A Plea For Liberians To Refocus

Cletus Segbe Wotorson

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 26, 2002

Like many of you, I have recently noticed a heightened intensity of the outpouring of colored emotions, invectives, and accusations by Liberians against other Liberians. As if the blame shifting and character assassination were not enough, it seems that much of the vitriol is being generated and disseminated by those whose tenure in Liberia's political theatre, demands a level of maturity that recognizes the sensitivities and the real needs of Liberia over and above personal needs.

It is neither my intention here to defend the omissions or commissions of any Liberian, that have resulted in unspeakable pain for our country, nor an attempt to muffle perceptions of the track records of visible Liberian politicians. I continue to believe that at the appropriate time and place, each Liberian will have to give an account for whatever nefarious role he/she may have played in dismantling our nation. My primary concern however, is that this pre-occupation of vilification, whether justifiable or not, has the propensity, at this critical time, to detract from what should be a unified focus to find common solutions to reversing the downward social, political, and economic free-fall our country is in. Political discussions and differences of opinion and perspective are hardly irrelevant but I truly believe that this energy could be best harnessed and utilized to identify realistic options for our national revival. It seems to me that today's "politics" should be geared towards resuscitation and realignment of sentiments for the betterment of our people. Revisiting old conjectures solely as a means of antagonizing some and disqualifying others from the discussion is in no way helpful in the long run. While I am aware that this contribution might make me the next target, I humbly submit that we should TONE DOWN THE LITERARY GYMNASTICS AND REFOCUS ON THE ISSUES THAT IMPACT THE DAILY LIVES OF THE PEOPLE OF LIBERIA, AND EFFORTS TO TOWARDS ENGENDERING A COMMON NON-GOVERNMENTAL CONSENSUS WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF UNITY.

Although many of us have been away from Liberia for some time, I am sure upon reflection, a great majority of us find ourselves aspiring to make our homes once again in Liberia. No matter how many variants of American, European, and other accents we may concoct, no matter how culturally adept we may become to our new environments, institutionalized barriers and ceilings will always overtake us. More important however, we all know in our heart of hearts that we cannot continue to sojourn in "a strange land." Against this background, it is clearly imperative that we direct our energies towards changing the policies and realities that compel us to live away from home and that have now categorized our nation as a "pariah" state. The ability to shoulder this awesome task can be found entrenched deep within our collective will if only we can allow ourselves to look past that which seems to divide us. This is the commitment that I have always tried to personally COMMIT MYSELF TO. Discovering the collective will should be our focus and we should not spend our time and energies denigrating or desecrating the efforts of our fellow Liberians. We are all we have.

I am reminded that when I was a college student in the United States, there was a small number of Liberians who concentrated in still fewer locations. But since the early eighties, it appears our people are everywhere. In fact, I once thought that there would be no Liberians to be found in Alaska. I later learned to my surprise and quiet pleasure, that there were two Liberians working on the Alaskan pipeline. My point is that if a country's success can be measured by the amount of professionals and skilled persons she has, and then Liberia surely can be considered richly successful. Unfortunately, frustration over the events in Liberia is now the order of the day among many of our people, and rightfully so. Regrettably, in response to that frustration and lost hope, many Liberians today living in the United States and/or Europe have simply thrown up their hands in resignation – too many have given up on Liberia.

I am further reminded of how so many Liberians in the United States and in Europe seemed resolutely supportive of Charles Taylor's crusade in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, people slowly began to realize that this crusade had no clear direction or objective beyond Samuel Kanyon Doe. The rest is our sordid history with civil war. Later, many Liberians now cognizant and appreciative of the political realities at home, banded together in an effort to prevent the further militarization of Liberia and the dissolution of the respect for the rule of law under the banner of a united political front. Of course, those efforts ultimately failed in the '97 elections, because of basic social fractiousness. The results of the elections of 1997 will forever remain a glaring testimony to the consequences of our inability or refusal to discover the collective will, unite behind a common agenda, and set aside our perceived differences in order to serve the highest interests of our nation. Indeed, one would assume that the events of 1997 would have taught us an important lesson. Clearly, we are now experiencing in a very direct way the result of our folly.

Our inability to put nation first translates into our direct culpability for the creation and sustenance of a government that continues to abuse its citizenry, turn its back on basic promises and services, and is willfully and wantonly sanctioning the destruction of our precious ecosystems. As we head toward another important decision in 2003, it appears that selfish political strategies and individual political agendas are beginning to overtake the need for lasting peace, sustainable development, true reconciliation, and the future's promise. In spite of the numerous meetings and conferences Liberians have convened over the last several years (including the most recent in Bethesda, Maryland and Burkina Faso), we seem to be headed back into the abyss of distrust, selfishness, elitism, and shortsightedness. If we must bring about meaningful change in the political direction of Liberia, it is incumbent upon each Liberian, particularly, each political aspirant to subjugate the personal ambitions, set aside our differences, and focus on the common good of Liberia. Our sole preoccupation should be the reversal at all costs of policies that do harm to the Liberian people and which thwart their aims and aspirations. If we can focus in this way, then we will truly begin to educate all the political spectators and participants that Liberia needs sound, experienced, sincere and transparent leadership that appreciates the aspirations of our people for a better quality of life.

So my dear brothers and sisters, for the sake of everything that we individually or collectively have ever held sacred; for the sake of hope; for the sake of all those many Liberian children whose future our divisiveness have compromised; for the sake of the that father and mother whose hopes have been devastated, because we refuse to listen to their pleas of a united front; for the sake of every Liberian whose life peace and serenity were disturbed because our omissions and commissions lay birth to a “pariah” nation; let us focus on the substantive issues and cease this compendium of character assassinations and vicious campaign of vilification. Our country needs our creative minds for preferable constructive engagements. TONE DOWN!

About the author: Cletus Segbe Wotorson was the presidential candidate of the Liberian Action Party (LAP) and the Alliance of Political Parties in the 1997 elections in Liberia.
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