We Demand The Right To Live In Peace

By B. J. Samukai


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 7, 2004

I come from a generation of the 1950s: Born in Monrovia, and played at the YMCA, went to school in Yekepa and admired the fortune of Mount Nimba, played Volley ball in Palala Bong County, was groomed on Bolahun Mission in Lofa County, where I shoke hands with the late President Tolbert, practiced advanced Taekwondo in Buchanan, and went camping in Todee. These were normal days.

Normal days seem to have gone by in years, since the death of President Tubman, or since the brutal murder of President Tolbert in 1980, or should I say since the 1989 NPFL invasion, or the IGNU years, or since the collective presidency that evolved out of Cotonou, or since the notorious six years of the Taylor Presidency. Regardless of which period we may wish to go back on, a generation of Liberians has been denied the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the land of their fore bearers since armed violence was introduced into our country.

We may recall The Tubman years of “Unification Day – let the people drink and be merry”, the Tolbert Years of “Total Involvement for Higher Heights – From Mats to Mattresses”, or the period of “Concomitance – political administration in exchange for guns”, the reckless leadership of Charles Taylor and Alahaji Kromah to bring guns and bombs to Monrovia on April 6, 1996, and the arrogant posturing of Roosevelt Johnson leading to the brutal response of Charles Taylor in slaughtering “over 300” civilians on Camp Johnson Road in 1998.

Indeed the Tubman years had very troubling inequities which bore its own costs in “Heart Men and attempts in political assassination”, as well as political repression. Back them Liberia was a beacon of hope on the horizon, a land with anticipated potential for progress and relative stability, an environment in which people could live in peace and harmony, and at a time when emerging Liberian generation could look toward the future with some hope. One may argue whether there were more than 50 Liberian refugees anywhere in the world at the time, than at any time in our history. Liberians were able to travel anywhere in country, from Cape Palmas to Toe Town in Zwedru, from Yekepa to Monrovia, from Lofa to just about anywhere in the country. We had no “General “butt naked”, no “One man one”, neither were there “God Blessed You Gate”, “LURD, NPFL, LPC, ULIMO J or K”, not even “Concomitance”, much more anything like “Black Berets”.

The Tolbert years brought promises to get rid of the patronage system of the Tubman years. It was time to work. It was a period of slogans reflecting burning desire to bring out the best of every Liberian. At the same time, it provided an open opportunity to challenge the status quo against the background of “progressive forces”. The Tolbert Years saw Liberia taking the center stage in championing the cause of African Liberations, especially the liberation struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Liberians were very proud traveling abroad on holidays, getting higher education overseas (in the US in particular), and returning home to begin the process of entry into the Liberian political administration, either as Special Assistant to the Minister, or Assistant Minister, or a Junior Level position within Government, or Public entity. There were Feeder Road Projects, Farm to Market Roads, Rally Time, and all the siblings of an emerging democracy. The failings of the Tolbert years did not make Liberians beggars in the region, or perpetual refugees, or disillusioned displaced people. Liberian refugees had all but gone from the registry of the UNHCR during this period.

There were no mandatory displaced people in the country, although Malthusian Population Thesis saw migration in anticipation of better opportunities in urban areas. There were neither “Yamoussoukro Series”, “Cotonou Agreement”, “Geneva Clarifications” nor "Abuja Accords”. Liberians were able to freely travel from Cape to Coast, from Monrovia to Loguato, to Danane, from Maryland to Tubman burg and elsewhere. Hell yes, I say these were normal days. We were in a competitive environment with degrees of inequalities, but we could challenge the status quo and live for another day.

The bloody military coup of 1980 ushered in a reckless illusion of ethnic dominance by segments of the generation who felt victimized and were denied equitable political and economic power since independence. This arrogant fantasy of political and economic acquisition was protected by the overwhelming use of military might to achieve an objective which was lost in the tantrum of endowed limitations. Education through home studies and accelerated programs became the justification for possessing the requisite credentials for political leadership.

An explosion in violence began. From military coups to military coups: “Kolonkuo Luo episode”, “Nicholas Podier and Nimba Raid” “Fifty Caliber Flanzamington fiasco”, “Col Jebo brief rebellion and the Group of 16 from the Commando Strike Force Unit”, “Illusive Cooper Tiah”, “Quiwonkpa Invasion”, and the notorious NPFL invasion. The years of the 1980s saw a rapid expansion in domestic construction, against the back drop of increasing circulation of Liberian five dollar currency, and flows of foreign aid. Football took a big boost from support of the political leadership. The national Football season had Mighty Barrolle dominating the famous “LEC Tournament”, and “Who Owns the Land Competition”. The County Meet became a national pass time. Lone Star received extensive support during the 1980s than any other administration in Liberia. To the credit of the 1980’s, Liberia produced many football stars that later on became international football stars, and watching Lone Star Play had challenging hopes for excitement. However, these bright normal days were eclipsed by the ethnic brutality of the political administration, and the violent response of those compelled to resist.

Elections 1997 were intended to bring in some semblance of normalcy. But December 1997 saw the brutal nature of the elected president. Charles Taylor acquiesced in the actions of his principal confidant and security chief, Benjamin Yeaten who arrested Samuel Dokie and family, leading to the bloody raping, mutilation and burning of the opposition leader and his family. This state sponsored act of terrorism finally saw the end to any illusion of return to decency after almost 17 years of violence.

Since 2003, after “Ghangay Chuky Taylor” was booted out of office and shipped into exile awaiting trail in Sierra Leone, The people of Liberia felt a glimmer of hope and sigh of relief. After all these years, the hope of the people of Liberia to return their country to the rule of law has unfortunately fallen in the hands of the NTLA (a gang of un-elected individuals with nocturnal intentions). The recent actions of the NTLA regarding the NEC Electoral Bill are classic demonstration of reckless abuse of legislative power, and useless reliance on individuals with absolute disdain for return to normalcy.

The people of Liberia owe no apology to the NTLA to demand that they pass into law the electoral bill given them by the National Elections Commission. The people of Liberia should demand in a very loud voice, that the NTLA MUST PASS INTO LAW the electoral reform bill given them by the NEC, in keeping with the compromise agreement between the government, NEC and the international community. It is about time that all meaningful persons, including students of the university of Liberia, civil servants, marketers, friends in the media, and the general public demand the NTLA to recall the so called electoral bill passed, and reconsider it in keeping with the understanding of the NEC. The NEC is not a by-product of the NTLA, and thus should not be coerced by the NTLA. The NTLA seem to be behaving in a “reckless and arrogant” manner, and is demonstrating a grudging disregard for the suffering of the people of Liberia.

Return to normal days and the remaining years of this generation will depend on a stable environment through democratic elections, and the ushering in of a credible political leadership, with no apology to reckless individuals such as some of those in the NTLA. If members of the NTLA believe they have a constituency, let them put themselves to test through passage of the NEC Electoral Bill, not the reformed version of the NTLA.