MOJA Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Archbishop Michael Francis Honored

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 24, 2003

On March 21, 2003, the 30th anniversary of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) was celebrated at the Library of LDRC in Monrovia. Dignitaries present at the program included U. S. Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Thomas White, the E. U. Resident Representative, Mr. Geoffrey Rudd, the ambassadors of Nigeria and Ghana along with other respectable Liberian personalities. The event was used to honor His Grace, Archbishop Michael Kpala Francis. Find below introductory remark made by James Fromoyan:

Introductory Remark By James M. Fromayan At The Movement For Justice In Africa ( MOJA) 30th Anniversary In Honor Of His Grace, Archbishop Michael K. Francis Held In The Library Of The LDRC March 21, 2003

Three decades ago, on March 21, 1973, the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) was born in Liberia out of the realization that justice is the indispensable ingredient for peace, democracy and progress world-wide. The founding members of this Social Movement were mainly University professors who were influenced by the Civil Rights movement in the United States of America during their graduate studies in that country. It was that influence reinforced by the presence of colonialism in Africa in countries such as Mozambique, Angola, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Guinea Bissau, the minority apartheid rule in South Africa and, at the home front, the perennial mass poverty and the absence of democracy in Liberia that gave rise to the birth of MOJA. Although Liberia exhibited an average annual double-digit economic growth rate, second only to Japan in the 1950s, less than one percent of the population accounted for over 60 per cent of the national income and wealth. A Liberian government sponsored team of international experts from Northwestern University in the United States of America referred to the prevailing condition of the Liberian economy as “Growth Without Development”.

It should also be noted that MOJA was organized about two years after the death of President William V. S. Tubman. President Tubman, as older Liberians know, was not a lover of democracy. He was against opposition thus making Liberia a de facto one party state. His successor, President William R. Tolbert, Jr. was on the contrary tolerant of opposing views. It was this tolerance of opposing views that enabled MOJA and other social movements to create awareness among the Liberian people about the socio-inequality and injustice that existed in the country. Moreover, as its name depicts, the Movement had its focus on injustices that were committed in other parts of the continent. It occasionally took positions on developments in Apartheid South Africa and the then colonized countries in Africa. Some of the outstanding positions that MOJA took in Liberia was (a) mobilizing Liberians against a proposed gambling bill, (b) being part of the opposition to the planned increment in the price of rice, (c) publicly denouncing the secret visit to Liberia of John Voster of South Africa in 1975; and (d) being instrument in organizing citizens in support of the late civil rights advocator, Albert Porte.

As the decade of the 1970s came to a close, MOJA had its second congress in March 1980 mandating the leadership of the Movement to transform it to a political party. Three weeks after the congress, there was a Military coup in April 1980. The Military Junta suspended all political activities. Since then MOJA has been inactive for reasons that time will not allow me to delve into.

The need for justice in post-war Liberia is even greater than it was thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, there was the rule of law in Liberia which respected the fundamental rights of all Liberians although there was instances of imperfections. Yes thirty years ago, the name Liberia was respected all over the world. Thirty years ago, the average Liberian could afford a bag of rice, send his/her child to government school which had good standard. I need not tell you that thirty years ago we had functional hospitals, electricity around the clock and pipe borne water. The denial of the citizens of any country of these essential rights is a violation of their basic rights by the government of the day. It is all of these factors that make the manifestation of justice in our society an imperative. This is a challenge to all Liberians irrespective of what profession you belong to. There is price for fighting injustice in our society within the framework of democracy. Some of those who are in authority deliberately perpetrate injustice on others and expect that no one should dare talk about it. This brings us to the role our distinguished guest of honor has and continues to play in the promotion of social justice in Liberia.

Except for a new comer in the Liberian society, nearly every Liberian above 18 years knows about the work of His Grace in championing the cause of justice and fair play in Liberia. My first impression of the Archbishop was in 1978 when he, and two of his colleagues, the late Bishops Roland J. Payne of the Lutheran Church and George Browne of the Episcopal Church appeared on a televised program called The University Forum. The topic under discussion was whether it was possible for a full time bishop to serve as a vice president of Liberia. The deliberation was against the backdrop of the Methodist Bishop, Bennie D. Warner acceptance of the offer of the position of vice president to Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr. President Tolbert informed the people of this country in a radio broadcast that he had a vision and, God told him to select Bishop Warner as his number two to replace Mr. James Greene who died in office. The contention of Archbishop Michael Kpala Francis and his two late colleagues was that a full time bishop could not hold a full time job especially a vice president of the country. From that moment I knew that His Grace, Michael Kpakala Francis is a man of principle.

There are those who believe that the church should have nothing to do with injustice in society. We all know that one of the key functions of Christ on earth was to defend the rights of the poor and downtrodden. Those who are responsible for spreading his message can do nothing less than to speak for the voiceless. Members of the clergy have the moral authority which supercedes that of secular authority, the guns notwithstanding.

While we are gathered here today to celebrate the 30th anniversary of MOJA, we are more importantly assembled here to honor someone who has devoted his entire life to the service of humanity in every respect. The Archbishop is more than just a religious leader. Under his leadership, the Catholic Church in Liberia is doing remarkably well in both the education and health sectors. I can say without fear of contradiction that the Catholic Church in Liberia is making tremendous contributions in the fields of education and health nationwide beyond their call to duty. One only needs to look at the Catholic school system in Monrovia along with the hospital and other health posts to appreciate the point I am making. A brief statistics of schools in the diocese of Monrovia and that of Gbarnga give the following figures: Diocese of Monrovia : Total no. of schools ( 20 ); student population 12,190

No. of instructional and support staff ( 637 )

Diocese of Gbarnga:

Total number of schools ( 12 ); student population (4,515 )

No. of instructional and support staff ( 211 )

This is just a tip of the iceberg because I do not have statistics for schools and health centers for the Cape Palmas diocese. I do not think that the Catholic or other religious establishment are under any obligation to educate Liberians and make provision for health care delivery. The minimum that any decent Liberian can do is to be grateful to the Catholic Church for the assistance that it is rendering our society.

In closing, I wish to say to the Archbishop that there are hundreds of thousands of Liberians who are appreciative of the services of the Catholic Church in Liberia. As we continue to strive for a just society in which the rights of all Liberians will be protected through the adherence to the rule of law, I can only say to His Grace continue to have courage and do more for the people of this country. It is my hope that this modest recognition by MOJA of the tireless effort of the Archbishop in standing on the side of the oppressed people of Liberia will inspire others to do likewise.

I thank you.