Redefining The Struggle
By Decontee Jackson
For many in the Diaspora, Liberia is now a thing of the past. Liberia has had her time, and positive history-making ended in 1980 with the overthrow of the Americo-Liberian oligarchy by non-commissioned army personnel. A significant number of the pre - 1980 aristocrats botted the country for the United States fearing reprisals; especially after the gruesome deaths, by firing squad, of the thirteen cabinet officials, and the callous murders and witch-hunt that ensued in the immediate aftermath of the military takeover.
The People's Redemption Council (PRC) automatically assumed to rule the country under a new slogan; "In the Cause of the People, the Struggle continues." Even I learned to say those words just as a child of six years old. These words had such patriotic, revolutionary and redemptive aura about them. Everyone thought, by listening to the new regime's platform politics, no matter how crude, was the best course to pursue and revoting for the enhancement of the masses, the best mission. But the PRC took precious pieces of advice as an affront and the regime degenerated into a misalliance.
On July 3, 1999, Liberians thronged the John Bartram Athletic Field in Philadelphia for an African Music Fest. The Liberian performing team was headed by Veteran composer and performer, Lady Miatta Fahnbulleh, and included Princess Fatu Gayflor, Hawa Daisy Moore and Big Steve. As I watched Liberians dance, sing, and cheer and meet one another all over again, a sea of horrible images began flashing across my mind. I turned to a brother sitting next to me and said, "so Liberians can get happy again. They still have fun." And he replied in a tone I thought somewhat despondent, "Oh yeah, they do have fun."
When I got home that night my uneasiness was more profound, and I thought about mother Liberia in an unprecedented way, accompanied by ten thousand questions in ten thousand teardrops. I'm reminded about all Liberia has suffered in the last two decades, especially in the last ten years - infrastrutural devastation, human resources depreciation, and humiliation. Technological retardation, economic recession, diplomatic estrangement, and the list goes on. I want to ask these questions - from whom did they supposedly Struggle? What was the essence of Struggle? Where do we want to be as a people? Where have we been? Thus, my writing this article.
By all accounts, the PRC failed before it began the struggle as it turned out, was materialistic and require was incestuous as it predecessor. Everyone wanted a fancy car, a fortress for a home, a line of gorgeous women for sexual escapades, and in later years anybody who was nobody became somebody. The people were utterly forgotten and relegated to the margins of society.
Amidst the orgy of political misfeasance and glorification of the phony revolution, former Education Minister, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr. counseled the late Head of State Doe to weed out all traces of the old order from the government because history extols those who progress. Mr. Doe came on national radio and said, "If Fahnbulleh wants to remain poor he can remain poor. He should not stop anybody from being rich." With the head of government endorsing the plundering of the country's coffers, it was absolutely no problem for a cabinet official to erect a fabulous mansion within just three months of his office. That culture of extortion, exploitation, and embezzlement was transported into the new regime
I read once that a Liberian journalist, Tom Kamara, was summoned to the Executive Mansion one morning for attempting to investigate Doe's building project. The Head of State claimed to have taken loan from the International Trust Company (ITC) to build himself a home. In pursuing the facts of this story with ITC authorities, the government accused Tom Kamara of meddling. So the entire episode turned out to be an interrogation about where and how Mr. Kamara obtained his education.
The point I'm trying to drive home is that no government yet in Liberia's history was both transparent, progressive and just at the same time. Some people may argue that the Americo-Liberian oligarchy was transparent, maybe not progressive. I beg to differ. Let's quickly scan all that we obtained during the First Republic - mass illiteracy, discrimination, embezzlement, classicism, etc. One had to be a Dennis, Tubman, Tolbert, Deshield, Henries, and so on, to qualify for admission at College of West Africa. The "Liberian people" were kept in the dark, suppressed, segregated against. What happened - the natives gave up their children as wards to the "Congo People" to be civilized. Civilization then meant taking the last name of your Congo guardians, baking corn bread and sleeping in the attic. There was still no improvement in the conditions of the majority of the people. They remain largely underdeveloped. The regime was extinct. A leading Liberian historian once described the Americo-Liberians oligarchy as "Builders of apartheid." Needless to mention the PRC. It was as its predecessor and more. But it had the potential to progress.
In 1990 the people again fell prey to the orchestration of the remnants of the vanquished Americo-Liberian oligarchy. This time the ignorance of the masses was exploited to the detriment of the entire nation. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) aroused anti-Doe sentiments within the Gio and Mano tribal groups; the fullness of time had come for the confrontation with Samuel Doe. I need not bore you with the horrifying and indelible details that accompanied that declaration of guerrilla warfare on Liberia on December 24, 1989, Christmas Eve.
Frankly, as the country continues to slip away and descend into a downward spiral, I believe the way forward is to confront our past and then make realistic and progressive provisions for the future. We must know where we have been, the errors we have made and where we want to go as a people.
In my opinion, Liberia's restoration is a triplet national requirement - reconciliation, reintegration and reconstruction. Liberia soon will turn 153 years old. What have we to show the world as our achievements as Africa's oldest republic? Are we comfortable in perpetuating classicism, exploitation, mass illiteracy, hatred, underdevelopment and war? Should it matter that we are of diverse tribal groups? Should it also matter that we are of varied intellectual, political and socio-economic stations? We must remember that the ties that hold a country like the U.S. together are stronger than those that are endeavoring to sever Liberia further. We in the Diaspora and at home must today resolve to build a new nationalism. We must work collaboratively toward making the new person - patriotic in character, diligent to duty, hopeful in despair, courageous in difficulties and optimistic toward the future. Liberia is for us all and we must work together to make her shine and once more in the comity of nations. The new millennium beckons to us with a new call of freedom march. Dawn is here. The dawn of human and technology advancement, political stability, and economic progression. Dawn is here! Why wallow in the dark ages any longer? In Union Strong, Success is Sure, we will overall prevail!
For subscription information, send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or go to: www.theperspective.org