"Ah Mu Nyan," Let's Move Ahead in Peace
(Remarks delivered by Mr. David M. Farhat, Sr. at the 13th Annual Convention of the Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas, held in Silver Spring, Maryland on May 24, 2003)
Mr. President, Officers and members of the Grand Gedeh Association, The Chairman and members of the organizers of this convention, visitors, guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen, fellow Liberians.
I first of all want to thank God for this beautiful day he has given us and made it possible for us to come together as citizens of one nation to ponder together some of our short comings that have led us so far from home.
I wish to also thank the officers and organizers of this convention for selecting me to be one of your guest speakers. I am sure you had a long list of individuals from which you could have selected anyone you so desire. Why the lot felt on me, I do not know, but I assure you, I am greatly appreciative of your selection and do hope I will not disappoint you, especially those who were instrumental in mine selection.
I will be honest to say that Grand Gedeans do play major role in the Liberian political arena and at such, keen attention is paid to what your movement does. Today, I am quite sure you have left a lot of us wondering as to what you could be up to at this convention.
Since our migration from home in the early 90's there has been a very strong tide of ethnic grouping in this country among Liberians. This grouping has left a lot of people wondering, especially for the future of our country. But I would like to laze the fears of some of us about this grouping and to say that in the period of uncertainty, there is always the tendency for greater tide between and among people of the same ethnic group. As they say, birds of the same feathers flock together. In the same manner I would like to add that such grouping can be very healthy because it provides means by which we come to really know and understand each other better. So I say congratulation to all of you for such a strong organization and wish you all the best in your endeavor.
It is my hope and prayer that what you do here will be not only to the benefit of the Grand Gedeans but also to all of our fellow Liberians.
Many of us here and allover the world (as Liberians are found everywhere in the world today), are wondering what has happened to us and still happening to us. As devastating as this may be, I would like to offer some consolation to all of us by saying that Liberia is not the first country in which such a situation has occurred and I am sure Liberia will not be the last country to experience such crisis. However, we are all astonished because over the years, we have considered ourselves as one people with very strong ethnic tides and religious up bringing. Where we went wrong is what we are all wondering about. Many of us who are here today may have known each other for number of years yet to see our situation today is very hard to understand.
In order to briefly understand why things are the way they are, we simply have to look into the good book, the Bible and than we will understand why people do the things they do. In Jeremiah 17:9 we read that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it. Because the human heart is wicked and difficult to tell, we never understood over the years what was in the minds of those around us and how they felt about certain things as well as certain people.
Over the years when we were classmates, playmates, workmates, etc, etc"" no one had the idea or knew what the other was thinking. This should not be strange to us because if we look again into the Bible, we see that from the beginning of the world such situation existed. Cain kill his brother and than had the nerve to ask God if he was his brother's keeper. We as human beings have not gone far from this attitude and action. We see signs of this around us and will continue to see them until we pass from this earth. After all we Liberians have gone though and still going through, our attitudes have not change, and who knows, it may never change.
In light of what is happening on the home front, you are today coming together in your convention to consider some of the burning issues that affect our nation and people and you have selected a theme that reflects on the general condition of our country .And you have asked me to speck on the Theme, "Ah Mu Nyan." Which means, Let's move ahead in peace." I am sure this theme was carefully thought of and given full approval by your membership before coming out to the general public. This theme, if I may say, implies more than just let's move ahead. To talk about moving ahead there are several things that must first take place. For example, if we decided today that we were going home we could not just jump up and leave. There are a whole lot of things that must be done before leaving, such as packing, settling our bills and what have you. So for us to move ahead we need to settle our differences before we can hold hands to walk together. Your theme also means that you are holding out the olive branch calling all Liberians for us to iron out our differences., forget the past and move ahead.
Talking about settling differences,. We need to go back to the period just prior to 1980 and review where we are coming from and some of our problems along the way. As we walk back to just before 1980, we discover that all of our complaints during that period were against the Americo-Liberians as we have decided to call them. Everything that was wrong with the society was blamed on them.. We did everything within our power not to , give them any credit for whatever they did but blame them for the ills of the society. When the 1979 rice riot occurred the presidential commission that was established to investigate the situation said, this was just the reaction of a group of people tire of the political system and this was their way of showing it. We resented the system and the people who ran it. We showed our frustration by destroying everything that was in sight and even killing who ever came near. Before the breeze could blow over, came the 1980 coup which completely removed the old order of the day replacing it with a new one.
The 1980 coup saw- one of the biggest change in our history. One that had been more talked about. That is since the finding of the Republic of Liberia, it has never been headed by an aborigine. So 1980 saw that change and t he one who came to power was one of your sons. As his administration progress the songs prior to the 80's began to change. New songs began to emerge. Those things that were held against the Americo-Liberians were now- being held against you. In fact, it is being said that you are responsible for us being here. You are the cause for all that is happening in our country. The list of grievances goes on and on. Again in our effort to pass blame for our situation, we have made the same mistakes we made in our first allegation against the Americo- Liberians. Without fully understanding the given situation, we pass judgment, lay blame on people and w-hat have you. Our decisions were sometimes base on our biases, greed, envy and most time lack of communication. The same has surface in the period of the ‘80's. For many of us we really never understood what was happening, the limitations of the government and other difficulties. Yet we in sighted our people, put out information that most times were totally incorrect and again sought to lay blame on individuals.
Had we been patient and open-minded we would have really seen a great change in the 80's for Liberia in many ways. There would have been the emerging of true multi-party system and a great change in the political system of the country .The 80's saw for the first time opposition members in the national legislature. Personally, I was sure that the next election would have seen greater improvement to the multi-party system in the country. But in our hurry and eagerness to take power, we ruin it for all of us. Now see what the country is going though.
In the midst of all of this, especially all that have been laid on you, you Grand Gedeans have taken a bold step to call us to peace. You are saying to us, let us mend our fences build new bridges and move forward. It is better to live in peace than to live in pieces. It is better for us to move as brothers and sisters than to move as enemies. First of all I must congratulate you for such a bold step. Only men of dignity and honor and above all humble man can make such a move.
As we explore your theme further and the underlying meaning, can we really agree that you are ready for peace? Put another way, are you really ready to discuss peace? It might seem difficult for any one here to agree that your call is genuine. To discuss peace the condition must be conducive or the environment must be right. But as we speak the condition on the home front does not lent itself for such a discussion. At present, there is serious fighting at home. From the news, most of the country is in the hands of fighting groups -The LURD and The MODEL. Added to this, our people are moving from place to place, and there are several refugee settlements. But more than that, it is reported that of the two fighting groups, one is composed of 95% Krahns while the other is 80% Krahns. If this information is correct, than with your ethnic group so heavily involve in the fighting at home, how can we say we can move ahead with peace? Certainly no one will agree that we are ready for the move or that you are serious with your request for peace. However, the time has come when we all should be serious about peace and whatever effort is made by one group, we all should readily take advantage of it and try to work together to see that peace return to our country. In fact, from the information above, who is in the better position to call for peace than the Grand Gedeans who possess the advantage? Truly, you have all of the cards stack in your hands. You now have the advantage of the prevailing condition in the country. But with that advantage, you feel that it is better for us to discuss peace than to continue fighting. I could not agree with you more. I have always believed that we as Liberians could settle our own problems. We could come to the conference table and iron out our differences and return our country to peace. In this light, a small group of Liberians under the name Liberians for peace was organize to find a solution to our problems by trying to seek audience with President Taylor and the fighting groups with the hope of bringing both sides to the conference table. That group has done some pretty" good work but is still looking for the opportunity to make a move of bringing the various parties to the table.
In light of the call from the Grand Gedeans, I say to all of us who are none Grand Gedeans that we should take up the challenge and form a small committee to work with this convention in trying to see how we can approach this issue of peace and where we go from here. Our people at home are very tried of all this fighting and so we will be doing ourselves and them a great favor if they were to hear that a group of Liberians in the United States is now working together to bring about peace on the home front. My fellow Liberians, let us not miss this opportunity to give our people what they have long been waiting for.
Let me remind all of us that peace is an expensive commodity. It does not come easily nor does it come cheap. Remember, Jesus died on the cross for us to have peace and He left us these words that if anyone wants to follow him, he must first pick up his, cross. That Cross dear friends, is not an easy load. In many circumstances lives have been lost for peace. In our own country many lives have been lost to change the system and still being lost hopefully for peace. So we should all do our outmost to seek true peace for all of our people.
I say to you in the words of the Apostle Paul, Let us for get the past and press forward for our people for the rebuilding of our country, for schools for our children, for roads for our people, for hospitals for the health of our people, for running water, etc, etc...Only and only when we are all willing to do these things than can we truly say we are matching toward peace.
Before leaving, let me point out few basis facts that need to be considered when we talk about peace. We need to bring all of our differences to the table and address them accordingly, putting right where right belongs and given credit where credit belongs. We also need to address those things we consider wrong in the past and stress that if they were wrong in the past, they are wrong in the present and will be wrong in the future. We should not do the same things we condemned in the past and say we are paying doubt. Those things that have brought division among us must be addressed and dealt with accordingly. We should seek to ensure that the resources of the country are for the benefit of all Liberians and not one privilege group.
As we seek to mend our fences and hope to reconstruct our country, our aim must be equal opportunity for all and not just for one privilege group. If I am in power, not only me and my family or ethnic group should get the lion share of the country's wealth but others must be given their fair share so that peace can be maintained.
In closing, I leave with you the words of President John Kennedy, "The nation that cannot help the many that are poor, certainty cannot save the few that are rich." How true this is. As we look around us, we see that those governments that have failed the masses of their people, have not been able to save the ones that were rich. As we say, hint to the wise is quite sufficient. I thank you.