Terrible Days Ahead!
- Is Tomorrow Safe for journalists?


By: F Shelton Gonkerwon

Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted October 26, 2005


Tomorrow which is expected to glitter with press freedom, freedom of speech as well as all essential elements of democracy may drag under the dust of bad governance with dictatorship its coefficient if present trend to muzzle the press, intimidate media practitioners by officials of certain political party and the negative interpretation of stories in local papers by the Press Union of Liberia through its secretary-General thereby endangering the lives of media executives are not reversed.

PUL Secretary-General Alphonsus Zeon last week went on campaign spree negatively interpreting the banner headline in The FORUM: Secret Hands Behind Weah’s Presidency: George Dweh Eyes Defense, Julu Returns Soon. He was in concert with CDC Assistant Secretary General for Press and Propaganda Acarious Gray who made public that his party was prepared to deal with journalists who elect to write what he called critical articles against their standard bearer and the CDC. For Zeon the story was meant to inflame trouble and cause the people of Grand Gedeh and Nimba to begin renewed war. For Zeon the name George Dweh, Julu, ex-MODEL fighters as well as close associates of the late Samuel Doe who are reportedly the wheel and engine of Weah’s presidential vehicle should not be unveiled although the reality is as clear and visible like a dry season sky. Zeon made the story to appear as though FORUM has announced the coming of beasts and so he chose to paint staffer of the paper black.

As a result of Zeon’s negative trumpet, men with little minds, who are yet to be born to understand the working of free press in a free democracy, especially in our society which needs the stronger pen to fight ills- social, political and economic, began venting anger and venom at our staff. Some threatened to kill our reporters.

As it appears the name George Weah is so untouchable like the last egg of an alligator which raises alarm when touched.

Indeed, terrible days of old especially under the Doe regime where journalists were often wolfed in several forms and manner have begun to reappear. Dictatorship of old which allowed the flag of tribalism to fly above that of nationalism could be seen swarming upon the corridor of Liberia’s democracy.

In their position statement, Nimba and Grand Gedeh elders described the FORUM report as inviting the two tribes into the ring of gladiators and called on the public not to lend credence to the story. The fact remains that the elders may not know that as part of our social and political responsibilities we are under the obligation to inform and educate the public when Jesus is knocking at their door or when Satan plans to visit them.

For instance, when two war generals, Prince Johnson and Alduphus Dolo were elected for the House of Senate, we reported that.

Equally so when men from the MODEL world in concert with late Samuel Doe’s men are escorting Weah to power, we reported the story.

FORUM is not part of the formation of such political team comprising people of military background but was only making public who they are and from where the come.

At present, there are several schools of thought-those who still subscribe to nativity and others who believe in class system (Congoism).

The other school of thought has to do with subjugating education to illiteracy because “the degree holders are those who spoiled the country.”

Resultantly, Liberia stands wrangling and rumbling with tribal sentiment forming the core of its prevailing political climate.

“Substance has lost, and we stand to abuse the opportunity that awaits us,” said Joe Gbalah of ELWA, Monrovia.

The international community has and continues to warn the people of Liberia to make a wise decision as to who wins the presidency.

“Liberia must understand the hint and language of the international community and guide themselves in electing their new president, said LU Professor who begged not to be named.

Continuing he said, “Liberia should be wise to let the will of the international community be done because they are the ones prepared to pump money for our country’s reconstruction.”

The political climate in Liberia may likely remain at a doldrums point should the media remain journeying under the cloud of intimidation.

A media Executive in Monrovia feels those who crave for public life must accept the fact they become public asset and are therefore subject to public scrutiny through the press.

The FORUM’s report that Weah was building a hill of ethnicity given his alleged promise to give Defense to former Speaker George Dweh- a Grand Gedean, appears like giving dog a pepper infested food.

Although from several uninformed corners The FORUM staff members are being whipped by people who have locked up their minds so that they would not accept the reality unless God Almighty can Himself come down and do so.

Liberia may not achieve the expected change given the present mentality where native-Congo divide appears to be the bottom line of the campaign melody in Liberia.

It is hard to say whether Liberia will land in the safety zone in terms of building a class of nationalism with conglomeration of the best brains to forge the nation ahead.

“We want a native man to rule, “Said a teenage boy. The belief of the boy is glaringly reflected in the chorus of the political song being sung in all corners of Liberia.

“We are tired with degree holders; we don’t want Congo people to rule…”

The bloody overthrow of William R. Tolbert in 1980 by 17 enlisted men of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) (almost all of them illiterate) laid a nursery for tribalism as opposed to nationalism when dictatorship stood as coefficient of Samuel Doe the head of the People’s Redemption Council government.

The Doe regime which honored the doctrine of tribalism and actualized its practices soon found its common enemies-the people of Nimba County when Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, a Nimba born staged an abortive coup on November 12, 1984 which preceded the 1983 Nimba raid.

Destruction of human and material resources of Liberia began fermenting when the two tribes – Krahns on the one hand and Gios, Manos on the other stood at two ends politically.

“If congoism is bad then tribalism is ridiculous,” observed a taxi driver, adding “we need to come together and form one government where everyone will be represented.”

© 2005: This article is copyrighted by the Forum newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved. Forum can reached at: Forum@theperspective.org