A Message to the Government and People of Liberia Save the State People’s March June 7th, 2019
My fellow Liberians;
In the Bible’s book of Genesis, chapter 1, verses 1 & 27 we read: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them…” Whether we live in a New York sky scraper or a one story West Point zinc round , we, the inhabitants of planet earth are all upper deck passengers on this space ship hurling through the universe at a speed of 2.7 million miles per hour.
Neither the USA, Russia, China, France nor Britain (UN Security Council permanent members) can slow down earth’s velocity, change the direction of it’s rotation nor steer it from colliding against other celestial bodies. Therefore, humankind’s common destiny lies in the hands of God Almighty, who created the cosmos and set it in motion.
In Willie Schultze’s “a New Geography of Liberia” written in 1971 we read that between 1000 and 1820 AD , African families from North and Central Africa, fleeing religious expansionism and political repression arrived into the present area of Liberia. They included the Mel (Gola & Kissi) the Kwa (Dei, Bassa, Kru, Krahn, Sapo & Grebo) the Mande-Fu (Kpelle, Gio, Mano & Loma) and Mande-Tan (Vai & Mende) and former African Slaves from the Americas returning to the land of their forebears also in search of freedom and nationhood Like a beacon of hope or a “statue of liberty” the Grain Coast must have called out: “…Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” It was this yearning for freedom and nationhood, which not only led to the founding of Liberia but also embolden its people to vehemently resist colonialism thus blazing the trail for Africa’s Liberation from colonial rule. -2- May these famous lines from Liberia’s declaration of independence serve as a reminder not only of the plight of former slaves from the USA but also that of our ancestors , Liberia’s sixteen tribes, who fled oppression in North and Central Africa to settle in the Grain Coast.: “We were excluded from all participation in government.
We were taxed without our consent. We were compelled to contribute to the resources of a country which gave us no protection. We were made a separate and distinct class, and against us every avenue of improvement was effectively closed. Strangers from other lands, of a color different from ours, were preferred before us. We uttered our complaints, but they were unattended to, or only met by alleging the peculiar institutions of the country. All hope of a favorable change was thus wholly extinguished in our bosoms, and we looked with anxiety for some asylum from the deep degradation. The western coast of Africa (the grain coast) was the place selected for our future home, where, removed beyond those influences which oppressed us…, it was hoped we would be enabled to enjoy those rights and privileges and exercise and improve those faculties which the God of nature has given us in common with the rest of mankind.” While Liberia’s Declaration of Independence may have further cemented the stance of our ancestor to keep Liberia free from external colonial rule, Liberia suffered internally from the institutionalized “politics of exclusion” practiced by a succession of minority governments. Political control and centralized planning led to the construction of prestigious projects and major infrastructural development in Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, while the rest of the country remain underdeveloped, thereby leading to an enormous pull effect on the rural inhabitant to Monrovia. Students left their villages in search of “better health care and employment.”
Monrovia’s limited housing stock forced many migrants to move into overcrowded shanties like West Point, Clara Town, Buzzi Quarters, Slip Way, Logan Town etc. sharing rooms with relatives and friends. Sometimes as things became rough, kids had to quit school and work full time at a car wash and even sell their precious bodies to make ends meet. Vagrancy, petty larceny, and prostitution became the common vices among youths, while politicians remained insensitive to the problems facing the nation. In order for a typical family of four to survive, all members had to work.
The father may have gotten a job as a night watchman at an expatriate store, the mother sold groceries at an overcrowded market, while the children sold cold water and cool-aid during the mornings and went to school in the afternoon. -3- It may have been expedient for politicians to maintain their grip on power through the “politics of exclusion” but it was morally wrong, socially destructive, economically insane and politically suicidal. Liberia’s rice riots of the seventies, the military coup d’etat and attempted coups of the eighties, the civil conflict of the nineties are a direct result of this policy. Liberia cannot eliminate divisions and foster peace with itself, while operating on less than 25% of its human resource potential. Take a look into the eyes of that child on the back of its mother at a market stall in Duala, and you would see a Liberian precious jewel yearning to be in a daycare facility, while its mother earns a living selling groceries.
Take a look at the hand of that boy or girl selling cold water or cool-aid on the side walks and you would see a future Liberian leader yearning to be in a school with adequate library and science laboratory facilities to prepare him for a more responsible future. Take a look at Liberian ladies selling fish, fruits and vegetables on the side-walks before expatriate supermarkets, and you would see Liberian entrepreneurs yearning for a government underwritten franchise to catapult them from the rainy sidewalks into a supermarket owned and operated by them. Take a look at the hands of Liberians in search for scrap metal to smelt and form into utensils and your would see the signs of industrialists yearning for a space in a vocational school. Take a look at the muscular statue of a fisherman in a dugout canoe, braving the waves of the Atlantic ocean, fishing for barracudas and cavallas, and you would see a Liberian yearning for a government underwritten loan to purchase a motor boat to ensure a bigger catch and more capital for investing in his own cold-storage facilities. Yes indeed, we have the potential of transforming Liberia into a highly skilled and developed society if we replaced the “politics of exclusion” with the “politics of inclusion”..
We should commit ourselves to term limits in government with non-exorbitant compensations: 5-non consecutive years for the president and a fixed monthly salary of……… USD $ 3,333.– 5-non consecutive years for senators; and a fixed monthly salary of………… USD$ 3,333.– 5-non consecutive years for Legislators and a fixed monthly salary of ……….USD$ 3,333.– 5-year maximum service for Justices & Judges and a fixed monthly salary of…USD$ 3,333.– -4- This would democratically give all Liberians, once in their life time, the opportunity to serve as President, Vice President, Senator, Legislator, Superintendent and Mayor by not having to run against incumbents and also allow others to serve as Supreme court Justice and Circuit Court Judge. Let us also pledge to lift Liberia from poverty by streamlining government thru the merger of the following ministries: • Ministry of Internal Affairs with the Ministry of Justice • Ministry of Labor with the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Sports • Ministry of Transportation with the Ministry of Public works • Ministry of Information with the Ministry of State • Ministry of Agriculture with the Ministry of Commerce • Ministry of Health with the Ministry of Education • Ministry of Lands & Mines with the Ministry of Defense • Ministry of State with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs • Ministry of Finance with the Ministry of Postal Affairs We should pledge a Liberia in which its citizens shall no longer stand on the side lines and watch but rather actively participate in Liberia’s economic activities with a government guaranteed minimum living wage of USD$ 333.33 (Three hundred and thirty three dollars and thirty three cents) After 171 years as a nation, we have a lot of catching up to do. It is therefore a disservice to us when advisors “on the outside” recommend holding back on a lot of crucial projects under the deceptive tactics of conducting “feasibility” study after study, or what Dr. Martin Luther King referred to as the “ paralysis of analysis.” Fair Trade, Not Hand-Outs thru NGO’s and other welfare programs should be our goal. It would be noble for So-Called donor Countries to purchase finished products like school desks, chairs, baseball bats, all made of Liberian hard wood and clothing, made in Liberia for Western retailers like Old Navy, the Gap, Sears, Macys, JC Penny, H&M instead of donating mosquito nets, blankets and mini generators for a change. -5- Liberians would want to see containers unloaded at Liberia’s Sea Ports of entry, being re-loaded with sawn lumber, for home construction in the USA and Europe. Hand-Outs, do not create jobs here on the home front but encourages laziness. If however, one traded in finished or semi finished products, one would have added value to said exports, created jobs and provided a decent living wage and financial security for Liberians. And if we must drink alcohol, an addiction which must be taken seriously, how about economically empowering our local cane growers by drinking more locally produced “Cane Juice on the Roots” for a change instead of imported “Scotch Whisky and on the rocks”? Let these condescending remarks by many expatriate merchants in Liberia remind us of what we are up against: They say that their businesses are in Liberia, but their bank accounts are in London, and their hearts are in the Middle East and Asia. In view of this, let us commit ourselves to a new Liberia in which economically empowered Liberian businessmen and women shall exclaim: “Our businesses are in Liberia, our bank accounts are in Liberia, and our hearts are in Liberia.”
With hair like wool and feet like burnished brass, God’s image and likeness, our bodies/vessels are “Temples of God”. Let us therefore, cleanse ourselves of malice, deceit, prejudice, self-aggrandizement and greed “and do unto others as we would have them do unto us…” Only then will God dwell within these vessels of ours and direct our thoughts and actions. Last but not least, let the flag of Liberia reflect the participation of our ancestors in governing, preserving and providing a “protective shield” around the Grain Coast for 800 years. In our 172nd year as a nation, let us add to the existing flag, a constellation of 16-stars, a “protective shield” around the “lone star in that blue field” to represent and acknowledge Liberia’s sixteen African tribes, the first settlers of this land bequeathed onto us. I see no greater act of national reconciliation than replacing the “the politics of Exclusion” with the “politics of Inclusion”. This new flag of inclusion, all Liberians must commit to ”…upholding forever; deserting no never”! Finally, we must petition the United States Government for Restitution on behalf of the 20,000 former African Americans slaves, who returned to Africa between 1822 and 1847. Among them was Hannah Lewis, a 33 year old single mother and her seven children, ages 1 thru 13, fathered by her slave master, Adam Naustedler, whom she served while being held in captivity as a domestic slave in Petersburg, Virginia. -6- Although Adam Naustedler cannot be prosecuted for the atrocities committed against Hannah and her children, we definitely can hold the US government accountable and responsible for condoning institutionalized slavery and allowing such crimes against humanity on its soil. In 1988, the one hundredth congress of the United States passed into law the so called” Wartime relocation Act”.
In said act, each of the over 60,000 Japanese Americans wrongfully incarcerated by the U.S. Government during the second world war from, 1940 – 1945, is entitled to receive $20,000.—(Twenty thousand dollars) as restitution for this inhumane treatment of its citizens.. President Reagan in remarks during the signing of the bill said: ” Here we admit a wrong; here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law”. If Japanese-Americans are being compensated for “incarceration” then those 20,000 African Americans who worked without wages, from 1776 to 1847 as slaves/chattels in the fields and factories of the United States, from “can’t see” in the morning to “can’t see” in the evenings and later immigrated to the Grain Coast, West Africa in search of freedom and nation hood are also entitled to restitution and compensation from the government of the United States. At the rate of $4,000.—(Four thousand dollars) per year (using the rate paid to Japanese Americans in the Wartime Relocation Act of 1988) each African American immigrant to the Liberia is entitled to receive $ 284,000,–( Two hundred and eighty four thousand dollars) for the seventy one-years of unpaid labor from 1776 (US Declaration of Independence) to 1847 (Liberia’s declaration of Independence).
This means that the government of the United States owes the government of Liberia, on behalf of those 20,000 (twenty thousand) immigrants a total of $ 5,680,000,000.—(Five billion, six hundred and eighty million dollars) With this amount of money in hand, a third (1/3) of which should go to the families of African American Immigrants, another third (1/3) to the families of African-African families who were victims of the “politics of exclusion” in Liberia from 1847 thru 1980, the final third (1/3) or $ 1,893,144,000.—(One billion eight hundred and ninety three million, one hundred and forty four thousand) should be used by the government of Liberia for extensive reconstruction and infrastructural development throughout this land, thus catapulting Liberia from a developing country into an emerging industrialized one. Let us never forget that whether we were born in Northern Liberia or in the south; whether we were born in Eastern Liberia or in the west; whether our ancestors came to Liberia on sail ships from America in 1822 or on sail boats from West Africa; whether some forefathers trekked across the Sahara or rode on the backs of camels into this land, between 1000, and 1800 AD, Liberia is and should remain one nation, indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all ! Last but not least, as “Peace is not merely the absence of Conflict but the presence of Justice”, it is paramount that the recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission be implemented by government without further delays.