Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The dream to build Liberia continues as she celebrates 164 anniversary

By: ralph geeplay

Susana Lewis and her peers decorate the flag

The struggle for self determination and rule, Liberia’s constant battle to govern itself since its foundation is still a work in progress after 164 years of independence. There has been many hitches and glitches in the nation’s history  to progress because the premise and promise that informed its establishment have been upset, but a people’s resilience to live in their ancestral homeland despite the many odds put in their path has been their only inspiration.

These are the hurdles to Liberia’s development: ethnic bigotry, tribalism, nepotism, a nasty hegemony and dictatorship, corruption, and war. If anything, the inhabitants have reinforced their determination to rebuild their nation despite a long civil strive. It is no secret  say observers that our internal conflicts were always instigated by players who desire for power and a winner take all mentality further embroiled the country in chaos.

Historians say, the emergence of the nation in the 1800s was a clarion call for liberty, since  the interplay of events leading to Liberia’s foundation attest, wherein the rights of the former Liberians in their homeland were being denied. They came home to the African soil to find peace and live freely. On the first voyage, according to accounts were 88 free blacks on the Elizabeth. The ship was, duped “The Mayflower of Liberia”. The journey began from the New York harbor on February 6, 1820. The actual mayflower was the 1620 ship that transported the first pilgrims from England, Great Britain to Massachusetts which began the founding of the United States of America.

There were high hopes that Liberia would be the beacon of hope on the African continent, and the black world. Its foundation was meant to symbolize a great opportunity, that men and women of negro descent were capable of governing themselves, free from Jim Crow. Liberia, therefore was meant to be a state looking after its own affairs while treating all under the law equitably.

The great Liberian patriot and academic Edward Wilmot Blyden who immigrated to Liberia four years after the nation was born declared in 1861 (“Hope for Africa, a speech he delivered), “My heart is in Liberia" he said, "and longs for the welfare of AfricaLiberia is a beautiful tropical country teeming with the rich fruits of a perpetual summer, with mountains and valley and rivers and brooks…” and he could have added, plentiful of rainfall and a profuse lush evergreen forest!
It is an open secret that the country is wonderfully blessed, known for its rich natural resources and the resilient human spirit of its peoples, but the prospect to develop the country was radically disadvantaged by the newly arrived, and the trend forlornly continued by those who succeeded them to the seat of power throughout the country's murky history. 

The Liberia that finally gained independence in 1847 was a nation still deeply planted in the American South, with plantation minded zealots not quite ready to lead the nation and understand what W. E. B. Dubose would called “…a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity,” at what was the sad state of governance in Liberia, through out the country's history.

The segregation instituted by the Liberian Republican Party (LRP) which began it all in 1848, gave rise to the dominant True Whig Party (TWP) of darker the skin group, of 1869. The TWP was founded to oppose the LRP (which was mainly composed of the lighter skin settlers), and to wrestle power away; it did and continued the same old segregation, and the abuse of power.

It is also known that beginning in 1980 as the TWP reign of error and terror ended; Samuel Doe came into the picture. His PRC-NDPL, mostly controlled by his henchmen began their horror and havoc persecuting almost everyone, including the various indigenous tribes, until he was kicked out of the Executive Mansion by force of arms. The history of the nation is one of exclusivity, the domination of state power at the top in disregard to the majority.

Even in 1919 when Liberia joined western nations ratifying the convention of the League of Nations, a brain child of President Woodrow Wilson, it wasn’t until 1946 that the Liberian state granted suffrage to its so-called indigenous peoples, ninety nine years after it became a sovereign state.

Liberia's first president J.J. Roberts

The opportunities to do right by Liberian leaders through out the nation's history as they governed, have always been wasted, simply put: The settlers’ Americo Liberians True Whig Party (TWP) domination of political power and class which lasted 133 years was followed by the misrule of the Samuel Doe indigenously led People’s Redemption Council (PRC) for ten years.
Fuel is added to the fire when Charles Taylor and his misnamed ‘people popular uprising’ was broached on Christmas Eve of 1989. His 15 years leadership of National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and its warring cousins furthered Balkanized the country and ruined mayhem as were never seen in Liberia’s history. All these three phases in Liberian life promised freedom and rights to the people. The people saw none! To which this refrain is penned:

And then we bled from the stripped knuckles

Of the hands shackle and vanquish

Like bondsmen while holding

The jagged edge of the machete vulnerable

Blyden and Sabouso on fire the rogue holding the 5
Grip ancestors unanswerable
Now squirm from the big belle
Of mount Thienpo steams rising in anguish
To the heavens from its hilly green tops
Every morning and evening while the blood 10
Of her sons and daughters pops
Dribble in the gutters of Fernando Po it flood
The borders of Buoto and Tchien compromised
From an impious battle at the cock-crow reach
The Montserrado violet and still 15
From the sounds of guns on South Beach

Liberians must never forget the paralysis and bias that plagued the existence of its nation state came about because of greed. The history of Liberians is interwoven, because years of sharing the same landscape, same languages, food, music and culture have merged the nation into one….'this real estate’ has bounded the Liberian people together and the cleavages that has been exploited by the demagogues and political chameleons must be rejected in a new era. The country belongs to all of us regardless of creed and ethnic backgrounds; may we forgive the yesterdays of a bygone era which contributed so much to our miseries. Our wounds have been self inflicted, we must do the healings ourselves. It is for these same reasons that we must take solace in the hymn from Edwin Barclay, when he wrote in the Lone Star Forever:

Then forward sons of freedom march
Defend our sacred heritage
A nation’s call from age to age
A nation’s loud triumphant song
The song of liberty
The lone star forever, the lone star forever
Oh, long may it flow over land and o’er sea
Desert it no never
Uphold it forever
Oh shout the lone starr’d banner all hail!

Happy July Twenty Six!!

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