"Putting Liberia First" - A Call to go Back to the Drawing Board

By Rev. Coker A. J. George, Jr.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted May 10, 2002

In the early 70s, I was privileged to have served as General Farm Manager of the WILORIA Estate of President William R. Tolbert, Jr. After little over two years of service, President Tolbert was approached by the Ministry of Agriculture requesting that I be relieved of that assignment, be returned to the Central Agricultural Research Institute in preparation for graduate studies. The President asked for my decision. My response was, "I will take advantage of the opportunity extended to me because upon my return, I will be of service to Liberia and not one man". The President replied, "Mr. George, I respect your decision, because I have always told Mrs. Tolbert that Liberia comes first, and nothing comes before Liberia".

Fellow Liberians, let us "Put Liberia First". The prophet Isaiah pronouncing the Lord's empathy for the children of Israel, seeing their sufferings and estrangement from Him because of their wanton disobedience said:

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are let scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Isa. 1:18).

Our experience over the past 22 years shows that hostilities have resulted in loss of lives of the very people "our self-proclaimed liberators" came to liberate, and the devastation of our country, and the exploitation of its by these same "self-proclaimed" liberators. Further, formulas implored to bring about peace and stability are not workable. And the present leadership of government has not muscled the will power to create the conditions and environment for reconciliation, rehabilitation, repatriation, resettlement, and reconstruction. Regrettably, considerable national resources have been diverted and converted in personal reconstruction and enrichment, and use to further destroy the country and massacre our citizens (combatants and non-combatants). As a result, the socioeconomic situation in the country is appalling, far below the pre-crisis conditions, and suffering and poverty being the order of the day. In sum, there are two classes of people in Liberia nowadays: "the Rich and the Poor". A friend who has recently come from home states that: " Nobody can give you 5 Liberian Dollar", an equivalent of about US 10 cent.

We call on the present leadership of the Government of Liberia to "Put Liberia First", and with love for the country and people, see it wise to call upon all peace loving Liberians to cease hostilities, inviting them to return to the "drawing board" in order to find an amicable solution to our problem. It seems most urgent, putting aside personal ambitions and pride, to convene a summit that will result in the formation of another interim government. We join Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh and others in an appeal to ECOWAS, the UN and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA to impress on the Taylor Government to work along with other Liberians in convening a summit as being proposed.

We have learned that the Taylor Government is in opposition to another interim government on grounds that this government was elected by the Liberian people. So be it, but circumstance demand that we "Put Liberia First" considering the prevailing conditions in the country, and the potential for things to get worse. Don't we see that instead of people returning home, they are again running to the neighboring countries for safety? Don't we see the thousands of displaced from Lofa and now Bong once "THE BREAD BASKET" of Liberia. Do we want to fight until the last soldier dies? Let us come and reason together, and stop this carnage. Remember that there is a reward for every action, and no sin goes unpunished.

As we consider forming another interim government, there are two schools of thoughts, one of which could be adopted: (a) A 5 or 7 person Council of State, comprising of Sages (3 men and 2 women, or 4 men and 3 women) - all non-affiliate of the warring factions or political groups; (b) A 5 or 7 person Council of State, made up from the Inter-Religious Council. The Council of State will have tenure of 2 years, with the following term of reference, among others:

1) Reconstruction of the military, paramilitary, and security forces
2) Establishment of Commission of Reconciliation
3) Rehabilitation of combatants and other victims of the civil crisis
4) Repatriation and resettlement of refugees and displaced Liberians
5) Development of a National Plan for Reconstruction of the Economy This will involve the setting up of Commission to work along with the Ministry of Planning.
6) Establishment of an Elections Commission - that will pave the way for national elections.

In closing, as people who love our country, let us stop these senseless hostilities and killings. Let us avoid repeating the experiences of the "1980 Coup", and those of the civil crisis; "enough is enough". Remember, our actions have resulted not only in the loss of lives, but "brain drained". Those killings have done us no good. Instead, they have divided, and brewed animosity between families, ethnic groups, religious groups, and political groupings. We do not call for impunity, but pray that where justice is to be meted, it must be done with love, compassion, and forgiveness. Let us "Put Liberia First".

May God bless us as we work relentlessly by His grace to rebuild our country, to be "...A Home of glorious liberty by God's command".

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