasper spoke on behalf of the coalition of civil society.
Jasper thanked the Government for naming information officers, but said that was not enough and urged the Government to provide training, equipment and a decent compensation for information officers. He concluded his remarks by reminding the Government that access to information was a fundamental human right , while urging the Government to do more to implement the Freedom of Information Law.
Jasper was on point on this one in part because he was one of the people who labored so hard for the passage of the Freedom of Law in Liberia. In 2010, Jasper was among a group of Government and civil society stakeholders who swarmed the Capital Building early one morning to meet and urge lawmakers to pass the FOI law. The same year the law was passed and Liberia became the first country in West Africa to enact a Freedom of Information legislation. Thanks Jasper for your contribution!
Though Jasper spoke in a quiet and soft tone with a calm demeanor which carried with it a certain degree of poise, his utterances and comments came at you and were nevertheless powerful, thorough, deep, sometimes long and critical.
But once again, as with all mortals of which Jasper was a member, the cold hands of death prematurely deprived us of a fighter, an advocate, a trainer, and a dear friend. He will be forever missed by all of us, especially his wife Peaches SuahCummeh and his children. His body will be removed today from the ST Moses funeral home and funeral rites will take place at the S. T. Nagbe Methodist Church on 10th Street on Saturday, February 22, 2014.
May His Soul Rest in Perfect Peace and Light Perpetual Shine on Him.
Editor’s note: We will all missed Jasper Kumeh, he was a friend and a new generational leader, who, in his passion for pro-democracy and rights was a major drum beater for Liberia’s cause, and a tireless dedicated professional, activist and leader. He never waver in his convictions that doing what was right to pull our country up was Paramount and that the decadence of our society in as much as our history is concerned needed men with vision, who in their efforts and pursuits to see Liberia rise were scrupulous in their convictions and were themselves never tainted by the past. His short life can be summarized by the legacy he left, he was a son of Liberia, and he gave his country his all while he was alive! REST IN PEACE JASPER!