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By Tarty Teh 

I thought about first reading Dr. Patrick Seyon’s piece, in the May 2000 online version of The Perspective Magazine, that has driven Mr. Harry Greaves Jr. out of his hibernation away from the horror he helped plan and which resulted into the death of 220,000 Liberians who, like Dr. Patrick Seyon, were never ”in the know” about the activities of an outfit known only as the ACDL.  But why should I overload myself with Dr. Seyon’s dissertation when Harry Greaves’ presumptuous pontification can cause a stir even among the dead?  While Mr. Greaves can easily afford his long vacations from some of the troubles he makes, some of us have neither the means nor the inclination to ignore the suffering he caused. 

Dr. Patrick Seyon was the water boy for the band of Americos who first coalesced as ACDL (Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia) which, according to Mr. Greaves, ”operated on two tracks and at two levels” from Washington, D.C.  Apparently Dr. Seyon was aware of only the track that led to the U.S. Capitol Hill where he was led to deliver a testimony against an elected government of President Samuel Doe.  As I remember his testimony in early 1990, it was Dr. Seyon’s belief – echoed later by Mr. Francis Afonso Dennis, former Liberian ambassador to Washington in the lost dispensation – that democracy was on the horizon in Liberia in 1980 when the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) overthrew the 130-year-old Americo Liberian Empire. It was that apparently slow-rising democracy that was aborted by the coup that removed the last Americo president (before Charles Taylor) from office. 

That was quite a leap, given Dr. Seyon’s limited capacity for recognizing a multi-track system such as the one that was in place when he was called upon to voice the Americos’ disgust with having a semiliterate, native African president named Samuel Doe heading the country they founded.  For that, Dr. Seyon incurred the wrath of many who saw him as an African Liberian face on an Americo plan.  He didn’t please me then, and does not please Greaves now. But that was then, this is now.  The plan that the ACDL put forth called for recruiting Charles Taylor from prison to execute it.  Taylor had a neat dictum for his mission: ”The only good Doe is a dead Doe.”  In the end, President Doe and 220,000 other Liberians died.  Harry Greaves spent much of that period of gruesome death and destruction on vacation from his original plan after his initial elation, expressed in dazzling prose. All that is part of our recent history.  We have since screamed at one another at  conferences about how to fix what was destroyed by Greaves’ plan.  And just when we have begun to talk to each other about what to do next, here comes Greaves with some redistribution and re-direction of already assessed blames. 

Mr. Harry Greaves is a much capable man in promoting any cause he believes in. I read his gleeful press releases in 1989, marking Charles Taylor’s progress as he tore up Liberia.  My respect for Mr. Greaves is therefore based mostly on his talent in skillful communication.  In his latest offering, however, Mr. Greaves appears not to care very much what anyone thinks about what he says and how he says it.  And therein lies the presumption that perhaps this, too, will fly over our heads even if it is a lame effort by an otherwise capable performer: 

”If the election results are to be believed, 3 out of every 4 Liberian voters, all of whom suffered the trauma of that war, voted Mr. Taylor into office in July 1997 even though they knew he started the war and in many cases personally suffered privations at the hands of his militias. While we all know those elections were not conducted on a level playing field, that intimidation played a role and valid suspicion of massive cheating abounds (which we have not been able to prove), the fact of the matter is that Mr. Taylor is now in office as an elected president. I am not one of those who subscribes to the view that Liberians deserve what they are getting because they voted Mr. Taylor into office.” – Harry Greaves Jr. 

Mr. Greaves witnessed another bad presidential contest in 1985.  In that election three candidates campaigned for the presidency.  Each used the same government-owned and -operated media outlets to get his message to the voters. (Of course, Taylor, in 1997, didn’t allow the same kind of free access to the state-owned media.  For most people, however, there was much more at stake than the luxury of freedom of expression.)  In the end, the 1985 presidential election results were reported as being close enough that the winner could not boast of more than half of the vote.  That, of course, was unacceptable to Greaves and others who are used to political mudslides.  When someone wins by a modest margin, people who are used to total victories are incensed and therefore refuse to wait for the next round of orderly contest.   

I am not sure whether Dr. Seyon’s support of the overthrow of President Doe was a mistake.  My hope is that he believed that he was doing the right thing.  But no one died as result of Dr. Seyon’s testimony on Capitol Hill seeking President Doe’s removal.  But Greaves and others did help Taylor actually carry out the physical removal of President Doe and the destruction of everything in their path.  Now, it was just a mistake: 

”We all make mistakes – all of us except, of course, St. Patrick, who, as he reminds us with great sanctimony throughout his diatribe, is without blemish. Making a mistake is not a sin. Repeating it is. When I make a mistake, I like to fess[sic] up to it, make amends where possible, resolve to learn from that mistake, then move on looking for solutions. I believe the Liberian people made a big mistake in 1997, the painful reminder of which is with them every day in the form of no electricity, no decent drinking water, sewage in the streets, a barely functioning healthcare system, inadequately equipped schools, no jobs, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, loss of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, blatant disregard for the rule of law, a security apparatus run amok – all of this happening whilst the ruling class comprising a small clique of government officials lives ostentatiously. The Liberian people will have an opportunity to correct that mistake in 2003 and I believe they will.” – Harry Greaves Jr. 

Yet Mr. Greaves would not speculate on the size of the mistake he and his ACDL colleagues made when they planned the war from which we are still suffering, nor does he feel a need for a partial expression of regrets without attaching a catalogue of participants who responded to his initial aggression.  The long list of every group that fought in the war that was forced on us includes our version of the very army each nation maintains to protect its sovereignty – our Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).  What’s so wrong with a national army fighting an invasion?  The clue to that question lies in the fact that the person heading the nation was, for once, not an Americo. 

Of course, the debate between Mr. Greaves and Dr. Seyon, according to Greaves, is about estimating how much death can be crammed into a ten-thousand-dollar budget.  Greaves seems to maintain that it took more than $10,000 worth of killing tools to doom 220,000 Liberians.  Well, Greaves and his ACDL may have given Taylor only $10,000, but a ten thousand here and a ten thousand there quickly added up to more deaths.  With Taylor now successfully in power, death and destruction are now measured by money withheld.  A $50,000 SUV here and a $80,000 Mercedes Benz there for President Taylor’s personal security forces, will keep food and knowledge away from children and ensure their early death.   

Reading this, you would have thought that Harry Reaves was talking to his soccer team after a defeat: ”Making a mistake is not a sin. Repeating it is.”  Sounds neat, doesn’t it?  But how about this.  The one that cost Liberia 220,000 lives was not Greaves’ first mistake.  It was his second that I can vouch for.  The first one I know of was the one in which he escorted Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa into Liberia to remove President Samuel Doe in the 1985 coup that failed (See Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh’s ”Of Lies and Pretenses”).  On their way in for the commando raid, the invaders left an otherwise militarily 
prepared Dr. Fahnbulleh at Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone ”due to some misunderstanding.” 

But it’s only a mistake – which ”the Liberian people will have an opportunity to correct … in 2003 and I believe they will,” says Harry Greave Jr. I think Mr. Greaves thinks we are still a stupid bunch. This, however, is no longer his problem; it’s ours.

– Tarty Teh 
Copyrighted © Tarty Teh 2000 

BY TOGBA-NAH TIPOTEH

FOUNDING LEADER OF MOJA

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE 2011 ELECTIONS                                                                          

MONROVIA, LIBERIA

February 3, 2014

PEOPLE OF UBERIA AND FRIENDS OF UBERIA

Let me thank the officers and members of the Flamah Future Intellectual Discourse Center for making it possible to have this Annual Message on the State of the People delivered here today. This Annual Message is dedicated to the World Leader Madlba Nelson Rolihiahia Mandela and Liberian Leader Michael Kpakala Francis. May I begin this Annual Message by extending New Year Greetings to the people of Liberia:

Rivercess County – Ah po Glaypor Zuo Zeh diaye jaye

River Gee County – Jolojah jloh eh-chuhn

Grand Kru – Sohn day- day ah Sankan

Gbarpolu County – Ahlaseh gola nelhn – na mahn-nee-mahn; kunaneenehn

BomI County – Seh dwakeh yor

Grand Cape Mount County – Kamba ehyeryee sanama mayun

Maryland County – Jolo jah jloh eh-chuhn

Sinoe County Sohnday-day ah sankan; ah po Nyihnswa troh daysuh-day kpahnnn

Marglbl County – Ahlaseh gola nelhn na mahn-nee- mahn; Ah po Glaypor zuo zohn diaye jaye

Grand Gedeh County – Ah po Nylhuswa troh day-suhn-day kpahnnn

Grand Bassa County – Ah po Qaypor Zou zohn diaye jaye

Bong County – Ahlaseh gola nelhn-na mahn-nee-mahn

Lofa County – Kunaneenehn; fowonee – nalhn wohelhnnelhn Yaye-Jor wor-lo sen-neih yor

Nimba County – Kwa kweh dor yo-o; kwa keh deh guelor; sankula kaila Allah dee ahma

Montserrado County – Happy New Year             

Image

Dr. Tipoteh

 

We are here today to talk about the most important problem that the people of Liberia continue to face. We are here today to help more and more Liberians to understand better where their main problem comes from and how we as a people can work together to end the problem in the shortest possible time in a way that the problem will not come back. This main problem facing the people of Liberia is mass poverty. Nearly all Liberians continue to be poor.

In the 2014 Annual Message of the President of Liberia, it is declared conclusively that “our Republic of Liberia Is stronger, safer, securer and steadier than it has been in many years”. The government of Liberia’s own facts show that the Republic is not stronger, safer, securer and steadier than in the past. The Republic is the people and it is not possible for the Republic to be making progress when the people are not making progress. Let us use the government’s own facts, some of which are in the President’s Annual Message to make this point convincing.

The Annual Progress Report of the Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy says that 64 percent or nearly two out of every three Liberians were very poor in 2006. The President’s 2014 Annual Message says that 77.9 percent or almost eight out of every ten Liberians in need of income -earning work cannot find work and they cannot manage to live under the present economic conditions In Liberia. It is this very high vulnerable unemployment situation that made United Nations Secretary General to say that the very high unemployment in Liberia means that national security in Liberia is fragile or shaky or not stable or weak or nothing to depend on.

The World Bank, the main international economic partner of the government, says that nearly 9 out of 10 Liberians in need of income earning work cannot find work to do and this is what makes them unemployed. According to the World Bank, Liberians living on less than USD 2 a day are 95 percent of Liberia’s population, while Liberians living on less than USD1.25 a day are 83 percent of the population and Liberians living on less than a US dollar a day are 63.8 percent of the population. But the Government of Liberia and the World Bank with its twin, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continue to make a big mistake by saying that there is progress In the Liberian economy because of the high growth of the economy. The President’s 2014 Annual Message reports that the average economic growth rate a year for 2006 to 2013 is 8 percent.

The government, The World Bank and the IMF are still making the gross mistake by saying that Liberia is experiencing progress because the economic growth rate per capita or per person is rising. Let us consider a situation where there are 10 persons in a group but only one of them is employed, with an income of 10,000 dollars a year. Although the average income of the group of 10 persons is 1,000 dollars a year, only one person earns any money while 9 persons remain unemployed. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to use the income per person amount to say anything about the economic condition of the 9 unemployed persons in the group. In the 2014 Annual Message, the President says that although there is progress, “we must collectively do more, as the public fight against corruption, abuses of power and the misuse of government resources is being emboldened and intensified”. In this public fight, the government has its agents, the Governance Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the General Auditing Commission. With the government showing a lack of commitment to establishing good governance and ending corruption, there is most urgent need for the emergence of good leadership to establish good governance and end corruption for Liberia to be a better place for all Liberians. Good leadership in Liberia calls for a leader to take peaceful action with as many persons as possible to prevent the suffering of at least most Liberians. When the suffering already exists, good leadership calls for a leader to take peaceful action with as many persons as possible to end the suffering in a way that it will not happen again. When we speak about the suffering of the people of Liberia, we are speaking about the poverty of the people of Liberia. When we speak about poverty, we are speaking about the people of Liberia who have less than 80 Liberian dollars or 1 United States dollar a day to use for one person.

There was too much poverty in Liberia to the point that some Liberians and their foreign friends who wanted to take over the government used violent ways to overthrow the government, telling the Liberian people and the rest of the world that the new government was necessary to end the suffering of the people of Liberia. The overthrow of the government by the civil war used poverty as the main excuse for the overthrow. Therefore, good leadership calls for talking peaceful action with as many persons as possible to end the poverty of the people of Liberia and to prevent it from happening again. Progress in any country means that change is taking place that brings down the level of poverty in the country. It Is not possible for any person or government to talk credibly about progress In any country when the person or government does not tell the truth that shows the level of poverty going down. When a baby is dying from malaria, no one can say credibly that the baby is doing well by showing new clothes for the baby.

To say credibly that the baby is doing well, the truth about the ending of the malaria in the baby has to be presented. For over fifty years, governments of Liberia, including the present government of Liberia, say that there is progress in Liberia when the facts showing the truth tell us that the main way in which government takes action for the production and distribution of goods and services is what brings suffering, poverty to the people of Liberia. The truth about this relationship between the main way of production and distribution and the poverty in Liberia has been openly known to the government of Liberia since 1960, based on the examination of the facts of the economy of Liberia throughout 1950s.

Despite all this talk about Liberia being founded on a religious foundation, the truth is that the Government of Liberia does not value highly what God has given to Liberia. For example, the government of Liberia continues to preside over an economy owned by foreigners because the government continues to allow foreigners to take Liberia’s natural resources like iron ore, rubber and logs into their foreign countries without having factories in Liberia to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and ownership for Liberians by producing steel rods, rubber products and furniture in Liberia. The Liberian economy could be growing with more revenue coming in but most Liberians would not benefit because the rights of the people continue to be given to foreigners. As we are now assembled here, there are thousands of foreigners in jobs and doing business that Liberians, especially the youth, can do and should be doing according to the Constitution of Liberia. Liberia continues to produce what Liberians do not consume and continues to consume what foreigners produce. The main reason why the Liberian dollar loses value is that the government places much more value on what is foreign than what is Liberian. This longstanding bad situation dominates the economy of Liberia and It is called “economic growth without economic development” or “growth without development” for short.

No country in this world has experienced progress, the sustained Improvement in the living conditions of its citizens, by using the way to manage the economy that the government of Liberia continues to use. This reality should be easy to understand because if any country were to allow another country to do what the country can do for itself, then the other country would benefit from what is done at the expense of the country that gives away Its rights to other countries. The people of Liberia know this reality. But the government of Liberia is not promoting the addition of value to Liberia’s natural resources. Over hundreds of years, villages in the geographical space called Liberia have been using iron ore to make their farm tools. This is why every village has a blacksmith facility that produces farm tools. During the 1990s, former LAMCO machine shop workers, with former combatants and displaced Liberians used scrap metal to produce internationally marketable farm tools under the sponsorship of Susukuu, the 43 years old Liberian poverty reduction organization. Susukuu, an NGO, also organized and supported former combatants to use logs thrown away to produce furniture for the Liberian market, while the government of Liberia continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying foreign furniture.

The government of Liberia continues to show its lack of commitment to end mass poverty and corruption. From the remonopolization of the rice market in early 2006 to the legislative buying of votes in the speakership elections, to the Acelor-Mittal donation of 100 vehicles to the National Legislature through the sponsorship of the Presidency, to the mismanagement of the county development fund, the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the National Vision 2030, to the attempt to reintroduce the hut tax, the most inhumane poverty increasing government practice in the history of Liberia, to the malaise on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, to the closure of the Price Commission Report, to the second place status of the Independent Human Rights Commission, to the lack of prosecution powers for the Anti-Corruption Commission and to the flow of the People’s money into the hands of government officials who mismanage the people’s money, the present government of Liberia has provided sufficient evidence pointing to its lack of preparation and its lack of commitment to end mass poverty and corruption and work for justice that brings peace.

This lack of preparedness and commitment on the part of the present government of Liberia to take action for “growth with development” and for justice and peace means that It is the people of Liberia who must take action to make Liberia a better place for all Liberians. From the action of January 10, 1997 on disarmament that registered the most democratic event in the history of Liberia when over one million Liberians in Monrovia voted for disarmament by staying home for one day, to the prevention of war over the past 10 years, to the stopping of the government’s attempt to reintroduce the hut tax in 2011, to the peaceful people’s action on government entering into concession agreements, taking away farm land for food production while trampling upon cultural rights without the participation of the people and to the removal of nearly all members of the 52nd legislature seeking reelection through the 2011 elections, the people of Liberia are demonstrating their preparedness and commitment for working together to end mass poverty and corruption.

All of the Annual Messages, including the one delivered one week ago, by the present President of Liberia, keep Liberia within the “growth without development” syndrome or nightmare. The way to get out of this nightmare and prevent violence. Instability and insecurity in Liberia is for the people of Liberia to push peacefully for a fair electoral process that can produce a national leadership with a publicly known commitment to the “growth with development” strategy that can end the mass poverty in Liberia within one Presidential term of office; and that is possible.

In terms of the electoral process, as senatorial elections are due this year. It is most important to reorganize immediately the National Elections Commission (NEC) to enable it to conduct fair elections. Civil society and religious community Involvement In this reorganization is necessary. NEC has exhibited its inability to conduct fair elections when in 2011 it placed deliberately the wrong last name of a residential candidate on the ballot paper and refused to correct it when informed about the mistake which could have caused considerable unrest and instability. The recent media revelation about the presence in the Commission, as a Commissioner, of a citizen of the United States of America must be investigated immediately prior to the full commencement of the present civil education drive. The present way of running Liberia, as in the past, benefits mainly a few persons at the expense of the people of Liberia. There is a way through fair elections to get a better way of running Liberia, a way that benefits at least most Liberians and Liberia’s foreign friends who have the people of Liberia at heart. It is only the people of Liberia who can change the running of Liberia for the better by not putting money first during elections and giving first place to record or performance by electing persons who are honest with a publicly known record of being on the side of the poor people of Liberia. If the people of Liberia do not come together to end the suffering and save Liberia, then the people have only themselves to blame for their continuous suffering.

The people of Liberia remain united more than ever before on the choice of peace over war. This is why the people of Liberia are still saying clearly and loudly: WE WANT PEACE, NO MORE WAR! For hundreds of years, the people of Liberia have known that It is only justice that brings peace and this is why the people of Liberia support the struggle for justice when they say Gweh Feh Kpei, Kpelle for “The Struggle continues”.

The fact that the government of Liberia continues to ignore the mandate of the people of Liberia for justice as the way to peace by insisting that there is peace without justice means that the government is not prepared to build democratic institutions and that the government is not ready to work for peace. Instead of celebrating 10 years of peace which does not exist, the government should be celebrating 10 years of the absence of war.

Peace comes not from the absence of war but from the presence of justice. So, the people of Liberia are still saying “Gweh Feh Kpei,” the struggle continues. This insensivity of the government to the mandate of the people of Liberia for justice to get peace is clearly seen in the government’s disregard for the mandate of the people on value addition, as reflected in the cry of the 17 years old child from Crozerville, Montserrado County, who said: God has given Liberia iron ore, why don’t we make steel rods? When the people of Liberia have personal health problems, they get a medical doctor or some health worker to help them get better health. Now, as the health of Liberia is terrible, with poverty and corruption, let us express the hope that the people of Liberia will find a people’s doctor or a health worker who is honest and has a good record of working with the people to provide leadership to end Liberia’s health problems of mass poverty and corruption.

Let me bring this Annual Message to a closure by expressing confidence in the people of Liberia that the people working together will take action urgently now to empower the Youth of Liberia. This action is urgent because the Unity Party Youth demonstrated their frustration a year ago with the Unity Party led government by calling upon its Political Leader to step down from the Presidency on account of the Party’s failure to keep promises made to the Youth.

Let us all commit ourselves to telling the truth in ways that bring peaceful change to end mass poverty by improving the living conditions of at least most Liberians. We must always remember that failure to tell the truth about Liberia Is bad for Liberia, because it prevents the taking of action to end the suffering in Liberia. It is this failure to tell the truth that prevented action to stop the Civil War from taking place. Now, let the people elect the kind of leadership that will appreciate truth telling to end mass poverty and corruption , the evil in the Liberian society that can bring another Civil War.

Let us be confident that the people of Liberia will not make the same mistakes over as the government does, let the people of Liberia begin now to elect good leaders, leaders who can unite Liberians to work to end mass poverty and corruption to bring justice for peace that makes Liberia a better country for all of the people of Liberia.

 

Baika – way

La balika yor

Emama

Eseh emama

Ezuo

Mayzuo

Enaykay, kobaleka

Aa troh

Ah-troh -wa

Eh kon bislaye

Ta-to-o

My people, thank you plenty for listening.

By Tarty Teh

If whim, which foils prediction of each of their next moves, is a natural gift
for African leaders, then their quest for accolades is conversely easy to
predict.  This means that predictability can only land the predictor within the
realm of folly for a given African leader; it does not determine which station,
along the path of foolish consistency, may be next. With this in mind, let’s
take a look at what the Liberian National News Agency (LINA) circulated on its
wire network:

“President Taylor has won the ‘Father of the Millennium’ award in London,
England, during the recent International Youth Conference.  Making the
disclosure last Thursday during the dinner hosted for Lone Star players, the
Youth Advisor to the President, Benjamin Sanvee, said the award is in
recognition of President Taylor’s love and care for the young people of
Liberia.” – LINA (4/24/00)

Jealousy cannot be ruled out as a motive for anyone who would frame a question
against this obviously monumental achievement by President Charles Taylor.  But
I am not sure if any award has ever been issued for so large a time span and
without any hints of spatial limits.  The renowned theoretical physicist Albert
Einstein, for instance, got only a piece of the millennium – a tenth of it, it
turned out – when Time Magazine named him “Man of the Century” this year.   We
are told that there is hardly any spatial separation between a genius and a
plain nut.  Taylor could very well be the latter.

I, for instance, was once named “Distinguished Liberian Citizen” for 1996 by a
Liberian church in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.  Even so, some people said I did
not deserve the honor.  Some argued that some of my friends had engineered my
selection for the honor. Yet, the recognition was only for one year, by one
church group, for a given population of a given nation.

While I was not all that sure someone else didn’t deserve the tribute more, I
did not understand the logic of my detractors who devalued the input of my
friends as character witnesses.  Nevertheless, in 1997, I had a part time job
through the temporary job agency, Career U.S.A., in Washington, D.C., and won
the honor of “Employee of the Year” for that company, but only for its
Washington, D.C., area district.  This time, however, no one interviewed any of
my friends as a means of determining the value of my job performance.

But what if the church or the job agency said that I was “Citizen” or “Employee
of the Century”?  That would have strained credulity and taken away from the
sincerity of the professed homage.  Even before someone found out that I was a
dedicated worker, I would have had a similar opinion of myself in that regard.
And so, such honors both affirm and confirm what we suspect as individuals in
our quest for glory.  We should therefore be suspicious of honors without
discernable bounds.

I cannot disagree that President Charles Taylor is “Father of the Millennium”
without a context.  As father for his children, a millennium may not be long
enough for what his children could confer on him, especially given that there
are no other fathers competing in the arena of his brood.  Logic excludes other
fathers enough to make the point moot.  But this particular honor comes as
result of “President Taylor’s love and care for the young people of Liberia.”

The foregoing is a drastic departure from what was the prevailing thought
before this honor rolled in.  The question was whether Taylor should live
despite his crimes, or die because of them.  A credible spin away from that
question should not start with an award that ignores Taylor’s most recent and
immeasurable destruction of lives.  There are people who are afraid of Taylor
enough to keep quiet.  The quiet ones are perhaps not so dangerous as those who
break into a song and dance out of fear of the man.

Do we really think that Charles Taylor doesn’t know that those who are fishing
for honors for him are acting out of fear?  If Taylor does know, then what does
accepting the honor say about his own mental state?  It will not even be fair
to question the motives of those who conferred the honor.  Survival is motive
enough any day in Liberia.  I am only wondering what Taylor thinks this honor
is worth in the eyes of  people outside his sphere of deadly influence.

Can we assume that Taylor has no faculty for perceiving the preposterous
dimensions of the honor the sycophants bestowed on him?  President Taylor
earned some respect without the sycophants’ enhancements which now dilute what
plausible ground was left for not declaring him insane.

President Samuel Doe had no such luck.  He was barely literate, and so
stupidity was the predicted cause of any administrative malfunction that
resulted from applying even textbook remedies to any of the many problems
Liberia faced.  So Taylor was contrasted with Doe as smart enough not to do the
obviously foolish thing.  And so when the Dokie family was wiped out just a
week after the Taylor government listed Mr. Dokie as “an enemy of the state,”
one of the refrains was that Taylor was too smart to be a part of a messy way
of silencing opponents.  President Doe would have been stupid enough to do such
a thing.

I could not argue but so much with the claim about President Doe’s stupidity.
Only now such is also President Taylor’s growing profile.  Here is an example
of President Doe at his weakest.  One day he looked at the figures of, perhaps,
the GNP for some of the friendly G7 nations and decided to ask for help toward
his development goals for Liberia.  He asked the U.S. for two billion dollars;
Japan one billion; the EEC, two billion.  Soon President Doe had over five
billion dollars.

I am not sure if any of the countries or institutions replied to his requests.
I don’t believe the problem lay with the countries and institutions that got
President Doe’s requests.  I thought President Doe didn’t know how big a
billion was – even the American billion, not the British one.  If President Doe
was required to write down the number, he might be a bit more impressed by it
and less glib in asking for it.  The number $1,234,567,890 would be roughly 1.2
billion dollars.  That’s more than twice the amount of money he was asking for.

Similarly, I wonder if President Taylor understands the scope of a thousand
years.  Maybe if we quit calling it a millenium then it would not seem so
compact.  Galileo lived roughly 400 years ago.  Along the way he, I believe,
spent some time in jail for saying the earth moved around the sun.  That must
have been soon after he, or some other nut, said the thing was not flat.

When Galileo plunged into physics and astronomy, there was barely any previous
knowledge in those endeavors to go on.  Every subsequent thinker had the notes
of the previous thinkers until we got Internet and e-mail.  So what did Taylor
do for his people, let alone mankind, to occupy such a large chunk of human
existence as “Father of the Millenium”?  Perhaps the Romans had a right idea
but the wrong man when they sentenced Galileo to prison.  Taylor needs to go to
jail – again.

Whose fault is it?  Taylor continues to get what he wants.  And so over time,
what was sincerely ours becomes his.  And heaping accolades on him helps him
more than it helps us.  But now that the sycophants have given away the biggest
honor, what will we give Taylor next time he comes calling?  That may be sooner
than we think, unless we send him packing first.  And if we don’t act soon,
there will be no honor left for ourselves.

– Tarty Teh  [Washington, D.C.,
April 29,2000]
Copyrighted © Tarty Teh 2000

By Tarty Teh 

If Mr. Armstrong Williams can justify his conservative credentials, I do not see why I cannot prove myself worthy of my liberal ones.  By way of introduction, I was born in the village of Borti, in the clan of Pallipo, in the district of Webbo, in the county of Gedeh, in a republic called Liberia. My birthplace is 428 miles from my nation’s capital, and 135 miles from the nearest point on the Atlantic coast with any hints of Western civilization. The year of my birth would be 1946 on the Western calendar, but we have no such thing as an anchored universal time from which years run (Since the birth of Christ, for instance, for Western calendar).  I started Western schooling at age 12, and left my birthplace for the capital city in my late teens after I was promoted to the 8th grade.

We pick our relevant points in time; so, for my parents and those who have since come to believe in me, the year Westerners refer to as 1946 is simply the year Tarty Teh was born, which was also on the 12th day of the 8th month of our calendar.  We have 13 months, all 28 days long.

To us, the question “What year is this?” is an illogical one.  There are years, for instance, since your child was born; years since you were married; years since your child left home; years since you lost your mother, years since an eclipse; and so on.  So years do not have individual names.  For general accounting for time, however, there are pebbles stored in clay pots in the attic of a hut in the center of our main village.  Each pebble represents a season since we became a dakor or nation.  Much like the American atomic clock in Colorado.

So, I was born on the 12th day of the 8th month called Gbajoh, meaning “carry seeds,” as in the last sweep of farm sites by tropical rains, carrying spilled seeds from the last harvest via the swollen rivers’ last rush south for the season.  Well, so much for advanced civilizations.

I am writing this from my hospital bed at the Washington Hospital Center.  My delight at seeing that Emerge was among the magazines my wife bought for me on her way to seeing me was dampered by Mr. Armstrong Williams’ article in the “Last Word” section for the magazine’s Dec./Jan. 1998 edition.

Since in fact I was born in Africa, I cannot fairly suffer any rebuke for not sharing Mr. Williams’ professed love for America — love so strong that he would not deign to refer to himself as an “African” American.  The only gift Mr. Williams has shown is that of making his own “cookie cutter,” which — magically — replicates items already found on right-wing conservative menu, hence “the Great Society’s welfare is a disaster” exceeded in scope only by the “socialized health care system.”

Well, for the rest of Mr. Williams’ lip-synching of conservative refrains, see Jerry Falwell’s list of supposed Republican battle hymns and how well they mirror what Williams has created with his own “cookie cutter.”  They include a lamentation about “family under siege,” the abomination of homosexuality, abortion, “sex education or contraception training . . .” How do you know when a brother has made it?  When he wakes up one morning with a hangover from worrying about “homosexual marriage.”

I have been trying to study the Emerge magazine to determine its bent so that if I came upon an issue which I felt was of interest to the magazine I might write an article about it for submission.  But if standards as so high at Emerge as to keep me from appearing in it, then by what editorial fiat did Emerge allow the ponderous platitudes Williams has been programmed to prattle in conveying conservative precepts which I believe he lacks the intellectual dept to internalize?

Beyond all this, I do not think Mr. Williams is coherent enough to occupy the print space Emerge allotted him to propagate his contempt for African-American agenda.  Let’s take a look at his statement on racism which the magazine finds salient enough to use as its center blurb: “The best way to overcome racism is to rise above pettiness and get on with the business of living.”  Aside from the statement’s serving as a good example of uninspiring prose, aren’t racism and pettiness two different things?

“I learned the value of hard work . . .” Déjà vu all over again!  I believe Mr. Williams has listed his obstacles in terms of the degree of danger they pose to reaching his life goals.  Accordingly, blacks rank ahead of whites as threat to his dreams, hence, “I also learned that blacks, as well as whites, could be hostile to a black man who worked hard to succeed.”  In fact whites are an afterthought in the above quotation because they are only parenthetical to a more naked threat which blacks represent in Mr. Williams’ mind.

But “when whites burned down my father’s barn, not one of our black neighbors helped my family rebuild.”  Well — has it ever occurred to Mr. Williams that the blacks may have thought that the Williams thought they did it, especially with reasoning like this?  I, too, seeing the scant ground upon which Mr. Williams acquired his “proud” conservative label, would not go near his barn, no matter what shape it was in.

I presume that blacks never touched or torched any of Mr. Williams’ property — else we would have heard about it.  They are black-listed only for not rebuilding the barn whites burned.  So what use is Armstrong Williams to any black cause?  I believe something can be said for being wary of people who burn your barn.  The Kings, Dauglasses, Jacksons, Lowerys, and other wary souls knew who burned their dreams.  That’s what we’re talking about!

Tarty Teh
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Washington, DC 20009
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By Tarty Teh

With a healthy respect for complexities, I am not always the first to jump into any argument in which so many well-informed persons can’t seem to agree.  But the debate about affirmative action has raged on for so long I feel my opinion on the issue is overdue.  Well–so much for guts.

I am impressed mostly by the efforts of those who argue against affirmative action–impressed, that is, that some have managed to treat it as if it were a crutch for the permanently disabled.  There is a familiar treatment of race issues by conservatives which is typified by an article, titled “Buying Off
Justice,” by Mr. James K. Glassman, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Research fellows at policy institutes are not exactly plagued by ignorance; so their mis-labeling of historical facts is often more a function of their desire to change rather than interpret policies.  And while we generally are enraged by their such pursuit at the expense of the minority population, we still
manage to admire their scholastic flair.  But Mr. James K. Glassman’s attempt leaves me nothing worth tolerating him for.

In his November 26, 1997, op-ed article in the Washington Post, Glassman maintains, with jaundiced conviction, that the following poll results agure against affirmative action: “‘Do you agree or disagree with the decision of the school to retain the black teacher in order to maintain racial diversity?’
Whites disagree, 53 percent to 33 percent.  So did blacks, 49 percent to 36 percent.”

But I cannot understand how it escaped Mr. Glassman that the respondents to the poll had job for either teacher on their minds.  And so you could switch from one color to the next without changing the outcome of the poll question; because beyond the relevant concern of having the workplace reflect the general population, either woman needs a job.  And you don’t have to be white or black to be for it.  That’s what the poll results mean.

I have not followed the issue of affirmative action closely enough to have a strong emotional investment in it, and while that detachment may not necessarily enhance my claim of having understood its complexities to some extent, it has the merit of protecting me from the taint of advocative goals.
And this, essentially, is how I came face-to-face with the issue.

Where Broadway and Myrtle Avenue meet in Brooklyn, there is a line of elevated subway tracks.  For that the place is dark and dangerous.  For the two years I had been in the United States since 1971, every bad thing that had happened to me I could justly blame on a black person.  But I wasn’t black; I was African. But the bad thing that was now happening to me, I blamed on myself.  I worked
in a factory in Queens as a self-supported foreign student.  Normally I rode the bus from work and made it home by 1:00 a.m.  But this was summer and today I did not go to school.  That’s why I had ridden my bicycle to work, and was riding it back home.

It was well past midnight, but it would be another 30 minutes before I could get home.  Aware that motorists treat bicycles as a superfluous contraption, the very least I could do was obey the traffic rules.  That was why when I reached this interception, which managed three streets, I waited instead of
entering it even when it was least busy.  I waited for the traffic signal to favor me.

As I waited, other vehicles gathered; some took their turns to go through.  So by the time the light changed to let me through, there were a few headlights facing me from the on-coming traffic.  I peddled into the on-coming headlights but well on my side of the road as I entered the interception.  But I quickly froze in place when I realized that the car which had flooded me with its lights was turning left and had begun to occupy my path which should have been straight through the crossing.

Blinded by the light in my riding position on the bicycle, I straightened up and could now see the driver who had begun to address me with every epitaph meant to hurt a black person.  That was because he had jammed his brakes to avoid running over me on my side of the road.  Yet I responded with an infusion of apologies; but there was no let-up in the torrent of vulgar expletives.

I saw no indication that this would end soon, but for now I had not been physically attacked.  If only I could get beyond this interception with my life, I prayed.  More cars gathered around the interception, but the man who was tearing me down with his speech seemed to relish the growing audience.

I felt that something was about to happen to me.  Soon.  It did.  The back wheel of my bicycle was nudged by a car behind me.  An addition to me growing woes, I thought.  So I turned very slowly.  I saw another man standing outside his car with his right foot in the car and his right hand engaged below as if to hold the driver-side door as a shield for his pending attack.

“One more word out of you and I’ll blow your brains out.”  I did not turn again to examine the source of the warning.  “You almost kill the brother and you’re talking garbage,” he said.  The man in front of me had no gun; even so, the verbal fury he proved capable of discharging had already been spent, although
he could not have resorted to it yet still without some grave danger to his own life.  The man behind me, feeling no pressing need to produce a promised gun, left no doubt he had one.  His commanding advantage was such that even where violence proved necessary, he could have easily gotten by on the strength of his moral indictment.

By this time the motorists facing the intersection had each lost at least a turn to go through.

I once had the right to proceed through the intersection; but that right had been held up by a man with a big car and mouth.  But that right had been restored back to me only when the traffic light turned decidedly red, and I turned black.  Yes, I proceeded through the intersection while the traffic
signal indicated red.  My brother told me to.

My rights were affirmed just then; but somebody lost a turn.  That’s why I didn’t have to wait another turn at another intersection for what had been denied me at this.  Nobody blew a horn of impatience to hasten the unfolding drama.

The argument between the man ahead of me and the one behind me was an old one. The one ahead of me was white; the one behind me was black.

And so I was already feeling black when several blocks later a car pulled alongside me with someone with a by now familiar voice asking, “Are you all right, brother?”  Yes.  And I have been feeling that way since.

Tarty Teh
CSI Editorial Services
1904 18th Street NW, Suite C
Washington, DC 20009
Call: (202) 234-6627
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By Tarty Teh

Whether we care to admit it, as individuals, the net effect of our citizenship comes in two forms — a blessing or a burden.  In fact, this question was put to me not in terms of my Liberian citizenship, though it would have been equally relevant, but rather as a native of the Grebo tribe.  I was asked if I wasn’t proud to be Grebo.  It was not an easy question to answer.  But I thought about it and decided that pride in being Grebo should come mainly from any contribution I make in upholding or advancing any greatness of the Grebo nation that was already evident before I was born.  This applies easily and equally to my Liberian nationality.

We all are actors on our nation’s behalf.  What we do individually have a collective effect in creating our country’s profile.  If we project a shady profile, we will attract shady characters that are oftentimes much more adept in exploiting the weakness that is inherent in our penchant for subterranean dealings.

It is bad enough that we infuriate well-meaning adventurers in our national sphere with our crooked bent and matching ineptitude when executing even legitimate deals.  But when we fail miserably in keeping up with the crooks we invite, the whole country suffers the consequences after the foreign crooks pay off a few domestic ones before settling down to suck us dry.  A look around Liberia will confirm that our level of infrastructural development clearly belies the 161 years we have existed as a nation.  The following could be a clue:

Dear Willis, You are the man! What would we do with out our PR man.  It is only prove to me again that the issue of the pr men is extremely essential. Anyways please inform Madame President that her concerns will be addressed. Yoram told me that he has already informed you that the first payment of US$1 Million will be made after our contract is signed.

Regards,

 

Avi  Date: Sunday, August 17, 2008, 2:46 AM (On Thurs, 2/14/08, Abraham Avi Zaidenberg < avizaid@liscr.com > wrote:)   The man who wrote the e-mail, Avi Zaidenberg, is an Israeli citizen in charge of Yoram Cohen’s Cellcom GSM network and his LISCR field office in Liberia.  If nothing else, Mr. Zaidenberg’s untidy syntax proves that English is not his native language.  In fact both Cohen and Zaidenberg are Israeli citizens — although Cohen took the extra step of becoming an American citizen as well.  And based on the official letter Mr. Willis Knuckles wrote to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 50% of the shareholders of Cellcom, Cohen’s GSM network in Liberia, are Israelis whom Mr. Knuckles implored President Sirleaf to meet during a trip to Israel.  Mind you, Cellcom is billed as an American company; so if 50 percent of the shareholders are Israelis as Knuckles said in his October 22, 2007, letter to President Sirleaf, then the other 50%, or a big chunk of it, must be owned by Americans.  Whatever is left might conceivably be in Liberian hands, which is mighty little in light of all the trouble Cohen’s larcenous scheme portends for the President of Liberia.

Of course both Cohen and his sidekick know that if this had been at home (United States or Israel, take your pick), they and the President would have been up to their ears in legal and political trouble.  But this is Liberia where they have a good deal of control through money.  In fact they have already suggested throwing “the first payment of US$1 million” at the foreseeable problem they know they are creating for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.   The scope of the scheme may be evident in the fact that it is only the “first” million.  If the legal or political trouble for President Sirleaf proves intractable — which I doubt given Liberia’s current legislative and judicial incompetence — the cabal can always throw in another million.

It certainly gives the appearance that paying kickback is, as those from the Unity Party boot camp are fond of saying, “not an event; it is a process” — a continuing process, that is.  This could easily trigger speculation about how much money the LISCR/Cellcom syndicate is making away with if its operators are willing to throw a million dollars here and there to nail down ten more years of dealing under the table.  Of course it doesn’t take only Sirleaf loyalists or her Unity Party members to feel the shame associated with the revelation of dirty dealings on this scale and this high up in our government.  For me, as a member of an opposition party, the presidency is worth rescuing even if the President must swim or sink.

The way I see it, the presidency takes a hit when a foreigner writes as follows about the person who personifies our sovereignty: “Anyways please inform Madame President that her concerns will be addressed.  Yoram told me that he has already informed you that the first payment of US$1 Million will be made after our contract is signed.”  The person who embodies our sovereignty is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the sovereignty is the Republic.

Evidently the crooks are in the driver’s seat and the President’s anxiety is palpable.  The President’s concerns, of course, have to do with money, and the foreign crook who is baiting her into giving him a multimillion dollar contract for more crumbs says so matter-of-factly.  So you only have to be a Liberian to feel hurt for your country or for your President or both.  But the way to reclaim our pride even in the face of ignominy this grand is to do something in keeping with our Constitution and case laws.  But a quick look at our Legislature and our Judiciary will reconfirm our misery.  They can’t help themselves; how can they help us?

Copyright © Tarty Teh 2008

November 24, 2008, Monrovia, Liberia

Contact Tarty Teh at:

e-Mail: TartyTeh@aol.com

Phone and text: (231) 6-617-433

2008: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

By Tarloh Munah Quiwonkpa

August 9, 2005

It has been 20 years since I lost my friend and husband, General Thomas Quiwonkpa on that unforgettable day in Monrovia, Liberia (1985). Many people may be wondering why it has taken me this long to break my silence. Yes, it has taken me this long for many reasons. The most obvious reason was to reflect on the events before and after the death of my husband and to reconstruct my life as a widow and a single mother.

I wish to extend my personal condolences to all those who lost their loved ones during the 14 years of the senseless Liberian civil war. I am profoundly touched by their loss and pray that Liberians will change their culture of violence to peace for the betterment of the country and its people. In addition to the loss of my husband, many members of my family died during the civil war in Liberia. Liberians of all persuasions should come together in brotherly and sisterly love to rebuild our nation; a new Liberia that builds on our common bonds at the same time respecting our diversity. Every Liberian has a unique role to play in the rebuilding of the new nation, where collective interest is weighted more than individualism. The new Liberia must be built on equity, justice, respect, inclusion, transparency, accountability and religious tolerance.

One of the primary reasons for this open letter is to help bring final closure to the emotion and agony surrounding the death of General Thomas Quiwonkpa. As I have reflected on my husband’s death, I still have many unanswered questions. I have waited for 20 years for the people who were closed to my husband, including his best friend, Harry Yuan, whom he considered his brother, to tell me the untold story about his death. Harry Yuan, I am told, was with Thomas during his final hour. Harry and the others whom I will name later have not spoken nor call me to give me their side of what went wrong. My 20 year-old son continues to ask me about information surrounding his father’s death. I am interested in knowing what went wrong. What was his last statement? What was his demeanor at the point of death? What happened to his belongings and documents? How did others that went with him escape and he did not? Why hasn’t anyone come forward to provide answers to these questions to his family?

The last memory I have of my late husband was when he walked out of our Silver Spring, Maryland home, accompanied by Harry Yuan in 1985. Harry Yuan suggested that Larmah Quiwonkpa (Thomas’s sister), Yormie, and I relocate to the Twin Cities and reside with Miss Joanne Toweh. It later became clear to others, and me that Harry Yuan along with some external forces have recommended to Thomas that he topples the Doe government. Harry Yuan used the fraudulent 1985 presidential election in which Samuel Doe was declared winner, and the incident in which Doe ordered the beating of Thomas’s mother to convince him that he should over throw the Doe regime. Following Harry Yuan’s explanation to Thomas about the manner in which “Samuel Doe ordered his soldiers to beat Ma Mango” (Thomas’ mother), Thomas was convinced that it was necessary to remove Samuel Doe from power. Yes, Thomas Quiwonkpa was independent and capable of making his own decisions, but let us remember that persuasion is a powerful tool, particularly when the persuasion is coming from a confidant and best friend. I was hesitant to let my husband leave our residence but Harry Yuan looked at me and said “Tarloh, I will be your eyes, your ears, and your nose and I will do exactly what you will like to see as though you were there in Sierra Leone.” Since the death of my husband in 1985, Harry Yuan has avoided me for 20 years. I need answers to these critical questions from Harry Yuan or anyone that was connected to this trip that led to my husband’s gruesome death. Answers to these questions will be helpful for his children understanding, and perhaps enable them to accept and deal with the circumstances surrounding their father’s death. Equally so, it will bring final closure of his death to me as well as the rest of the Quiwonkpa family.

Several attempts have been made over the years to contact Harry Yuan, but I have been unsuccessful. I am not sure if I have done anything wrong to Harry Yuan to avoid me all these years. It will be prudent for a closed family friend to at least call and sympathize with the family of a deceased friend after his death. Over the years, there have been theories and allegations surrounding Quiwonkpa’s death. Some people believed that General Thomas Quiwonkpa was betrayed by closed confidant or confidants or was set-up by other powerful parties. Some even believed that his association with some Liberians with different ideological points of view angered the external supporters, which caused them to remove the support system put in place for his rescue when needed. This support system was never made available to him when he needed to be rescued.

I do not know all the facts of the matter. However, what I do know is that Harry Yuan, Amos Sawyer, Archie Williams, H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr., Joe Wylie, Tom Kamara, Harry A. Greaves, Jr., Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and several others have not explained to any of my family or me what actually went wrong during the mishaps that led to the capture and murder of General Thomas Quiwonkpa. They have not sent me words of condolence for 20 years. Now, some of these same people are running for elected offices in Monrovia or rallying around certain potential leaders. Some are masquerading as the true leaders of Liberia and spewing solutions to our country’s problems. Yet, they have failed in their moral responsibilities to at least soothe a widow and her family in crisis. For me, they lack the moral authority to find just solutions to Liberia’s problems because they have failed to show kindness towards a widow whose husband died fighting their battle. They have not done the decent thing – admitting their roles in the death of my husband. I am now convinced they used my husband solely for their personal/selfish aims.

I wonder why these people call themselves patriots? They have not sent a word of condolence nor asked about the conditions of General Quiwonkpa’s children namely Kou, Deddeh, Gonkama, Jeleth, and Yormie. I wish that these people could have the decency to contact me with any information regarding these questions in this open letter. The answers to these questions will bring closure to the death of my husband, General Thomas Quiwonkpa. I am not bitter nor holding anyone responsible for the death of my husband, but simply attempting to uncover the facts and ascertain clarification of allegations and theories surrounding the failed attempted coup which led to his gruesome death in 1985.

Sincerely,
Signed: Tarloh Munah Quiwonkpa

quiwonkpa@yahoo.com

By Father Robert  Tikpo

INTRODUCTION

Your Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, Your Excellency  Joseph N. Boakai, Vice President of the Republic and President of  the Liberian Senate, The erudite and articulate Speaker, Honorable Alex Tyler and the Distinguished Members of the House of Representatives; The President Pro Tempore, Honorable Cletus Wortoson and the Illustrious Senators of the House of Senate; Your Honor Johnnie Lewis, Chief Justice of the Republic and Associate Judges of the Supreme Court;

Your Excellency Archbishop George Antonysamy, the Papal Nuncio to Liberia; Prelates of the Christian Community, the Imams of the Muslim Community!

A Respectful and Special recognition to the Special Representative of Secretary General Ellen Magaret Løj and the men and women serving in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and her supporting Partners for Liberia’s civil war years’ ordeals .

The Doyen, His Excellence Mansour Abdallah, Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lebanon and Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps. Honorable Ambassadors and Representatives of the different governments represented; God bless the lands and peoples you represent here! In your case all protocol is being ‘observed’ today.

I also want to recognize in a special way, the presence of the local and international journalists who have helped to keep the world informed of the happenings now in this once glorious land of liberty. I am not so sure whether it is still a glorious land of liberty.

Honored invitees and visitors, heartily welcome!

SALUTATION TO SANNIQUILLIE

Our revered and vigilant House of Chiefs who are the wise and trusted custodians of Liberia’s cultural and traditional heritage; reverential honor and respect to you and therefore we say:

Gohn Kley Willie Tokpah.  .  . ,AE mehn?… Kabua!  M Dah, ZOTA Kaa Vueey!!!

Coma?

R.T. Lele Seh

In this one hundred and sixty-third Oration, I have the honor to choose for my topic:

IN NATIONAL UNITY, WE WILL STAND

From the very foundation of this nation in 1847 to this day, July 26, 2010, Liberia has been beset with a few but, absolutely indispensable missing links. Among which I list but three herein:

  1. The first indispensable missing link, or bond for national unity – is the bond of blood. This bond of one blood we have been trying to attain in one hundred and sixty-three years, but it does not seem to be attainable. The second bond is that of one language. It has been working quite alright. The third bond is that of one Faith. I find this not necessary at all. In fact it is not working in many countries like The Middle Eastern countries. Why should we try it here?

There are other debilitating factors which are stalling our progress and achievements. I mention only three here:

  1. Insidious poverty which has been exacerbated by

selfishness and greed, unceasing corruption in high

places and the lack of patriotism. Personal interest

has been placed above a common national interest.

as a  result, when the test of a civil war came, we

were a  divided, tormented and easily turned apart

people.

  1. The second sickening factor was the dwindling away of our natural resources. At the height of Tubman’s administration I read somewhere, I think it was an account written by David Vinton, one of Liberia’s brilliant banking magnates, that Liberia’s per capital income was second only to that of Japan. In short, if Japan was the richest country in the world at the time, then Liberia came second. Not even the great U.S. A. could be placed over little Liberia. If you asked me where was the money coming from into our banks, the answer is this: Remember that our ore mines had been newly discovered virtually all over the country, at Bomi Hills, Nimba, Putu and elsewhere. Liberia was the leading exporter of natural Rubber as it had been during the Second World War? Where was all that money going? I hear you asking under your breath. Don’t ask me. I am not an economist. One thing I do know though, with the death of Tubman, Liberia was standing on the brink of the precipice of a civil war. I first pointed this out to our much revered President William V. S. Tubman when in 1964, I cited his Open Door Policy as a typical example. “This door, your Excellency, is so wide open that the merchants trading in Liberia leave nothing of the enormous profits they make here, but only the chaff. “The door is too wide open.” I concluded. I was branded with a typical Liberian adage: “These young men will teach their grandfathers how to suck eggs.” It was the first and last time I ever heard that adage.
  1. The third sickening element to hinder progress and achievement was Sectionalism. It was shown in this form: A former classmate met a friend and gave him a firm handshake. When the one who received the handshake didn’t respond correctly, the giver of the handshake returned to his waiting “crowd-of-boys” and told them in a whisper: Don’t mind him; he is not one of US!! Since not every one in a country “can be one of us” before that country could survive, we have a long way to go as regards national unity. Sectionalism could still be among us in disguise. Until we can weed it out from the soil it could raise its hateful head now and again to divide us and thereby rule us with an iron fist. In order to avoid any future and similar factors we must surgically excise all these cancerous tissues from our records. How can we do this? That is the home-work I give to students of Liberian history, to ponder over until July 26, 2011.

We must imbue the present generation with nobler ideals of what makes a nation strong and united. For example:

  • By putting the welfare of our country over our personal cravings and wants; the country will emerge from the great sufferings of the fifteen-year civil war. It is then that we can say with the late President John F. Kennedy of America, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” For example, Louis Arthur Grimes as Liberia’s Representative to the League of Nations in Geneva defended the Liberian government and gave reasons to that organization why Liberia should not be placed under a protectorate after Liberia was found guilty of some forms of slavery.
  • The thoughts of the sufferings of the Founding Fathers who had borne the yoke of slavery from their former masters, a yoke which made them so resolute in their desire to remain free and united. In Liberia, or even in pre-Liberian times, the main yoke of bondage on our people was slavery. Once they had gained independence, they had to work towards remaining united. They could cultivate the following values: truths, trust, sincerity, love, etc., that have made a nation like America so great.
  • To my mind, our people should cultivate the spirit of personal integrity as the most urgent human value. It will help the nation as strong pillars help to hold a multi-storey building. Furthermore, the institutions of learning, organizations like the Young Men Christian Organization and its female counterpart, the Boys Scout Movement and its female counterpart, and others should instill  this value in the students and young people so as to prepare them for a better Liberia which would be a Land of peace, truthfulness, justice, and equality.

These omens and ideals are for all of us to critically study. Let us now turn our attention to the task that I have decided to undertake in this Oration. That is, to inform us of the issue of Ethnicity and Sectionalism.

A SILENT TRUMPET

To the founding Fathers who felt it was a national language or and a Constitution, soon began to teach the native children happily brought to them for adoption, a common language most spoken world-wide. They arrived here with that first Socio-chemical element, a national language, English, as was spoken by their former masters in America. Today we hear that English is spoken and sought after as the second language of every nation under the sun. But what the settlers did not know, but what the natives appreciated the most was not so much the education but Christian civilization they brought with them.

The Founding Fathers soon wrote the Constitution which they felt was the second missing link to those whose current “war-trumpet” is Ethnicity and Sectionalism. Now take a breath, let us pause for a few questions and answer these questions:

Who was the first to open this floodgate of multi-Ethnicity or Sectionalism in Liberia since the days of J.J. Roberts and E.J. Roye?

Was it the Constitution or the citizens who are enjoying the benefits of that Constitution?

Let me read to you that part of the Constitution of 1847 which is causing the consternation at the Immigration Bureaus and now extending even up to the House of the Senate and that of the Representatives.

From the Constitution of 1847, I read: “The great object for forming these colonies being to provide a home for the dispersed and oppressed children of Africa, and to regenerate and enlighten this benighted Continent, none but persons of color shall be admitted to citizenship in this Republic.”Cfr. Charles Henry Huberich, The Political and Legislative History of Liberia, Vol. II (New York: Central Book Company, Inc., 1947), p. 863.)

Now, I am not a lawyer. Furthermore, I stand corrected. It seems to me that these texts were written at a particular time, and referred to the people of that time, 163 years ago. In the 1960s, the former Colonial oppressors and repressors in Guinea, and Ivory Coast have granted those countries their freedom to govern themselves. But nationals from some neighboring countries still come, continuously pouring into Liberia’s porous borders. And, within a week or two, they are in Monrovia. Within another week or two, they have obtained a brand new Liberian Passport. Do you think I am joking?

Ask the appropriate officials at the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and they will tell you how many spurious Liberian Passport holders they have detained here in the last twelve months.

I met one in South Africa recently at the Chancellery of the Liberian Embassy. He had come for a sort of official confirmation from the Consulate Officer, Mr. Ben Sie-Too Collins in Pretoria. He wanted to continue on his way elsewhere as a Liberian. After some fifty years after independence, foreigners are continuously pouring into our long cheated country. Should we not cry “Foul”?

At their July 16th 1959, Sanniquellie meeting, Tubman cautioned prudence over the readjustment of colonial boundaries, and this issue was placed on the shelf. It was this kind of rankling over wasted palm-oil that Tubman foresaw.

Put the case: If a complainer’s ethnic roots could be traced back to Guinea, for example, before that country’s independence, then he should be considered a non-Liberian because the Constitution granted him the permission of coming to Liberia as a place of refuge. Shouldn’t the Attorney-General tell the lawyer of that Liberian Passport holder, no matter how brilliant this lawyer might be, that the burden of proof lies squarely in his client’s court?

I recently presented my Passport to an immigration officer at Johannesburg International Airport. The man turned over my document and without looking up, he said hello! “Howdu yah” I answered. “You are a Liberian, for true. I was in Liberia before.” He handed me my precious traveling document.            

THE CONSTITUTION vis-à-vis Citizenship

To those who are protesting their rights as given by the Constitution, let’s look at the Constitution together again.

The object of forming these colonies being to provide a home for the dispersed and oppressed children of Africa, and to regenerate and enlighten this benighted Continent, none but Negroes or persons of Negro descent shall be eligible to citizenship in this Republic.” (Article V, Section 18. Amended 1907)

Next to that I further read from Chapter 4, Art. 27 of the Constitution of 1986:

All persons who, on the coming into force of this Constitution were lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian citizens.

  1. a. In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.
  2. b. The Legislature shall, adhering to the above standard, prescribe such other qualification criteria for and the procedures by which naturalization may be obtained.

Article 52 of the Constitution of 1986 states, “No person shall be eligible to hold the office of President or vice-president, unless:

  1. A natural born Liberian citizen of not less than thirty-five years of age.
  2. The owner of unencumbered real property valued at not less than twenty-five thousands, and
  3. Resident in the republic ten years prior to his election, provided that the president and the vice-president shall not come from the same County.

Note two points:

(i)                             What one is to be and do to become a citizen?

(ii)                           What one is to be before he can become the President of this Republic?

CITIZENSHIP

In the days of Tubman, who came to claim “his rights” to citizenship or to the presidency? In the days of Tolbert no one came up. In the days of Samuel Kanyan Doe, no one came up to make such a claim. When Charles Taylor occupied the Presidential Chair at the Mansion no one dared stir up the dust on Broad Street when his motorcade was passing by.

Professor Joseph Saye Guannu in his Civics for Liberian Schools tells us that one can become a citizen of a country sub sole or sub sanguine. E.g. A child born in Freetown could claim Sierra Leonean citizenship sub sole, that is born under the sun; but a Liberian citizenship sub sanguine, that is born of blood.   From the Latin roots it all boils down to this: The child is only a Sierra Leonean citizen sub sole, meaning that he was born in Sierra Leone where his Liberian parents were residing as non-citizens (i.e. Liberian citizens who have never had any reasons to renounce or change their country of birth sub sanguine). The child’s claim could be substantiated by the Immigration officer who knows these civic facts in order to ease the child’s fears, or the parents’ uncertainty.  

When the Founding Fathers had tested all they knew and that a national language does serve as the first missing link, they then tried Blood Relationship. That too was found to be one of several missing links. If every Liberian could say I love this man or woman because they are my blood-brother and blood-sister, these then would be the missing and ever illusive links. That was why Edward Blyden’s proposal to the settlers was a wise, far-sighted one, to inter-marry with their neighboring African tribes in order to secure their survival. This was in 1850 when he joined the Settler community in Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

Liberian citizenry could be slowly, but permanently, integrated and assimilated by marriage with the surrounding tribes. On the contrary, the elite ruling mulatto group subsequently charged Blyden with being a womanizer and drove him away to Sierra Leone where he took refuge.

Perhaps what Blyden didn’t know was what the “Patriotic” Founding Fathers had secretly written behind the Presidential chair at the Mansion: Do not forget the children of the Pioneers! Now please tell me, with that obvious maxim of Sectionalism, who was the first to promote and encourage disunity in Liberia, the Pioneers or the Natives?

Madam President, I chose for this oration whatever topic was most urgent on the Liberian scene. From what one hears most frequently on the world’s radio and newspaper media, Ethnicity seems to head the list.

ETHNICITY – IT’S ROOTS

Ethnicity has been a source of division that we can trace as far back as the days of Joseph and his brothers. We read from Genesis 37:1- 28 of the plot to kill Joseph. It was one of his brothers, Reuben, in trying to save him from death, asked that Joseph be sold to some Ishmaelite traders who were traveling to Egypt.

We know from the readings in World History that there have been clashes between members of the same tribes, and between tribes. So it is not a strange phenomenon that ethnicity had been here from time immemorial.

INTER-TRIBAL WARS IN LIBERIA BEFORE 1847

In our own country, before the settlers came to found Liberia, there were frequent intertribal wars; especially, during the two hundred years (1619 – 1816) when slaves were captured, collected, from among the tribes fighting each other. Before slavery began, these intertribal wars were fought over land, wealth, and other matters that were offensive to one or the other tribe. For example, there was a war between the Bassas and Kpelles. How do we know about these wars? From maxims often repeated by the Bassas like

  1. “Glewetae Dju Dje a Kpah Kpeletoh”, and again
  2. “Zainkpa da mehn Kpeleh da Coatin Kpo.”

We wouldn’t have known about these wars but for the maxims that have come down to us. In the first maxim, the Bassas are saying that Glewetae was a little man who was so small in body that the children saw and thought that he was one of them. So they invited him to join them and go against the Kpelle, but he displayed such warlike deeds that his deeds were cited for generations yet unborn to emulate. His heroic feats became themes for a ballad to him since then.

In the second maxim, “Zainkpa is dead and so the Kpelle man has worn a coat,” Zainkpa was a Kpelle man who was captured by the Bassa warriors and he was disowned by his own kinsmen. But the Bassas honored him as brave a captive. Therefore they kept him. But in order to retaliate against his own people, Zainkpa swore to his ancestral spirits that any Kpelle man who ever crossed his path would be captured and sold into slavery. From Zainkpa’s death, this ballad was sung and began to spread far and wide among the Bassa people.

BATTLE OF FORT HILL, DEC. 1, 1822

These intertribal wars were not limited to tribes and tribes. When the Settlers came, there were wars between them and some ethnic groups. For instance, a battle was fought between the combined forces of the Dey, Vai, and Mamban Bassa ethnic groups and the Settlers at Fort Hill on December 1, 1822.

In that battle, Matilda Newport is alleged to have been the heroine, and until sometimes very lately did her alleged exploits have come to be questioned by some Liberian historians. Mind you, those native warriors were imbued with the mystic idea that no bullet or canon fire could put them to flight when they had taken a magic portion in their blood. This conviction had come down to our times as we heard amongst most of the fighters who partook in our Civil War for which, you will recall Doe is said to have sent some of his fighters to the practitioners of this “bullet proof” magic.

BATTLES BETWEEN THE GREBOES AND SETTLERS

There was a war between the Grebos and the Settlers in Maryland County in the early 1900s. Very little is known about the fighting between the Grebo and Settler community in Maryland County.

There was a Kroo war declared on the Settlers in 1915 – 1918 called the Sasstown War. One Juah Nimely was the leader of that war. Eventually, he was captured and brought to Monrovia. He was never allowed thereafter to return to his native Sasstown.

The February 26 incident in Lofa County in which little Korpu Kamara was killed, and which sparked into ethnic clashes between members of the Lorma tribe and their counterpart, the Mandingo tribe is another example.

These points are for us to be aware that there were wars between the indigenous inhabitants even before this nation was established in 1847, and between them and the settlers.

There remains, however, another evil conduct outside of Ethnicity of which I have decided to mention that continues to besmear the national character. It is this ritualistic killing of innocent children who will disappear from the watchful eyes of their parents and after sad search for them, their lifeless bodies are discovered with the private organs removed. We hear frequently about these happenings but there have been no reports made by government as to what has been done to the perpetrators of these heinous acts. Liberians need to be reminded that it was these very acts that caused the hangings of prominent citizens in Harper City in 1979.

ANOTHER LOOK AT ETHNICITY

Ethnicity and Sectionalism are necessary ingredients of all governments in the world today. For example, in the British Parliament, you have the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish who have been emphasizing that their ethnic origins should be pointed out and maintained always. This has been accepted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Moreover, this has enabled the British Parliament to overcome some of the difficulties of modern times. In the American Congress, there are representatives of ethnic groups, e.g., the African-American Caucus.

In our own country, the presence of Ethnicity is not far to fetch. The Kru, Bassa, and Grebo tribes who live along the Atlantic seaboard are well known for their seamanship. As a result, the first European ships to visit our coast got their seamen from these ethnic groups.

The Krahn, Lorma, and the other hinterland tribes are well known for their militant spirit. For example, it was a Lorma man who led the Liberian Contingent that was sent by President Tubman to the Belgium Congo during the Katanga War. Up to the time of President Samuel Doe, these interior tribes form the bulwark of the infantry regiments in the Liberian Army.  Now, we hear of an ethnic balance being established in the new Liberian Army so as to avoid any ethnic tension that had existed before and had been a cause of our civil war.

The Kpelles are known for their hard working capabilities.

The Vais are known for their intellectual capabilities from the very beginning of the nation because they had invented a script unknown anywhere else in the world. This script was used in the Second World War by the Germans, and nobody could easily decipher it.

Every ethnic group has its capabilities that could be useful to this country. What is left for the Liberian government to do is to find out what these capabilities are and put them to use. The government is to direct these capabilities into their proper channels and put into place mechanisms which will stop anyone from amalgamating them with bad morals.

Recommendations

I recommend that the President appoint a standing committee. It would carefully examine any ethnic clashes that would tend to suggest that they are religious confrontations. It is left with us to use ethnicity when it crops up in governmental circles. When such a committee selected to probe an incident finds out what the truth is, the committee must make its findings known to the public. It would be dangerous that the findings are not reported in the print or electronic media so that what went wrong in the case of the little eleventh grader, Korpu Kamara’s death, would not be repeated.

In the case of the eruption that went on in Monrovia in 2004 where one community versus another community clashed, some religious places of worship were burnt down and vandalized. Similar publications must be done as pertain to findings from committees sent to investigate the mayhem so that the government will not be blamed for the accumulation of grievances incurred by opposing parties.

I am very concerned about the reporting of these findings, because if not made known through journals and radio, they may accumulate into ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ The wrongdoers must be brought to justice. Let us be aware that innocent people lost their lives. These precious lives must be accounted for by responsible government. Failure to bring the truth out and to bring the guilty to justice would make us return to the same section of the circle that once brought us to our bloody Civil War.

INTER-FAITH MEDIATION IN LIBERIA

For its efforts in fostering in Christian – Muslim ties in Liberia in which the leaders of the Liberian Council of Churches and the National Muslim Council of Liberia had merged the two religious groups into one powerful body to address the Samuel K. Doe’s Government which tended to ignore either of these two dominant religions in the country. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu heard about this novel movement from all Africa, he visited Liberia and awarded his United States $30,000.00 prize to the merged Council.

Once Liberia had achieved this recognition from a religious leader of the caliber of Archbishop Tutu, the country now goes on to make progress. Archbishop Michael Francis, who led this merger, received President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s warmest congratulations on the day of her inauguration.

In this context, I recommend that religious conflicts should not be mixed with ethnic tensions. “The death of  student, Korpu Kamara, in Konia Village near Lofa’s provincial capital of Voinjama which sparked clashes in which churches and mosques were destroyed as earlier reports suggested that the violence was a result of religious tension between Christians and Muslims. But eyewitness, the Liberian Government, and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have since dismissed the reports as false and attributed them to ethnic tension between the Lormas and the Mandingoes in that part of the country.” Cfr. (www.frontpageafrica.com “What Went Wrong?”  March 3, 2010)

For the one hundred and sixty-third anniversary of our national existence, there has been no conflict arising between the Christian community and the Muslim community. It seems that there are individuals or people who want to create an issue that was non-existent for these numbers of years. The people who are advocating these distortions must have some other vested interests, a hidden agendum elsewhere and I am begging them to keep these far-fetched thoughts away from these shores, from Liberia the home of all the oppressed children of the Negro race wherever they may be.

The government must take note not to be dragged into these so-called religious wars. The government must carefully investigate, analyze, and bring to justice anyone who is caught because we don’t want any religious fundamentalism here. The government should stay clear from taking sides which would only add more fuel to the situation.

CONCLUSION

To Liberians upset about ethnicity, I say be calm. It is not multiplicity of ethnic sources which we want to avert. It was these millions of ethnic immigrants that have enriched continental America. The Founding, Pioneering Fathers knew this. That was the reason why their Constitution left the gates wide open that if some other ethnic groups coming to Liberia were of different faith, they would be free to practice their religion and live freely. Unity is the key for a successful Liberia. Let us put aside political, social, and religious biases and hold together so that we can lift this nation to higher heights.

We could learn from the United States of America which has managed to overcome ethnic barriers and has become a great nation.

Whereas Liberia’s own ethnicity was narrowly limited to the few oppressed and depressed children of the Negro race, why couldn’t Liberia welcome them to increase and enrich our population?

From the foregoing points, I have critically and thoroughly reviewed the nation’s records up to 2010. Have we made any progress, fast or retarded? Are Liberians a bit happier or still frustrated and melancholy? I have given you reasons for which I think Liberians are surely emerging from a nightmare of miseries.

We have our national reputation and integrity to restore, our economy to strengthen and stabilize, and finally our moral consciences to reexamine and reform. Corruption, like an unwanted weed, must be uprooted out this country. Or it might cover the whole land.

I beg to leave and step down from this podium. I think my awesome duty is performed, and my mission is accomplished.

May the God of the founders of the Republic who sustained Liberia these turbulent 163 years when we saw better days as well as bad times, continue to sustain us all in this beautiful nation! May we live together as brothers and sisters in peace!

God bless you, Madame President! God bless our friends and august visitors, may He bless the people of Liberia and save the State!

Mr. Guest Speaker; Platform Guests, Citizens of Lofa, Quardu-Gboni Residents;  Fellow Liberians, Ladies and gentlemen:

Mr. Morris Sekou Kanneh

I took this as a challenge when I was asked by my friend and brother, Francis Duwana, the Chairman of the Barkiedu Massacre Committee, to give a brief history on Barkiedu, the unfortunate venue of one of the heinous tragedies that citizens of the Quardu-Gboni District will continue to repudiate.  I took the challenge not as someone who know Barkiedu better than any other person, but as someone who is lucky to be alive today, after parking my belonging to go home and be with my parents to a place I thought would be a safe haven.  Somehow, I got diverted due to my inability to get transportation during that fateful month of the massacre.

I took the challenge bearing in mind that had Abu Jawateh, Ambulay Jawateh, Seyeah Kanneh, Sekou Sheriff, Mohamed Dulleh (alias Zito) and a host of other victims from our generation were alive today, I would have probably been in the listening position because of the wealth of knowledge they possessed on the history of Barkiedu, as compared to what I will give here today.

Unfortunately, I am left to take this task due to the intervention of an overly ambitious dictator who had no respect for human life the result of which let to those of our compatriots to their untimely death.  May the Almighty Allah give them Aljenna (Heaven).  However, Barkiedu, which should actually be pronounced as Ballahkeledu, named after its founder  Balla Kelleh, is situated between two major rivers (Nyonmehgor and Lofa River). It had over three hundred town-huts and about seven thousand inhabitants, before the eruption of the war.

Like any other towns in Lofa County and before the introduction of various religious influences, Barkiedu subscribed to traditional fraternity like the Korma Society for male and the Sandy Society for female.  Major Sandy and Korma feasts were usually held in the town, almost every other year.  The Bi-annual events were usually graced by traditional authorities of our major Lorma Zoes including Jallalorboh from Kpakumai and other Zoes from all around Bondi Clan including Litusu, Kpakumai, Goala and Balakpalasu.

The people of Barkedu boasted of cordial relations with their neighbors – the Lormas.  Because of such cordial relationship coupled with the acceptance of their inter-cultural dependency like other tribes, the town boasted of one of the finniest “monkey” bridges over the Lofa River, in the entire county, built and constantly maintained to link Barkiedu with the rest of Bondi, through the help of people of Goala and Litisu during the 1920s up to the 60s. The bridge was abandoned in the 60s when those fraternities were abolished due to acceptance of the Islamic teachings.

Barkedu is the headquarters of Gboni Clan, and if I may say, the biggest town in the Chiefdom, followed by Sakonnehdu, the headquarters of Quardu Clan.  Of the several powerful paramount chiefs that history can mention, two of them were from Barkiedu.  After Warrior Chief Varflay Kollie Kamara, his son, Kolakoflay Kamara became the chiefdom’s paramount chief during the era of the Provinces. He was also preceded by Paramount Koigbeh Kamara after whom an agreement was fathomed that each of the two Clans (Quardu and Gboni) would be given a term each to produce a paramount chief after the death of the incumbent.  What is also widely undisputable and cannot be challenged up to today is that the paramount chieftaincy in the entire chiefdom remains in the domain of the Kamaras, who enjoy the traditional honor of being the uncles of the area.  All others are either nephew or nieces. Barkiedu and the entire Quardeu-Gboni had existed and survived outside of the attention of all Liberian Presidents, until 1971 when President William Richard Tolbert mustered the courage and determination to visit the town, during one of his nationwide tours.

Audience at the 2010 Barkiedu Massacre Commemoration

On that day, the veteran traditionalist, the late Oldman MajuVarmah Dulleh, taught some history, not only to President Tolbert but also to his entire entourage some of whom were bewildered by their discovery of the existence of a town in the county with 99.9% of its inhabitants being Mandingos.  After getting some history lessons relating to the passage of Captain Willy Lomax, a former American Sailor who was on his way to Musadou to convince locals to be part of the new settlement which we call Liberia today, the President climaxed his visit by taking a comfortable ride via local made raft which replaced the “Monkey Bridge” on the Lofa River.

Unfortunately, and perhaps due to the theory of conspiracy of silence, much publicity was not given to the President’s visit.  As such, those very important histories that were narrated by Oldman Maju Varmah were never written for national consumption.

The next visit of a President after President Tolbert was Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, two years ago.  Again that visit gave idea to the President against negative perception that Mandingos are foreigners.  Thanks to the President for her good gesture by visiting the mass grave of the victims of the massacre situated near the beautiful Barkiedu Mosque.  After a 14-year of unwarranted war perpetrated by warmonger and property seeking individuals, Barkiedu is today awakened more than ever before.  Their political and economic awareness is sharpened.  There is more development now than it was before the war.

Long Live the people of Barkiedu and let the unfortunate July 12th massacre continue to be our strength in continuing to remind all Liberians that no citizen or group of citizens can win the sort of war that has formed part of our national existence.

By Welley Mulbah

“…a callow semi-illiterate leader of a group of drugged and inebriated foot soldiers who barely completed primary education as indicated by the inability of many of them to pronounce their own western names….” Augustine Kollie

April 12, 1980 came as a result of the built-up of tension resulting from injustice, cruelty, and deprivation that the True Whig Party and its associates melted against indigenous Liberians over a protracted period. For over hundred years, indigenous Liberians paid taxes without representation. They were denied voting rights, education, and self-respect. Conditions of the indigenous Liberians, who plotted the coup as described by Mr. Kollie in the above paragraph, were the reality of harsh conditions that most indigenous Liberians had to endure under the True Whig Party governments. Hope Mr. Kollie will now understand what necessitated the bloody coup of April 12, 1980.

Shortly before his death, Mr. Pah told me that a technique called “Saklifee” was used to collect taxes from the indigents. He explained that the soldiers who collected the taxes would place one long iron over the tibia (Liberians say “crazy bone”) and the other against the fibula and press the two irons together. Indigents caught in this situation would make any offer, just anything available to the soldiers only to be released. He said it was the most inhumane treatment he had ever experienced in his life. The soldiers often did that each time they wanted chickens, goats, rice, and other things for food besides the taxes. Indigents were responsible to transport government officials in hammocks on their bare shoulders/heads. They were used as donkeys.

The gallant men and….(were there women?) who overthrew the totalitarian government of the True Whig Party felt more than what Mr. Pah tried to explain to me. No, they were not drugged inebriated foot soldiers, and illiterate by choice. No, they did not choose the western names by themselves. They were made to feel less human! The coup was a glass of water spilled over! President Tolbert could have been “a good man”, but the explosion of a volcano has no perfect time. To me, the story of most blacks in America before January 31, 1865 was the story of most indigents in Liberia before April 12, 1980.

President Doe, though a tyranny, was not a coward. He was a brave soldier who died for a cause. At that crucial time, maybe Doe could have agreed to hand power over to a Kollie or Wlatee, but the coup that initially served as liberation for all indigenous Liberians would have happened in vain had he given power to Charles Taylor, a man whose forefathers’ inhumanity brought about the coup. He knew Taylor would revenge. Wasn’t he right? Hope we are being fair enough.

It is unfortunate that Liberia does not have a reliable history. Most of our best historical accounts have been oral, which we barely explore for fear of “opening old wounds.” “Let’s by-gone be by-gone” is all we hear each time we attempt to explore our history. Aren’t we learning anything from the American history? Americans have recorded everything from war to slavery…especiall y, slavery, the most embarrassing chapter in America’s past. History helps us to understand how far we have come as a people.

“Their (the so-called progressives) intractable hunger for power undermined democracy and rendered the country a pariah status…… ..” Where was the democracy, Mr. Kollie? For 131 years, the True Whig Party was the only party. I wish Mr. Kollie could explain to his audience what his definition of democracy is. Mr. William V.S. Tubman served as President of Liberia for 27 (twenty-seven) years, and the late President William R. Tolbert served as his VP during some of those years. Yet, Mr. Kollie is preaching democracy.

Liberia has a very rich history. We can use this history as a torch to show us the way. It should be our guide towards the future, and not as a weapon for revenge. Liberians should use this history wisely; it has a great lesson to be learned: If most freed slaves, who had already experienced inhumanity and deprivation in the USA, had not shown the same awful behaviors to indigenous Liberians, if previous governments headed by freed slaves were more inclusive, if indigenous Liberians who took power in 1980 had not continued a killing spreed, if only Taylor had not planned a revenge and totally ruined Liberia after Doe was killed, probably, Liberia would have been far ahead of other developing nations by now.

To me, the coup of April 12, 1980, has achieved its goal. We have a multi-party democracy. There are many indigenous Liberians in governments than they were in the past. There are many educated indigents than they were prior to April 12, 1980. No indigent is being used as a camel or donkey to transport government officials as was done in the past. Pres. Doe abolished taxing unemployed indigents, a policy from which they nearly perished during the 100+ years of rule of the True Whig Party. Indigenous Liberians will always be grateful to the late Pres. Doe for relieving them of those taxes. Indigents have voting powers, and can elect their representatives! All these changes happened because of April 12, 1980.

The coup was not intended to eliminate congau people or the True Whig Party; it was probably intended to eradicate those policies that mostly dehumanized indigenous Liberians. It does not matter whether we have a congau president or indigenous president at this time. One thing is certain: the harsh policies of the True Whig Party against indigenous Liberians will be dead forever. Also, no Liberian, or group of Liberians will think less of the other, because we all do remember quite vividly too, what happened in the past, and where we are at present.

It is time now for Liberians to unite and choose great leaders. We need leaders who will extend equal opportunities to all Liberians, and treat the Liberian people with decency. It is time to heal our country, because what matters most is Liberia, our beloved country.

Mrs. A.W. Mulbah
Georgia