By Syllemond Sandi
Dear brothers and sisters of Liberia, I crave your indulgence to read through this two part article about our country and the prospect of the George Opong Weah presidency of Liberia. In this article I will take a reflective look at our journey over the years and how we came to this cross road. I will raise series of questions and give answers to some and leave others for you to judge with your conscience. Part I will lay the foundation for Part 11. In this way it will coherent argument for Weah’s presidency.
Liberia is a country that was at the nascent of Africa’s Independent movement. By providence our brothers and sisters returned and created a new haven for progress for all their kin and kiths. The long history of suffering, dehumanization, and dramatization ended on the American plantations. Indeed it was a new beginning, a new country and a new political era. It was easy to set the political maps on the right contours because the indigenous African knowledge of politics was believed to be uncivilized and crude hence tangential to the political aspirations of a new country lying between the colonial grips of French andBritish West Africa. The Americo- Liberians created the constitution that exemplified the form and content of the pseudo-democracy that suited their education, civilization and a new found supremacy. This was the scepter of the sad reality of slavery. The eyes of the majority of our grand parents and their followings were opened seeing our Americo-Liberian brothers and sisters as our liberators. The economy was vibrant while those of our neighbors collapsed because of political oligarchies and inconsistent fiscal policies; unimaginable inflationary trends, corruption; mismanagement and other misplaced social, economic and political priorities. Our country became known for its economic stability. Although the actual meaning and means of democracy were still questionable, we traveled on this political path, sometimes led by our noses without envious confrontations. Indeed it was a benevolent dictatorship. We were told what to do but we remained as one of the emblems of Africa’s progressive nations. Our economy was a magnet that drew our neighbors to us.
Reliance on America-Father-Son Relationship
We thank God for the American benevolence towards our country. Whatever American agendas or policies were, they helped in shaping the course of our political history and their maneuvers catapulted us dismal crossroad. Do we owe something to America? Although this question could possibly generate a mix collage of responses, thoughts and reflections, for many, the answer is an obvious “yes.” We may not recollect all that went under the bridge, but as the muddy waters is about to settle down, we can hope for the America’s warmth once more by holding Liberia’s hands and lifting us up from the pursuing devastating calamity. Although the political environments have radically changed, with changing hands and heads, eras and their fading trails left behind, we can still reflect on those good old days when we were tied to America’s apron, hiding us under her economic and political canopy and hence surviving on her goodwill. The questions that we are asking behind closed doors are these: Can we still count on those good old days when Liberia was considered the “blue-eye baby” in America’s political and diplomatic cradle? How do we pictureAmerica’s role in the long political journey of our country? What role will it play in shaping the political realities of the New Liberia? These are essentials for examining our political and historical matrix and discourse. They are political essentials to reflect on in order to “jump- start” into political forecasting for the New Liberia.
The New Liberia
With all the political nightmares, misguided opportunities, ambivalent friendships, assaults on our heritage, anguish, dramatization and vulnerability imposed on us by the war in the last 15 years, what type of Liberia do we have in view? Do we have to embrace a realistic democracy or pseudo-democracy of the past? Do we want only the educated elite to determine the course of the New Liberia or the people who had imbibed the pains of the past and now being valued by global desire for peace and democracy to have the legitimate right just as the elite to participate in the political affairs of the New Liberia? What are the parameters to consider in trying to vision the New Liberia? Is knowledge of the people’s suffering important? Does understanding the realities of the local people important to the people? Do we have to import democracy from overseas or the local people already understand democracy and are yearning for it? Where do the young people who have been manipulated, used and overused, abused and over-abused stand in the New Liberia? Can “politics by proxy” shape the needs and future of the youth? Where do the women stand in the New Liberia? For long only the women that wore jeans, the educated ones have been the players in politics; those women that can sit on the same table with the educated men and challenge them without any significant social or economic consequences. Are the women in the urban slums and rural areas and other destitute being considered as important players in the political aspirations of the New Liberia?
As we look into the horizon, we can clearly see a New Liberia emerging. We can see that after over a century of our independence the coming general elections will be the first time when the inclusive politics as an indispensable tenet of real democracy will prevail. It will be the first time when the ordinary people will be enlightened about their inalienable rights. It will be the first time when the Lord Hull Hull’s of the Liberian politics will recognize that the collective will of the people is more powerful than bank accounts, Harvard and MIT Education and overseas experiences. Indeed we can see a New Liberia emerging in which the people will not only stretch their hands for handouts, but have dignity because their politicians listen to them, support them and consider their needs to be important and provide opportunities for them to act. It is a New Liberia where slogan will crumple and the dignities and the rights of the people will be legitimized; a New Liberia where the resources of Liberia will be for the Liberians, and never to be siphoned by few; a New Liberia where social harmony between all tribes will not be compromised for erecting tribal hegemony that will control the political course of our country, its history and its resources.
Lessons of The Past
We are awaiting brotherhood and sisterhood to triumph over hatred and fragmentation of our country into ethnic and tribal war-zones. We owe the people of Liberia greater future than that. We believe that our patriotism will not be betrayed for selfish aspirations. We are waiting for every native Liberian to return to his or her homeland and strive and be productive without fear. We should be patient and wait for total liberation. We have to allow patriotic aspirations to override our personal interests and gains. We should have progressive agenda in recreating those institutions that have been destroyed by these long years of senseless political rivalry cloth in military machismo.
There are obvious lessons of the past that could shape our thoughts as we all venture into carving a New Liberia for ourselves and posterity. We now know that political leadership is essentially people centered. No more shall we take guns as instrument of freedom to herald political victory. Power no more stems from the barrel of the gun. We should fear the people and not the guns because in real democracy power is transferred to the people. Why? Because the government is of them and for them.
Tribal and ethnic responsiveness and sensitivity in our leadership had resulted into the erection of tribal and political cabals and patronage that controlled the state of affairs of our country. This resulted into denying the people opportunities for all and concentrated power and resources in the hands of a few not based on merits or rights but on tribal interests and political subservience. This generated unnecessary hatred and tribal supremacy. It is sad that we can point to this on our history-line. We have lived it and we can no longer fall into the same misguided pursuit and conundrum. Our new vision is that Liberia is for all Liberians and not only a privilege few.
We have learned that when the going got though enough, many of the so-called Liberian political Goliath’s fled the country for safe havens in the West and neglected the people. They went far away not even a flash of their wish for their country could be seen or heard. Not a little touch in love by sharing their accumulated wealth in the west with the ordinary compatriots in humanitarian assistance, which were not rejected by any of the warlords. Now that all the pains of the war have been swallowed, in peacetime they have returned or about to return and now profess to have the best solutions to the reconstruction of our minds, our future and the fractured frontiers of destruction where our people would sadly have to return. We are not sticks and we are not stones. We may not be as educated as the old man Booker Washington, but our people have experiential knowledge to judge and they have watched who the true patriots of modern Liberia are. They now have confidence in their sacrifices, and these had built monuments in their hearts. Therefore their newfound hope for the final liberation of the people Liberia is reposed in those who genuinely stood for the ordinary people. Those who stood as they imbibed the unimaginable visible and invisible casualties of our 15 year senseless war.
Democracy and Politicking -The Case For God
We are on the march to the New Liberia. Everyone counts. Everyone’s voice must be heard. Many people comment both in Liberia and overseas that education matters in democracy. For sure it does matter. For them the prescription of democracy is more PhD’s or Masters degrees from prestigious universities in America. Yes book education matters but experiential knowledge is also important. One may be educated but may not have the heart to see the suffering of the people. One may be educated to the level of a Harvard academic elite group but one may not understand the socio-economic realities of the people. One may be educated but may not understand the sacrifice and placid patriotism that we need for reconstruction of our heritage and the public and private edifices that have been ruined. One may be educated but may not be able to promote social harmony because of their educational links and biases in leading the common Liberian. One may be so educated that he or she may only do business with the elites of the same academic stature and standing. So, while dreaming about the exercise of democratic right, let us not only think that the dreams of Liberia will only be fulfilled by the soundness of our education and overseas positions we have held. This is one of the myths that people use in their politicking to misguide the will of the people.
But mind you, the people know who the patriots are. They know who had sat with them during the hard days. The people know those that had genuinely sacrificed for them. They know those who had never turned their backs onLiberia. The people know those who never sat in air-conditioned offices overseas to plan the war on the people. Indeed for many who now want to sit in the Executive Mansion, the blood of our people is on their hands. They may want now to appear like angels and have the best solution for our nation on paper. It is only God who knows the truth and the truth will always triumph. The true patriots, their hands are clean and they have their names built in the hearts and minds of the ordinary people.
Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana saved their respective countries’ images and pulverized the suffering of their people and set them on the paths to economic freedom. It was their resolved and not their education of superior magnitude. They responded to the suffering of their people with solid determination to free their hopes. They grew in the positions and generated value in their people both at home and overseas. So, at this crossroad God knows the hearts of the patriots and He will give them the chance to rule Liberia. It is God who will fight for the ordinary man. It is God who will change the hearts of the people to vote for the right man or woman for the position, be him or her, a grade school graduate
My brothers and sisters let us give the course of the New Liberia to time. Time is a three dimensional space that has the past, the present and the future. We have all seen what happened yesterday and what is happening now. Our excitement should be into the future, which is providential. But we know what Our God has in mind for us. He has told us what He does not like. And we are bound to obey. Let us give jubilee to all. As we await the epilogue of this vibrant epoch, let us forgive each other for the bitter past. For pointing to where our dehumanization and carnage of our people occurred will only resurrect the spirit of revenge. It is hard that the war produced these painful casualties and the scars they have left on our hearts and minds. These are the seeds of discord that will germinate and gather momentum for replication of violent conflict as the aggrieved and aggressors return to our communities, legitimizing their co-existence and finding new meanings and directions to their impoverished lives. We should not allow these seed to germinate even in their minutest forms or doses.
This is where a visionary leader comes to mind; George Opong Weah, the DAVID of old has been given to the people; so that he can gather his people together and liberate them from the clutches of exploitation, military machismo and the shambles of economic, social and political deprivations, because he understands the journey of his people to their final destination of freedom. Let us know that in spite of the diverse opinions, political motifs and tribal interests and inklings, we have a common heritage and common values and hopes. We are also tied together by our common humanity. We want Weah who understands the goal of uniting us in spite of our diversity for the greater good of all Liberians. The future of a New Liberia is in our hands. The power of the people is not an experimentation to pursue only now. It is not a humanitarian attitude. It is the precondition for our victory. It is the undeniable reality of our humanity. It is on this fulcrum of a truly articulated “power to the people and “power for the people” that democracy in its naked form is balanced. This is the only hope for the New Liberia. All of this is the embodiment of George Opng Weah. It is with this optimism, I submit these thoughts. Time and history will absorb these.