Liberia: Divisiveness, Ethnicity and Presidential Elections


President Sirleaf, VP Boakai and all Candidates must condemn ethic divide by some UP partisans, surrogates and other Liberians

THE ETHNIC RHETORIC or politic that is been articulated by some politicians or surrogates has the propensity to destroy the peace time gain we have made since this UP government was elected. If not stopped, will become an obstacle to true national reconciliation in Liberia which this UP government has not achieved.

LIBERIA WAS ESTABLISHED about 170 years ago for home of free slaves from the United States of America. The free slaves and descendants (Americo-Liberian) governed Liberia for about 133 years. During those years, the Americo-Liberians commonly known as Congo, benefitted from most of the opportunities in Liberia and indigenous were denied some of those opportunities. A class system was created with indigenous at the bottom. Over the years some indigenous became educated and assimilated in the society as a result of the ward-system (Living in the homes of Americo-Liberians) or educated by Christian Missionaries.

THE CONDITIONS OF INDIGENOUS begin to improve during the administration of the late President William V. S. Tubman, Sr. He introduced the Unification Policy that brought more Indigenous into government mostly in the legislature. By the end of the administration of the late William R. Tolbert, Jr. who was assassinated in a Military coup on April 12, 1980, there were more indigenous heading government ministries, corporations and autonomous agencies by number and Americo-Liberians were more by percentage.

IN 1980, WHEN THE COUP occurred, several cabinet Ministers and other officials both Americo-Liberians and indigenous were charged for corruption and misused of public office and trialed before a Military Tribunal. Retired AFL General Arthur B. Dennis, a member of the Krah ethnic group, in his Article, “How the Factions Betrayed Their Cause in The Liberian Civil War”, wrote, “In the months that followed the 1980 Military coup, the military officials and the civilian cabinet took a joint decision and executed thirteen former government officials, mostly Americo-Liberians. But the sentiment that followed the execution was that the Krahn people killed thirteen Americo-Liberians. Today, this sentiment is still hunting the whole Krahn population”.

TODAY, MANY OF those who preached the Country-Congo line like Dr. Amos Sawyer, in the documentary, “Liberia, America Step Child” said, “On the day of the execution, I was on the University of Liberia campus and when I got the news of the execution, I got sick inside” because it was wrong”. Sawyer and his colleagues in the progressive movement did not know preaching ethnic divide (Country-Congo) like some today would had led to the execution. In a speech delivered on Cuttington University College Campus in 1980 by Oscar Quaih, he said, “13 rogues we killed and the world is complaining”.

IN NOVEMBER 1985, THERE was a failed coup staged by former Commanding General, Thomas Quiwonkpa from Nimba County. This failed coup in the eyes of many political historians begin the division among the krah of Grand Gedeh and Gio and Mano of Nimba. Several citizens from Nimba were executed according to the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, a New York-based group. The division between the citizens of Nimba and Grand Gedeh continues until the 1990 civil war by Charles Taylor. Hundreds of Nimbains were killed in Monrovia including the Lutheran Church Massacre which is considered one of the worse mass killing in the history of Liberia. On the other hand, Liberians heard rebels who were mostly Nimbains at the genesis of the war saying, “A good krah man, is a dead krah man”. Several innocent Krah and Mandingo men and women were executed in Taylor held rebel area. Over one hundred thousand Liberians died because of their tribes and ethnic division. Telling young Krah men and women and other Liberians that Gios and Manos were rebels and bad, contributed to young Krah men and other Liberians peaking up arms to kill some innocent Gios and Manos men and women. In 1990, Taylor said on BBC that Samuel Doe and his people were bad. He condemned Nigerians and Ghanaians who were in ECOMOG. Young rebels who were predominately from Nimba, executed many Krah, Mandigo, Nigerian and Ghanain men and women.  

WE FOUGHT CIVIL WAR in this country for 13 years which was ethnic base. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and VP Joseph N. Boikai of the Unity Party lead government promised to reconcile and unify our people when they took the oath of office in January 2006. Many Liberians who experience the civil war were happy that they elected leaders who were prepared to unify this country. Today, many Liberians are disappointed that some officials of Unity Party including the Chairman are preaching ethnic divide which was a cancer that help to destroy the Liberian society during the civil war. In the present of VP Boikai in Grand Bassa County on June 17, 2017, the Chairman of Unity Party, Mr. Wilmot Paye used buzzwords to articulate his ethnic divide. He said, “Today, that history has been clarified, that record has been corrected. This county belongs to the people who today have assembled; those who have learned the language of the sixteen ethnic groups of this country are not the true custodians and owners of this republic”.

CHAIRMAN PAYE WAS referring to Americo-Liberians who established this country and had to learn the local languages like President William R. Tolbert who spoke Kpelle and other candidates in this presidential race that are considered Americo-Liberians. He is telling indigenous Liberians that these people are not one of us and you should not vote for them.   He also, quoted Edward Wilmot Blyden who said over 100 years ago that “this country belongs to the people who make up the majority of the population and the way to embrace them is to get assimilated into the rich cultures and traditions”. The quote of Blyden by Chairman Paye is to tell some Liberians that the Americo-Liberians did not allow them to assimilate in the society and should not vote for a Congo man. This is repugnant to true reconciliation.

PRESIDENT SIRLEAF has been preaching about reconciliation among Liberians after the civil conflict and UP is making divisive statements that are paradoxical to the reconciliation she has been preaching. VP Boakai should learn from other leaders who spoke about unifying countries and people that came out of war. After the American civil war, President Abraham Lincoln said “the vision of our Founding Fathers is for us to form a more perfect Union. Therefore, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, you have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy this Union, but I am under solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend it.” VP Boakai took an oath to protect and unify this country and it is his constitutional and moral obligations to make sure no UP surrogate or anyone in unity party makes any public statement at a UP program or in the media that is against his responsibility as a leader to help unify and reconcile our people.

TODAY, SOME SURROGATES of presidential candidates VP Boikai are returning to divisive tribal politics. President Ellen Sirleaf should not allow her legacy to be destroy by seeing her party as the party that preaches negative rhetoric against the effort she has made to unify this country. She and VP Boakai as former and present Standard Bearers of Unity Party, should condemn Chairman Paye, other UP surrogates and all Liberians that are preaching ethnic divide and disunity.

LIBERIAN PEOPLE SUFFERED for many years because of bad tribal divide rhetoric. Thousands were killed because of tribal hatred and no more should it be tolerated in the Liberian society. We are calling on all religious leaders both Christians and Muslims to condemn those who are preaching ethnic divide including Chairman Paye of unity Party. 

CANDIDATES SHOULD BE elected on what they can do to improve the life of every Liberian and not on tribal divisive politic.

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