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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!

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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

04/26/2010 – Ijoma Robert Flemister, irflem@msn.com

The Coup d’état of 1980 was the result of failed negotiations between the United States/NATO and the group of African leaders (Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal and William Richard Tolbert of Liberia) who has sought a trade accommodation/ agreement with the United States for an Executive Chairman of the OAU to manage Africa’s natural resources and commodities via commodity cartels.

Throughout 1978-1979 there were extensive planning and discussions around the then Uruguay Round of GATT, which involved President Tolbert taking the lead in the discussions. In 1979 there was a high level and quiet conference of Africa’s Finance Ministers convened at Ducor Hotel to establish Africa’s position on the intricacies of the commodity cartels. President Tolbert assigned me to observe the deliberations of the conference. Note that the main reason for USA President Jimmy Carter’s visit to Nigera and then subquently to Liberia was to hold face-to-face talks with the leaders of Nigeria and Liberia. I was on the official high level Liberian delegation that sat with President Tolbert during the discussion with President Carter.

The details submitted by President Carter involved a cash allotment to Liberia (President Tolbert??) of 100 million USD, Liberia granting military base rights in Grand Gedeh, and the CIA command and control in Liberia be extended to also monitoring Libya’s and the Arab League’s activities in Africa. By January 1980, President Tolbert specifically said to me, “Ijoma, as long as I am President of Liberia and Chairman of the OAU they can not have a military base in West Africa.” But Presidents Tolbert, Senghor and Toure continued to insist on the implementation of the commodity cartels.

So now, let’s analyze the results.

(1) After the saga of the Arab Oil Embargo against the United States, there evolved a situation where the national security apparatus of the United States saw President Tolbert as a threat to the security of the United States. President Carter initialized security directives against President Tolbert and President Reagan subsequently implemented those directives.

(2) It is clear that Liberians DID NOT carry out the assassination of President Tolbert. Remember what First Lady Victoria Tolbert recounted that there were white skinned men in masks who came into the Executive Mansion.

(3) For the first two days after the Coup, the BTC Post Stockade was under the command of American English accent men. I was there.

(4) Note that President Tolbert was due to visit Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) on Monday, April 14, 1980 to codify the impending independence of that nation. President Tolbert had worked with Dr. Henry Kissinger on the detail of the independence. The USA had to act quickly to interrupt President Tolbert’s trip to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). If President Tolbert had been successful in the independence issues, he would have been untouchable – by British acceptance. Remember who all receive the Nobel Peace Prize regarding the independence of that nation that is still governed by President Mugabe. I sat in on the confidential negotiations held in the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, and also sat in on many of the meetings between President Tolbert and Dr Kissinger.

(5) Note that President Senghor, who was President Tolbert’s Vice Chairman of the OAU, was forced to resign as President of Senegal within a year after the Liberian Coup. President Toure, was slated to be the first Executive Chair of the OAU, never became Chair of the OAU in spite of all the OAU preparations in Guinea. President Toure subsequently died at the Cleveland Heart Clinic in the USA.

(6) Note that United States Secretary of State George Shultz subsequently initialized the CIA command and control operations in Liberia by visiting Liberia several times, confidentially, during the early days of the PRC.

(7) Note that the United States had yet never had a southern Atlantic military base until the advent of AfriComm, which even now is managed from Stuttgart, Germany. I recently met in Columbus, Ohio with the AfriComm Operations Commander.

Mr. Editor, the United States executed a PERFECT “Hidden Hands” operation in staging the background and action of the Liberia Coup d’état of 1980. The rest is history!

Best regards,

Ijoma Robert Flemister,
irflem@msn.com

culled from Front Page Africa 4/27/2010

By Nat Galarea Gbessagee

(2003)

Long before publication of former Liberian foreign minister H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr.’s latest article, “Before the Setting of the Sun,”  (Liberian Orbit, October 2003), the Liberian chat room was blazing with questions by avid admirers wondering why he had not commented on the present changing military and political tides in Liberia. So given the brilliant rhetorician and astute politician he is, Mr. Fahnbulleh delivered a masterfully crafted rhetorical prose that dabbled in the historical and psychological imperatives for the last two civil wars and associated political and social uprisings in Liberia, to the keen delight of the thirsting souls that laid in wait of his quenching words of wisdom, to devour it with their varying interpretations. But crushed below Mr. Fahnbulleh’s psychoanalysis of a bleeding Liberia is the dialectical underpinnings of the various insurrections the country had experienced, which bespeak more of a people highly determined to cause each other grievous mental and physical harm at opportune times with arguably bizarre explanations and justifications, than a people truly committed to the building of a pluralistic society respecting of equal rights, equal opportunities, justice, fairplay, and rule of law.

I am the lest impressed about the growing propositions of plausible remedies to the Liberian crises by persons who seemingly mean well, but whose vision and urgency about creating the necessary social, economic, and political conditions for social justice, fairplay, rule of law, and democracy in Liberia were, and perhaps still are, somehow buried in ideological and military adventurisms to supposedly correct the wrongs in society. I had insisted in numerous articles that Liberian politicians and “intellectuals” missed numerous glorious opportunities in 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1997 to lead the Liberian nation and people out of their so-called “intractable political immaturity and bewilderment, and educational and social backwardness,” to a new and prosperous life in the psychoanalytical promised land of democracy and rule of law, that any belated saber rattling can only undermine the new quests and urgency to start anew and build from scratch what our astute politicians and intellectuals had failed to do.

The folly of men and women of letter who have managed through their rhetorical and intellectual skills to cultivate a clan of cult followers, is to continue to advocate rapid and grandeur schemes of total liberation that defied the reality of our times. I believe that the last few decades of civil unrests and fraternal political breeding and un-insightful intellectual discourse in Liberia have made more pressing the need for Liberians to cultivate new tactics and approaches to peace, unity, reconciliation and democracy in Liberia that are more in sync with the objective realities of the social, economic, and political developments of the Liberian nation and people, than of any utopian concepts.

For if mere psychoanalysis prevails over the dialecticism of the Liberian problem, we may have to tighten our boots for the long walk ahead, as poster Nyan Wotor succinctly articulated in count one of his five-count analysis of Mr. Fahnbulleh’s article in an AfricaOnline chat-room post October 29: “Point One: Conscious Political Actors Please Stand Up. Here, Fahnbulleh says that the two phases of our long civil war, coupled with Taylor’s reign, have caused mass violence, immorality and hustling to become more deeply ingrained than ever, in our culture. To him, this can be changed only by “social transformation” and the intervention of “conscious political actors.” Fahnbulleh describes “conscious political actors” as those who not only critically examine society, but those who participate in struggle in order to “actualize the results of [their] critical examination.” This theory of “praxis” is not new, but it bears repeating as often as possible until some of us get it and get involved.”
Here, it may not be far-fetched that Mr. Nyan Wotor understood Mr. Fahnbulleh’s calls for “conscious political actors” in Liberia to mean, and perhaps countless other Liberians share similar meaning, that it behooves Liberians to not only critically examine prevailing socio-economic, political and cultural ills in the Liberian society, but to take appropriate actions to “actualize the results of (their) critical examination.” Of course, it is hard to tell if the contextual use of “actualize” connotes violent or peaceful methods to attain one’s aim, but it seems to me that the message was clear even before it was written, given the anxieties and inquiries preceding the Fahnbulleh article, and Mr. Fahnbulleh’s own admissions in previous writings that he was at the forefront of the 1985 failed coup by former army commanding general Thomas Quiwonkpa, which tacitly laid the foundation for the 1989 military invasion by the NPFL.

And that 1989 military invasion of Liberia mushroomed into a catastrophic extermination of over 200,000 Liberians, and an epical 14-year nightmare that rendered Liberians as hopeless refugees and squalors in displacement camps in Liberia and mainly across West Africa, and totaled the country’s political, economic, social, and cultural institutions, and related general infrastructural developments. Even the unpredictability of the current confluent of politically motivated and ideologically separated Liberians, tucked together under a power-sharing transitional government at the behest of international mediators in the hope of restoring peace to the war-ravaged country, owes both its genesis and testimonial to the 1989 military invasion.

So when Mr. Fahnbulleh opines that “The logic of history evolves along its own path, incomprehensive to the ordinary eyes and to the simplistic mind…,” he is probably right, given the tendency of most Liberians to permit their respect and admiration for persons of power or authoritative figures in their lives, to dictate their evaluations of pertinent issues before them. And I know from whence I speak because when I wrote “Countering Political Rhetorical and Intellectual Misrepresentation in Liberia’ (New Democrat, October 2003), a self-declared defender of one of the political commentators I had mentioned in the article was quick to accuse me of attacking a “classy guy” without “provocation,” who usually presents the “truth”, and demanded that I apologize to the “classy guy” for my critical analysis of his article. “He was simply attempting to bring the public some thoughtful analyses on the Liberian story as he has done honestly for so long…. I think he deserves an apology. (Commentator’s name withheld)) is the epitome of “class”. Can we say the same for you, Mr. Gbessagee?” the poster asked. And when I said I would clarify any issues he had with my analysis, he added.”Good luck with any plausible reasons you plan to use to justify your bad analyses. Like I said, if you had any class, you’d simply apologize and move on.” Here, the substance of what I wrote was less important to the love, respect, and admiration the poster had for the commentator in question.

And it is that kind of mindset that immunizes us (most Liberians) from questioning the sincerity and truthfulness of the statements and actions of our friends and relatives, and emboldens us to dismiss outright as the working of a “primitive mind,” a fair warning from our “peasant” brethren that “Liberians are their own worst enemies.” For it is a tasteless social courtesy to not inquire of the speaker what he or she meant by such a bold statement, but how else does a peasant’s viewpoint matter than to be dismissed outright? Yet we proceed to rejoice in our vainglory and self-pride until the ripples of our indiscretion come full circles that we begin to look for scapegoats. And here we are once more presented with another golden opportunity to trace our steps backward from where we now stand, to ascertain if we needlessly stepped on a green grass that has withered, when we could have continued our journey without much harm to the grass. And perhaps, we could be humbled at last to repent of our mistakes and take a new direct path on which we will be in no position to wither the grass anew. But we are so self-centered in our tracks that we think our statements and actions were “justified,” and that statements and actions by others were “unjustified.” And that is the crux of the problem with peace and reconciliation in Liberia today.

But, apparently, Mr. Fahnbulleh is well aware of the strength in the simplicity of diagnosing the Liberian crises in such limited manner for his cult followers, and so he insists with much audacity and adroitness, “There are those who blame many of us for what they consider the ‘destruction of their society.’ If I may ask: which society are they talking about? Is it the one that established tribal Bantustans in the Capital—New Kru Town, Bassa Community, Vai Town, Buzzi Quarters—horrible slums where peasants drifted to after the confiscation of their land for the use of plantation owners? Can they be talking about the society where the Masonic Craft and the established Churches hoodwinked the people politically in acquiescing in their own oppression and exploitation? …What society are these people talking about for which they hold us culpable in its destruction? And how did we destroy this society? By explaining to the people the causes of their backwardness and underdevelopment and the paralysis of the nation? But tell me, what kind of society deserves to survive if a handful of illiterate peasants in uniform could overthrow it with such ease?”

Here, of course, it is highly unlikely that such rambling discourse and myopic attempts at self-exoneration through defiance and put down can appeal to anyone of reason, except, perhaps to cult followers. For a society must exist in order for one to seek its ”social transformation.” But if one who presupposes and assigns to himself the intellectual and leadership capability to lead such a social transformation also recognizes not the existence of the society he is to transform, how can such a person be a credible choice to lead the social transformation? And I am even dumfounded that an erudite and learned person who ascribes to others the sarcastic indignity of “handful of illiterate peasants,” would seek to take marching orders from the same “handful of illiterate peasants” in the capacity of foreign minister and education minister, and as a battlefield warrior in a failed coup. But such is the sad state that is Liberia!

Fahnbulleh is equally adamant that he holds philosophical sway over most Liberians in regard to the direction Liberia should take, to the extent that he self-assuringly pontificates, “The tradition we follow is one of critical analysis of our society and the courageous and revolutionary involvement to actualize the results of our critical examination. This is unlike those who have never participated in political struggles and think that because they have not sullied themselves with hatred, blame and aspersion, they will constitute the new corps of leaders who will be snatched up by certain international circles and imposed on the Liberian people. Such fantasy is the dream of starry-eyed novices. Political capital comes from grueling battles and not from taking the moral high grounds in situations of relative comfort.”

But Fahnbulleh soon bungles in irony. At one point he dismisses calls for changes to the Liberian constitution and says, “No matter which Constitution is given or adopted, nothing will change because the human material in this society is a highly combustible one without the discipline and consciousness needed to build a progressive democratic society. Where is the factor of accountability in a system where unenlightened peasants and destitute slum dwellers line up once in six years to select one of several wealthy candidates?…Maybe instead of changing the Constitution, we need to hire psychiatrists to examine the men and women who vie for power in our country! We may yet stumble on interesting disclosures where mad men and women, junkies and spineless cretins, hallucinating in their demented fantasy, delude themselves that they are historical figures. The debate over the Constitution is sterile and uninteresting…“

Then, at another point, he seems to recognize the constitutionality of the scheduled 2005 general elections, and advises, “We have to fight this election as if our very existence depended on it. The victory of the popular forces will usher in the new dawn of social justice, popular participation and democratic devolution, but defeat will signal the emergence of that clique for whom the nation and its people are cannon fodder in a grand scheme of atavistic nostalgia and political arrogance. The popular forces must unite and take state power before the sun sets on the battered dreams and flickering aspirations of that multitude which dared to hope for an alternative during the heroic confrontation of the 70s. This struggle must not only be fought! It must be won!!”

Here, the irony of Fahnbulleh’s brand of society lies not only in his bellicosity, but also in the very essence of the “social transformation” of a society in which “… we need to hire psychiatrists to examine the men and women who vie for power…” For if, in Fahnbulleh’s estimation, society is dominated by “unenlightened peasants and destitute slum dwellers,” and “enlightened” men and women who need psychiatric help to prove their worth, I sincerely doubt any persons would be left in society that will become “the popular forces” that “will usher in the new dawn of social justice, popular participation and democratic devolution.”  But even such characterization contradicts Fahnbulleh’s earlier rhetorical statement and question, “There are those who blame many of us for what they consider the ‘destruction of their society.’ If I may ask: which society are they talking about?” But it is such rhetorical statements and questions that present both Mr. Fahnbulleh and the Liberian people with an awkward dilemma and the paradox as to how anyone thinks he should be taken serious in prescribing remedies to a society whose constitution and existence he doesn’t recognize!

But the key to peace and stability in Liberia lies collectively with all Liberians, and not with Fahnbulleh as a person. So the main issue is not what Fahnbulleh says or does, but whether those Liberians (“educated” and “uneducated”) mesmerized and spell bounded by the flowery political rhetoric of him and other Liberian political firebrands, will for once cease to be mere followers of intellectual intrigues and become independent thinkers capable of charting a national course for Liberia, in which sullying oneself with “hatred, blame and aspersion” will not be the capstone for greatness, and where power will not reside in the hands of “village peasants.” For such a proposition is more a fantasy than a reality in our modern world dominated by democratic and free market forces. And I even doubt if ever there was a time when power truly resided in the hands of  “the people” or “ village peasants,” without powerful cliques running the whole show in the background in disguise. Therefore, Liberians must harness their political, economic, social, cultural, and human resources by living and working together in peace to build a pluralistic democratic society in which every Liberian will be treated fairly before the law, and given equal access to employment, educational, and leadership opportunities.

I have indicated throughout my writings that the Liberian crisis is more complex than we all care to admit. It is hard to believe by the level of atrocities committed by all sides during the last two civil war that Liberians were that cruel toward one another. And perhaps we didn’t know because we were either too young or not yet born, and did not witness the Sasstown and Grebo wars in the last century, which were as gruesome and brutal as the last two civil wars. But now that we know, the solution is not to justify one action over the other, but to collectively take steps so that such atrocities are never again repeated in our national history. And I do not think that solution is possible with prosecutions under a war crimes tribunal, unless we, Liberians, genuinely want “justice across the board”, and not a “victor’s justice,” for there are no victors in the Liberian crises.  For Mr. Fahnbulleh, Jr., Gen. Quiwonkpa, and others committed a treasonous act under the Liberian constitution in their attempts to overthrow a sitting Liberian government in 1985, just as Mr. Charles Taylor and others in 1989, and Mr. George Dweh and others in 1999 committed a treasonous act each in their own attempts to overthrow a sitting Liberian government. Could each group have had valid reasons and justifications? Probably, “yes.” But none is exempt from committing treason under the provisions of the Liberian constitution.   And none of these cases can be excluded from a wars crime tribunal prosecution if we, Liberians, truly desire justice.  After all, each group took the guns over the courts, being fully aware of their repercussions of their actions regarding peace and stability in Liberia.

So when Mr. Fahnbulleh asks, “And how did we destroy this society? By explaining to the people the causes of their backwardness…” he is simply misstating the gravity of the case. For as much as his statement might be true in certain respects, his role in the 1985 failed coup can hardly be characterized as “explaining to the people the causes of their backwardness.” It was a calculated attempt to unseat a sitting government through the barrel of the gun and not through the ballot box, no matter what the justifications. And that failed coup attempt in 1985 accelerated the growing public distrust of the sitting government and caused a chain reaction that led to the 1989 military invasion, as well as the 1999 and 2003 military invasions. Hence, Mr. Fahnbulleh’s psychoanalysis about a bleeding Liberia needing a “social transformation” that he and his  “popular forces” must lead by winning the 2005 elections at all cost, is nothing more than a misdiagnosis.

Liberians must, therefore, think long and hard as to whether it is in the interest of all Liberians to make amends and work together to create society in which all Liberians can live in relative peace in pursuit of life’s many treasures, or whether it is in the interest of all Liberians to help Mr. Fahnbulleh create a society in which “Political capital comes from grueling battles and not from taking the moral high grounds in situations of relative comfort.” For me, I am not for Fahnbulleh’s society of the “fittest.” I am for Liberians reconciling their differences, even through what some deemed as “appeasement,” to create a new society of equal rights and opportunities we all can be proud of.  I know the task will not be easy but it can be done. And for that, I propose it is time to get beyond Fahnbulleh’s psychoanalysis of a bleeding Liberia. For I think all Liberians want to stop the bleeding of our country, but not with a mixture of hot pepper and vinegar!

By Nat Galarea Gbessagee

(2003)

In the aftermath of a series of recent intellectual exchanges I had with Mr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. regarding his confessed role in the 1985 failed coup in Liberia and on a host of other Liberian issues, several of his supporters took to the Liberian chat-room to accuse me of all sorts of outrageous crimes, ranging from “murder” to “information suppression.” And the charges surfaced only after I dared during the exchanges to remind Mr. Fahnbulleh, Jr. that his attempts to unseat a sitting government by force of arms in 1985 were an “act of treason” under the Liberian constitution, and not a “patriotic duty” as he had claimed. Mr. Fahnbulleh and I had greatly disagreed as to what constituted a “patriotic duty” and an “act of treason” relative to the 1985 failed coup, and made our respective positions known throughout the exchanges. But those exchanges were not enough for some Fahnbulleh supporters because I had “attacked” the “Fahnbulleh political Clan” by projecting a point of view that was unacceptable to their core belief, and I had to pay for my “arrogance” with a ruinous reputation.

Mr. Fahnbulleh first opened the doors to shady conjectures when in one of our intellectual exchanges, he branded me as a ”right wing fascist ideologue” in light of my critical analysis of his article, and his supporters soon followed suit by accusing me of participating in or directly witnessing (what they claimed was) the “murder at the Executive Mansion” of broadcast journalist Charles Gbenyon during the heat of the 1985 failed coup. And to prove their point, they claimed I worked at the Executive Mansion at the time of Mr. Gbenyon’s death, and that the deceased also reported directly to me, in spite of the fact that Mr. Gbenyon worked at the time as a broadcast journalist with the state broadcasting system, LBS, and I as a print journalist with the state news agency, LINA. The accusations against me later included membership in the “NDPL” (the late President Samuel K. Doe’s political party), “suppression” of the free flow of information in Liberia, being an “apologist” for crimes attributed to Mr. Doe, and so forth. Well, if any of these accusations were to be taken seriously, then I must have been the very powerful and influential man in Liberian politics I never even realized I was!

But this is Liberia. The truth doesn’t matter in any issues as long as it is politically expedient to ruin the reputation of a political or intellectual opponent, even if the accusations against the opponent are borne out of ignorance. For in the Liberian society, it is not difficult to find a group of persons, such as the Fahnbulleh supporters in question, who always want to have the authority to define for other Liberians not only what is “right” or “wrong,” but when certain statements and actions should be considered “right” or “wrong.” For instance, they want all Liberians to hold representatives of the deposed Taylor government and LURD and MODEL rebels in the new Liberian transitional government in contempt, even though all sides signed a peace agreement to work together. They also want Liberians to view the military offensives of   LURD and MODEL rebels in unseating a sitting Liberian government as an outright “criminal act” worthy of war crimes prosecution, but want the Liberian people to view the 1985 failed coup staged by Fahnbulleh, Jr.  and others, and the 1989 military offensives by NPFL rebels to unseat a sitting Liberian government, respectively, as a sobering “patriotic duty” worthy of glorification. And it is such clever manipulations for political advantage that are holding the search for lasting peace in Liberia hostage!

For I long to see the society that will ever live in peace and enjoy progressive developments where accountability for identical crimes committed against a nation and its people are adjudged on the basis of expediency and social status, and not on the merits of the circumstances of the crimes committed? And these were some of the arguments I put forth during the intellectual exchanges with Mr. Fahnbulleh, Jr. that subsequently earned me my “fascist” and “right wing political ideologue” credentials in the eyes of Mr. Fahnbulleh and supporters. But the truth of the matter is that I did not project a point of view that was not already defined by the Liberian constitution. The Liberian constitution is explicitly clear as to what constitutes an “act of treason” and the action of Mr. Fahnbulleh and others in 1985 in their attempt to overthrow a sitting government of Liberia constituted “treason.” And granted that Mr. Fahnbulleh and others had “good justifications” for the 1985 failed coup that still didn’t change the fact that the “act” committed was “treasonous.”

At least members of the PRC knew fully well that regardless of whatever justifications they had for the 1980 overthrow of the Tolbert government, an “act of treason” had been committed, and that might have been one of the reasons why they sought constitutional protection from prosecution under the new 1986 Liberian constitution. For if the coup had failed, the Tolbert government would have charged the PRC members and collaborators with “treason,” and it would have been a hard sell for members of the PRC to have claimed “patriotic duty” as a defense. But these are the times in Liberia! For every Liberian knows that the only reasons the PRC members were not charged and convicted of treason in 1980 had much to do with the success of the coup than with the crime. And the PRC moved swiftly to cover their tracks by first suspending the constitution, and later including a protection clause in the new constitution of 1986. So I am hard pressed that even the “illiterate peasants and slum dwellers,” (according to Mr. Fahnbulleh) who overthrew the Tolbert government in 1980 knew they had by their action committed treason under the Liberian constitution, unlike our  “enlightened” brethren who have continuously failed to recognize the gravity of their action in 1985 by recasting it as a “patriotic duty.”

So, then, you may ask, how did my projecting a constitutional definition of a crime voluntarily confessed to by one of the perpetrators of the crime lead to charges of “murder” and other accusations? Well, that is the Liberian way of things! He who ventures to point out the ills in society, or projects a point of view outside the obscurely defined “popular view” is a “provocateur,” and must be condemned and isolated from public view either through calculated smear campaigns and confinement at Camp Belle Yella (the notorious Liberian prison) or in other manners deemed necessary by the powers that be, in this case, Mr. Fahnbulleh’s “popular forces.” For in the eyes of Mr. Fahnbulleh’s “popular forces,” my critical analysis of the article of their leader and mentor was too “provocative” to let go without a retaliatory smear campaign against my character and integrity. For it doesn’t matter if I was ever in a position to participate in the crimes I have been accused of, as long as the information was put out there in the public domain. And these are the very problems Liberians continue to breed for themselves, whether educated or uneducated, rich or poor, prominent or less prominent, which are the causes of the nation’s downward sparrow into continued chaos, insecurity and underdevelopment today.

First, it is pathetic and very troubling that some of the very people who feel so “qualified” and “enlightened” to an extent to call other Liberians “illiterates,” don’t even know that the Liberian Broadcasting System (LBS), where Mr. Gbenyon worked, and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) where I worked, were (and still are) two separate and independent agencies of the Liberian government that had no direct daily working relationship and cooperation with each other with respect to news collection and reporting,  or  programming and research. And in all probabilities, it is impossible for a sub-editor to have supervisory authority over the work of an editor-in-chief in the same institution, worst more a sub-editor having supervisory oversight of the work of an editor-in-chief at another institution as alleged in the case with me and Mr. Gbenyon in 1985. But then, again, what is a smear campaign all about! A smear campaign is never about logic, objective reality or practicality, but about outrageous claims intended to malign the character of an opponent and incite the public against a particular target of opposition.

My accusers also settled on sweeping generations and hasty conclusions that because I had said in an exchange with Mr. Fahnbulleh that “I was covering the Executive Mansion when Larry Borteh and his medicine man were brought in for questioning during the (alleged) Podier coup attempt,” then I must have worked at the Executive Mansion, and I must have had firsthand knowledge about the inner workings of the Executive Mansion. But how sickening of the poor reasoning skills of our so-called “educated” Liberian brethren! For if people with such level of reasoning are the very people clamoring for political power in Liberia today, then the Liberian crises won’t be over anytime soon. For I don’t know how “covering” a particular story at a venue makes one an expert on what goes on at that venue? But for the edification of my detractors, I must now define what the words “covering,” “cover,” and “covered,” mean in the world of journalism.

In journalism, the words “cover,” “covering,” and “covered” refer to the physical presence of a journalist at the scene of an event—either by way of an invitation from organizers of a particular event, by tip-off from a second or third party with knowledge about the event, or simply by sheer coincidence—to report on (produce a news story) about the event taking place. So covering an event at the Executive Mansion, at the University of Liberia, or at the United Nations doesn’t imply that the reporter or cameraman (still or TV.) works for any of those institutions, or that he or she has direct knowledge and information about the inner workings and policy decisions and actions of those institutions. So it is difficult to fathom that a group of  “educated” people would misconstrue my “covering” the arrest of Larry Borteh and his medicine man at the Executive Mansion to mean that I was privy to policy decisions and other actions at the executive mansion or other places in government for that matter. And these are the kinds of people who are fomenting all the confusion and chaos in Liberia today by way of leaping to sweeping generalizations and faulty conclusions in their interactions with other Liberians.

I was equally surprised at the level of ignorance and ineptitude on the part of these “educated” Liberians regarding the functions and inter- relationships of the various agencies of the Liberian government. For instance, I was out-rightly accused of “suppressing” free flow of information in Liberia upon revealing that as part of my job functions as a sub-editor for foreign news at Liberia News Agency (LINA), I had to “read, analyze and select” news items from various international news sources such as AP in the U.S., DPA in the former West Germany, AFP in France, Xinhua in China, TASS in the former Soviet Union, and so forth for use by major Liberian radio, television and newspaper outlets that subscribed to the services of LINA.

But, unless, one is completely ignorant of the fact that a news agency is a professional news gathering and distribution network or service that thrives on balanced reporting to satisfy the interests of all its subscribers, it is difficult to reach such a conclusion. For subscribers to a news agency always maintain the right to publish or not to publish news stories, features and other items received, as was the case with LINA subscribers such as the Daily Observer, Footprints, Planning Ministry, and RIA, ELWA, ELCM and so forth. So my work as a sub-editor was simply to read through hundreds of stories every day, and select those items that were relevant to Liberia. For example, news items on socio-economic and political developments in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, three of Liberia’s neighbors, were deemed to be more important than similar developments in Qatar or Venezuela. And news items about donor countries of Liberia and international organizations were equally prioritized, as did news items about general human development such as scientific breakthroughs. In other words, the sub-editor for foreign news functioned as any number of analysts and researchers in business, industry and governments around the world, who performed similar tasks in their respective industries daily as part of quality control and maximum productivity. And if you heard about the Liberian Desk Officer at the U.S. State Department, or the Afro-Asian Desk at the Liberian Foreign Ministry, then you’re got my drift!

I also want the Fahnbulleh supporters to know that I have never affiliated with any political party in Liberia, and I am not an apologist for the crimes committed by any Liberian. I am only interested in equality and fair play in the Liberian society. I am not looking for scapegoats. I am looking forward to peace and stability in Liberia based on objective analysis of the Liberian crises, and not on the subjective analysis of a particular camp or group. And this is why I am not condemning any one group of Liberians for the crises in Liberia, nor do I think a war crimes tribunal would be a good idea without clear-cut victors in the civil war.  In essence, I want equality before the law for all Liberians, regardless of what crimes were committed, if Liberians truly desire lasting peace and stability in Liberia. But Liberia will continue to languish in anarchy and disunity if we attempt to categorize one set of crimes as “hideous and barbaric,” and the other set of crimes as “patriotic and wholesome.”

So let us not kid ourselves. Liberians can never have a peaceful and prosperous society where one group of people think they can violate the law and subject the Liberian nation and people to mass killings and destructions and then claim they were performing a “patriotic duty.” For such shady justifications won’t work. We need to get back to the drawing board to trace and dissect the various crimes Liberians have meted out against one another, and together find common solutions that will help us move forward as a nation and people. For, as I indicated in one of the exchanges with Mr. Fahnbulleh, “justifications are handy” and any Tom, Dick or Harris will always have ample justifications for whatever actions they take. But the people in society have no moral or legal obligations to accept such justifications at face value, especially where the justifications run counter to existing laws of the land.

And I think it is time for the group of Fahnbulleh supporters in question to know that if their tactics of smear campaign had worked in the past, its chances for continued success in the new Liberia would be bleak. I believe Liberians are getting to be more sophisticated about reading between the lines to decipher truth from fancy. It will no longer be an acceptable doctrine or norm in Liberian politics for a person who worked in high-profiled cabinet positions in particular Liberian governments to turn around and lecture others about how the government was a “ruthless dictatorship” and be taken seriously. For one is always free to stick to one’s principles and credibility for fairness and good governance at the very onset by stating why one may not be inclined to identify or affiliate with a particular group or organization, but it is hardly a serious proposition for one to wait until after one had affiliated expediently and peacefully with an organization and fallen out of grace before declaring the group he or she had affiliated with was after all “bad.” For that is a good selling point to core supporters but not to the average Liberian or me.  Because the key question that arises with such declaration is when did the realization set in?  And this is the very reason I want to “embolden Liberians not only to evaluate a public message, but to also evaluate the sincerity and truthfulness of the messenger.”

Liberians must also understand that there was nothing inherently wrong with working for the PRC government or True Whig Party government. For while both the True Whig Party and PRC were not “great examples” of good governance in Liberia, those were the two governments most Liberians alive today worked for, and unless you were in a decision-making capacity to shift the balance of power in national policies and development priorities, you have nothing to be ashamed of for identifying with or working for the True Whig Party or the PRC because someone who, along with his father, grand father and siblings worked with both governments, now wants to define for you which of the two governments was good or bad. And I think evidence had shown that since the falls of the PRC and the True Whig Party governments, the lives of Liberians have deteriorated severely without improvement. And that evidence points to a general lack of good leadership and patriotism in Liberia that neither the True Whig Party nor the PRC can compensate for.

The various interim governments of national unity of Liberia, and the NPP government had equal opportunities as the PRC and the True Whig Party to improve the living conditions of Liberians and plant the seeds of participatory democracy in Liberia but they all failed. So Liberians will do well to focus on the future by setting appropriate conditions and standards of good governance than worrying about what past Liberian governments could do but failed to do. For anybody who thinks it was a national stigma to work for the PRC or the True Whig Party is out to breed problem out of expediency and ignorance. For membership in the PRC or the True Whig Party was never a consideration for civil service employment in Liberia and it is not a consideration for civil service employment in 2003. At least in my particular case, I have never been a card-carrying member of any national political party in Liberia, because I have always considered myself a professional and not as a politician or party ideologue.  And my record is clear for all to see!

By Nat Galarea Gbessagee

(2003)

Next Wednesday, October 14, Liberian politician and businessman Charles Gyude Bryant would assume the mantle of state power in Liberia as chairman of a new transitional government that will seek to stabilize the war-ravaged country, and prepare the Liberian people for legislative and presidential elections in October 2005. Bryant’s mandate is part of a power-sharing comprehensive peace agreement signed in Ghana last August by representatives of 18 Liberian political parties, a dozen civil society groups, two rebel groups, and the sitting government, aimed at ending a four-year-old civil war. But Bryant’s election as chairman of the transitional government over more politically-connected and experienced candidates during the selection process has continued to generate negative vibes and political rhetoric amongst detractors of the peace process. And the uproar over Bryant’s selection is likely to be pale in comparison to the series of political challenges and manipulations that await his administration.

In the last three weeks alone, Liberian chat-rooms and online newsmagazines have been blazing with blatant attacks on the characters of chairman-elect Bryant, and the leaders of LURD, MODEL and the GOL for varying reasons, but mostly to undermine successful implementation of the peace agreement. One political commentator even dwelled on sweeping generalizations and assumptions as selling points in his denunciation of the peace process. “…Is there any reason to believe that Mr. Gyude Bryant, someone with no experience in government, no critical decision making experience, or leadership capability, will take over an interim government and in two years make it work? Is this not asking the young man to perform miracles?” And he continued, “Why was it necessary to give LURD and MODEL electoral power to select the interim government chairperson? Was that the only way to get those war criminals to negotiate for peace?”

And in the aftermath of the October 1 assassination attempt on the leader of LURD in Monrovia, another political commentator asked, “What was the leader of LURD doing in Monrovia? What was he going to discuss with (Liberian President) Moses Blah? How was that going to benefit the peace process?” In addition, some Liberians think the “international community” deserves credit over ECOWAS for the current semblance of peace in Liberia, while others have taken turns to identify supposed “culprits” for the massive destructions in Liberia in the last 14 years. Even persons who once held ultimate state power in Liberia but did nothing to stabilize and develop the country, are now on the sidelines projecting sweeping remedies and strategies on how best to resolve the Liberian crises when they appeared to have been the most clueless about these very remedies at the time they served as head of state and cabinet ministers in Liberia.

Now, if the instances alluded to in the last two paragraphs are not mere political rhetoric and intellectual misrepresentations, and then I would long for a new qualifier of these terms. For it is obviously far-fetched to think that the head of a major political party, and a long-time businessman, would lack “critical decision making experience” or “leadership capability.” Because if that were the case, Mr. Bryant would not have represented his party at a crucial peace conference, let alone being elected by his political peers from among 11 candidates as one of three finalists for chairmanship position. So it is clear that such categorical statements regarding Bryant’s decision-making and leadership capability are pure fantasies or “intellectual misrepresentations.” And the same logic applies to references to Bryant as a “young man,” his lack of government experience, and LURD and MODEL having “electoral power” –an inference for “veto power” — to elect the interim government chairman.

Again, it is hard to imagine that a person over 50 years of age, as Bryant is, would be considered a “young man,” unless the object is a smear campaign. In like manner, elections are not beholden to government service experience as proven by the election of actor Arnold Scafnzie in the recent Californian governor recall election. Besides, it is never possible anywhere in the world to have practical experience in any profession–government service included– before first working in that profession. And I would like to see the first Liberian who had Liberian government service experience before working for the Liberian government for the first time. Similarly, unless the intent is to misinform and mislead, it is difficult to argue that LURD and MODEL had “electoral power” to elect the chairperson of the transitional government without first dismissing or misrepresenting the electoral scheme and layers of verification set up by Liberian peace negotiators during the nearly three-month-long peace talks in Ghana. Bryant would have had no chance of being elected chairman if the political parties and civil society groups had not elected him during the first round of balloting. So any political rhetoric to the contrary must be dismissed outright as sheer propaganda intended to derail the peace process

Like the first political commentator, the second political commentator attempted to misrepresent the letter and spirit of the peace agreement by implying that the LURD leader had no business to meet with President Blah in Monrovia because the meeting won’t serve the peace process any good. But how so? How is the implementation of the peace agreement to take place as regards to power sharing, disarming and demobilization if the armed parties to the conflict do not meet directly to discuss suitable terms amongst themselves? Or do we entertain the falsehood that the international peacekeepers would intervene to forcibly disarm each warring faction, and provide protection for each warring faction representative in the power-sharing government?  I call this falsehood because it is highly unlikely that the peacekeepers would want, even if they are capable of projecting overwhelming force, to intervene indefinitely in a country where the people have no inclinations to work out their differences and work together. So yes, it is political rhetoric and intellectual misrepresentation to think that a meeting between two principal adversaries in the Liberian conflict is not necessary for peace and stability in Liberia. Indeed, the meeting was necessary if Liberia must ever be reunited for the Liberian people to return to normal life. For in the absence of confidence building measures, the warring parties might be tempted to assassinate each other’s appointed cabinet ministers and other representatives in the transitional government, and the fighting could start anew.

Of course, it would seem to me that by their questions and statements, the two political commentators are either diagnosing the Liberian crises from a monolithic or simplistic point of view, or are simply engaging in political rhetoric for the sake of blurring the reality inherent in the current Liberian situation. For in past and present Liberian crises, it is difficult to distinguish the “good guys” from the “bad guys,” given that most contemporary Liberian politicians, “intellectuals,” and so-called “civil society” leaders have had the tendency to jump political ship for social, economic, political and ideological opportunities with such frequency that one is hard pressed to identify or appreciate the principles and convictions of particular Liberian politicians and civil society leaders on national issues.

For instance, most of the current principal leaders of Liberian political parties, civil society groups, rebel groups and the government coalesced at one time or another to either help install, or help unseat, a sitting government of Liberia outside the democratic realms. Take the fiasco after the 1985 elections for example, the 1985 aborted coup, the 1989 NPFL military invasion, the 1990 made-in-Gambia interim government, the 1999 LURD invasion, and the 2003 MODEL invasion as glaring examples. In each of these cases, the same groups of politicians and civil society leaders simply switched alliances to continue their quest for political and economic power in Liberia.

Yet these same groups of politicians and so-called civil society leaders want the Liberian public to believe that they allied with the NPFL, ULIMO K&J, INPFL, and other rebel groups up to LURD, MODEL to destabilize Liberia in order to assure democracy and rule of law in the country, when their activities have proven otherwise. Besides, many leaders of these groups held high-level cabinet posts and related public positions in past governments of Liberia they now conveniently described in inglorious terms or professed to detest. For instance, most of President Taylor’s cabinet ministers and political, economic and security advisers held identical or similar posts in the deposed government of President Doe, if not the government of President Tolbert. And if you take a critical look at the composition of the opposition parties, civil society groups, the rebel groups, and the GOL, it will not be a rude awakening to find former and crossover members from one political, social or civil group now masquerading as bona fide and principled members of the next political, social, or civil society group.

In essence, Liberian politics and civil strives have always been about political and social expediencies, and not about freedom, democracy, fairplay, justice or rule of law. The prevailing logic has been such that if MOJA can’t deliver in time, go to PAL; if NPFL can’t deliver, go to ULIMO, and if LAP can’t deliver, go to UP; if SUP/LINSU can’t, go to FLY, and so on. For Liberians have proven time and time again that political and academic leadership, whether in government service or private service, is more a stepping stone for wealth generation and political self-aggrandizement at the expense of ordinary Liberians than about an opportunity to help shape national policies and programs toward human decency, justice and fair play. Liberian politicians want no serious opposition, while the Liberian academicians want no independent thinkers. Instead, the leaders of public academic institutions sought to create a cadet corp. of loyal followers, while the politicians sought to create a cadet corp. of praise singers. And these academic and government leaders have been so effective at intellectual manipulations and political rhetoric that their every misstep seemed logical to their respective followers.

For example, when the former chairman of the constitution commission felt it was necessary to bypass the constitutional process and ascend to power, many of his supporters applauded his move without question. When the former board chairman of an influential U.S.-based civilian Liberian organization sought to unseat the sitting government in Liberia through military means, many of his colleagues applauded his bravado and jumped on board without question. And when the rebel leader-turned-civilian president touted his “democratic” credentials while his security apparatus arrested, tortured, and sometimes killed perceived enemies of the government, his supporters proclaimed that he was “democratically-elected” so no other Liberians had the right to try to unseat him by the same military methods he had used to ascend to power. And the list of examples of political rhetoric and intellectual misrepresentations and manipulations goes on.

Hence, given these missteps and shortcomings in Liberian politics and civil life, I do not foresee any shortcuts toward sustainable peace and development in Liberia without a common desire to respect the letter and spirit of the Ghana Peace Agreements on Liberia, and work together as one people. And I am not implying that legitimate grievances against the various Liberian warlords and their supporters should not be investigated and settled. I am however suggesting that any attempts at revenge rather than peaceful or legal resolution of such grievances will be tantamount to a recipe for prolonged bloodletting and insecurity, and will not bring about sustainable peace and development in Liberia.

And given the fluid nature of the Liberian crises—where large groups of Liberian civilians and military and paramilitary personnel collaborated to destroy Liberia—it is impractical to think that the leaders of LURD, MODEL, and the current GOL are more culpable for war crimes and human rights violations than the leaders of Liberian opposition parties, civil society groups and erstwhile rebel groups who directly participated in the civil war as field commanders, or who indirectly participated in the civil war as strategic planners, financiers, and propagandists. So I do not subscribe to this newfound logic by some Liberians that lasting peace and sustainable development would elude Liberia and Liberians unless an international war crimes tribunal is constituted to persecute the perpetrators of harm on Liberians. I think attempts at diagnosing the Liberian crises in purely rhetorical terms will not lead to lasting peace in Liberia anytime soon.

We need to step down from our moralistic horses and see the reality around us. The Liberian people are dying in droves every day from malnutrition and other diseases as direct result of the civil war, let alone those maimed or killed in battle, or as unfortunate bystanders. We need to be more serious about the future stability and development of Liberia than dwell on such triviality as “it’s time for civil society (to rule Liberia),” as if “civil society” connotes a group of neutral Liberians who had no direct or indirect roles in the Liberian conflict. But this is not the case. The “civil society’s” choice of representative to the interim legislature just makes the case. In addition, one of the 67 so-called Liberian “civil society” groups, “the technocrats” have crowned themselves as a political block seeking entitlements to particular public offices, But what is Liberia doing with 67 “civil society” groups? And who are the Liberian “technocrats,” except persons interested only lucrative government jobs? Fellow Liberians, we need to stop these kinds of intellectual misrepresentations and political manipulations if we desire at all to stabilize and develop our country.

And the first test will depend on our willingness to implement the Liberian Comprehensive Peace Agreement, for which all Liberian stakeholders labored so hard for nearly three months in Ghana.  The peace agreement only spelled out the steps that need to be taken to restore peace and stability to Liberia, but the tasks for the implementation those steps rest entirely with Liberians across the board. Equally, the “international community” is only available to assist Liberians to stabilize and rebuild their country, but not to make Liberians unite or love each other. So the degree to which we respect each other, unite, and work together will depend on how eagerly we want to restore peace to our country. And there should be no reasons why we cannot use the present opportunity to unite and develop our country.

The first phase of the peace agreement was fulfilled with the election of the chairman and vice chairman of the transitional government. The next phase would be the swearing in of transitional government leaders on October 14. After the induction of the chairman and the vice chairman, the third and most crucial phase of the agreement —the working of the government—would have begun in earnest. Persons who have been shooting at and killing each other would now meet face to face on a daily basis in a unity government to chart a common course for their country. Here, the challenges and temptations would be enormous. But for the sake of Liberian peace and stability, it is my hope that the parties would swallow their pride and work together peacefully. And this is why each party is required to follow the provisions of the peace agreement to the letter, to avoid any misinterpretations of intent.

Overall, the Liberian Comprehensive Peace Agreements in Ghana should be seen as an effective tool and opportunity for Liberians to get together and build the kind of pluralistic and democratic society they have always craved, where equal rights, equal opportunities, justice and fair play would reign. The peace agreement was not intended to pacify anyone, nor provide a gambit for politicians to use rhetoric to blur the reality of the Liberian crises. And I suspect that many Liberians, who believed that the peace agreement was flawed in several respects, may be tempted to resort to political rhetoric, falsehoods, half-truths, and complete misrepresentations to undermine the entire peace process.  But these groups of Liberians are not the only ones affected by the continued fighting in Liberia. All Liberians are. So while we may respect the rights of our countrymen and women to disagree with the terms of the peace agreement, those of us who appreciate the peace agreement owe it to ourselves to counter any political rhetoric and intellectual misrepresentations.