A Celebration with Mixed Emotions and Great Uncertainty
(Independence Day Message delivered by Mr. T. Q. Harris)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 4, 2002

Editor’s Note: In observance of Liberia’s 155th Independence celebration on July 26, 2002, Mr. T. Q. Harris, National Chairman of Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic & Strong (UPS) organization, addressed this message to Liberians via the Internet. Below is the full text of his July 26th message:

My fellow Liberians:

As we observe the 155th anniversary of our beloved nation with mixed emotions and great uncertainty, I would like to thank the Almighty for preserving this land of freedom. Those of us alive today know full well we are blessed, because the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen have been snatched in an unending cycle of violence. Notwithstanding, the memory of our fallen compatriots remains fresh in our minds and will not fade until justice is served. That we are alive to commemorate this very special occasion is proof that hope abounds for a better future.

We all agree that after years of war, poverty, illiteracy, and now a generation of psychologically maimed children, there are no simple solutions and the recovery process will be slow. I need not list our country’s needs because we all know generally what they are, even if the order of importance differs. One thing for sure, we are all in agreement that it will require substantial financial and perhaps military assistance to put Liberia back on its feet. And furthermore, we all agree that whether Taylor is removed from the Presidency through the ballot box or by other means, the people of Liberia must rally around a leader in order to heal our nation and begin rebuilding.

Clearly, the assistance needed to bring about a leadership change in Liberia is not forthcoming, in part, because the opposition has yet to present someone who is a better alternative to Charles Taylor. If we are to receive any help, the Liberian people must show their patriotism and opposition leaders must demonstrate political maturity. My fellow countrymen, these are the steps we must take to bring this crisis to an end.

Think about this for a moment: If we cannot choose a man or woman to speak on behalf of the opposition in these very difficult times, how then do we expect anyone to believe the current class of politicians will work together after Taylor has been removed?

Charles Taylor’s acceptance as a respectable head of state is non-existent. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to believe support for next year’s elections could be obtained when many are uncertain as to whether Liberian politicians are patriotic and political matured.

To remove all doubts, we must select a leader –someone the Liberian masses would be inclined to support. From all indications, the majority of Liberians are not aroused by the class that continues to present themselves as alternatives to Taylor and/or leaders of the opposition. This is evident by the fact that even the most vocal politicians have been unable to mobilize Liberians inside or outside the country against the Taylor regime. When asked why there is a lack of support for the opposition, the overwhelming response is, “These people [the ol’ familiar politicians] are no different from Taylor and they are not credible!”

The solution to this elusive leadership problem lies not only in whom we select, but how that person is chosen. This is where politicians, such as, Dr. Moniba, Dr. Sawyer, Dr. Washington, Dr. Fahnbulleh, Dr. Dahn, Cllr. Cheapo, Mr. Wotorson, Mrs., Sirleaf and others must play a critical role if they wish to end the current nightmare. I want to believe they all have Liberia’s best interest at heart, but whether due to a series of bad decisions on their part, or circumstances that have implicated them, Liberians at large seem unwilling to replace Taylor with any one of these individuals. However, this impression could easily be changed if these very able men and women would choose to “lead” by using their experience and knowledge in supporting a “fresh face” –someone who is more palatable to the Liberian masses. A move in this direction would galvanize the populace and place the opposition in a better position to attract the necessary assistance to end the mayhem.

On this 155th anniversary, the question lingering in the minds of most people is: Are Liberia’s political leaders patriotic and mature enough to act responsibly? Ultimately, the pace at which Taylor is removed from the Presidency may hinge on the answer to this simple question.

I believed strongly it is time for new leadership and a new direction for our nation; this is why I launched my bid in 1997 for the Presidency. Though I have absolute confidence in my ability to heal the nation and revitalize the economy, as a leader, I am equally capable of supporting someone else, if this will save our nation from utter destruction.

Liberians, after all the suffering we have endured, must embrace a commonsense solution to our problems. We have talked, written and held numerous conferences around the world in the hope of halting the disintegration of our nation; but this, unfortunately, has not produced the desired result. What we needed in order to end the current crisis are the following: PATRIOTISM, POLITICAL MATURITY and VISIONARY LEADERSHIP.

Our people are dying because of the lack of leadership. They are looking for a new face who will represent a break with the past and hope for a better future ...a future that must include all –those who have served in previous administrations and those who have not.

We, as leaders, must pick a man or woman who will lead us out of this quagmire. The way forward is for each opposition leader to pledge their support to a competent person who is acceptable to a cross-section of Liberians and encourage his or her followers to do likewise for the good of the nation. We all know that in a representative democracy, the leader is merely a spokesman for the whole. The current situation has given us an opportunity to build our own democracy from the bottom up. We must decide on this “26-Day” whether to stop the bickering and save Liberia, or continue on the path of destruction.

Thank you.

May God grant us peace and bless Liberia!

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