Calling For Political Compromise: A Rejoinder to Brother Konneh

By Alvin J. Teage

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 14, 2002

In his open letter to Liberian opposition politicians, Brother Nvasekie Konneh espouses the thinking of Liberians who want firm-oppositional unity in order to avoid more harm to their beloved country ( He recommends, among other things, that one opposition candidate should represent the opposition in the scheduled 2003 presidential election. This recommendation is profound, and thus, requires a timely and civil talk among Liberians. But one is not called here to recollect had he or she has been moved by the oratorical or written skill of a specific Liberian politician; it maybe solicited when our people are free and can rejoice alike. Instead, one is called to demand and participate in a timely Liberian oppositional unity. This is needed to select a candidate to represent the opposition because when the regime in Monrovia is acting contrary to the expressed or implied will of the Constitution and laws of Liberia, it is important for Liberians to unite and send that regime into retirement. I, therefore, believe that the underlining message of Brother Konneh's open letter honestly aims to push Liberians toward unity, and, because the message is in touch with reality, I support and advance it.

It is reasonable to assume from the large amount of political-campaign materials we have heard or read in recent months that a few speculative Liberians are preparing to send a parade of candidates to the 2003 presidential election. These Liberians believe that they maybe best served by having as many presidential candidates as possible in 2003. However, this “everybody for himself or herself and God for all” approach is an unrealistic way of addressing the Liberian situation. The basic fallacy of this approach is that it mistakenly concludes that the regime in Monrovia will gladly change its criminal habits, respect the Constitution and laws of Liberia, and will allow the parade of candidates to exercise their constitutional rights. This approach diametrically ignores the reality that confronts Liberia, and one does not need academic papers to understand its unsoundness. It is, therefore, disturbing to see some Liberian opposition politicians so splintered on an issue that presents such a straightforward conclusion. Our nation, I fear, will be ill-served if the political opposition refuses to send a single presidential candidate to the 2003 presidential election.

If the regime in Monrovia were to invite Liberian opposition politicians for political talk mediated by a neutral body, many, if not all, would show up and fellowship with this regime, albeit that it is the murderer and oppressor of their people. So why would this same group of opposition politicians refuse to genuinely talk among themselves for purposes of making political compromises?

I am reminded of a few political compromises that were made and are being made by a great nation that is today a refuge to thousands of Liberians, including members of the Liberian political opposition. I am reminded that because of its political compromises, Liberians within its borders can peacefully demonstrate to show support for their sisters and brothers back home, and reasonably speak their minds without fear of being tortured, illegally detained, or extradited for “treason.” I am reminded that because of its political compromises, its president and members of his or her family must comport themselves to the rule of law. I am reminded that because of its political compromises, four of its former presidents, and scores of its former government officials, are living private lives within its borders. I am reminded that because of its political compromises, its citizens are guaranteed due process of law. I am reminded that because of its political compromises, the majority of its citizens can afford standard living. Who or what gives any Liberian the authority to use political stubbornness to prolong the suffering of our People!

One wonders what a Liberian presidential hopeful, after refusing oppositional unity, would explain to our women, children, and elders in the various displaced and refugee camps, as to the reason their suffering was prolonged. One wonders what those around the various presidential hopefuls would explain to an entire nation about their inability to demand that their political camps suspend personal political campaign and form oppositional unity.

The creation of a democratic Liberia was a major goal of the framers of our Constitution when they resolved that all powers are inherent in the people. Therefore, we could say that the power to act in case of a national emergency, like the one that confronts us, belongs with Liberian politicians, and thus, the masses must remain dormant. We could exclude ourselves from the campaign to find solutions to Liberia’s problems and hope that the international community will rescue us. We could advance the Liberian blame-game, exclude ourselves from the national responsibility, and advance the “everybody for himself or herself and God for all” approach. Or we could act for our beloved nation and demand that Liberian presidential hopefuls form oppositional unity, and reserve for ourselves, the right to call a convention with well-meaning Liberian opposition politicians, should the collective opposition reject our proposal for oppositional unity. Because in the heart of every Liberian lies the path to freedom and democracy.

There have been times when I have wondered whether Liberians are capable of creating representative democracy in my lifetime. My life so far has felt the violent passing of two Liberian presidents, and it appears that the present occupant of our Executive Mansion, as commander-in-chief of the murders and oppression of his fellow Liberians, is heading for a similar end. One has to admit that there is something terribly wrong with the Liberian society. But our society can be better because Liberia is a nation with interdependent groups and intradependent subgroups, each with its own agenda, working to achieve national betterment. So you have to recognize in another Liberian the values that are lacking in you and compromise for the national interest.

In fact, there are times when Liberians, motivated by freedom and democracy, simply cannot avoid the steps that must be taken to address our national problems. Hopes are weakened and confidence in leaders is damaged when our opposition leaders are unwilling to truly unite and address our political and social problems. I note the truism that it is difficult to get Liberian opposition politicians to form oppositional unity. And I have no illusion that this will be easy, especially when there are well-meaning Liberians in the Diaspora who devote more attention to alumni and social associations than they do to the direction of their country. But to countenance disunity of this sort would subject our beloved nation to more dangers. One must, therefore, not subscribe to this act of sleepiness concerning Liberia’s liberation.

However, as the night turns to day, and with less than ten months before the scheduled 2003 presidential and general elections, I cannot communicate with certainty as to what lies ahead for Liberia, or where we will be six years from now. But whatever may come to pass, this much is for sure: there will be a new group of Liberians, having achieved the statutory age, working with other well-meaning Liberians to lead our nation out of its darkness. Moreover, as a sidebar yet important matter, the flame of freedom and democracy has spread to too many Liberian hearts to be extinguished by official lawlessness. So let the regime in Monrovia note that, our freedom-loving and vocal Brother, despite a terroristic-phone call from an agent from the Executive Mansion, remains committed to Liberia’s betterment.

An old rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun. "Could it be," asked one student, "when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it's a sheep or a dog?" "No," answered the rabbi. Another asked, "Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it’s a fig tree or a peach tree?" "No," answered the rabbi. "Then when is it?" the pupils demanded, "It is when you can look on the face of any [Liberian] woman or man and see that it is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night." [See Tales of the Hasidim].

May God/Allah bless our words so that our people, especially members of the Liberian political opposition, can soon start speaking alike and make a timely political compromise for the national interest; may He be our Strength and the Focus of our eyes for the times that we may stumble along this rocky journey. Indeed, it will be written that with respect to Liberia’s betterment, some of her people talked, some wrote, and some fought; but collectively, they established a peaceful and progressive Liberia where her announced best was always surpassed. I respectfully submit.

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