"…History will exonerate me for
my stand on having my fellow Sinoeans realize that we are Liberians…”,
says Klahn-Gboloh Jarbah, the outgoing President of SCAA, Inc.
An Interview Conducted By
Mr. Jarbah: I was saddened to see
my home town and the level of destruction. This town
was thriving and one of the largest towns in Sinoe County.
Plandiabo and the esteemed E.N.I. Mission School were
great place to be. We had an airport and motor roads.
Today, the airport is covered with forest. The town
only has a handful of huts. The E.N.I. has ceased to
exist. But I am not without hope. I strongly believe
with God’s help, we will rebuild the town and
E.N.I. I am now having conversation with Bishop Augustus
B. Marwieh, the long time Director of E.N.I. Mission
about the future of the school and our town. We will
rebuild! We will rebuild the town, including the E.N.I.
Mission stronger and better than their prewar status.
TP: Mr. Jarbah, now, tell me how you got involved in participating in community affairs, starting from the time when you were a student in Liberia and when you relocated to the United States.
Mr. Jarbah: At age 14, I had my own soccer team. I always had a soccer ball so the town kids always followed me around. Naturally, I started leading my peers. Then I was elected captain and president for JA United Soccer team. In high school, I was in student government and class government. When I landed in the United States, my desire for community leadership grew stronger. I went on to hold the following community leadership positions: President of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM), National Vice President of Lott Carey Alumni Association, State Vice President for Minnesota Community College Student Association, President of SINGEMA (Regional Association--Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Maryland), and now President of the legitimate Sinoe County Association in the Americas, Inc.
TP: I am told, you came from a family of leaders. Your mother was a civic leader. Your father was a quiet but effective organizer and community leader as well. As for your uncle, Paramount Chief Taryon-Ganty was chief for Juarzon District for more than 30 years. Are you driven by this tradition of leadership?
Mr. Jarbah: I never intended to do so; perhaps, it is part of my genes or my DNA, which is leading me to carry on my family’s legacy and tradition of service to our people. As a child, I have always wish to be a messenger of peace and to bring understanding amongst our people – all Liberians. While I have breath in my body, I intend to use every ounce of my life in partnership with those who share my dream for Liberia, regardless of their status in life or which part of the country they come from.
TP: Now, let’s talk a little
about your mother. I spoke with some individuals who
grew up with you in Plandiabo, Sinoe County. They tell
me you were very close to your mother. By the way, your
friends and family tell me your mother was a civic leader
for well over 40 years in your town and district. Tell
me about your mother and her relationship with you.
Mr. Jarbah: My mother was a great woman. She was kind, loving and generous. She devoted her entire life to helping people. We were very closed for many reasons. I was her only son! My birth was a redemption to Gbarnue-Kumuteh Jarbah, my dear and beloved mother. As you know in our culture, if a woman, particularly a woman who is married in a permanent family as my mother was – could not give birth to a boy child, she face ridicule from her in-laws. This was my mother’s fate until she had me. Every effort to have children was painful as her children will die in their infancy. After 12 births, two daughters survived, and I followed. Once she told me that she prayed every day for me to live. She even said, the town’s people joined her in her prayers for my survival. For this reason, she kept me close to her. She protected me from everything you can imagine. She wanted the best for me and wanted me to follow in the family tradition of service to our community and people. She fed the hungry and counseled the trouble minds. She led the town’s people with grace and compassion.
The death of my mother devastated me because I had wish to show her in my weak ways, my appreciation for all that she did for our family, relatives, and me especially. Her death, robed me of that opportunity to do for her what she did for me. Oh, how I missed her! It is my greatest regret not to reciprocate. May her soul rest in eternal peace with God and our ancestors who went ahead of her.
TP: Your mother’s death must
have been very difficult for you! Those that are closed
to you say you went into deep depression after your
mother’s death. What are your thoughts about those
who were responsible for her death during the civil
Mr. Jarbah: I loved my mother. My only regret as I said earlier is, I did not get to see her before her tragic death at the hands of some rebel group. I went into deep depression after her death. My visit recently to my home town was the therapy and healing I needed. The highlight of my trip to Liberia was the visit to Plandiabo and E.N.I. Mission. I walked for hours from the main road to the town. Those long hours of walk and the difficult terrain gave me time to reflect on my childhood, my place in life today and my future. The silence and visible tears that flow from my eyes cooled my heart and brought healing to my soul. I harbor no anger against anyone or group. We have to move on! Now that I have walked the creeks where her blood and life were washed away, now that I have walked the bushes were her body was left to the animals, I am now at peace with myself.
TP: Klahn-Gboloh, what really is this split about in the Sinoe County Association? I noticed there is another group competing for attention against your administration. Who are these people and what are their motives?
Mr. Jarbah: I do not consider this as a real fight. A fight is when real men and women are engaged in a fight based on moral principle, and not to maintain corrupt practices that have been a way of life in our society. In this case, certain individuals from ‘Mississippi Street’ in Greenville, Sinoe County, including three misguided Sarpo individuals have resorted to throwing stones at me because I refused to behave like their houseboy. The so-called conflict in the Sinoe County Association is over money. I was popularly elected in a bitter and hard fought race for the presidency of SCAA. Immediately following our election to the position of president, the outgoing administration of Zackery Taylor Major and Rev. Emmanuel S. Morris refused to turn over the assets -- finances and other instruments of government to our administration. Zackery and his brother Augustus Major, who is now Deputy Director General of the GSA, Republic of Liberia, mismanaged the finances of the association and are afraid to be audited. Therefore, the formed an insurgency to undermine our administration. Gus Major took $5,000 of our association’s funds to Liberia to purchase medicines for hospitals in Sinoe. Up to this date, there has been no financial accountability or report to establish where and how much the medicines cost. At our convention in 2003 in Maryland, we raised an estimated $13,000 dollars, up to this date, Zackery Taylor Major and Emmanuel S. Morris’ Administration has not accounted for the funds. The reason for the confusion is to cover-up the financial mismanagement of the Zackery Major Administration. There is another piece to the crisis in the SCAA. A small element in the Sinoe County Association and in Sinoe County believes it has the right to lead while some of us remain followers. That small element is headed by Zackery Taylor Major and his in-laws who are living in the past. It is safe to say, they are sleep walking because Liberia has changed since the days of Claudius Major who ruled Sinoe with impunity. Those days are long gone!
TP: According to the publisher of the Liberian Media, Robert Sayon Morris, “All Roads lead to Sinoe County Convention in Minnesota”, where hundreds of people from Sinoe County are expected to attend the convention, including prominent Liberian personalities in the Diaspora such as, Dr. Mariah Y. Seton, President, Federation of Liberian County Association; Mr. Arthur Watson, President, Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas; Mrs. Roberta Rashid, President Emeritus, Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, Mr. Francis Zayzay, President, Lofa County Association, both presidential candidates seeking the presidency of ULAA, Mr. Emmanuel Wettee and Mr. Emmanuel Toe, just to name a few. What is going on here? Mr. President, how could you pull this off by drawing “Who’s who in the Liberian community in the Diaspora to attend your convention and the group headed by an Interim National President, Mr. Elijah J. Tarpeh that is having their convention this same weekend (Friday, July 7, 2006 – Sunday, July 9, 2006) in Upland, Indiana could not the same to attract there prominent Liberians?
Mr. Jarbah: Well, as you can see,
the Jarbah-Peal Administration of the Sinoe County Association
is the “real deal”; that’s why prominent
Liberians and Liberian community associations are going
to Minnesota in rows to attend our convention. We are
grateful to leading Liberian community associations
like ULAA, Federation of Liberian Counties, and the
community at large for recognizing and supporting our
administration. Their support and partnership have been
invaluable in the last 2 years. The support we enjoyed
is indicative of our participation and commitment to
the common good of the Liberian people.
TP: Since you were duly elected, why is Mr. Elijah Tarpeh calling himself Interim President of SCAA?
Mr. Jarbah: I really do not know the gentleman. I simply know him to be the surrogate head of a handful of disgruntle Sinoe citizens who are operating a loosely organized insurgency. Tarpeh is said to be a protégée of Zackery Taylor Major, his family man and in-law.
TP: Klahn-Gboloh, this reminds me of the Samuel Kaboo Morris project you once told me about in 2004! What has become of the project? For the benefit of our reading audience, let me briefly explain who this Samuel Morris is. As the story goes, some 132 years ago, in a small Liberian village in West Africa, Samuel Morris was born Prince Kaboo, the eldest son of a Kru tribal chieftain. While still a child, a neighboring clan defeated his people, took Prince Kaboo as war prisoner, and demanded that Kaboo's father pay a hefty ransom for his son's return. The conquering chief subjected Kaboo to terrible treatment and cruel labor. During one of many intense whippings, Kaboo said he saw a bright light and heard a voice from Heaven telling him to flee. Kaboo recalled that the rope binding him fell to the ground, after which he gathered his strength and ran into the jungle. To make long story short, somehow, he landed in the United States in 1892, attended Taylor University for only a year and a half and died May 12, 1893. As a student, Morris' impact upon the then-struggling school, which moved from Fort Wayne to Upland later that year, was so profound that the school has built residence halls, erected statues and dedicated scholarships to preserve his memory. (For additional information, go to http://www.taylor.edu/about/morris/)
Mr. Jarbah: initially, I supported and embraced the Samuel Morris Project. But as times when on, it became apparent to me that a small element in the Sinoe County Association was claiming ownership of Samuel Morris. They were misinformed that Samuel Morris came from Sinoe County. There is no evidence the man is a Sinoean. He claimed to be a Kru man, and the name “Kaboo” tells the story. That means he could have come from any quarter of the Kru ethnic group. The prudent thing in my estimation was to make the Samuel Morris Project an All Liberian Affair. Samuel Morris belongs to all Liberians and not a Sinoe clique. The Zackery Taylor Major clan is claiming ownership of Samuel Morris. They believe Samuel Morris is some kin to the Morris family in Greenville, Sinoe County. As we speak the Majors and Morris from Greenville, Sinoe County are leading their family members to the Campus of Taylor University where Samuel Morris attended school. Taylor University is home to Samuel Morris Foundation.
TP: Recently I read a posting titled: “White Teeth Black Heart!” The author criticized you for making a donation to the Liberian Government. Your critics say you did not help the Sarpo people, and that you neglected your county, Sinoe. What do they mean by that, and what do you have to say about these criticisms?
Mr. Jarbah: First, the donation was a corporate donation from Grace Management and Scientific Concepts, Inc. Their management decided to make a donation to the Government of Liberia for the benefit of Liberian youth. I am affiliated with Grace Management. Importantly, it is ridiculous to accuse me of wrong doing without first knowing the facts. That tells you how small minded these people are – write about me and have it posted on the Internet without asking me or our management team in terms of how, who, what group or sector of Liberia we spent our resources on. Let me stress here that I am no more a Sarpo than a Liberian. And I am no more Sinoean than a Sarpo. I am first a human being, a citizen of the world, a Liberian, a Sinoean, a Sarpo and a Seekon man. I hold equal allegiance and citizenship to all. An investment in Liberia to me is a wise investment for the betterment of the common good of our people.
TP: Klahn-Gboloh, I have known you now for many years. There are speculations that you have political interest in Liberia. Some have it that you might be running for a public office in the next election. Do you have political intentions? Is that why you were in Liberia recently?
Mr. Jarbah: God has blessed me to
be born into a great family and to enjoy the support
of great friends and family. My future is in the hands
of God. Thus far, He has helped me to gain both insight
and wisdom over the years. If he leads me to a political
role in Liberia then is His will – will be done.
As you know I was in Liberia few weeks ago and I saw
first hand the devastation caused by the civil wars.
Liberia needs each of us to contribute to the rebuilding
efforts. I am committed to helping in the rebuilding
of our country in whatever role God leads me to play.
God has blessed me with some skills, experience, the
heart and desire to be useful to my country. So far,
I have not made any decision yet!
TP: Sources have it that you are supporting the formation of a Federation of Liberian Counties. We already have ULAA and you are a strong ULAA supporter.
If it is true, why would you want to be a part of a group that will compete with ULAA?
Mr. Jarbah: The formation of the Federation of Liberian Counties sounds and feels good. From my understanding, the federation is not in competition with ULAA. Let me state, I will not do anything or be affiliated with an effort that will undermine ULAA. I am supportive and have headed a ULAA Chapter in Minnesota. The ideals and tenants of the Federation -- to collaborate regionally and to provide technical assistance to our local officials in the development of our counties are all noble; but we must realize that we are Liberians first, and the organization, which serves as our umbrella organization is ULAA.
TP: Last year, we had the All Liberian Conference in Maryland, which was headed by Mrs. Mydea Reeves-Karpeh. As you know there were lots of preparation that went into the planning of that conference, yet, we split into two ALNCs. Looking back at the role you played in planning the” original ALNC’s” conference, what would you have done differently today?
Mr. Jarbah: I wholeheartedly embraced the idea of the All Liberian Conference. Many of us were enthusiastic about the conference. We gave our time, energy and resources for the hosting of the conference. But I must add, I am and still disappointed that the goals and objectives derived from the conference have not been implemented. I am even more disappointed that the association died a slow death. I think those of us who were leaders of both conferences hold the public and participants an explanation. What really happened to the ALNC? What happen to the mandates?
TP: In a few days, your term of office as president of the Sinoe County Association will end. What do you plan to do? Are you seeking a second term? If not, do you have a candidate of choice?
Mr. Jarbah: My term of office ends
on Saturday, July 8, 2006. I am not seeking a second
term. When I was elected in Detroit, MI, I made it clear
I will serve a one term. I reiterated my desire to serve
only one term in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania last year.
I thank all of my friends and supporters for the honor
and privilege afforded me to serve SCAA for these two
years. SCAA is a great organization! If a credible,
dependable, committed, stable, capable trusted man or
woman steps forward, then I might cast my nest around
that person. But as of now, I have not made up my mind
as to the candidate I will support.
TP: Finally, Mr. Jarbah, is there anything or message in particular you want to say to Liberians here in the Diaspora and at home?
Mr. Jarbah: What I would like to say is -- each of us must do our part to rebuild Liberia. Liberians cannot rely on foreign aid alone to rebuild our towns, cities, counties and country. We as citizens must invest our time and resources in partnership and collaboration with our international friends to rebuild the lives of our people and the physical infrastructure. It is an illusion to think that the Johnson-Sirleaf Administration alone can rebuild Liberia. We must also exercise patience because the devastation in Liberia is so great that it would take years to resurrect. Finally, each of us must return to our towns and counties to begin the renewal process. I believe truth growth should start from the towns and counties toward Monrovia and not from Monrovia towards the towns and counties. The government should give autonomy to local governments to self-direct development initiatives. Counties should keep portions of their taxes and revenues from concessions for development projects. Superintendents and council members should be elected so that they are more accountable to local citizens and not to the national government. Regarding my patriotic position with the breakaway group of the SCAA, history will exonerate me for my stand on having my fellow Sinoeans realize that we are Liberians first than claiming to come from Lexington or being Sarpos.
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