Liberia: An Opportunity for National Renewal

By Joe Bartuah

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 20, 2003

I feel obliged to join hundreds of thousands of Liberians at home and abroad, in welcoming Chairman Gyude Bryant and his new team of rulers as they assume the onerous task of pacifying and sanitizing our common patrimony. I must also seize this opportunity to strongly commend the resilient people of Liberia, who remain undaunted, despite being subjected to all forms of insanity and degradation in the past 14 years.

It is noteworthy that in spite of all the horrors unleashed on them over the years, Liberians generally remain compassionate and optimistic about the future of their dear country.

And so it was not surprising that the arrival and induction of the Bryant-led transitional government were with euphoric fanfare and jubilation in Monrovia. I believe that ordinary Liberians, like myself, mean well for that excruciated country and are always inclined to lavish compassion and forgiveness on their heartless compatriots who are bent on tormenting them, just to satisfy their inordinate ambition for power and wealth.

I was in Monrovia on August 31, 1995 when Alhaji Kromah and Charles Taylor were given tumultuous, messianic welcome by the same Liberian people the warlords had been smashing their relatives with rockets and all forms of death toys.

The hope then was that since the warlords themselves were now in Monrovia, the senseless war would have ended. But as it turned out, the Liberian people were wrong! The warlords had different agenda! Taylor and Kromah, using the irrationalism in Roosevelt Johnson camp as an alibi, plunged Monrovia into another round of turmoil; hundreds of innocent people were killed!

And so as Liberians again welcome another warring factions-dominated transitional regime, there are mixed feelings whether war-mongers will not again repeat the follies of history to turn Monrovia to a hell-hole.

In any case, I remain cautiously optimistic, assuming that as a nation and a people, we have all learned our bitter lessons at this point in time. There are several lessons one can learn from the senseless Liberian war, but the cardinal one is that as Liberians, we are all intertwined and therefore, our fate is inextricably intertwined. Another bitter lesson is that no group of people has an exclusive monopoly over violence and therefore, no group of people must delude itself that it is stronger than the rest of the Liberian people.

In other words, the reality is that we are all in the same ship of state and must stress our LIBERIANNESS rather than exploiting our ethnic diversity for parochial political gains as a few disgruntled people had myopically sought to do in the past.

I am cautiously optimistic because I strongly believe that the advent of this transitional government under the eagle’s eyes of the international community is a grandiose opportunity for us to lay a formidable foundation for democratic pluralism and economic resuscitation. We must also set in motion the necessary mechanism for socio-cultural sanitization.

This time around, we must convince the global community that as a people, we are equally susceptible to political refinement as the rest of the human species; let’s prove our detractors wrong! There are hundreds of tax payers in the developed world who believe that we are beyond political redemption and Liberia is a “failed state” that must be placed under the tutelage of the United Nations for political rehabilitation before sovereign statehood can be restored upon it in the future.

Such cynics can’t fathom why their governments must continue to spend taxpayers’ money on peacekeeping in a country where the citizens themselves continue to plunge their homeland into abysmal degradation. It is such people we must strive to convince, through our exemplary deeds, that we are a proud people very anxious to optimize our potentials, when given the chance and needed assistance.

In the next 24 months, our actions must convince the world that the 14 years of insanity which pathetically devastated our patrimony and devoured some 300,000 of our compatriots and foreign residents was a cultural shock, or political mutation, which must not be allowed to rare its ugly head once again.

Now that the warlords have taken their covetous positions in Monrovia, Liberians will be keenly watching to see whether this transitional regime, whose content was almost exclusively dictated by the three armed groups, can deliver the peace and democracy we so desperately yearn for.

As I as see it, if the warlords and their cohorts have the political will, such possibility is not remote. The first indication that they mean well for Liberia will be demonstrated by the qualification, competence, stature and character of their nominees to the various positions allotted to them at gunpoint.

If they go beyond the parochial confines of their respective factions and enlist the services of qualified, competent and capable Liberians with the requisite rectitude and orientation to fill the various positions, that will show to the world that their military onslaughts were selfless nationalistic undertakings, primarily aimed at ridding the country of a heartless, inhumane dictator so that the Liberian people can come together and lay out a decent democratic foundation in a serene and secure environment.

On the other hand, if they are seen in the next couple of days, to be nominating political neophytes and charlatans of checkered character with past criminality to occupy otherwise honorable posts, that will indicate their desire to replace one rebel dictatorship with another rebel dictatorship. In any case, many logicians would reason that the factional gurus be given the benefit of the doubt.

Whatever the case may be, Liberians must not be passive spectators at this time, but potent participants. We must insist on expeditious disarmament! Let’s demand accountability and fiscal discipline from our new rulers. Acceptable legal precepts must be followed in the administration of justice, being mindful that we have perennially been victimized by arbitrariness under successive regimes; we must not shirk our civic responsibility at this time, because when the misrule of tyrannical regimes ultimately culminates into chaos, it is the unarmed majority that are victimized.

To put it squarely, the Bryant-led transitional team has a herculean task to set the nation on an irreversible democratic course in next 24 months and therefore, needs the guidance of Liberians from all walks of life. It is in consideration of this that I have lifted my self-imposed journalistic moratorium, by reactivating my NEW THINKNING column, so that together we can begin a robust national debate that will hopefully culminate into carving out a better political landscape for posterity and ourselves. It is a patriotic call, a national exigency that no one must ignore.