Liberia in 2022, at 200 Years Old

In announcing today that Liberia is 200 years old, it should be made crystal clear that we are talking about the country’s founding, not Liberia as an independent state.  We are talking about 1822, when the Colony of Liberia was founded.  It was in the year 1824 that General Goodlore Harper of Maryland (USA) named this place on the West Coast of Africa “Liberia”.   

We are not sure why General Harper chose that name for this place that was destined to become the first independent Republic in Africa.  That alone gives our country a lot of history.  We remember distinctly the long colonial history on our continent, when European nations invaded and took over large tracts of land in Africa and established “colonies”.  When white Americans started to become concerned about the fast-growing numbers of black people, freed from slavery in the United States, they began to wonder what to do about them.  It was at that point that many black people, too, began to think fast about their future. 

The Americans in 1818 sent out two men, Samuel J. Mills and Ebenezer Burgess, in search of a place in Africa where the blacks freed from slavery would be sent as an asylum for their habitation.  It was they, Mills and Burgess, who found their way to the West Coast of Africa and discovered a place that was later named Liberia, a land of liberty, where the emigrants from the USA would establish their new home in the land of their fathers.

There they established the Colony of Liberia.  Later, in 1841, they established what they called the Commonwealth of Liberia.  But the Commonwealth found it increasingly difficult to collect taxes and duties from European merchants who were trading long Liberian seaports.  These foreign merchants continuously demonstrated a disinterest in paying custom duties at Liberian seaports, arguing that they did not feel compelled to do so to an institution merely called a “Colony of Liberia.”

The Liberians deemed this a very serious matter—the glaring challenge to their existence—yet what existence?  It was a mere colony that had no strong European or other attachment.  Faced with this terrible isolation or loneliness—a band of hapless “immigrants” from America that had no serious allegiance or attachment to any recognized national or international body or nation, they, the Liberians, soon found themselves in a quandary—a dilemma or predicament—and sensed the urgent need to do something, and do it fast. 

So they decided to establish an Independent State, named and styled the Republic of Liberia, which they declared on July 26, 1847, their Declaration of Independence.  A month later the leaders of this new Republic appointed a Committee of Women, under the leadership of Susannah Lewis, to design a national ensign, the Flag of the Republic of Liberia, commonly called the Lone Star.  Why was it called that?  Because Liberia was the first and only independent Republic in Africa.  The only other independent African nation at the time was the Ethiopian Empire.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Liberia and Ethiopia found themselves in the role of championing the cause of independence of most other African nations that were under the yoke of colonial rule.  The first breakthrough came in 1957 with the independence of Ghana from British colonial rule.  Next came Guinea, on October 2, 1958, Nigeria, on October 1, 1960, followed by a succession of declarations of independence by many other African nations.

It can be argued that Liberia at 200 does not have much to show for two centuries of independence.  Yet our very survival these two centuries is commendable, given the grave difficulties we have experienced.  Yet Liberia is a rich country.  But how we have managed our riches leaves much to be desired.  Much of the nation’s wealth has been squandered over generations of leaders who took care of themselves and their families, and left the people to fend for themselves. 

Today, in the year 2022, we have little to show for 200 years of independence.  But we at the Daily Observer, being eternal optimists, believe that all is not lost.  There is still hope for our country.  We call on the government of President George Weah to take seriously its calling to lead Liberia, and to do so diligently, effectively and honestly, with vision and determination to do everything possible to turn our rich nation — rich in human and natural resources — into an oasis of growth, development and prosperity.

To do this, we — meaning the leaders and people — all of us — must unite and work together to harness all of the immense resources that the God of nations has given us to move our country forward, upward and onward in every direction.