A Position Statement
Liberian People’s Party (LPP) U.S.A.-Diaspora
Issued on Saturday, September 29, 2007, U.S.A.
WE, THE PARTISANS of the Liberian People’s Party (LPP) residing in the U.S.A.-Diaspora, recognizing our common heritage and history of advocacy for Rights, Rice and Democracy in Liberia, on this 29th day of September 2007, come together in unity to issue this position statement in recognition of the homegoing of our beloved comrade, Gabriel Baccus Matthews; and to let our people and the world in particular know that the problem for which he devoted his entire life fighting, did not begin with his generation. In fact, our country’s problem started long before he came into this world in 1948.
AND LET IT ALSO BE KNOWN that the history of our beloved country, Liberia is unique in Africa. it started neither as a native state nor as a European colony, but began in 1821 when private societies began founding colonies for the removal of blacks the leadership of the United States considered undesirable, therefore, had to be relocated to a place on the West Coast of Africa.
THAT LIBERIA’S SEARCH FOR DEMOCRACY, has traveled a long, difficult, and sometimes tortuous and trajectory road. The decline of all fundamental human rights, especially freedom of speech, assembly, and free association of peoples, have suffered almost since the birth of the nation in 1847. Individuals who rose to challenge the injustices that characterized the system’s socio-economic inequality and entrenched class/ethnic rule — were oftentimes prosecuted, forced to flee their own country, falsely imprisoned or killed. Despite the horrendous evil they faced from an entrenched ruling class, the lack of appreciation from the oppressed for whom they advocated, and whom at times misunderstood their vision, their lonely voices crying out in the wilderness planted the seeds for change and democracy.
BE IT FURTHER KNOWN THAT even amidst the decline of freedom, there was an Honor Roll of men and women, who had the courage, fortitude and farsightedness, to challenge this evil system and expose its weakness. An early forerunner was Edward Wilmot Blyden. Blyden, the First President of Liberia College, Pan-Africanist, intellectual and brilliant thinker of his time in the late 1800s, warned of the suppression of the rights of the poor, indigenous majority, and the dangers in constructing a nation state without their involvement and participation. But the political ruling class at the time, imbued with their own sense of self-righteousness and myopic mindset, did not pay heed, instead Blyden was branded a ‘troublemaker’ and forced to flee into exile in Sierra Leone where he later died.
AND THAT the continued decline of freedom and the trampling of personal liberties and economic deprivation continued into the early 1900s. This time a profound development occurred when government began to enact laws that would curtail and further restrict the freedom of expression of its citizens. One significant development was the passage of the Sedition Laws of 1916 during Daniel Edward Howard’s administration. These laws passed by the Liberian Legislature was all-encompassing and imposed sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression. Enshrined in the Liberian Criminal Code of Laws of 1919, the law banned “any act having a tendency to cause discontent among any tribe or tribes within the limits of Liberia and incite them to revolt.” The law further banned any writing or speech which give any appearance of alignment or suggested unfair treatment by the government of any tribe with the intent to destabilize the country.
AND IN FACT, the gravity and full weight of the law was applied when the writ of habeas corpus was suspended during the 1916-1917 Kru Coast revolt; also, when President Charles D. B. King, imposed Martial Law in 1921 on the citizens of Saniquellie (Nimba County); again in 1932, when president Edwin Barclay ordered the arrest of Representative Francis W. Morais of Maryland County, who had called for the reformation of the Liberian government to include proportional representation of the indigenes and an educational system under the League of Nations (now the United Nations).
MOREOVER, along this tortuous, trajectory path was the Gestapo tactics employed by the ruling class to victimize individuals like President Edward J. Roye, Chief Juah Seyon Nimley, Prophet William Wade Harris, Rep. Welleh Didwho Twe, Teah Jlay Tor, Rep. Francis W. M. Morais, Hon. Nete-Sie Brownell, Sr., J. Gbaflen Davies, Thomas Nimene Botoe, Hon. S. David Coleman, S. Othello Coleman, Paul Dunbar, Rep. Bill Whitterspoon, Du Fahnbulleh, Cllr. S. Raymond Horace, Booker T.R. Bracewell, Kollie Tamba, the one man crusader of his time, Albert Porte, Ambassador Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Sr., Army Chief of Staff, General George Toe Washington, a law student named Frederick Gibson, Roland Tambakai Dempster, Bai T. Moore, Johnson S. Jangaba, Ambassador Angie Brooks Randolph, Mary Antoinette Brown-Sherman, Justice Emma Shannon Walser, Mayor Ellen Sandimanie, Agnes Nebo Von Ballmos, Archbishop Michael Kpakala Frances, Wiwi D. Debbah, Tonia Richardson, Wuo Garbe Tappia, Madam Nowai Flomo and a score of others whose only crime was the advocacy of participatory democracy, which includes, civil, human and constitutional rights for all of the citizens of the Republic of Liberia, regardless of national origin, ethnicity, class or religious affiliation. Instead, their struggle too, was met with intimidation, charges of treason, sedition, conspiracy to overthrow the government, imprisonment, death and exile; done with the aid of the ruling elites’ external sponsors who reduced EVERY STRUGGLE in terms of East and West disparity, with the rest of the WORLD as a pawn.
FURTHERMORE, to frustrate and wreck the Liberian people’s legitimate struggle, the ruling elites resorted to all sorts of illegal practices and tactics, prominent amongst them is the presidential election of 1927 between President Charles D. B. King and Thomas J. R. Faulkner. Based on the official results of the election, President King received 234,000 votes, when Liberia had only 15,000 registered voters at the time. This won President King the dubious achievement of being listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the most fraudulent election report in the history of the world.
RECALL ALSO the elections, which Samuel K. Doe as Head of State, transformed himself from a military dictator to a civilian autocrat; and the 1977 elections of Charles M. Taylor, which led to the further entrenchment of tyrannical rule in Liberian politics.
AS A POINT OF DEPARTURE, the 70’s ushered in organizations like the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas and Canada (ULAA), the AWINA National Association in the Americas, the Movement for Justice in Africa-Liberia (MOJA), the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) and the entire Student Movement in Liberia. This renewed struggle brought along leaders like Togba Nah Tipoteh, Gabriel Baccus Matthews and a multitude of others.
IN THIS REGARD, the struggle for Rights, Rice and Democracy, championed by these individuals and organizations brought about the establishment of the “Deshield Commission on National Unity”. This Commission was established by an Act of the Legislature on July 22, 1974 authorizing President William R. Tolbert to set up a commission. The Commission came into existence purposely due to persistent calls from citizens who felt that certain national symbols were divisive; therefore, needed to be revised in order to include all of the citizens of the Republic of Liberia.
AS A RESULT, President Tolbert through a proclamation outlined the guidelines by which the Commission was mandated to review the motto, flag, anthem and constitution. The mandate empowered the Commission to review the motto, flag, anthem and constitution “with a view of stamping out every idea that may suggest class distinction, separateness or sectionalism among the people of Liberia.” The Commission consisted of fifty-one members.
INSTEAD, on the eve of announcing the launching of the Commission, Chairman McKinley A. Deshield, in a national broadcast stressed that the President’s mandate is not “to give consideration to possible, I repeat changes the Commission does not conceive neither interpret the President’s mandate as an authorization or directive to necessarily change it[,] is not the intention of the Commission to merely propose changes apparently to satisfy the whims and notions of a few purported academic detractors.”
HAVING MADE SUCH STATEMENT, the Commission never got down to examining the issues. Since there were those on the Commission who did not care as Chairman Deshield puts it, “not to change history,” no matter who these symbols offend, those who held this belief were the ones who constituted the ruling class. This approach rendered the whole exercise as a sham.
AFTER THREE AND HALF YEARS – July 22, 1974 – January 24, 1978, the Commission submitted its recommendations. The recommendations did not mention any basic changes to the flag. Regarding the constitution, the Commission “indicated a disposition to certain changes, which were never specified in the report.” On the national anthem, it recommended that the word “Benighted” be replaced with “undaunted.” It also recommended that the national motto be changed to “Love, Liberty, Justice, Equality,” replacing “The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here.”
HOWEVER, none of the changes recommended were ever implemented. The alleged reason was Commissioner C. Abayomi Cassell’s opposition to changing the motto. He made his opposition known to President Tolbert through a memorandum, after the Commission had submitted its final report.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, the position of the descendents of the settlers prevailed. Furthermore, the President’s failure to act upon the recommendations, made the entire exercise a waste of taxpayers’ money, resources and time.
MORE IMPORTANT, the ruling class refusal to change their attitude as well as make fundamental changes in the way the government was being operated, gave impetus to the PROGRESSIVES. What distinguished the PROGRESSIVES from the so-called “liberators” who used VIOLENT means as opposed to the PROGRESSIVES’ beliefs of advocacy for change through peaceful means – – not through the barrel of the GUNS and the exploitation of our youth to change the unjust system; instead the PROGRESSIVES relied on educating the Liberian people and the provision provided by the Liberian Constitution to advocate for change. Unlike the PROGRESSIVES, the so-called liberators killed thousands of our people in COLD BLOOD, maimed thousands others, destroyed our meager infrastructure and ruined the entire economy; yet, they blamed the PROGRESSIVES whose only weapons were peaceful protest and the written word for our country’s decline.
FOR HIS PART, Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh was attacked from both the Left and the Right for reducing the Liberian People’s struggle in simple idiom and for identifying with them in dress and lifestyle. Tipoteh was dismissed from his position as lecturer in Economics at the University of Liberia for what the authorities referred to as ‘foreign ideology’, and Members of MOJA were constantly harassed and detained by the State for their political activities. Agents of both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA constantly monitored MOJA’s gatherings. It is relevant to mention here that the Tolbert government and its external patrons throughout the course of the 1970’s, continued to view and brand MOJA as a ‘subversive communist’ organization, even though the organization never claimed to be communist.
BEING RESTLESS AND DETERMINED to get involve in the “people’s thing” as opposed to “leaving the people’s thing alone,” Comrade Gabriel Baccus Matthews joined with likeminded individuals to form the Progress Alliance of Liberia (PAL), the precursor of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), and later the United People’s Party (UPP). The party had as its newsorgan, the Revelation. The Revelation was credited with the publishing of “misdeeds of government and of its officials; sometimes photocopies of official acts or transactions considered wrongful were printed as documentary evidence of their allegations. Cornered, Tolbert entered into a dialogue with PAL, then invited its leadership to Liberia for a ‘fact finding’ visit”.
SINCE TOMORROW WAS NOT PROMISED TO COMRADE MATTHEWS’ GENERATION, and there were things he had to complete before he was call to GLORY, as the most restless and risktaker among his generation, Comrade Gabriel Baccus Matthews took the lead to change the course of Liberian History forever.
ON THAT MEMORABLE DAY OF APRIL 14, 1979, Chairman Gabriel Baccus Matthews and the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) had gathered to have a peaceful demonstration against the government of Liberia; to protest increase in the price of rice, Liberia’s staple commodity; when the government officials who were not prepared for such a mass demonstration, ordered its security forces to prevent PPP and its supporters from demonstrating. The situation went out of control, and in the end, many innocent and peaceful demonstrators lost their lives and many others were seriously injured. The government and the local media referred to the event as “rice riots”, when in fact it was a “Massacre over the increase of Rice”. The rest is history!
SINCE the ultimate goal of the PROGRESSIVES was simply to conscientize the Liberian people and to democratize the country through peaceful means, Comrade Gabriel Baccus Matthew and members of the PROGRESSIVES were accused of being “TROUBLE MAKERS”; but one thing for sure, they were not onlookers; they did what most people in history who wanted change did; they got involve in order to bring about CHANGE.
IN THIS REGARD, let history be the judge; because Comrade Gabriel Baccus Matthews paid his dues as a participant contributor to the cause of the people in ushering a “New Day in Liberia”. Comrade Matthew’s place is already reserved in the new History of Liberia; first as an active participant and a catalyst for change, Foreign Minister of Liberia twice – 1980 and 1990. This no one can dispute!
IN ADDITION, we are reminded by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
COMRADE GABRIEL BACCUS MATTHEW WAS SUCH A MAN; he never accumulated wealth and riches, which he could have strived for, or gained at the expense of the Liberian people; instead, he remained incorruptible; he never aided and abetted war or the violent overthrow of government; this was Comrade Matthews’ defining character throughout his life and time.
THEREFORE, on this day, we say farewell to our Comrade for fighting a good fight; hence, death need not be proud; for there was nothing it could have done to STOP the course of our history that Comrade Matthews contributed immensely towards.
AND TO AVOID THE SAME FACTORS that culminated in the April 12, 1980 coup d’ etat as identified by many historians;
AS PROGRESSIVES, we pledge to continue our non-violent approach to bringing change to our beloved country through education – – to change laws and practices that violate the rights of our people; expose those in government and businesses operating in our country that are bent on exploiting and stealing the wealth of our people for their personal use as opposed to the legitimate use of the Liberian people;
WE DO FURTHER PLEDGE, to continue the tradition started by Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden, championed by Comrade Gabriel Baccus Matthews for Rights, Rice and Democracy, which in his life time brought about democratic elections, which for the first time in the history of Liberia, and Africa in particular led to the election of Africa’s first female president in the person of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia.
DO BELIEVE the future of Democracy in Liberia can only be made vibrant, durable and sustained, if old vestigial thinking and practices which placed narrow sectarian interests above the people’s interest are eliminated. For we see emerging in the horizon, rogue practices, threats which we must protest against and consider a NATIONAL EMERGENCY, which are:
- the ever increasing mass poverty;
- escalating crime;
- mainstreaming ex-combatants;
- holding municipal and chieftaincy elections;
- inclusiveness in government;
- environmental disasters ;
- selective dispensation of justice
- politicization and patronage;
- aging health, educational, infrastructural systems, and
- making Democracy the people’s number one palava.
DO FINALLY RESOLVE, to keep Comrade Gabriel Baccus Matthews’ memory alive, we shall work with our UPP comrades to engage in projects that will bear his name.
In the Cause of the People, the Struggle Continued!
Gwe feh Kpeh!
Our eyes are opened; the time of the people has come!
In union strong success is sure, we will over all prevail.
Submitted on the 29th day of September 2007 in the United States of America.
Prepared by: LPP’s Coordinating Committee, U.S.A.-Diaspora
Siahyonkron Nyanseor, Chair
J. Kpanneh Doe, Secretary
Annie Wilson, Member
Dempster Yallah, Member
Approved: Wilmot W. Kunney
2007: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive