MONROVIA – It was a moment of celebration mixed with somber reflection over the weekend when families, professional colleagues and friends gathered together for the launch of the book containing selected writings of legendary Liberian journalist, the late Tom Kamara.
Entitled ‘This, Too, Is Liberia’, the book contains a selection of articles written by Tom, Kamara (1949-2012), the founder and Managing Publisher of the New Democrat Newspaper.
“He was known for his sharp, admired, feared, uncompromising pen,” the team behind the book’s publication said in a statement. “He used his pen as his weapon to fight for human rights, democracy and social development during one of the darkest chapters in Liberia’s history. His creative style is a combination of facts, contemplation and irony which make his articles extremely worth reading.”
Speaking through a proxy at the event held in Sinkor, Monrovia, former Vice President Joseph Boakai said the late Liberian journalist was fearless and uncompromising.
“Tom Kamara was a very uncompromising journalist when it comes to the truth. He did not only criticize those in power, but went beyond the borders of this country,” he said.
“A fearless journalist in his own category of the Liberian media landscape, Tom challenged the status quo with the might of a mighty pen; with the clear intention to stamp out the evil in the society. He was not a friend of dictators, tyrants or those who exploited others for their own selfish gain.”
The President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe said Kamara was a unique journalist and a true representation of what journalists around the world require to do: “A commitment to truth telling, and he did it without fear nor favor.”
“Tom Kamara was committed to truth-telling. On the questions of truth, he shielded no friend. And so we are here today to ensure that his legacy lives on. His commitment to telling truth was for Liberia and Africa. And he did it without fear nor favor. He was a truth representation of what journalists around the world require to do, Cllr. Gongloe, who serves as a member of the Tom Kamara Foundation said.
The LNBA president also recounted Kamara’s ‘significant role’ in the trial of ex-president Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, noting that he did not only report the case extensively but predicted the outcome of the trial in series of articles he wrote.
In his moving tribute, Atty. Samuel Koffi Woods described the fallen Liberian journalist as a living legend, adding that in a country where mediocrity often dominates the society, the book offers Liberians an opportunity to create new ways to enlightenment.
“Tom Kamara is living, he is a living Legend and his memories will continue to live on and on and will impact our lives. And that is what the launch of this book has done today,” said Atty. Woods, also a member of the foundation’s board.
He added: “Listen to the discourse in our country. The interactions and the analysis engulfed with mediocrities and ignorance. We have turned to glorify this in such a way that it has become a prevailing norms. The launch of this book has offered us new ways to reawaken our society. What we need to do is to get this book out as much as possible.
Atty. Woods called on the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to organize a lecture series in honor of the fallen Liberian journalist- in recognition of his great contribution to the Liberian media landscape. He said despite the numerous threats and attacks against him as a person, as well as his institution during the war, Kamara did not waver and he did not shy from telling the truth. He rallied for support for the New Democrat to be back, active and regular on the newsstand, saying, “We want to see the New Democrat back on the newsstand. In honoring his memories, we must keep him alive.”
PUL’s president Charles Cuffey lauded the team behind the successful publication of the book and said it is significant because everything Kamara wrote about is now happening in the Liberian society. The president of the Publisher’s Association, Othello Garblah, who worked with the late Kamara said he was fearless and straightforward in his work.
Award winning female journalist, Tecee Boley earlier read a passage from the book, and was the first to called the fallen lawmaker a living legend. In death, she said Kamara continues to make immense impact in the Liberian society through his work.
Through the collective efforts of family, friends and the Tom Kamara Foundation, fifty-three articles written between 1997 and 2012 are captured in the book, published by ‘Odyssee Reisgidsen’ in the Netherlands. The book provides reliable accounts and understanding of Liberia’s troubled history of wars and serves as a guide for good governance, democracy and the rule of law.
Jimmy Shilue, one of the brains behind the book explained that he, along with Kamara’s widow, Mrs. Rachael Kamara and Leo Platvoet selected the articles for the book.
“What’s in the Book”
In the book, 53 selected articles were grouped under five sub-headings, referring to the eras of Samuel Doe (1980-1990), Charles Taylor (1989-2003) and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2006-2018), a fourth category focuses on the love-hate relationship between Liberia and its ‘motherland, the United States of America whereas the last category deals with events and issues in other African countries.
The Dutch economist Dr. Fred van der Kraaij who has been following events in Liberia since the late 1970s, wrote the Introduction presenting valuable insights into Tom Kamara’s life and work. The book concludes with four contributions detailing Tom Kamara’s life, two of which were written by very close Liberian friends, Jimmy Shilue, who shared many of Tom Kamara’s Dutch years and his memories, while Siahyonkon Nyansor, the US-based editor of ‘The Perspective’ also provided perspectives on Tom.
The title of the book, ‘This, Too, Is Liberia’, is an expression coined by Tom Kamara when referring to specific events in Liberia. The publication of the book is an initiative under the Tom Kamara Foundation, to preserve his writings and memorialize a legendary writer.
How to get a Copy?
The book can be found at several hotels, super market and bookstores across Monrovia and its environs for US$25. Some of the areas include the Royal Grand Hotel, Bella Casa, Harbel Super Market, the Exclusive Super Store all in Monrovia and the Farmington Hotel in Margibi County.
About Tom Kamara
Tom Kamara was the founder and publisher of the New Democrat, a Liberian newspaper that suffered the wrath of several dictatorships yet still active and contributing to post-war Liberia development processes.
During the Liberian civil war(s) the late Tom Kamara was forced into exile; the Netherlands, a country that eventually became his second home. During his years in exile, Tom continued his fight for press freedom and social justice through his writings. In 2003, he returned to Liberia and continued as editor of the New Democrat. He was on his way to the Netherlands for medical treatment when he suddenly died, in 2012.