This Commentary on the passing away of Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper is of highest importance because it helps us to know the main divide in Liberia and such knowledge is indispensable for solving the main societal problem of Liberia. The main societal problem of Liberia remains longstanding and widespread poverty, that has become the pretext for violence, that, at times, takes on the forms of coup d’etat and civil war.
By Togba-Nah Tipoteh
Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper and Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh have been friends and neighbors for over sixty years. Cllr. Cooper is a Congo person and Dr. Tipoteh is a Country person. When Cllr. Cooper found out that Dr. Tipoteh was called Rudolph Roberts after his Father who came from a Grand Kru village to serve as a houseboy to Robert Manning, the friendship continued. When Cllr. Cooper found out that the name Rudolph Roberts was dropped because the barefooted young Rudolph was called Robert’s boy, the friendship continued. When the Mother of Cllr. Cooper found out that the young Rudolph was from a poor family and came to her home daily to eat some food, the friendship continued. The friendship continued because the Cooper family and the Roberts’ families saw themselves as neighbors created by the same Creator.
So, the Cooper and Roberts families saw themselves as good people. practicing the Will of their same Creator. The divide was never the congo-country divide. The divide was always the good-bad divide. Liberia went through the Congo State dominance from 1847 to 2017. Now, Liberia is into the age of the Country State dominance. The outcomes of both State dominations remain the same: longstanding and widespread poverty. The poverty problem has been known reliably since the 1950s when Liberia recorded the second highest economic growth rate per person in the world but less than one per cent of the Liberian people in Liberia accounted for over sixty percent of Liberia’s income and wealth (Robert Clower, Growth Without Development, Northwestern University Press, 1966). Now, National Legislators of Liberia have access to at least LD150,000 a day and their foreign partners, in the commercial sector alone, have access to at least LD300,000,000 a day while nearly all Liberians in Liberia have access to at most less than LD300 a day (Annual Reports of CBL, LISGIS, MFDP, MCI, WB, IMF, ADB and UNDP).
Cllr. Cooper saw all of these realities and still held on to the friendship. He heard the criticisms of his forming the Cooper-Togbah Law firm, but the friendship continued. He witnessed the prevailing injustice in Liberia but he continued to earn his way as a lawyer until he became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia. As Chief Justice, not only did he provide leadership to get committed and experienced lawyers to reduce the prevailing injustice saddled with corruption, he swore into Office the first woman President of an African country.
Retired but not tired, he held an Intellectual Forum (Hataee Center) at his Hotel Africa Road home every Sunday starting at three in the afternoon, offering to participants the same food that he and his wonderful Wife Nadu ate. At the Hataee Center, he displayed his bountiful knowledge about the details of the layout of Monrovia. Such details helped ECOMOG to release captive ECOMOG soldiers from the hands of AFL soldiers at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia.
The big question remains. How can the Legacy of the Legal Luminary Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper be sustained? His Legacy can be sustained by the people who love Liberia continuing to use knowledge from Cllr. Cooper and others to transform the prevailing system of injustice in Liberia into the enduring system of Justice, through the Rule of Law. It is only through this transformation that persons with good records can get elected to bring in the system of Justice, the indispensable ingredient for Peace and Progress in Liberia and in any other country.