Editor's Note: On October 12, 2002, members of the Brewerville Civic Association converged in Atlanta for their Annual Reunion. Cllr. Mohamedu F. Jones served as Guest Speaker for the Annual Reunion Benefit, which was sponsored by the Georgia Chapter of the Brewerville Civic Association. Below is the full text of Cllr. Jones' speech:
Cllr. Mohamedu F. Jones
Mr. Executive Director, Members of the Board, National Officers, Officers
of the Georgia Chapter, and Members of the Brewerville Civic Association,
Special Guests, My Brothers- and Sisters-Liberians, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Where have we been?
It is a special honor for me to participate in this program and to serve as
your guest speaker at this year's Annual Reunion Benefit. I propose to offer
you my perspective on matters related to Liberia's past, as well as the current
situation we live in our nation's history. I also propose to share with you
my thoughts on some of the themes around which we may build national consensuses
to find resolutions to our nation's problems. It is important that we Liberians
engage in conversations around finding resolutions to the crises that have
been going on in our country for nearly 25 years, noting that arguably, the
foundation of some of our problems were laid from the beginning of the Liberian
The theme of your 2002 Benefit is "Where do we go from here?" I
believe that you will agree that before one can offer an informed response
to this very poignant and pertinent question, "Where do we go from here?"
you must first examine two preceding questions: first: "Where have we
been?" and second: "Where are we now?"
The history of Liberia presents a country that is fundamentally flawed. Liberia failed to live in accordance with its declared principles, but instead what we developed was a society of exclusion, where full participation in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural life of the country was denied to the majority of Liberians. It was a system designed with the purpose and the intent to deprive certain Liberians of their declared natural, inherent and inalienable rights, because of their ancestry, and to reserve the benefits of the society to but a few, because of their ancestry. This was wrong and we must not allow it to happen again.
I, for one, apologize for a system, which by virtue of one's birth, denied equal
opportunity, excluded participation in the governance of the country, restricted
enjoyment of economic benefits, and refused entry into certain social and cultural
statuses. This was terribly wrong and we must never let that happen again.
Our history also presents tragic tales of political leadership that showed contempt
and disdain for the civil, political, economic, social and cultural well-being
of Liberians. During his 27 years in office, President Tubman's primary focus
was to maintain himself in power, and therefore, he worked assiduously to dismantle
even the rudimentary institutions of democracy that he met when he took office,
and set bad examples for his successors. We must never let that happen again.
Liberia's history is filled with political violence: the wars against Liberian
citizens, the Kru and Grebo wars, are prime examples of national political violence.
Many Liberians were violently persecuted so that President Tubman could stay
in power: In the 1950's the Colemans (father S. David and son John) were murdered;
Nete Sie-Brownell and S. Raymond Horace were imprisoned; and Didwo Tweh was
exiled. In the 1960's, E. K. Sherman, H. Boimah Fahnbulleh, among others, were
On April 14,1979, many Liberians were wrongfully killed in the streets of Monrovia
by government forces. On April 12, 1980, members of the Liberian armed forces
and their co-conspirators staged a coup d'etat, and announced that they had
"liberated" Liberia from a regime that they claimed was "rampantly
corrupt" and "oppressive." President Tolbert was cold-bloodedly
murdered. On April 23, 1980, 13 Liberian citizens were unlawfully killed in
barbaric fashion on a beach of Monrovia. These are crimes from which Liberia
has still not yet recovered, even after more than 20 years.
Between 1980 and 1990, thousands of Liberians were murdered, tortured, raped,
persecuted, imprisoned, and even buried alive or decapitated by government security
forces or their agents, so that President Doe and his collaborators could hold
onto power. On the day before Christmas in 1989, war was unleashed upon the
people of Liberia for the declared purpose of again "liberating" us,
this time from President Doe. In September 1990, President Doe was tortured
(on video for the world to see), and eventually murdered, by his fellow Liberians.
In the1990s, our country disintegrated into all-out war - a war in which some
of the most egregious crimes against humanity, war crimes, and violations of
human rights, in the final decade of the 20th Century occurred. During this
war, we saw men in all their vain glory, who would totally destroy the country,
if that's what it took for them to take political power. The complete national
consequences of our civil war are yet to be determined, as they are still unfolding.
Such liberations as we have experienced (in 1980 and then in the 1990s), make
some Liberians even wish their erstwhile oppressors were still in power.
This, my fellow Liberians, is a brief portrait of where we have been. However,
I submit to you, that considering the immediate pre-1980 national events, and
especially when viewed in comparison to other countries and societies, there
was no just reason for the 1980 coup, and certainly not for the unending political
violence that has continued in the country since then. Our inability to find
non-violent resolutions to our national problems has been costly. We Liberians
must learn to use non-violent political resolutions for our political problems.
Violence as a tool of the political process in Liberia must end.
Where are we now?
Today, life expectancy, literacy, primary education, and access to basic health care are lower in Liberia than they were in the 1970's and1980's, and perhaps then they were even in the 1950's and 1960's. Average infant mortality in Liberia has increased significantly - many Liberian babies are doomed to die. Today, the government fails to advance democratic pluralism, to promote democratic institutions, and to protect the fundamental constitutional rights of the people.
Poverty, unemployment and social disintegration are facts of daily Liberian
life, be it urban or rural. The insecurity that many Liberians have about the
future - their own and their children's - is intensifying. The gap between the
rich, many of them connected in some form or the other to President Taylor,
and the poor has increased appreciably in recent years. Liberians are abjectly
poor and have very limited access to income, resources, education, and health
care. In their daily lives, the overwhelming majority of the Liberian population
must cope with the effects of a major economic depression and significant social
The country's monetary system is awry. The agencies of government are dysfunctional,
and unable to provide basic services; no sustainable development occurs in the
country today. The natural environment of Liberia is at serious risk, as forests
are destroyed at a rapid pace. The current government has no plans or programs
looking to the future. This is where we are my friends.
And then war goes on in Liberia! The so-called Liberians United for Reconciliation
and Democracy (LURD) continues to wage war in Liberia, exacerbating the already
dismal situation the country and its people face. One must wonder if these are
men, no more than blinded by ambition, only motivated by lust for power, or
bent solely on revenge. We must also wonder if they are merely seeking to copy
Samuel Kanyon Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor, and their proven pathways to power.
All Liberians of goodwill must condemn war against our people, waged by whomever.
We have resolved nothing with over 20 years of violence. I submit to you my
fellow Liberians that we will resolve nothing with further violence. Indeed,
the evidence is clear that political violence in Liberian has only worsened
the condition of the Liberian people and the country, and there is no reason
to believe that continued violence would bring us any relief.
Where do we go from here?
My friends, I wish I had a crystal ball or the powers of prognostication
to answer that question. However, I will say that as a nation and people, we
would be in the better position if President Taylor were to immediately announce
that under no circumstances would he contest for the presidency in 2003. I believe
the evidence supports the proposition that after 12 years on the national political
stage, and especially taking into account the five years of his presidency,
and considering the track record of the president, there can be no conceivable
benefit to Liberia for President Taylor to run for another term. A declaration
by the president that he would not seek re-election would be a mark of respect
for the people of Liberia. History will judge the president more benevolently
if he were to be magnanimous and remove himself from next year's presidential
As we engage in national conversations about our future, I propose that we see
our current situation as presenting opportunities to finally do what Joseph
Jenkins Roberts failed to do, what William V. S. Tubman refused to do, what
William Richard Tolbert could not do, what Samuel Kanyon Doe had no idea to
do, and what Charles Ghankay Taylor has no interest in doing: build a Liberian
I offer as part of this national conversation ten (10) "principles for
the future" of Liberia.
Institute the rule of law in Liberia, so as to enable a stable legal framework,
in accordance with our constitution, our laws and legal procedures; promote
justice in the country.
Respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons.
Institute transparent and accountable governance in Liberia, particularly
in the use of public resources. Open the budgetary process and the management
of public institutions to public scrutiny.
Establish structures, policies, objectives and measurable goals in the design
and implementation of economic and social policies. Give priority to providing
and improving basic social services.
Focus government's efforts and policies on addressing the root causes of
poverty in Liberia and to providing for the basic needs of Liberians.
Take measures to facilitate full participation of all Liberians in all aspects
of the political, economic, social and cultural life of our society, and in
the economic progress and social development of the country.
Develop the means and capacities for people to participate in the formulation
and implementation of social and economic policies and programs for their local
Promote social integration and foster a society that is stable, safe and
just, is non-discriminatory, and advocates tolerance, respect for diversity,
and equality of opportunity, solidarity, security, nationhood, one that offers
opportunities for all Liberians to participate in matters of national affairs.
Recognize and respect cultural, ethnic and religious diversity; promote
and protect the rights of persons belonging to the various ethnic and religious
groups in the country.
Formulate and strengthen time-bound national strategies for the eradication
of illiteracy and universalization of basic education.
I suggest to you my fellow Liberians that it is around principles that the discourse
of our national conversations ought to revolve. Liberians must formulate national
consensuses regarding the issues that confront our country, and develop these
consensuses into actionable programs and plans that are guided by a common interest
in the well-being of Liberia's people.
It is incumbent upon us to resolve the issues that are destroying our homeland.
We owe a duty to our ancestors; we owe a duty to ourselves; we owe a duty to
our children; we owe a duty to generations yet unborn. We, each or us, one to
the other, owe a duty to every other Liberian, from the black hills of the Wologisi
range in Lofa to the blue-green waters of Lake Shepherd in Maryland; from the
winding valley of the St. Paul River to the life-giving forestlands of Grand
Gedeh; from the high peaks of Nimba to the coast line of Sinoe. We owe this
duty to Liberians from every village, every hamlet, every town, every city,
everywhere Liberians live. With God above, we can save Liberia.
God bless you
God bless all Liberians wherever we may be
God bless Liberia
I thank you