Scary Voices In The Air: The Chorus Echoes Again In Liberia


By James Torh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 20, 2004

As we mount preparations for another political season and the eyes of the world faced on our dear country, Liberia, for the 2005 presidential and legislative elections, and the decision of sports-brained George Weah to step in the political arena to contest the nation’s highest office, our brothers and sisters are drumming and dancing in the streets with a message “he know book or not, I will vote for him”. Sure, some couple of hundred of well-wishers showed up the other day when the soccer player arrived in Monrovia from Europe and indeed were darn honest to raise their song. Many Liberians in the Diaspora are saying - and for obvious reasons. He is not educated and not politically oriented to deal with the bundle of problems created in war ravaged Liberia, a country coming out of decade of brutal civil war.

But George will pack spirit in the democratic process and the ability to stir it up because intellectual depth in today Liberia has rarely been a prerequisite of the political process. Liberia is not about ideas and decent political agenda but who can provide the bread today for voters, even if the bread can not sustain you for the next 12 hours. Our society is not enlightened where knowledge, intellectualism, ideas, analysis, comparison and sensible judgement are of essence. Our people can believe anything that comes out of even from a warlord’s mouth. This is not a fart joke but the stark reality. The essential weapon in Liberia now is let me pass today and receive a T-shirt to add to my clothes. The saying goes “dog meat sweet, but what I will eat before the meat gets dry”? So the scoffing needs not to get too loud because you might not even be in Monrovia to vote.

What is painful and difficult to understand about our country is how people quickly forget events and their immediate past. The worry and question continue to ring in my ears disturbingly, what lesson have we learned? People who few years ago took pride and strut the streets in singing “you kill my pa, you kill my ma, I will vote you” are beginning again to make new songs. They sang the song for a man who visited mayhem on our nation. His excuse and reason was he spoiled it and he could fix it. He got money and would provide computer to every child. But after he was awarded the presidency, he created chaos, blood-shed without end - people went down in the hail of bullets and made the country ungovernable. The world came into his blame game and our country and the dignity of our people slipped low. This is why these kind of songs shouldn’t make us feel smug but rather make us feel worried.

Personality and level of political orientation, reasonably intelligent and political sane is not key. Such is far from the Liberia political community, even if the presidential candidate is stumbling over words to get his message through. His extreme rich lifestyle-his wealth in a society of less than 3 million people counts - his speeches, his appearance, and his usually blank facial expression are non of our business. This is why George will make the process hotter and solidify his image . I understand from rumours that a young fresh-faced, charismatic, principled and relatively unsullied by Monrovia’s virulent political and human rights struggle was contacted to be on the team. The question is, can he make a difference or embrace and share the dangers and cost of nuance policies in the midst of opportunists and in a cage full of wolves? He fought and spent his career working for the rights of the disadvantaged individuals who found themselves on the wrong of our polluted society. Liberian politics is a double-edged sword that one must be careful to handle.

We understand from sources in Monrovia that some deep throat, cunning and crafty politicians, new veiled, old face are exploiting the popularity of the soccer player in the vacuum so created by our old time politicians to take charge of the political process and storm into the governing chain of our country. These are the people who will surround him when he becomes president of Liberia to whisper in his ear to lead our dear Liberia to a noble destiny because everything or anything is possible in the rough world of politics. Our materialistic and individualistic politics for self-interest, which lack the necessary innovation to save our country, is resurfacing again. Liberia is an interesting country!

Just take a moment of reflection and see what is happening in Monrovia under Bryant’s watch. On the merely offensive end is the ever-lengthening queue of those who believe that unswerving loyalty to a political master, or even what once considered the privilege of public service, entitled them to every thing from cushy jobs to lavish lifestyle. Officials in Monrovia in the dark political arts who toiled down the hall of the parlour of the Executive Mansion are understandably nervous that the systematic plundering of the public purse is acceptable culture.

We need to tread cautiously as we move on the path of clapping for democracy not to behave like ostriches. We need let-up the various afflictions that held our country hostage for the past 14 years- arm conflicts, poverty, hunger and diseases. We must be careful in the search for a leadership not to put in power people who will go berserk in self-perpetuation agenda, which is sure going to bring Liberia again to its knees; if sanity does not prevail in our political judgement. Please let somebody listen. We should not throw away our tomorrow.

James Torh is in Toronto, Canada