Liberia at a Glance: Formal Colonization Instead of Early Independence

By: Moses Uneh Yahmia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 26, 2016



I am a Pan Africanist, especially from the perspective of Nkrumaism. This has prepared me to abhor the history of colonialism in Africa. This is because the disadvantages colonialism brought to Africa are far more than its advantages. One of those disadvantages that still bring pain and agony to many Africans today is how the colonial masters exploited the resources of Africa and sent them to the European Industrialized markets, thus making Africans practically dependent on the  Europeans  for  economic  survival.  For  the  purpose  of  “divide  and  rule”, Europe’s imperial occupation of Africa also created artificial boundaries that separated people of similar tradition and culture in Africa. Slavery was not enough, our people were made to suffer again from another act of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man; and this time, it was done through colonialism.

All countries in Africa, except Liberia and Ethiopia that are considered least colonized nations on the continent, were colonized either by Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, etc. Despite my abhorrence for colonialism in Africa, I would have preferred my Country Liberia to have been formally colonized by either of those colonizing European countries, rather than gaining quick independence on July 26, 1847. This is because if you make a comparative analysis between colonized and least-colonized countries in Africa with respect to development, better appreciation will be given to those colonized countries that fought   against   colonialism   under   the   insignia   of   political   and   economic emancipation, and gained independence in the 20th Century.

Colonialism, despite its crude and hybrid bestiality, left well-defined system and control that was emulated by governments of post-colonial nations and yield better and tangible results. This is evidenced by the increase individuals’ skills and capacities, supported creativity, self-discipline, responsibility, and enhanced citizens’ material wellbeing countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria, etc. have today. Although it existed at the detriment of majority Africans, it is obvious that colonialism set the basis for colonized countries of Africa to be on the right trajectory today. Ghana, was a British colony during Europe’s imperial occupation of Africa, and gained its independence from British rule in 1957. The British modeled Ghana’s educational system after theirs. This system, which has gone through several reforms in post-colonial epoch, has prepared the resilient people of the former Gold Coast to lead their nation to becoming a fully middle income country by the year 2020.

The economic power houses that Africa can boost of today are countries that were once colonized by imperial European nations, and to argue that colonization did not play a role in setting the pace for the economic success of those countries is being very dishonest while making an intellectual analysis of Africa’s history. Nigeria has the biggest economy currently in Africa. It gained independence from Great Britain in 1960. Botswana is another economic hub in Africa. It also gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1966. In pre-colonial time, oil and diamond were unknown and inaccessible in Nigeria and Botswana respectively. Native Africans did not have the expertise and technology to have explored the wealth beneath the soil before the coming of the Europeans. The Europeans in their quest to get hold of raw materials for their industrialized economies exposed to Africans  the  significance  of  the  continent’s  natural  resources.  Nigeria  and Botswana are two beneficiaries of this colonial eye opener. Colonization’s legacy in post-colonial countries’ economies can also be seen vividly in its introduction of single currency as legal tender in each African colony. Today, economically, African post-colonial nations are benefiting from the reduced net transaction cost as the result of adherence to single currency.

Intensive cultivation in the economic genre of agriculture was lacking in pre- colonial Africa. What was seen mostly practiced by Africans with respect to agricultural engagement was subsistence farming. But the coming of the Europeans through colonization and their involvement with rigorous land cultivation, for the purpose of getting primary agricultural produce like cocoa, cotton, palm nuts, etc. provided the framework to post-colonial governments to establish agrarian economies.  “If  intensive  agriculture  provided  sufficient  capital  to  Europeans during colonialism, it will do better for Africans now that we have our freedom”, a post-colonial leader asserted in the 60s. No doubt, although colonialism predominantly existed at the detriment of Africans, it also set the stage that aided post-colonial leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, etc. in moving their respective countries forward, and with the backward and moribund state of Liberia-the oldest independent nation on the continent, I would have preferred had it been formerly colonized by either of the European imperialists. Those who declared Liberia’s early independence had no capacity to move a sovereign nation forward. Early independence and the people at the zenith of the independence movement brought no significant impact to the masses of Liberians.

Liberia as stated earlier is one of the two countries that was least colonized in Africa. In 1822, with the sponsorship of the American Colonization Society- an NGO founded in 1816 to help repatriate freed African American slaves, the space call Liberia was established to accommodate repatriated African American slaves. In his article: “The Facts that Led to the Declaration of Independence”, brother Siahyonkron Nyanseor postulated that “instead of democracy, equity, and emancipation, it was commerce, trade, and custom duties that dictated the early founding of the Republic of Liberia on July 26, 1847”.

Unlike the Europeans who brought value-added knowledge to various colonial territories, the settler slaves/Americo-Liberians that founded and dominated the political and economic landscape of Liberia were bunch of semi-educated ex- slaves; they did not have any knowledge of agricultural practices. They did not understand the essence of nation building. These characteristics were never taught by their masters. What we are aware of is their operations of plantation, because majority of them worked in the houses of plantations owners during slavery. It was the same plantation mentality they brought and imposed on the indigenous masses of the people. They brutality fought to maintain their hegemonic role, and this brutal fight for power has been imbedded in the fabric of our society.

As a result, the coming of the settlers and their declaration of early independence has not history of building a nation that would bring about inclusive growth and progress. They refused to have adopted means that would have provided the framework for serious economic growth and development, and their inability has contributed immensely to where we are today as we celebrate 169years of independence. The marginalization and suppression of the indigenous masses was not enough. The founding fathers also left nothing tangible that would have engendered future progress. Today, after 169 years of existence as a sovereign and independent state, where we are is similar to where the European colonial masters left their various colonies after independence.

We remain the suppliers of raw materials to giant economies and consumers of finished products imported from China, America, Europe and even post-colonial nations. Frustratingly our national economic agenda shows no commitment to industrialization. The deplorable state of our health sector was again exposed by the Ebola Virus Epidemic in 2014. Poor performance of students, appalling infrastructure, unavailability of logistics, and up-to-date curriculum, low salaries and incentives for teachers, etc. place our educational sector in a messy state. In this age of globally improved technology, it is still being reported that majority of Liberians  depends  on  subsistence  farming  as  if  we  are  in  pre-colonial  era. Industrial agriculture is not well and alive. With abundant fertile soil, we are importers of our stable food. Traveling to other counties will expose to you atrocious nature of a space without infrastructure in this age of modernity.

Regrettably, as we celebrate 169years as a sovereign nation, I wish we had been formerly colonized by one of those European imperial nations. Despite the cruelty and barbarity of European colonization in Africa, at least we would have benefited more than what a settler-slave’s domination and control provided on the platform of early independence. I wish I could turn back the hands of time.

Author's Statement: Moses Uneh Yahmia is a student of the University of Liberia. He studies Political Science and Economics. He can be reachedvia

Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Sierra Leone, Kenya, Gambia, were colonized by Britain, the majority still live as second class citizens!

Before the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf- Charles Taylor wars, there were mass exodus from former colonies of France and Britain (Ivorians, Nigerians, Ghanians, etc. Etc.) who chose Liberia as a home far better than their colonized countries! The ECOMOG soldiers confessed that that it was a great mistake for Liberia to have gone to war, for the living standard of Liberians was far better than the majority in their colonized countries. We made the research and saw that the ECOMOG soldiers were correct!

So, my friend, had it not been for the Tolbert' political stupidity, and the Ellen Johnson /Charles Taylor wars, you would have preferred your non-colonized Liberia to those colonized countries!
Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 04:04PM, 2016/07/27.
sylvester moses
"I wish I could turn back the hands of time".

Mr. Moses Uneh Yahmia, you're not the first to wish that, or the first to think that Liberia would've been better off under colonial rule. After all, it is on record that some Southeastern tribes, particularly the Krus and Grebos also experienced "cruelty and barbarity" at the hands of various Liberian administrations since the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) in 1847.

It is worth noting also that in 1923, as a young senator, the adroit William Tubman saw the great chasm, and identified himself as the "connival cannibal for the constitutional rights for the members of indigeneous groups". And as fate would have it, he would be the one to grant this demography some constitutional rights about two decades later, and made common cause with rural chiefs to hold the presidency - for 27 yrs - till his death from illness.

To quote an old cliche, "That was then, and this in now": the divide is drawn not along ethnicity, but on the inequality of opportunities, which had exacerbated potentially dangerous economic disparities. However, never mind various unsought recommendations, and government policy prescriptions, nothing substantive has ensued because the crux of the matter is being overlooked - the absolute power granted to the presidency over the nation's bureaucracy, wealth, and economy.

In other words, Liberia must revisit the untramelled power that would allow a president to appoint a mayor in Greenville, grabs millions annually from the budget, instructs that the speaker of the house, and president pro temp should collect millions annually too, and spends revenues like the money is his or hers. Can anyone imagine Obama treating the American people's money like his private ATM. Which means that as long as no attempt is made to change the way we do the people's business, independence day will remain resolute rhetoric.

Meanwhile, rather than mattresses, the mats of the marginalized poor have worn out, so they sleep on the bare floors. But as Winston Churchill sarcastically observed:

"No matter how big the lie;
repeat it often enough, and
the masses will regard as the truth".

sylvester moses at 05:13PM, 2016/07/27.
sylvester moses
Mr. Yahmia, through the work of Granville Sharp and the Black Poor Society in England, a law was passed which stipulated that any slave who set foot there was free. It was to return those freed to Africa that led to the purchase of a land from King Niambana of Sierra Leone, called Freetown. The first 480 freed slaves who made the journey safely arrived in 1791. Others, including Maroons from Nova Scotia in Canada, kept coming.

So we know where the ACS got the idea of repartriation from.

As the colony started growing, the British government took it over, and sent administrative staff headed by a colonial governor. It boomed to be an educational metropolis dominated by a Krio settler population with the founding of Fourah Bay College in 1827. Few years later FBC morphed into a sister college of Durham University in London; and with the laying of a rail line to the provinces, schools were built for the children of tribal chiefs, and so on.

Ironically, one man who would play a significant role in the fostering of closer relations between the British governemt and the Krios in Freetown, on the one hand, and the various tribes was Dr. Edward Blyden, a Liberian who had championed the cause of integration between the Americo - Liberian government and the hinterland, but was rebuffed. President Tubman successfully achieved that goal in the 1950s via his national unification policy.

The country which gave the world Magna Carta eventually granted Sierra Leone independence on April 19, 1961. Although an indigeneous son (medical doctor Sir Milton Margai) from the majority population was elected prime minister, the governor - general of Sierra Leone (former chief justice Sir Salako Benka - Coker) came from the minority Krios. And since the 1900's, the latter have occupied significant positions, and today dominate the professional sectors.

Most importantly, they've never been at war, or in any adversarial relationship with tribal groups. Instead, the violent political struggles have been among the Mendes, Temnes and Limbas while they play peacemakers. What a contrast to our combustible situation where blood debts from historical animosities were paid in 1980, 1990, and, if we don't come to our freaking senses, who knows when the meanness and madness might erupt again.

To end, instead of trying to tweak history, let's discuss it candidly in order to not repeat its mistakes. First, let's reduce the enormous authority of the presidency; and, second, forge some balance of power between the minority and majority. Positive peace isn't cheap, and can't be leveraged by self - serving calculations, or threats of state violence.
sylvester moses at 03:23PM, 2016/07/28.
Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah

By the Way, neither the 1980, the 1990, nor wars beyond was the result of "adversarial relationships" between the settlers/Americo Libdrians/Congaus and the Natives!

The 1980 revolution was the end result of the heroic and gallant confrontations by THE PEOPLR against the TWP TYRANNY AND NEVER EVER AGAINST THE SETTLERS or their decendants!

Substantiating the above is testiment of key heroes of those confrontations or uprisings--Albert Porte, Baccus Matthews, Walter D. Richards- all settlers or at least Congaus!

As for the 1990s, the while World knows it was simply about an Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who while at the UN, like Tejan Kaba, and Alasan Ouatara, who decided to exploit the political climate in their individual countries for selfish gains! PERIOD!
Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 03:13PM, 2016/07/29.
sylvester moses
The Hut Tax war was fought by Paramount Chief Bai Bureh, and his Temne warriors against the British colonial masters, not the Krio settler population who lived in Freetown. Southeastern tribes also resisted the imposition of taxes by a Liberian government in which they weren't represented. Americans also used that same argument against the British colonial masters with the rallying cry "No representation, no taxation.

By the way, with no intention to brag, after three years of studying History of Africa, the Ancient world, Europe, and America (backed by two years of pursuing only English Literature), we are confident in our understanding of historical forces, and their effects today.

This is why we believe in the truism that "a historical work shouldn't only string up facts about the past, but has an obligation to give insight to the period and event under focus". And, of course, it was the aim of our brief compare and contrast look at the settler repatriation experiences with the natives of both countries.
sylvester moses at 02:28AM, 2016/07/30.
Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah
So if the colonial masters in Sierra Leone were separate, distinct, and different, from the Creole settlers under the BRITISH PROTECTORATE it has been disagreed to agree that the colonial or commonwealth masters in Liberia were separate, different, and distinct, from the settlers Americo Liberians/Congaus in Liberia under the ACS' PROTECTORATE.

But in terms of "adversarial relationships" with the NATIVES of Liberia and Sierra Leone respectively or juxtaposingly, it is fair to say or assimilate that with the CREOLE ARISTOCRACY which developed in the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown vehemently opposing the joining of the city with the "up-country" protectorate administered separately by the very British, the "adversarial relationships" then in both countries vis settlers and natives are MANIFESTLY AND ABUNDANTLY EVIDENT!

Hence, it is not safe to assert that " the Creoles in Sierra Leone never had adversarial relationships with the tribal groups in Sierra Leone"!!!-the major thesis of this anti-thesis of ours vis your thesis that unlike Liberia where there were "wars and adversarial relationships between the settlers and the natives, it has always been a matter of honeymoon between the Creoles and Natives of Sierra Leone"!

For the opposition of the Creole aristocracy vis the joining of Freetown with up country is of course not only similar, but in reality, identical to the opposition of the Liberian settlers' integration or marriage to natives in Liberia - a similar attitude on the part of the Creoles vis the natives of Sierra Leone - you a lover of History can attest to!
Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 05:42AM, 2016/07/30.
sylvester moses
There was never a Krio "aristocracy" at any time in Sierra Leone.

They controlled politics in the Colony by virtue of their numbers, therefore, held the offices of mayor, aldermen etc. while a British Governor and his expatriate council had the executive power. This policy of administering through the locals called Indirect Rule was extended to the paramount chiefs when the hinterland got protectorate status. And as proof of the fact that "numbers" rather than settler "superiority entitlement" was what gave hegemony to the Krios in Freetown, they lost it when the natives outnumbered them there.

Most importantly, recognizing that the natives were in the majority nationally, parallel developmental initiatives in education, roadwork, etc. were going on in both Freetown and Provincial cities, such as Bo, in order to prepare the natives for eventual governance of the country. Also significant was that paramount chiefs became special members of that ruling council headed by the Governor, which comprised of representatives from Freetown, and representatives from the protectorate. It demonstrated parity, that is.

Telling, the best example of the importance of the position of paramount chiefs was that some native professionals resigned their jobs, and few even abandoned graduate studies abroad in the 1960's and 1970's to answer the calls of their people to succeed their parents as paramount chiefs. No wonder the son of a paramount chief would become the first elected head of state in 1960.

Simply put, it is absurd to even remotely equate the political outcomes of the settlers in the two countries. That there was a series of exodus of Krios to Liberia indicated that political power and its uses beckoned, as it still does, but, most times, for all the wrong reasons.

We're done here, for it's futile engaging those with fixed unshakable opinions on a particular subject.
sylvester moses at 09:38AM, 2016/07/30.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Mr. Sylvester Moses,

We have argued that settlers´ domination and marginalization of indigenous population in Liberia was not only similar but indeed, identical to that in Sierra Leone.

You claim "There was never a Krio "aristocracy" at any time in Sierra Leone nor adversarial relationships between the settlers and the indigenous people of Sierra Leone", and that you "have had three years of studying History of Africa, the Ancient world, Europe, and America (backed by two years of pursuing only English Literature), we are confident in our understanding of historical forces, and their effects today."

Well, Mr. Moses, Let the readers and you log in to and then write in the google space: The Historical Context of Sierra Leonean Literature1.

And you shall appreciate the following:

[PDF]The Historical Context of Sierra Leonean Literature1
Ogre and The New Patriots; Yulisa Amadu Maddy's study of Creole ... Like many African peoples, the peoples of Sierra Leone have a history going back ...... to a Creole aristocracy that despises the indigenous people and their values.

Before you and any reader have gone few lines in the Historical Context of Sierra Leonean Literature1 reasearched and written by Eustace Palmer a decendant of the Creole aristocracy in Sierra Leone, you will assimilate the truth viz the fact that "like many African peoples, the peoples of Sierra Leone have a history going back ...... to a Creole aristocracy that despises the indigenous people and their values".
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 02:10AM, 2016/08/01.

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