In Ghana: Liberians Celebrate 156th Independence Amid Chaos

Moses M. Zangar, Jr.
Accra, Ghana

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 29, 2003

Thousands of Liberian refugees, joined by several others attending ongoing peace negotiations in Ghana on Saturday, July 26, unenthusiastically commemorated the country’s 156th Independence Anniversary.

Liberia turned 156 amidst an imbroglio in Monrovia that has reached a cataclysmic proportion, where one of the world’s worse unspeakable and eye-catching human catastrophes is taking place. Global efforts are slowly underway to save the country from drowning into an ocean of tribal feud and fratricidal bloodbath.

The occasion, for many Liberians in Ghana, was a day to worship and beseech God’s redemption of the nation and soberly reflect on the period of bloody stalemate in the country. However, for others, it was another avenue to enhance social fiesta, mainly to drive away their worries.

Attempts by authorities on the Buduburam Refugee Camp to suspend social programs leading to merriment and drunkenness were thwarted as entertainment centers on the camp were filled while hundreds of Liberians drank and danced away their frustration. The failed suspension of social activities, according to Camp Manager John Thompson, was in solidarity with victims of the war in Monrovia.

Hence, hundreds of people congregated in various places of worship on Saturday while scores of others were gathered at an intellectual forum in an attempt to appraise Liberia’s 156 years of existence as an independent nation. The intellectual discourse was organized by a group of Liberians including exiled student leaders. It was held under the general theme, “Post Independent Liberia: A Proto-type of Bad Governance.”

Presidential hopeful Dr. Marcus S.G. Dahn, permanent Liberian journalist and media consultant at the Media Foundation for West Africa Wellington Geevon Smith and exiled President of the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU) J. Alphonso Socrates Nimene were three out of five panelists critiquing the systems of governance Saturday.

The three men in separate statements, reasoned that after 156 years of independence, the country was still underdeveloped and ravaged by tribal feuds and fratricidal bloodbath.

Prof. Marcus Dahn in his deliberation maintained that the leadership of Liberia has been held by what he called “ avaricious men” with an incredible appetite for absolute power and men who were inherently corrupt with “ingrained ruthless” dictatorial tendencies towards the governed.

He said successive regimes have mortgaged the future of the country through the practice of “political exclusionary tactics.” Consequently, Liberia still lags behind in terms of development and faces entrenched depression and oppression in all facets of the country.

The problem in Liberia is that those without knowledge possessed and held onto power at all costs while those with the knowledge had no power, thereby excluding a large segment of the people, Dr. Dahn intimated.
According to him, nepotism, favoritism and sycophancy coupled with unchecked political power that has no limitations are also vices responsible for continuous violence in Liberia.

“We Liberians must get out of our comfort zone and make personal sacrifices if we wish to get hold of our destiny as a people.”
For his part, exiled student leader Alphonso Nimene pointed to the exclusion of indigenous people from the political economy of Liberia coupled with the exploitation of their labor as being a factor responsible for the quagmire in the country. The exclusionary policy adopted by successive governments, he said was deliberate and not a historical error.

Permanent exiled Liberian journalist Wellington Geevon Smith said the application of justice was questionable and that the Liberian Constitution in practice does not protect the rights of everyone. The Constitutional problem in the country is as old as Liberia and needs to be redefined, he said