God's Promise to Restore Liberia
(Keynote Address delivered by Samuel Wonwi Thompson)
August 4, 2002
Editor’s Note: In observance of Liberia’s 155th Independence celebration on July 26, 2002, the Liberian Welfare Council (LWC) for Liberians living in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana organized the program at which Mr. Samuel Wonwi Thompson served as Keynote Speaker. Below is the full text of the Keynote Address delivered by Mr. Thompson:
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Executive Committee, Chairman and Members of the Organizing Committee of the Liberian Welfare Council, Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen, Fellow Citizens:
First of all, let me express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the leaders and members of the LWC on behalf of my family and myself, for selecting me to be the Keynote Speaker of this auspicious occasion, the observation of the 155th anniversary of Liberia’s declaration of independence. This is indeed an honor and a privilege that I will endeavor, with the help of Almighty God, to adequately respond to.
Secondly, let me congratulate you for your efforts in providing leadership and seeking the well being of our country men in Buduburam Refugee Camp at this critical juncture of Liberia’s history. I can imagine that it is no easy task when we consider that the camp’s population represents every ethnic group, social class, armed faction, political party, major social organization and religious grouping in Liberia today; with all the tensions and frustrations that life in exile can bring.
Last but not the least, I would like to thank the Government and People of Ghana for the kind hospitality, sympathy, support and, most importantly, their patience which we Liberians have stretched severely on several occasions over these past 12 years of exile. The Bible says in Proverbs 25:17: “Let thy foot be seldom in thy neighbor’s house lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.” We must admit that 12 years is a bit too much and we Liberians have come and gone too many times. You Ghanaians have truly honored the Lord’s commandment to “be your brother’s keeper” and to “bear one another’s burdens.” May the Lord continue to bless, protect and prosper the President, the Government and the People of this great nation of Ghana; in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is because of the seemingly endless difficulties, disappointments, setbacks and frustrations that Liberia faces as a nation that I have been led to speak to you on the topic:
“GOD’S PROMISE TO RESTORE LIBERIA”
Fellow Liberians, it is very easy to lose hope when you find yourself in a refugee camp or in a foreign country, separated from your loved ones, your familiar surroundings, your homes, schools and businesses in Liberia, your relatives who have been killed or who you have abandoned as you fled a sudden outbreak of fighting somewhere in Liberia and you just don’t know where to find them. It is easy to become depressed when you think that your life is passing you by, that your dreams have been frustrated, that you should have gotten your Bachelor or Masters degree by now or that if not for the instability in Liberia, you would have been earning a decent and respectable living, or that you would not have had to engage in illegal activity to feed yourself, or have to bear the insults and public ridicule or higher prices in the market whenever you appeared.
But I want to encourage you today that though the times may seem difficult and we may be facing reproach in all its many forms across the globe, God has a plan for the restoration of Liberia. Turn to your neighbor and say, “God has a plan.”
However, before we can look into the future plan, I think it is very important to first of all summarize both the historical and the present context in which the nation and people of Liberia find themselves.
Brief Historical Background
The founding of Liberia by freed slaves as the first independent republic governed by members of the Negro race and her continued existence as a nation for over 100 years after independence inspired many freedom and independence movements across Africa. These included Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and the Côte d’Ivoire. Liberia was also a key supporter of the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, a founding member of the League of Nations, United Nations, Organization of African Unity, ECOWAS and other institutions. For many decades, Liberia was well respected among the nations of the world as an African leader and a friend of the developed, Western World.
Liberia had a relatively “stable” (in quotes) political economy for most of the first 133 years of its existence, with non-violent transfer of political power up to the administration of The Late President William R. Tolbert. In addition, for about 140 years, it was one of the few countries with a stable 1:1 parity between the Liberian and US Dollar and, although its economy was not well managed, it attracted a high volume of regional trading activity.
Many causes have been identified for the years of instability and violent socio-political conflict that Liberians have had since the rice riots in 1979. However, over the years I have come to believe that these factors were mere symptoms of a more fundamental spiritual problem.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that what we are going through today is simply because Liberia as a nation has turned its back on God, on whose principles it was supposedly formed. Like the children of Israel, we Liberians have broken the two great commandments: (1) we have not loved God with our whole hearts, souls and minds, and (2) we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
On the first commandment, although we professed to be a God-fearing nation founded on “Christian principles,” many have bowed down to other gods in the land. This has been primarily through indulgence in the occult. Numerous citizens have engaged in fetish practices, juju and the consulting of familiar spirits, while also going to churches or to the mosques to pray to God. Our country has also been know for a proliferation of secret societies with various types of blood rituals and covenants. Examples of this included the “Nee-Gee” and the “human leopard” societies that were banned during President Barclay’s administration in the 1930’s but simply went underground. “Heart man” activities or ritual murders and human sacrifices to other gods continued to be the order of the day. As several of such cases were linked to leading members of those Liberian communities who were also known to be members of secret Western-style societies like the Masonic Craft and UBF, we often heard repeated speculation that the “society people” engaged in ritual murder. However, these speculations were never proven and may therefore not be true at all.
The whole objective of the occultist practices was supposedly to gain spiritual power and “protection.” However, we know that God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth does not approve of such short-lived power and that it does not bring glory to Him. God says in the book of Jeremiah 2:11-13 that: “my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit... they have dug wells that can hold no water.” The glory of Satan will always be shame and destruction.
How have we broken God’s second greatest commandment to “love our neighbor as ourselves?” First of all, since its creation, Liberians have chosen social, political and economic exclusion of the majority of our citizens as a way of life. Since Liberia was founded, access to the country’s resources has always been reserved mainly for the ruling group who maintained a “plantation” system based on exploitation of the vast majority of the citizens. Under this system, the small ruling class found it easy to maintain its social privilege and to sustain a relatively easy lifestyle. In general, it did not take responsibility to set up long-term national development objectives or to set aside major spending to improve the lives of all citizens. Poor stewardship of resources through corruption and mismanagement were the order of the day.
A major book called “Growth Without Development” was written to describe this situation that prevailed during the boom years of President Tubman’s Open Door Policy; and this, despite massive investment and export activity taking place in the country. For example, upon his death in 1970 and 123 years after Liberia’s independence, the only major paved road into Liberia’s interior stopped at Tubman’s Farm in Totota, about 100 miles from Monrovia. Roads leading to major mining operations like Bomi Hills, Bong Mines and LAMCO remained unpaved. There was no workable national telephone system outside of Monrovia. The Liberian electric power supply grid extended only to Montserrado County, parts of Margibi County and Bassa County including the export production areas like Buchanan, Bong Mines and Harbel, Firestone.
Only under President Tolbert did any meaningful progress begin to be made to expand paved roads, public schools, water and power systems and health centers into the interior of the country and to have a more inclusive political culture.
Secondly, instead of forging a common vision from the very beginning that Liberians are one people with one destiny, a selfish, class or tribe-based system was promoted, choosing to emphasize our differences.
Thirdly, since 1980 some people continue to encourage the grossly mistaken belief that violent overthrow of duly constituted authority is a viable means to attain state power. They seem to always forget that “violence begets violence.” If the combatants were to go into a battlefield, fight it out to the last man to see who would win and leave non-combatants alone, it would stand to reason. However, the problem with these conflicts is that defenseless civilians are usually the main victims of the violence and abuse. That is why after so many years of coup attempts and civil war, the majority of Liberians now find it so difficult to trust so-called “liberators.”
They only come to “liberate” lives through massacres, to “liberate” fathers and children to either join the fighting or be killed, to “liberate” wives and sisters through rape, to “liberate” hard earned properties and human dignity, to “liberate” people to become internally displaced persons or live degrading refugee lives. To the Liberian politicians and the so-called “liberators” we tell you today that WE ARE TIRED OF WAR. STOP THE FIGHTING AND NEGOTIATE FOR PEACE. IF YOU SAY YOU LOVE LIBERIA, SEEK THE PEOPLE’S INTEREST.
I believe that what Liberians want today is to be free to live their lives in peace in their homeland; to make their farms; to run their businesses; to send their children to school and not to prostitute them for daily bread; and for parents to be proud and honest bread winners for their families.
Today, at 155 years of independence, where does Liberia find herself?
However, all is not bad news. On the other hand:
“If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Fellow Liberians, God is looking for people with a new heart in tune with Him, to rebuild the new Liberia and heal our land. More Liberians must turn away from past wrongful attitudes and behavior and become one of the new breed.
What Has God Promised Us?
God has promised that after Liberians have come full circle through the furnace of affliction that they are experiencing, He will “restore the years that the locusts have eaten.” Several decades ago He started revealing all that is going on now and He is still revealing His plan to various people. As far back as the 1940’s the late Didwho Twe prophesied that Liberia would go through a period of intense turmoil, bloodshed, destruction and exile. Then it would be restored in a sustained and glorious period of economic development and political freedom. So did the late Mother Dukuly and several others prophesy.
My personal experience of this was in April 1996 in a hotel apartment in London as I sat watching CNN footage of a street scene in Monrovia. There were two teenagers armed with AK-47 rifles, hustling a third completely naked man; pushing him around on Benson Street hill. One could see all the way down on that clear and sunny day. The streets were deserted and littered with debris and burnt-out cars in the background. As they taunted the naked man in those few seconds of film footage, I knew that they were closing in for the “kill.” I turned off the TV with a deep sadness for what was happening in the country, and went into my room to lie down.
At that moment, I was led to take my Bible and open it. It opened directly to the book of Zechariah chapter 8. You may read it later on from verses 3-17 and 20-23. However, to save time I will summarize the key points.
The Lord said to me through His word that:
1. He will take over Liberia fully as His place of residence and truth will reign throughout.
2. People will live to a ripe old age and see their children’s children playing in the streets.
3. All those who have gone into exile will return from all over the world to rebuild Liberia, and God will help us to do so in peace, prosperity and abundant employment.
4. For all the international shame and reproach Liberians have faced during these years, Liberia will become an object of blessing among the nations of the world.
5. God requires Liberians work hard, encourage freedom of speech, just governance and peaceful, non-violent problem solving.
6. We must do away with enviousness, lack of trust, evil thinking and lying on each other.
7. Many people will come to Liberia from all over the world to live, do business and worship God. People from powerful nations will come because of the presence of God in Liberia.
Although the above passage refers to “Zion” and “Jerusalem,” I felt a deep peace in my spirit that God was speaking to me about what I had just seen on television. He has promised that He will restore Liberia and I believe it. He never changes His word.
My Fellow Liberians: it may not be easy to see it today sitting in Buduburam Refugee Camp but I want to encourage you that Liberia is a blessed country. I feel deep in my spirit that the time of Liberia’s restoration and the revelation of God’s glory is no longer far away. Righteousness is springing up. I believe that the time is coming when we will not have enough workers to do all the jobs required to rebuild Liberia. Foreigners will have to come and help us. Hotels will be jam packed and there will not be enough good houses for people to live in. Private housing estates will start all over the country. Monrovia and other urban areas in Liberia will be rebuilt to look better than they have ever been with new streets, sidewalks and sewage systems. Major international standard highways will link all parts of the country plus neighboring countries. Private universities, hospitals and schools will be abundant. Electricity, water supplies and telephones will become available nationwide. Rice and other agricultural production will boom.
In conclusion, much will be expected from each and every Liberian. As you can see from all that has been said, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” We must believe and hold on to this vision that the Lord has given. We must not lose hope. More of us should make up our minds to live by God’s word, to acquire an education and marketable skills, to bring up our children properly, to be law-abiding citizens, to avoid idleness and to take advantage of opportunities to save and invest, in order to become a part of the restoration that God has promised for Liberia. The time is near when Liberia will become a good example for Africa and the world to follow. Rest assured, fellow citizens, that Liberia will rise again. Liberia will shine more than ever before, as a glorious land of liberty by God’s command. I thank you.