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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.

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A proverb from Ghana declares that: A woman is a flower in a garden; her husband is the fence around it”. This is a beautiful picture of women in African society. Proverbs are expressions of wisdom acquired through reflection, experience, observation and general knowledge. They are intimately related to the culture of a given society. To appreciate, understand and properly apply the proverbs, it is necessary to be part of the culture concerned.

African proverbs address themselves to many themes and areas of life and knowledge. They are very concentrated in the sense that they put a lot of thoughts, ideas, reflections, experiences, observations, knowledge and even worldviews, into a few words.

According to Mbiti, Women are extremely valuable in African society. Not only do they bear life, but also they nurse, they cherish, they give warmth, they care for life since all human life passes through their own bodies. The following proverbs bring these points out clearly.

“Wives and oxen have no friends”. This indicates that a wife is so valuable that she cannot be given over to even the best friends of her husband. For that reason, another proverb reminds us that: “A woman must not be killed”. She is the mother of life, and to kill the woman is to kill children, to kill humanity itself. The woman should be handled with respect and not be treated as if she were a slave. So another proverb asks the husband: “Did you buy me with elephant tusks?” if the husband is ill-treating her. She reminds him that he really cannot buy her, she is not a commodity for sale like elephant tusks or slaves.

Even an aged woman is a blessing to men. So another proverb says: “It is better to be married to an old lady than to remain unmarried”). There are areas of human life, which only the woman can fulfill. The Maasai use proverb to explain that a successful life needs “a wife, a cow, a sheep, a goat, and a donkey”. This would mean, that even if one is rich, one is not successful as long as one lacks a wife (John Mbiti, “The Role of Women in African Traditional Religion”).

From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

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The Reverend Jesse Jackson almost never gets upstaged and I had never seen the Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson cry in public until last month.

Jackson invited Bill Cosby to the annual Rainbow/PUSH conference for a conversation about the controversial remarks the entertainer offered on May 17 at an NAACP dinner in Washington , D.C.

when America ‘s Jell-O Man shook things up by arguing that African Americans were betraying the legacy of civil rights victories. Cosby said ‘the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting.

They are buying things for their kids. $500 sneakers for what? But they won’t spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics!’

Bill Cosby came to town and upstaged the reverend by going on the offense instead of defending his earlier remarks. Thursday morning, Cosby showed no signs of repenting as he strode across the stage at the Sheraton Hotel ballroom before a standing room only crowd. Sporting a natty gold sports coat and dark glasses, he proceeded to unload a Laundry list of black America’s self-imposed ills.

The iconic actor and comedian kidded that he couldn’t compete with the oratory of the Reverend but he preached circles around Jackson in their nearly hour-long

conversation, delivering brutally frank one-liners and the toughest of love.

The enemy, he argues, is us: “There is a time, ladies and gentlemen, when we have to turn the mirror around.” Cosby acknowledged he wasn’t critiquing all blacks… just the 50 percent of African Americans in the lower economic neighborhood who drop out of school, and the alarming proportions of black men in prison and black teenage mothers.

The mostly black crowd seconded him with choruses of Amens. To the critics who pose, it’s unproductive to air our dirty laundry in public, he responds, “Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day.” It’s cursing on the way home, on the bus, train, in the candy store. They are cursing and grabbing each other and going nowhere. The book bag is very, very thin because there’s nothing in it. Don’t worry about the white man, he added. I could care less about what white people think about me. . . Let them talk.

What are they saying that is so different from what their grandfathers said and did to us? What is different is what we are doing to ourselves.

For those who say Cosby is just an elitist who’s “got his” but doesn’t understand the plight of the black poor, he reminds us that, “We’re going to turn that mirror around. It’s not just the poor-everybody’s guilty.”

Cosby and Jackson lamented that in the 50th years of Brown vs. Board of Education, our failings betray our legacy. Jackson dabbed away tears as he recalled the financial struggles at Fisk University, a historically black college and Jackson ‘s Alma mater.

When Cosby was done, the 1,000 people in the room all jumped to their feet in ovation.

We have shed tears too many times, at too many watershed moments before, while the hopes they inspired have fallen by the wayside. Not this time!

Cosby’s plea to parents: “Before you get to the point where you say ‘I can’t do nothing with them’, do something with them.” Teach our children to speak English. There’s no such thing as “talking white”. When the teacher calls, show up at the school. When the idiot box starts spewing profane rap videos; turn it off. Refrain from cursing around the kids. Teach our boys that women should be cherished, not raped and demeaned. Tell them that education is a prize we won with blood and tears, not a dishonor. Stop making excuses for the agents and abettors of black on black crime. It costs us nothing to do these things. But if we don’t, it will cost us infinitely more tears.

We all send thousands of jokes through e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages regarding life choices, people think twice about sharing. The crude, vulgar, and sometimes the obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of decency is too often suppressed in the schools and workplaces.

I passed this on…. Will you?

2009: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

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Tripoli – April 15, 2009

Col Gaddafi envisages a single African military, currency and passport

Libyan leader and current African Union chairman Muammar Gaddafi has spelled out his plans to create a United States of Africa.

At an AU Executive Council session in Tripoli, he called on the continent to speed up the integration process.

His vision of a pan-African government was at the heart of disputes at February’s AU summit in Ethiopia.

He said an African Union Authority would replace all other organs and be run by three co-ordinators.

The BBC’s Rana Jawad in Tripoli says the establishment of an AU Authority is meant to be the starting point for the envisioned United States of Africa.

More than 60 AU ministers and delegates gathered for a one-day meeting in the Libyan capital to hear Col Gaddafi outline in detail for the first time how his plan would work.

He proposed:

• The current AU Executive Council appoint a head secretary to be in charge of the continent’s foreign affairs

• The AU’s economic development programme, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), would oversee foreign trade

• The head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council would run the continent’s defence matters

Col Gaddafi envisages a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent.

Some officials, particularly from countries more favourable towards Libya have expressed a positive outlook towards the plan, while admitting it will take some time to implement.

But many will privately express deep concern over issues like state sovereignty, says our correspondent.

And others feel the divisions across the continent over the matter are simply too deep to overcome at this time, she adds.

2009: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

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A Word Is Born

By Tarty Teh

The verb to bear seems stuck in the perfect tense and passive voice: “I was born in 1946”; never “My mother bore me in 1946.”  But even if my mother were alive today, would she still be boring?  That’s the question: to born or not to born.  That would put the word born in the present tense with the conjugation born, borned, and borning.  That’s how we Liberians use the word.

From all indications it appears that in the beginning there was confusion.  To be born, there must first be gestation or pregnancy.  How does one get pregnant: linguistically, not physically or, for that matter, physiologically?  In Liberia a woman is “pregnated” or “pregnanted” by someone.  The word is conventionally wrong in both forms but appears to be concise, which is why it may not soon go away.  What’s more, there were complications at birth.

To say that I was born on July 18, 1946, would logically (but paradoxically) suggest that the bearing was done at some precise moment on July 18, 1946.  Even though that is exactly what happened on July 18, 1946, that is not the thought that would be conveyed to someone who was using logic (not convention) as a guide to interpreting the English language.  If by “born” we mean the perfect tense of the verb to bear, then it suggests a time span.

But the English language makes a distinction (a tenuous but discernable one nevertheless) between the timed bearing (i.e., carrying a load from Bortike to Jatoke for an hour and a half) and the bearing that yields a baby (carrying a baby in the womb from November to July).  The perfect tense for the first is borne, and for the second is born.  In my case, my mother bore me for nine months.  I could not therefore have been born on July 18, 1946, but now we know about the special usage for which the word is reserved.  Otherwise, bearing (or carrying) stops at a moment in time when a baby is (Let’s get used to the new form) borned.

So there are distinctions and there people who are keen enough to observe them.  But I wonder if some clarity might not be lost in the pursuit of thought if the language itself, which should have borne the thought, is weighted with complicated rules that needlessly add to the burden of thinking.  My native language is concise, in this particular instance, even though it is very euphemistical in all matters relating to reproduction.

However long my mother bore her burden, Liberian usage has put “born” in the present tense.  But the gestational period known as pregnancy is far more complicated than the process of giving birth.  Properly, to make pregnant is to “impregnate.”  A pregnable person may not even get pregnant or impregnated.  But an impregnable fortress is one that cannot be breached.

To be impregnable is to remain impenetrable and to make pregnant is to impregnate.  But the im- in impregnable means “not,” whereas the same prefix means “in” in impregnate.

Again, the im- in impregnate is not negative.  It is very positive.  It is very close to meaning very pregnant.  (Another example of what appears to be an intensifying prefix is the word “occupy” with an unchanged (but intensified meaning) as “preoccupy.”  Preoccupy means to occupy even more.)  In other words, impregnate doesn’t mean not made pregnant; it means very much pregnant.

For me, the bridge between Pallipo (the language I knew before I heard about English) and the English language does not always lead to confusion, although there are occasional notional conflicts that may arise in one language and affect my thinking in the other.  I suspect that this would be the case with any two languages, especially if they (as is the case of Pallipo and English) did not have a common cultural base.   In that case, vigilance and luck (exactly in that order) would help.  I believe that’s what happened in my case.

I think it is partly in the genes too.  On my mother side, my Uncle Wonplo Donmo would have been a precocious child if he had started school as a child.  As it turned out, he was an adult tapper on the Cavalla Firestone Plantation in Maryland County in the early 1950s.  On one of his return trips home to Pallipo to visit his mother (my grandmother) he brought some items that were meant mainly to enhance his prestige among his peers, especially the girls.

There was a school in my uncle’s native village of Japroke.  There were, of course, better schools in Maryland County where my uncle worked as a tapper.  But Uncle Wonplo had been busy earning money, the stuff that earned instant respect and admiration once you were back in Pallipo.  But it was the very luxury accessory, the thing he had bought himself, which embarrassed Uncle Wonplo.  It was a can of powder which bore some inscription.  Slopoh Jallah, one of those who had come to greet Uncle Wonplo on his arrival home, read the inscription.

For one thing, Slopoh was a couple of years younger than Uncle Wonplo.  A son on the Paramount Chief of Pallipo, Slopoh had been conscripted to go to school in far away Nyakke, in Webbo District, some 40 miles south of Pallipo.  Of course the Firestone Plantations, where Uncle Wonplo had been, was even farther away from Pallipo.  But Slopoh had picked up a smattering of English in Webbo which enabled him to read the inscription on the can of talcum powder.

After Slopoh left, my Uncle Wonplo said he picked up the can to make sense of the squiggly symbols from which Slopoh had spoken some words that sounded like English.  In fact Uncle Wonplo was very much persuaded that the words were English, yet he did not know what they meant even though he spoke a brand of English that was common among rubber tappers.  With tears welling in his eyes, he was forced to confront the fact that he was illiterate.  But so was I, but I had all my years of learning in front of me while Uncle Wonplo felt pressed for time.

I don’t quite remember when Uncle Wonplo actually started school, but I remember him teaching me the alphabet and later on reading to me from a British primer textbook.  My Uncle Wonplo and I started school about five years apart, but he was otherwise light years ahead of me because of his unusual ability to learn.  He later took training in Monrovia in 1957 through the Fundamental Education program that was run by Liberia’s cultural icon Mr. Bai T. Moore.

Uncle Wonplo was my mother’s younger brother.  He said that I never ceased to amaze him by the speed of my own learning.  By the time I was in the 6th grade, Uncle Wonplo felt that I had surpassed him in my total knowledge even though he had already completed the eighth grade.  I saw no competition; I felt lucky that I shared his genetic predisposition to learning.

My father never went to school, so it was difficult gauging how he might fare.  The keenness with which he listened to, and the exactitude with which he spoke, Pallipo should be a predictor of his potential if he actually took formal instruction in any language.  I flunked his grammar and syntax first because I did care about being an expert speaker of the Pallipo language.  And when I started school and showed my eagerness to learn, he told me that the same discipline he tried to instill in me in the use of the Pallipo language was most likely required in the use of the English language.  He was right.

But before I could en masse enough English vocabulary to hold a conversation, I had to accept my father’s drill in my native Pallipo.  When my mother sent me to borrow a “bolowor” from a neighbor, for instance, my father would amend the phrase to include only the word “bolo,” claiming that the suffix “-wor” was superfluous since an empty bow could not be called a “bowful,” because “wor” represents the suffix “-ful” when translated into English.

Along the same line, I learned that “twains” means two babies in a single delivery.  The phrase “two twains” was therefore illogical unless it meant four babies.  Even then, it would conflict with another expression that signified delivery that yielded four babies.  Needless to say, I had no occasion to escape strict construction between my illiterate father and my by then educated Uncle Wonplo.  Again, I was lucky, linguistically speaking.

Three of my four children were born in the United States.  I could not wait for a preview of how my first American-born child would handle his native language.  He did not disappoint me.

One Saturday afternoon I got a good handle on a database program I was writing and therefore decided to take a coffee break.  But I had to make the pot of coffee.  My son Tyee wanted to be the one to turn off the computer whenever I was done working.  Because he loved it, I would call him even if he were not in the study to push the switch.  This afternoon Tyee was very much on hand, which I saw as a potential problem.

“Don’t turn off the computer; I am not finished yet,” I told four-year-old Tyee rather emphatically.  He did not use any of his “buts” this time.  So I believed he understood.  Even so, he headed for the master bedroom which was at the opposite end of the house from the study.  He wasn’t in the bedroom for more than half a minute before he headed back to the study, passing me in the kitchen.  By the time I found out what he was up to, it was too late.  He’d turned off the computer, which was why I wanted to kill him.

I caught him before he could reach his grandmother’s bedroom.  We were in his bedroom where he tried to give his excuse which I would listen to only as a matter of courtesy before spanking him.  “Mommy said I could turn it off,” he pleaded.  “Mommy nothing!  I told you don’t turn it off,” I said.  Mommy was on the phone in the bedroom where Tyee told her I had finished with the computer, could he therefore turn it off.  And she had said yes.  “How can Mommy tell you to turn the thing off when I am not finished,” I said.  And then Tyee replied, “If don’t believe me wait till she finishes.”

“…wait till she finishes,” I thought.  I did not have to wait till my wife finished talking on the phone.  I abruptly dropped Tyee and headed back to the study muttering, “It’s in the genes!  He’s got it.”

Copyrighted Tarty Teh 2006 – Monrovia, Liberia, July 12, 2006

2006: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

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A Liberian Woman’s Push for Academic Excellence

By Dennis Jah

First Published on the Liberian Way

It is amazing to me as to how those of our parents and grandparents some of whom had no formal education and lived in the most abject form of poverty would strive to educate their children and relatives. I sometimes wonder as I think of my own parents as to what drove them to send their kids to school amidst the many odds. Anytime I ask, the response has always been the same: they want their children and all those who come after them to live a better life than what they experienced. Especially in the countryside where much of government’s development priorities are still limited except to extort taxes and conjure votes, rural dwellers would even sell all they have to pay the meager sum of money required to get and keep their children in school. They encourage, force or push their children with all their power to get an education so as to stand up to the people who ill treat them or just excel beyond their societies.

To be convinced about the benefits of something, you must experience it yourself. But in the case of these parents they were willing to give what they never had or experienced before. For many rural parents, educating their sons and daughters meant they wouldn’t have to suffer poverty and the abuses of the elite class through tax extortion, alienation and sometimes forced labor. Whatever their motivation, they push with sweat running down their backs to educate their children.

Of all the responses I got for rural and poor parents’ determination to send their children to school, one stands out as it did not only emphasize going to school for the sake of it but urging their children to strive for the top. Mr. Siahyonkron Nyanseor is the name of the man who told me via telephone the story that I found so intriguing.

Siahyonkron Nyanseor whose name means Savior and frontrunner came to the United States around age twenty one and has been here for the past forty or more years. You will not believe that this man still drinks, eats, sleeps and belches Liberia after so many years of staying out of the country he so dearly loves. By my own estimation, Siahyonkron had no reasons being so attached to Liberian culture and issues except for the simple reasons of nationalism and patriotism. Like many who quickly became detached from traditional Liberia, Siahyonkron was born and raised in Monrovia specifically on the “unpaved side of Clay Street” as he always made the distinction. Those were the days when the Country-Congo divide was so pronounced and that a way for any native to get ahead was to graduate into the ruling Congo mindset and ideology. Instead, he cherished his Klao (Kru) and Bassa roots and even up till present speaks both languages fluently.

Most of the things he learned and heard about his Klao lineage came from his uncle popularly known as Sergeant Moore. Siahyonkron will go on and on telling you stories told to him by Sergeant Moore. I don’t believe that Sergeant Moore served in the Liberian army; how he has come to be promoted to the rank of a sergeant, even his nephew Siahyonkron cannot recollect. Sergeant More himself got no formal education. He could neither read nor write but told stories not only about his Klao ethnic group or his country Liberia but even those as far as the Western World and beyond. He was an expert on early indigenous Liberian educators like Gbi Wolo and Didwho Twe. He recounted their life stories even their day to day graduate school experiences in the United States. Come to think about it now, Sergeant Moore was the first Wikipedia to which the determined young Siahyonkron will come to have unfiltered access. He was one of those children of various ethnic and no ethnic groups who gathered in those days to hear Sergeant Moore put out information only an encyclopedia would have the capability store.

Today, Mr. Nyanseor tells those stories with the same zest and fascination with which he heard them from Sergeant Moore. With the passion he narrated this story; I fell obliged to write it down for a wider audience.

Wesseh was in elementary school, fourth or fifth grade to be precise. His mom has accompanied him for the school closing program as usual. The list for each class was read aloud. When ever the name was called, the caller would wait for the student to march up on stage before announcing either pass or fail. That way every one knew every one’s status. The way each class roster was called was in alphabetical order so you would expect Aloysius Wesseh to be at the tail end of the roll call. When the time to call Wesseh’s class reached, his mother waited impatiently to hear the name of her only son. She did not quite get the concept of alphabetical order so she sat at the edge of her seat waiting and waiting. Wesseh was unperturbed and kept reassuring his mother that he would be promoted to the next class and that his mother needed not to panic.

Slowly and surely the roll call went on. Finally Wesseh was called. When he walked up on stage, the announcement was “under condition.” This was the first year the passing under condition system was introduced by the Secretary of Education, Mr. Massaquoi. He thought that it was unfair for students to be retained in a class for failing two- three subjects so he introduced that those failing two to three subjects should not be required to repeat the class but pass under the condition of passing those very subjects in summer school. Hence the name “pass under condition” was introduced.

Wesseh’s mother did not know what “pass under condition” meant. She was expecting either pass or fail so “under condition” confounded her sensibility. She was unsure what Wesseh’s status was. Did he pass? Or did he fail? She found no answer. The words “under condition” kept dancing in her mind that she heard nothing else that went on after that point. She could not wait to seek clarifications from some one who was so educated to understand the phraseology and at the same time so traditionally versed to break it down to her level. She did not want to find out from her son so she asked one of her educated neighbors after the closing program. And this is how he explained it:

“Your son suppose to fail but he did not fail. He suppose to pass but he did not pass.”

The explanation was clear and to the point. Wesseh was in a limbo, his mother thought to herself. She first had to decide on a plan of action. She wanted to do something not so bad that would drive Wesseh from school and not so pleasant that would suggest to Wesseh that it was okay to pass under condition. By then, Wesseh have heard so many times that being at the tail end of operations was not typical of a Klao (Kru) male. So many times he had heard “don’t you know that you are a Klao man?” If there was any thing to slip out of his cognitive vocabulary, being last was “un-Klao” and that thought should never depart from his memory.

By the time she got home Wesseh’s verdict was in hand.
“Wesseh,” she called. “So you passed under condition?” She asked knowingly.
“Yes Mama” Wesseh responded with his face half bow.
“From this day forward, you will eat under condition, sleep under condition and work under condition.” She ruled. From that day forward, when food was ready and served, she would look at Wesseh straight in the face and say “under condition Wesseh, you suppose to be hungry but you not hungry. You suppose to be full but you not full” before cutting down the food just enough to make Wesseh stay alive. In fact “under condition Wesseh” was his new name. Anytime his friends stopped by to visit, she would ask them “oh, you want to see under condition Wesseh?”

The following school year, Wesseh bounced back so hard that even his teacher called him “no condition Wesseh” to emphasize that no condition could limit or stop anyone who works hard.

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By Patrick L. N. Seyon
Research Fellow
African Studies Center, Boston University

In an interview conducted with Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and reported in the January/March 2000 issue of The Perspective, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf is quoted to have said:

. . . As you have reported before, a few of us, members of the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL) then operating in Washington DC, with the strong persuasion of one of our members, Tom Woewiyu, did try to be of assistance to Mr. Taylor when his rebellious activities seemed headed in the direction of a strong response to protect people in Nimba County from an overreaction of the Doe regime to their invasion of the country. . . We raised the grand sum of $10,000, hardly an amount that could do very much. In fact, it was a mere drop in the bucket. The fact that the sum was so paltry explains why we had so little leverage over Taylor and why he paid so little attention to us, especially when we started raising questions about reports of human rights violations by his troops. Initially, we had committed ourselves to try to do more. But within six months or so, i.e. around the middle of 1990, we had withdrawn any support and any connection with Mr. Taylor and his group on account of the serious atrocities which were taking place, some affecting long standing political allies of ours. (p.9)

There are several revelations in Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s interview which cause me great concern and which impel me to respond. They are: 1) “. . . a few . . .” members of ACDL supported Charles Taylor in his brutal war campaign; 2) some members of ACDL raised and contributed a sum of $10,000 to Taylor; 3) the money was contributed in order to have “leverage over Taylor”; and 4) “. . . any support [to] and any connection with Taylor. . .” were reportedly withdrawn once it became clear to the contributors/supporters that they could not exercise “leverage over Taylor.” Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf does not say who in fact raised or contributed the money, nor does she name the ACDL members who were the supporters of Taylor.

There is a critical need, therefore, and several reasons, to set the record straight on the first two issues. Firstly, the horrific war that left 250,000 people dead and Liberia in total ruins has to be documented as fully as possible for future generations and historians.

Secondly, there is controversy over those who (financially, politically, materially and morally) supported Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in their war campaign, but who, now, make attempts to distance themselves from Taylor and the atrocities of his war. When disassociating themselves from Taylor, the most convenient argument often advanced is that they neither knew of Taylor’s grand blueprint for war, nor approved of the outcome. This propagandistic ploy allows them to nullify or control the truthful, objective picture of their role in the war. Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s statement in her above interview is a case in point: “[W]e had withdrawn any support and any connection with Mr. Taylor and his group on account of the serious atrocities which were taking place, some affecting long standing (sic) political allies of ours.” If the public accepts this propaganda, then Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and other contributors to the war get away clean. They have very cleverly presented themselves as playing no role in or having any responsibility for the war.

Since the withdrawal of support and connection with Taylor and the NPFL was reportedly partially based on “serious atrocities”, one wonders whether committing “atrocities” was acceptable to Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and her cohorts, while committing “serious atrocities” was not. She also gave the impression that the support and connection would or might have continued, if “long standing (sic) political allies” were not being affected by the “serious atrocities.”

Let me first present background information germane to the issues at hand before commenting further on Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s interview. It must be stated for the record that I was chairman of ACDL during the period to which Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf makes reference – 1989 – 1992, after which ACDL became moribund.

In early 1990, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Grace Minor, Harry Greaves, Jr. and Tom Woewiyu sought to have ACDL endorse Taylor and his group. The majority took the position that if the organization were opposing political rule from the barrel of the gun under Samuel Doe, then it could not endorse or support Charles Taylor, who was also seeking to seize political power through the barrel of the gun. It was argued, accordingly, that endorsing or giving support to Taylor would have been contradictory to ACDL’s fundamental operating principles. These operating principles clustered around constitutional, democratic governance, rule of law, protection of basic human rights and civil liberties, including but not limited to freedom of speech, the media and assembly, and due process. There were reports, borne out by the subsequent joining of Taylor’s NPFL by Tom Woewiyu and Grace Minor, that certain members of ACDL were supporters of Taylor. Those members were not required, nor did they publicly or privately renounce their membership in ACDL. However, since their membership in or association with NPFL made their continued membership in ACDL contradictory, it was considered a de facto renunciation of their ACDL membership.

It should be noted for the record also that the issue of membership of ACDL members in other organizations was part of a long, heated debate of the rapidly deteriorating political condition in Liberia in early 1990 within ACDL. What sparked the debate was a reported secret meeting between Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Taylor in the Ivory Coast. Some members thought the meeting placed ACDL in a compromising position, since Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf was a prominent member, though not an officer. There were strong feelings that prior notice should have been served on ACDL that such a meeting was going to take place. It was further contended that ACDL’s operating principle of transparency had been violated by the secret nature of the meeting, and that the breach threatened the very delicate principle of trust, on which the group depended to function. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf did not deny attending the meeting, but argued that it was unplanned, and hence prior notice could not have been given. More fundamentally though, breach of transparency and threat to trust notwithstanding, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf contended, and others agreed, that she and any other member of ACDL had a right to membership in other organizations and to meet with whomsoever without giving ACDL prior notice.

At the end of the debate, it was recognized that members needed to be sensitive to the association or with the membership regarding issues that might tend to undermine or violate ACDL’s operating principles. Members were urged to keep ACDL informed of their activities that might be in conflict with or give the appearance of being contradictory to its fundamental operating principles.

Let me now comment on Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s interview, which, indeed, is a revelation. I and others were unaware of her cohorts’ double, or perhaps triple, agenda (one for support of Taylor, another for presidential ambition, and a third paying lip-service to the noble goals of ACDL) as we sought to work together for, or some of us thought, the common good of Liberia.

ACDL was neither associated with, nor gave support of any kind whatsoever to Taylor and his band of pirates. This fact needed to have been stated by Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf in her interview, since she and “a few” ACDL members were active supporters of Taylor. Not having stated otherwise leaves the erroneous impression of alleged ACDL support to and connection or association with Taylor. Further, she needed to have said who the “few” members who both raised money and pledged themselves to support Taylor were. Not having done so leaves a thick cloud of suspicion over every ACDL member. And that is morally and ethically unacceptable. The good name, reputation, and integrity of the members who were not part of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s “few” have unjustifiably been called into question for the past ten years, and that is unconscionable.

I, for one, never raised a finger to aid Taylor and his NPFL in any way, form, or shape, nor did I contribute a penny.

There are people like myself, who have worked in organizations such as ACDL, who have repeatedly been accused of having supported Taylor and the deadly horror that he unleashed on Liberia. I have always been mystified by the accusation, have never understood its basis, and considered it preposterous, even though I have spent the past ten years fencing off the accusation. My public reaction to the Johnson-Sirleaf interview is to clear my good name of the baseless accusations, once and for all.

To have learned that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and “a few” other members of ACDL raised $10,000 for Charles Taylor and his NPFL, and committed themselves to do more was a total surprise. Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and her “. . . few. . .” cohorts did not, in violation of the understanding we had reached, inform the officers and other members of ACDL of this. I had no knowledge of these members’ fundraising and other activities on behalf of Taylor and his NPFL until I read about them in the above interview.

Finally, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf has sought to make light of the $10,000 contribution by saying “…[it was] hardly an amount that could do very much. In fact, it was a mere drop in the bucket”. But that amount of money impacted, tremendously, the lives of many Liberians; many might not have been killed if Taylor had not received it. Taylor did not have much money at that time, and it was doubtful that he was going to succeed against Doe. Then, $10,000 was a significant amount of money. It was sufficient to purchase many weapons, arms and other war materiel that helped to kill the 250,000 people in Taylor’s war for power and greed. Even if the amount raised and contributed had been one dollar, and that dollar had bought a bullet that killed one person, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and the contributors cannot easily and glibly absolve themselves of responsibility for such loss of life by claiming “it was a mere drop in the bucket.” She and others, who financed Taylor’s war, are as responsible as the warlords for the hundreds of thousands who died in the war.

Published in the January/March 2000 Edition of The Perspective.

2000: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

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