Liberians’ Failure to Speak Out Has Undermined the Creation of a Democratic Society

By Winsley S. Nanka

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 25, 2003

Liberians’ failure to speak out against undemocratic practices in the Liberian society has undermined the creation of a democratic Liberia. Liberians have a history of sitting silently while repressive governments humiliate the few that dare to speak out or challenge the political system. Cases in point are:

In the 1950s, David D. Coleman, Didhwo Twe (D. Twe), Nete Sieh Brownell, Tuan Wreh, and the others that challenged the autocratic rule of Liberia’s 18th President, William V.S. Tubman were subjected to all forms of inhumane treatments resulting into either deaths, forced exile or years in jail. In the 1960s, Albert Porte, who is described by a veteran Liberian political agitator as “the greatest crusader for democracy in modern Liberia’’, Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Sr, and the few Liberians that challenged the political system were victimized by the autocratic regime of William V S. Tubman. In almost all these cases, Liberians rewarded President Tubman with resolutions denouncing their fellow countrymen.

William Richard Tolbert ascended to the Liberian presidency in 1971 with the hope that the political landscape would dramatically change. This did not happen. The “first generation of the modern Liberian political agitators” including Baccus Mathews, Togba-Nah Tipoteh, Amos Sawyer, Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. and etc., demanded the creation of a pluralistic society in Liberia based on democracy, justice and the rule of law. The True Whig Party oligarchy arrested the political agitators and charged them with treason. Typically, Liberians failed to speak out. Instead, they condemned Baccus Mathews and others, calling them “trouble makers”.

In the 1980s, Amos Sawyer, Baccus Mathews, Alaric Tokpa, Ezekiel Pajibo and others challenged the military regime to respect fundamental human rights and return Liberia to democratic civilian rule. Instead, they were charged with treason. In some cases, the military junta summarily executed Liberians, very few Liberians spoke out against the absence of law and order in Liberia. The vast majority of Liberians remained silent in the face of egregious violation of human rights by the military dictatorship.

The 1990s saw the dismemberment of Liberia by various Liberian warlords including Charles Taylor, Alhaji Kromah, George Boley and others. The majority of Liberians again failed to speak out against the atrocities committed by the Liberian warlords. The few Liberians that elected to speak out about the brutalities committed in Liberia were severely victimized. Communications medium including newspapers and radio stations were routinely shut down by the Taylor regime without public outcry in Liberia. Again, as in the past, very few Liberians spoke out against repressions in Liberia in the 1990s.

If we want to create a democratic society in Liberia, we have to be prepared to challenge our rulers to democratize Liberia based on the rule of law. Every Liberian has an obligation to point out the weaknesses in our governing structure if we want to see a better Liberia tomorrow. The burden of speaking out must not be left to the Tiawan Gongloes, the Bishop Michael Francises and others. Liberians must remember, “silence is not an option in the face of injustice”.

Although, there will always be a concerted efforts by the undemocratic forces in Liberia including LURD, MODEL and the remnants of the Taylor regime to silence Liberians today. Liberians must not allow it to succeed. For instance, I have received threats from elements that are either sympathizers or members of MODEL or LURD because I dare to question first, the qualifications of the MODEL appointees in the interim government. Second, call for justice in view of the atrocities committed in Liberia over the years. Let me publicly put all those that threaten me on notice, I will not relent in my desire for social justice in Liberia, furthermore, if I receive any more threats, I will inform the appropriate authorities.

Finally, nobody will stop me from speaking out about Liberia. The issue of Liberia is too important to leave it to the undemocratic elements in the Liberian society to decide the fate of the country. Liberians must continue to work with “democratic minded” Liberians in and out of Liberia to bring social justice and accountability to Liberia. All well-meaning Liberians must demand justice and the rule of law in Liberia. The dictatorial forces in Liberia will fail because “history is on our side”