Animal Farm Redux: The Liberian Case

Liberians stand in queues as they wait to register to vote. (Photo: Darlington Porkpa)

….. The tragic irony lies in the fact that the concept of “farmhood” is lost amidst the tribal cacophony, and the possibility of forging united farmland remains a distant dream.

In the annals of political absurdity, few stories can rival George Orwell's satirical novel “Animal Farm.”  The farmyard analogy seems fitting when observing Liberia's political scene where good governance is nothing more than a utopian fantasy.

Much like the animals, the Liberian electorate has been subjected to a never-ending cycle of empty promises and deceptive tactics. It’s as if the pigs, aptly representing the political elites, have hypnotized the other animals into believing that tribal loyalty is the paramount qualification for leadership, rather than competence and integrity.

While Orwell’s novel was a satirical critique of the Russian Revolution, it fits neatly in the case of Liberia — a different form of political revolution, one driven by tribal voting — and the dire consequences it entails. The animals (the citizens) have willingly surrendered their critical thinking abilities, opting to align themselves with tribes where political power becomes a zero-sum game, rather than a means to uplift the nation.

The pigs, adept at exploiting the animals’ tribal tendencies,  play on historical grievances, stirring up emotions and fostering a sense of tribal superiority.  Political discourse is then drowned out by tribal chants and the rationality of governance is traded for the chaos of tribal loyalty.

As a consequence, the ideals of good governance and national development have been trampled upon while the pigs, who engage in endless charades, feeding their own pockets while the farm suffers, are celebrated as saviors and heroes.

The farm roads remain dilapidated, schools struggle to educate other animals, and healthcare systems falter under the weight of corruption and incompetent leaders. Yet the issues are conveniently sidelined in the name of tribal unity as if unity can only be achieved by overlooking the needs of the nation.

The tragic irony lies in the fact that tribal voting has not only perpetuated the cycle of poverty and underdevelopment on the farm but has transformed the country into a battlefield, where the animals, blinded by their allegiance, engage in bitter rivalries and animosity. The very concept of “farmhood” is lost amidst the tribal cacophony, and the possibility of forging united farmland remains a distant dream.

The situation leaves one bewildered and exasperated as to why President Tolbert's administration was overthrown in a bloody military coup d’étàt allegedly by Master Sergeant Doe and a few other soldiers who argued that the coup signifies Liberians rising against so-called oppression with the hope for a better future. 

This was the same argument put forward by warlords like Charles Taylor and Prince Y. Johson in a blood fight to overthrow Doe — and later Sakou Damaté Konneh — to get rid of the Taylor administration.  But what the animals on the Liberian farm did not know is that they were replacing the old tyrants with a new set of despotic pigs, bound not by ideology or vision but by tribal loyalties and in whose mind the issues of good governance is nothing more than a utopian fantasy.

The pigs, having tasted power and realized that they have failed, have become adept at manipulating the masses to solidify their grip by surrounding themselves with a tribe of sycophants. These loyal followers blindly follow their leaders without questioning their actions or policies. They worship their tribal idols, celebrating their every move, regardless of its consequences for the country, and, as a result, meritocracy and competence are thrown out of the window, leaving governance in the hands of the unworthy.

The animals “stupidly” turned blind eyes against the pigs plundering the farm resources while making corruption an acceptable norm, but have the mouth to criticize, insult and blame a few “conscientious animals” who go against the pigs for the woes of the farm.  

Their animal loyalty lies not with the farm but with the tribe and their high level of stupidity is forcing the few “conscientious animals” to watch in disbelief as their once-prosperous farm falls deeper into chaos — seeing how tribal politics had fractured it — and eroded the very fabric of the society.

They suffer the most as their cries for justice are drowned out by the tribal drums played by the pigs who exploited the farms.  With their wisdom and experience, the few “conscientious animals” attempt to reason with the masses — highlighting the dangers of tribal voting, but their efforts are met with ridicule and scorn.  

They then watch helplessly as the majority of the animals bark when their masters command, and attack anyone who questions their authority.  Among all this, the few conscientious animals carry the burden of the farm’s hopes for a better future but they are losing steam as the animals are expected to repeat the cycle by electing the pigs once more as elections are just three to four months away. 

It is not that there are no other animals who have competency and integrity, but the animals of the farm’s loyalty to tribe have made them ignore competence, and integrity, and vote along tribal lines.  At the end of the day, they expect the pigs — who never hide their trace of corruption — to bring about any real change, which is inherently impossible.

The sad irony is that while the animals of the farm celebrated their tribal victories, the rest of the world watched in amusement, pity, and concern. They see a farm blessed with abundant natural resources, yet cursed by the divisive forces of tribalism. They see a farm with immense potential, squandered by the shortsightedness of its people — sticking it in a never-ending cycle of political folly. 

“Oh God, when will this end,” are the rallying cries of the few conscientious animals — hoping for a better future as the farm turns 176 this year.  But in reality, the pigs are in control and the animals' loyalty to tribal power means the farmland will remain poor for the next 100 years to come, no matter how rich it is. 

About the author: 

Robin Dopoe is the Senior Editor of the Daily Observer newspaper and a former Ambassador for the Liberia Intellectual Property Office. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Daily Observer's editorial stance.