Who Stole the Soul from the Land of Liberty?

By Thomas Awadjie

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 4, 2003

Now that our tiny impoverished nation of Liberia is once again in the spotlight of the international community, it is time that we Liberians put aside all of our differences - hatred, tribalism and classicism that led to the slaughter of over two hundred and fifty thousand of our brothers and sisters. Such hatred brought about the displacement of thousands of families, and the destruction of an entire nation.

As a young Liberian, who has lived in America longer than in Liberia, I was fortunate enough to leave Liberia as a child, long before the ethnic cleansing and deep seeded hatred began to take its toll on our people. I am and will always remain a Liberian who is very passionate towards my people and country. I have learned from history that classicism has existed in Liberia since the first freed slaves settled on the land, but history never taught me anything about what or if any ethnic cleansing ever took place. Like every society, you have those who have and those who have not. I don’t ever recall being hated or discriminated against by anyone who saw me as a descendent of freed slaves, nor did I have any hatred for anyone from the Bassa, Mano, Gio or Kru tribes. I grew up in a community where I went to school and played with friends of all ethnicities including American, European, Africans and Middle Easterners; never once was any hatred displayed towards one another.

I can recall trips to the interior parts of Liberia, where I was always welcomed with open arms and never once looked at as an outsider. This brings me to the question of when did all the hatred began in Liberia? Hatred so strong that an entire nation came crumbling down.

The hatred the Germans had for the Jews did not destroy Germany, the hatred for Blacks in South Africa did not destroy that country, and the hatred many Americans had and some still have towards Blacks and other minorities has never destroyed America. Yes many lives were lost and many hopes destroyed, but the hatred never brought down the entire country. WHY WAS LIBERIA DESTROYED? IS THERE HOPE FOR LIBERIA?

There are Liberian citizens in almost every country around the globe. There are Liberians living in almost every state in this country. There are an estimated 2-5 thousand Liberians living in the state of Georgia, but yet we are so divided. In the tiny state of Rhode Island where there’s a large Liberian population. We are separated into the Krahn, Gio and Bassa organizations. I thought we were all Liberians? Is there any one ethnic tribe that benefited from the brutality of Samuel Doe or Charles Taylor? Is there any one ethnic tribe that is living better than the next in Liberia today? How many of us here have lost an uncle, aunt, sister, brother, cousin or a friend? Some of us don’t even know if our loved ones are dead or alive. I am sure that each and every one of you understands what I am talking about.

I could never imagine the type of fear our people are facing on a daily basis. The fear of going to bed at night as bombs and bullets explode around your house or in your neighborhood. The same kind of fear that could prompt the entire nation to vote and elect the person responsible for the murder of our loved ones. How can we consider such a person, our leader? Someone who puts guns in the hands of children and orders them to kill their own people. Someone responsible for his rebels raping, stealing and killing innocent people. What happens when this bunch of rag tag thugs takes over? What group or tribe are they going to use as revenge?

I believe it is time that all Liberians who claim to love their country unite and put the hatred and differences behind them for the good of our country. We as civilized people cannot allow the actions and sins of generations past to continue the division among us. If we don’t take the time and effort to rectify the issues of the past, then it is bound to manifest itself through our children for generations to come.

Charles Taylor was indicted for war crimes against the people of Sierra Leone. The indictment should have included war crimes against the people of his own country. Let’s keep our heads up and continue to pray and work towards a better and new Liberia. Many of us got out and never cared to look back; some of us were born here and some of us became American citizens. But Liberia is and always will be our home. Let’s work together as a people to develop the place we once cherished as the “LAND OF LIBERTY”, a place where we can one day take our children and grandchildren to see and learn about their history and culture. Some of us believe that we can teach our children all they need to know about their history and culture right here, but remember that you cannot train a person to hunt without going in the wild. Many of us have the training, talent and God given abilities that would be needed in the reconstruction, and upliftment of Liberia.

We Liberians should gather around and support someone that we will respect and trust to lead Liberia in the direction it should have gone. Someone who will respect and fulfill the wishes of the Liberian people; someone who will respect and give us the liberties to live as a civilize society.

The international community and the Liberian people should not allow any of the individuals responsible for the devastation in Liberia to play any role in the government or the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Liberia. Who in the civilized world wants a leader that boast about killing and eating the heart of a human being? If they had to rape, kill and steal to become our leaders, what are they going to do in order to hold on to that leadership?

This year, while Liberians in Atlanta, Philadelphia an New Jersey came together on the 26th of July to celebrate our independence, an 8 year old child picking potato greens outside the walls of the American embassy, was killed instantly by a bomb that exploded nearby and the leaves he was picking to eat floated in the air around his body. ARE WE REALLY FREE? Whose independence were we really celebrating, while our people continue to live and die in the state of bondage.

As a civilized people, we should never, ever again have to hear the phrase - “You killed my ma you killed my pa, [but] I will vote for you.”

Now that the ruthless dictator Charles Taylor has been forced out of the country due to the massive pressure of the international community, especially the United States, are we now free? Mr. Taylor is still communicating with his henchmen in Liberia. Why was he given the opportunity to live in Nigeria with his stolen wealth? Liberia will never have peace until the rapists, murderers and thieves are brought to justice to face the punishment for the crimes they committed against the people of Liberia.

The Liberian people should set an example and give the future rebels and warlords something to think about the next time they decide to pick up arms against them. I know that there are a lot of people out there who are very optimistic about the future of Liberia. As a Liberian, I too am optimistic, but with a hint of pessimism, because history has a way of repeating itself. The civilized world should never allow what happened in Liberia over the last 14 years to ever happen again.

I wonder, why would anyone want to negotiate with and appoint a person to run the justice Ministry when they have not faced justice for their crimes? What could possibly be accomplished by such an appointment? How can you appoint a person responsible for arming and drugging 10-year old children and ordering them to commit such despicable atrocities to run the Ministry of health and social welfare?

We should never allow this to happen! We have to stand up and let our voices be heard. We have to work with the United Nations to re-establish a better Liberia for all Liberians. Chairman Bryant has to set standards for the people he appoints to these vital positions He is an educated and fair minded business man; I am sure that he would not want to hire someone who is not qualified to run his company. Therefore, he should apply the same standards for government appointees. After 14 long years of horror, the Liberian people deserves better.