You can’t fool all of the people all of the time!
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor
|Ellen & Robert Sirleaf|
Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will… The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” This quote describes the plight of the Liberian masses under the rule of the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Unity Party government.
The question that bothers me is why African leaders do not learn from history? It was not too long ago when the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) government of Samuel Kanyon Doe implemented Decree 88A that banned all student political activities and anybody from criticizing the ruling military council in regards to the manner in which the country was being run by the PRC. The July 21, 1984, Decree 88A gave security forces the power to “arrest and detain any person found spreading rumours, lies, and misinformation against any government official or individual either by mouth, writing or by public broadcast” Doe wielded Decree 88A like the hammer of the gods, bludgeoning his opponents into submission with it during the run-up to the 1985 election. Editors and other political enemies were harassed, or worse, and newspapers were shut down or their facilities burned to the ground. After the 1985 election, the worst incident of ethnic violence in Liberia’s recent history scattered Doe’s political opposition and frightened Liberians into submission. Michael A. Innes writes, “Despite a meek effort at repealing the Decree in 1986, Doe’s treatment of the media in the latter half of the decade was, paradoxically, at once neglectful, capricious, and mean.” (Michael A. Innes, Enemies of the Revolution: Radio, Propaganda, and National Development in Samuel Doe’s Liberia, 1980-1980)
Due to Decree 88A, the election results that year were controversial; opponents claimed it was fraudulent. Many political leaders were imprisoned. In addition, the Special Elections Commission (SECOM) frustrated the registration of political parties. Many political observers attribute the political unrest to the failed attempted coup of November 1985 to Degree 88A. Here we go again! President Sirleaf’s Executive Order 65 is remaking of Doe’s Decree 88A. Why is it that African leaders ignore the realities of history? Are they that dumb or they have ‘historical amnesia’? I wonder! The Liberian people and the world will see through this scheme because; "You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time." (Abraham Lincoln)
Moreover, President Sirleaf’s Executive Order 65 is an attempt to instill fear in Liberians in order to stay in power. If the Executive Order is truly about preventing Ebola, why are candidates campaigning for election? Are we going to have elections in secret? Will candidates not campaign? How can there be a fair and transparent election with restrictions on the movement of the candidates and supporters from campaigning?
Liberians should not be deterred by the President's scare tactics. The Liberian people should resist her scheme within the legal framework because this move has the propensity of igniting another April 14 riot. Therefore, let’s remember the African proverb that says: “The ruin of a nation begins in the home of its people.”
Fellow Liberians, what a difference time makes! In the January/March 2000 print Edition of ThePerspective Magazine, the Editors, George H. Nubo, Siahyonkron Nyanseor and J. Kpanneh Doe conducted an interview with Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Washington, D. C. while she was attending a National Summit Conference on Africa. The interview was titled: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Challenges GOL and Calls on Opposition to Unite. In answering our question on the Constitution, she said:
No constitution can enforce itself. Enforcement comes from the combined efforts of a nation’s citizens insisting in small and big ways that their rights be respected and it’s the officers recognizing the limits of their power and obeying the laws they take oaths to observe. In that regard, we are all somewhat responsible for the good and bad governments we have had in Liberia because as citizens we have tolerated bad behavior on the part of our leaders.
Is this the same person who made the statement?
“ . . . Somewhat [we are] responsible for the good and bad governments we have had in Liberia because as citizens we have tolerated bad behavior on the part of our leaders.”
But now that the Liberian people are ready to depart from the BAD practices of the PAST, President Sirleaf and her Unity Party want to restrict the people from exercising their rights. Let’s hold her to her words!
This reminds me of a quote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. It reads: “To glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce; to discourse on humanism and to negate people is a lie.” Anyone who is familiar with recent Liberian politics know that the real intent of President Sirleaf’s Executive Order 65 is not to protect the Liberian people from Ebola, but to ensure that her son Robert Sirleaf wins the Montserrado County Senatorial race. This is a slick move to use the Ebola crisis as an excuse to resuscitate PRC Decree 88A, a Decree she once condemned and fought against.
Déjà vu or Nightmare!
In a January 16, 1984 TIME Magazine Cover Edition, titled: Africa’s Woes, Coups, Conflict and Corruption; the magazine printed a depressing picture of Africa and its leaders. Here is an interesting quote from an article in the same magazine titled: “A Continent Gone Wrong;” it reads:
All too frequent, fledgling African democracies have become hostage to leaders’ intent solely on gaining and holding power. In the past 25 years, more than 70 leaders in 29 African nations have been deposed by assassination, purges or coups. Among the 41 major independent black African nations, only seven allow opposition political parties. Seventeen are single-party states. Another 17 are ruled by military regimes.
The article continued:
…Despite independence, each nation’s per capita food production levels have decreased accompanied by disarray in essential government services such as education, health care and transportation. The article’s author noted the amount of foreign debt the respective governments have accrued and said Africa’s national leaders argue that their countries are near bankruptcy as they ask to reschedule nearly $100 billion dollars of annual debt due to loans.
The author maintains: “in the meantime, sub-Saharan Africa’s population of 210 million in 1960 has grown to 393 million. It continues to increase by 2.9% annually, the fastest growth rate in the world.
In 30 years, the issues highlighted in the January 16, 1984 TIME Magazine article have not improved. In fact, they have become worse. And when the former President of Senegal, Léopold Sedar Senghor (1969-1980), then 77 years of age was interviewed, here is what he said about coups in Africa:
They are the result of the perversion of the colonial system, which encouraged us to keep the personality cult and the spirit of dictatorship. That was the nature of colonial power. The frequency of coups in Africa is the result of the backwardness in civilization that colonization represented. There is indeed many, many dictatorship. But there are exceptions: look at the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, just to name two. I am concerned about the frequency of coups. We are too docile, allowing ourselves to be influenced by the Americans, the Soviets or even the French and the British. What we should all be fighting for is democratic socialism. And the first task of socialism is not to create social justice. It is to establish working democracies.” (Emphasis is mine.)
Wow, what a statement coming from someone so revered!
While Léopold Sedar Senghor is regarded by many as one of the most brilliant and important African intellectuals of the 20th century and his Philosophy of “Negritude” in some ways contributed to raising the consciousness of Africans in Africa and its Diaspora, he fell short in several ways to address the core problem of European racism. In my opinion, Senghor’s statement, “…The first task of socialism is not to create social justice… it is to establish working democracies” speaks volume to his world view. I am convinced that in some way or the other this world view aided European imperialists in pursuing their political and economic agenda in Africa and its Diaspora. I am not alone in arriving at this conclusion. The statement below by Bell Hooks supports my observation. Here is what she wrote:
Negritude becomes a tool in furthering the process of colonisation in the minds of the colonized. Although Senghor saw Negritude as a way of combating colonialism, Negritude is implicit with the process of colonial domination. The counter-reading of stereotypes which Negritude proposes fails to challenge the cultural domination of colonialism at its root.” Bell Hooks, ‘Postmodern Blackness’, in P. Williams and L. Chrisman (eds.), Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory, London: Longman, (1993).
To which I say, beware of praises coming from our adversaries, because there are always ulterior motives for their benefits. They gave us leaders like William V.S. Tubman, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Mobutu Sese Seko, El Hadj Omar Bongo, Daniel arap Moi, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Habib Bourguiba, Blaise Compaoré, just to name a few. They interfered in our affairs; then accused us of not being able to govern ourselves.
I am convinced there are many African leaders today in this exclusive club; President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is not exempt. These club members are preoccupied with implementing the agenda of International Capital at the expense and detriment of their countries and people. For carrying out their wishes, they are rewarded with all sorts of international awards and recognitions. This is what mortgaging your countries’ natural and mineral resources for mere chicken feed will earn for you. To me, this practice is not only dumb; it is stupidity to the highest degree.
Below are reactions I gathered from Liberians on Liberian listservs and websites when ‘Executive Order 65’ was announced. One person said:
“Liberia is the only country where citizens are totally occupied with colonial mentality without the need to eradicate it or to show that they are not inferior. Where in Africa will a President’s son think about winning a senatorial election after the parent had created a mess, from Ebola to corruption, to disregard of citizens’ rights to good health care? Only in Liberia! Liberians prefer to die in cold blood than to exercise their rights either at the ballot box or through direct protest in order to change their condition. Liberian citizens' love for those who do not like them, even after knowing the truth, especially at this time, defies Liberian history and vindicates the Americo-Liberians in their treatment of indigenous Liberians.”
Another said: “This Executive Order is a joke. “[The] President cannot suspend any portion of our constitution. Article 17 is a fundamentals right hence it cannot be suspended by a tyrant and despot like this criminal. The real game is to make her useless son senator by the same unconstitutional way she became "president". But it is up to the Liberian people to either obey an unjust law from a tyrant or disobey such law that is already void and of no legal effect in keeping with Article 2. Ellen you are not smart, we have just been patience but this is below the belt and we will resist. Understand the end game is to use under pay police officer to killed their fellow native along with some boko haram Nigerians in military uniform under the guise as Nigerian soldiers but the masses will resist all of your evil plan with your unholy knife to their throats and your bloody heartless bullets to their breast....think this will end the game of thievery, nepotism and reckless auction of the natural resource by a German Liberian or better stated a hybrid hateful and evil criminal to meet the deviant sexual behavior of her incarnate son.”
Finally, this person said: “I am sensing foul play. This is sad for Liberia and we must resist this to the fullest. The president wants to turn the elections results around in the favor of her beloved son. But she knows exactly that will not happen. Liberians must now stand against the proposed Sirleaf Dynasty. Why restrict movements, protest, rallies or demonstration after elections results when the election is not yet held. This has to stop now or it be stopped!”
These are what our people are saying!
Let me add to what most of the observers above said. Sometime ago, I was among those who felt that if a woman took the leadership of our country she would perform better than her male counterpart. Oh, how wrong I was! This is what I said in a speech I made to the Liberian Women Association of Kentuckiana (LWAK) on Saturday, April 22, 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky.
I said, “Most Liberian women of my mother’s era, were God-fearing first, honest, disciplined, reserved, visionary, and compassionate. Based on these qualities, I am of the belief that if women were given major roles to play in world affairs, we might not have had all of the problems confronting humanity today. I honestly believe this to be true! Therefore, I am not surprise that Liberia has become the first, once again, to elect the first woman president in Africa. In fact, Liberia has had many powerful women leaders. For example, Madam Suacoco after whom Suacoco is named was not only a community organizer, but also a skilled politician. Then there is – Ambassador Angie Brooks, the first female president of the UN General Assembly. Ambassador Brooks was elected with 113 votes out of the 118 ballots cast to become the president of the 24th session of the UN General Assembly in 1969.” (Louise Crane, Ms. Africa: Profiles of Modern African Women, 1973)
President Sirleaf disappointed many people, especially women. All the promises she made when she was criticizing others, she engaged in those practices when she obtained power; some with impunity.
To this end, I close with the quote by Paul Robeson, the great African-American scholar and artist. It reads:
“You won’t stop me from crying out! And if you finally succeed in socially, economically, and politically assassinating me, don’t think you’ll stop me! Because, it’s not just me, it’s the Negro people whom I echo! And if you do silence my voice by making me a non-person, there will be another voice-and another-and another!”
So look out President Sirleaf; we say to you and your Unity Party; enough is enough! “… [We are] responsible for the good and bad governments we have had in Liberia because as citizens we have tolerated bad behavior on the part of our leaders.” These are your own words! The time of the people has come! Therefore, the Movement Against Corruption in Liberia (MOLAC), the Concerned Liberians Against Corruption and Impunity (CLACI), Friends of Ellen Corkrum, Civil Society Groups, patriotic Liberians in the Diaspora and Liberia are calling on all Liberians to stage a peaceful demonstration to let the international community know that you and your corrupt partners have failed the Liberian people, and that you should please resign. Your Executive Order 65 will not stop our call for a ‘peaceful demonstration’. We promised you; the ‘peaceful demonstration’ will take place! No amount of threats will prevent us from carrying out the wishes of the people.
Remember, "You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time" (Abraham Lincoln).
Let’s vote for the best candidates for country!
The time of the people has come!
Gwei feh kpeh!
(The Struggle Continues!)
About the Author: Mr. Siahyonkron Nyanseor is Senior Advisor to MOLAC and CLACI. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org