By OluBanke King-Akerele ~ one of Liberia’s foremost Patriots and Pan-Africanist
.... To the Government of Liberia (all 3 branches) and Fellow Liberians
Over the past two years (2021 & 2022) as I entered my mid 70 s, I have penned my thoughts and concerns in various media, about “Mama” Liberia in what I termed “A Patriot’s Cry!”
This year as I turn 77 years on May 11 and Patriot’s Cry has become even more intense. The issues that I had highlighted in the past have become graver as there has been little if any, progress; or attention for their amelioration. In short, the problems have worsened for lack of action.
Thus, the question – so why bother? “They” don’t care! But who are the “They”? The “They” are yes, foremost Government, but also, it is all of us. If one believes in Liberia then one cannot turn a blind eye to all that is happening around us. We must all be concerned and care about what legacy we will leave for future generations; we must, above all, do our part in addressing our nation’s Problems.
∙ The signing of the Farmington Declaration and its commitment to free and fair elections, as well as promotion of non-violence, must not be just for talk, talk! In this regard, we are pleased to note that a Steering Committee co-chaired by ECOWAS and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator, has been put in place for monitoring its implementation. This demonstrates a seriousness and Goodwill by Government and the political parties as well as both civil society and our development Partners. We say “thank you” for this.
∙ It is in view of the above that one calls on the NEC to ensure that steps are put in place for provision and protection of Data Security. This will be determinant. It is my understanding that such expertise may be drawn upon through the UNDP, given experiences from Kenya.
∙ At the same time the Ministry of Justice must ensure that no political party -- including the CDC -- is allowed to have its own separate security force. The CDC must show an example by dismantling its alleged militia as it is the ruling party and has under its command and control the entire Armed Forces of Liberia with CDC’s Standard Bearer.
The President of Liberia as Commander in Chief. What does a separate militia convey to the citizens of Liberia? That our President does not trust the Armed Forces of Liberia, which HE commands to secure us? We do not believe this.
All political parties MUST dismantle militias as such unauthorized legal bodies are against an environment of peaceful and fair elections. Furthermore, they would undermine the very essence of the Farmington Declaration. The Trucking of Voters and other problems with the voter registration process that is being pointed out must be addressed by the NEC.
∙ Amongst the critical issues I wish to underscore, in this my 77th years, are the following:
1) Foremost, the drugs issues and its devastating effects on our nation’s future ~ our youth;
2) the extra-judicial killings & murders that have become the order of the day; many of which are yet to come to closure; 3) Garbage (with serious health implications) such that Liberia has been designated internationally as the dirtiest country on the continent;
4) The growing crime wave and lack of security in the nation – at the community level and elsewhere in broad daylight. 5) The desecration of our national cemetery, and others throughout the nation ~ Paynesville amongst others.
The Drug Situation
∙ Our young people are now dying from the Drug “Kush”. Drugs have invaded every town and village in Liberia. We are now being touted as the biggest drug transshipment point in the Mano River Union. The situation is desperate, yet one has not heard or seen sufficient urgency on this from either GOL’s platform or the incoming Presidential aspirants, why? The nation’s future is at unconscionable risk.
∙ Closely related is the security situation in the country. The case of the young “keh keh” driver, near the Mesurado compound in Logan Town – highlighted in the Media generally and on the “Crime Watch” radio show recently is a case in point. Here I want to commend the work of the “Crime Watch” Media Programme and those supporting it. I came upon them recently when the mother of the 29-year-old “keh keh” driver was featured. She said that her son left a 4-day-old baby; a 4 years old and a 6-year-old. She pleaded for assistance to bury her son.
I responded with a small package. But above all I want to say “thank you” plenty – to Mr. Zeze Ballah; to Makini Henries, its female General who together runs the Programme. Above all to Mr. Bernard D.J. Blue, who we understand is the owner of the radio station; may God Bless all of them for their work and for making their contribution to “Mama” Liberia.
∙ To the public at large and the private sector, I appeal to all of you to assist the “Crime Watch” by responding to their needs for motorbikes to help their work and to the Partners, and Diplomatic Community generally as they need Ambulances to help them respond to emergencies of Pregnant Women in the night hours.
∙ Monrovia, our nation’s Capital, has the distinction of being the continent’s dirtiest city. Moreover, there are serious health implications. Where is our Mayor, for “God’s” sake? How I recall meeting with the Mayor at the very beginning of this Government. At that time he was concerned and wanted a visit to Rwanda to learn from them.
I had been responsible for Rwanda, amongst the crisis countries portfolio that was mine at UNDP Africa headquarters under Mme. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was then Assistant Administrator at UNDP – Africa at the time. I undertook missions there at least three times.
∙ The City of Monrovia is a disgrace and an embarrassment to Africa. One wonders if anyone cares! Where is the Government? I suggest that the Mayor takes Mr. President together with his health and environmental team on a tour of the city. Mamba Point, Sekou Toure Ave. / Newport Street & UN Drive, leading to the Diplomatic Section of the capital city which has become another waterside– barber shops – cook shops on the sidewalks; “keh keh” parking – garbage and you cannot imagine what else. For God’s sake – my people! A similar thing is happening in Sinkor and throughout the city. Mr. Mayor / Aye Mehn! – Aye Mehn! No rule of Law; no discipline; no demarcation! Look at Broad St and Ashmun St. amongst others is there no pride; no dignity?
Extra Judicial Killings and Murders
∙ We spoke on this two years ago when we expressed concern and wrote formally as well as in person visit with others to the Ministry of Justice, foreseeing upcoming elections. We were well received. In this regard we recall more recently the Press Release issued in late February, formally this year by Angie Brooks International Centre For Women Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security, the Board of which I Chair! That Press Release raised serious concerns about many unresolved extra Judicial killings & murders.
∙ The most recent victim of senseless violence, the daughter of former Chief Justice, Gloria Musu Scott. We have worked assiduously, along with other eminent Liberian women, to advocate for justice and seek resolution through international interventions. In this regard, the former Chief Justice Scott was one of the signatories to other interventions of ours in the past.
Late last year at the one-year memorial service on the murder of Liberia’s Peace Ambassador at Mount Zion Baptist Church, Bentol, we also spoke that occasion; the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) lamented the fact that closure remained outstanding on several of the murders and deaths while we implored the international community for help and asked why they continue to remain silent on our appeal to them to enhance the Government’s capacity in the various
investigations that were/are badly needed. For the public, we are aware that it is for the Government to request such specific assistance to enhance its capacity with outside expertise. We urge the Government to make the specific request as I am sure they would receive a positive response from our Partners!
The condition of our country today reminds us of the late Bishop Michael Francis’ Prophecy some years ago, in his 1999 report to the Vatican about Liberia. The Bishop’s Prophecy is amongst other Prophecies about “Mama” Liberia by several Liberian Prophets over time. Thus, anyone who wants to know where our nation is today and where we are headed needs to read that Prophecy as the Bishop was one who was known to speak Truth to Power. That Prophecy can be found through the Catholic Secretariat and TLC Africa, amongst others.
Desecration of National Cemetery etc.
Lastly our national Cemetery and others – there is a saying to the effect that “Show me how people treat their Dead and I will tell you what kind of people they are”. The condition of the Palm Grove Cemetery is a condemnation of us, the Liberian people, and the Government of Liberia. Indeed it makes one ask, what was the 200-year observation last year about? Come on, come on my people! What did it leave behind?
∙ The onus is on the President’s advisors and his team. I pray daily that they are discerning and advise the President appropriately; Yes – I know I am a target. But I cannot hold my peace. When we sit down and ignore all the extra Judicial killings & murders. What does it say about us as a people? The African-American late Congressional Representative John Lewis said there are times when one has no alternative but to get in “good” trouble. As such, if this is my “good” trouble, with consequences and risks, I accept.
∙ Thus, at 77 years old, I am prepared for whatever may come. Psalm 90, amongst my daily reads, says “Help us to number our days and spend them as we should”. I have fought against injustice all my life – as a young professional back in the late ‘70 -- some 44 years ago, when together with 500 women signatories we stood up for the late Judge Emma Shannon Walser, - against the Joint Resolution for her removal by the Legislature when she refused to condemn the alleged rice rioters without due process; Then there were all the others persecuted by the Doe Regime. We stood up there along with others in the
Diaspora, getting the situation in Liberia before the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) in Geneva and before the UN Special Rapporteur for Summary Execution, Mr. Amos Wako of Kenya.
Moreover, we would be dishonoring the memory and legacy of other courageous Liberian women – mothers and grandmothers – now Gone to the Great Beyond – such as Ma Mary Brownell; Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman; Ruth Perry Head of State; Ruth Ceasar; Ma Gbeh Wreh; and a host of other Liberian women on whose shoulders we stand, if we do not continue their work. In the words of Rabbi Tarfon – “one is not obligated to complete the “work”; but neither is one free to abandon it”.
In short, the “work”, in the case of Liberia is that of nation building, Justice and Rule of Law. We may talk peace and non violence but we have to actualize it, while the rule of Law and Justice are fundamental to Sustaining the Peace. That Peace that the international community and Liberians ourselves have paid dearly for.
∙ As we near May 14 National Unification Day, we cannot but recall the words of the late Peace Ambassador Rev. William R. Tolbert, III, on 14 May 2019, when he reminded the Liberian Citizenry that “Peace is not an event but a process”. Rather, he said we must be prepared to do what is necessary to sustain the peace we deserve following years of conflict. Thus we must be proactive and initiate appropriate interventions with sustaining our national peace as our purpose; unity as the focus and sincerity of will and commitment as our driving force”.
It has been two years since the Peace Ambassador’s assassination and like several others we await closures. Today we have the case of the daughter of the former Chief Justice – Gloria Musu Scott where there is a lack of communication to the family from the Police and investigating authorities regarding the process and other findings of such a heinous crime.
As a result, the family has been kept in the dark about the different phases of the investigation, and most times only have sensationalized and disturbing talk shows, unverified newspaper reports, and rumor-mongering. This has left the family not only grieving for their child but in a state of anxiety and in the dark despite all of their efforts to fully cooperate with the Police. More importantly, the family has not had their child’s body returned by the Police so that she is given a decent burial. No police report after how long? What has happened to us? We have been received by the Minister of Justice on this and appreciated his briefings. But the family remains traumatized.
∙ To the International Community, let us recall the Global failure to react and address the “hand-writings on the wall – the early warnings – of the then impending Rwanda genocide. The independent assessment undertaken on the Genocide condemned that International failure.
In short, the world must move from conflict management to conflict prevention, which is much needed here in Liberia presently, with the upcoming elections – the talk of proliferation of guns throughout; the killings & murders; overall insecurity & Criminality and hate language
Fellow Liberians, we need Peace; Security; Justice, and respect for the Rule of Law in Liberia. As we gear up to the national elections, which of our candidates and their constituency will provide us with that? This is the issue. Which of them will protect the future of our nation by aggressive action to tackle the drug pandemic and the growing security threats that we face daily? It is evident that the current Government is seriously challenged and needs international support.
Such is my Cry – my “Patriots” Cry at 77 yrs. Let the record show this. Even if GOL and others ask – to what avail? Let not the work of UNMIL; ECOWAS and all the other Partners, and the resilient Liberian Citizenry (ourselves) have been for naught.
As I come to closure, I would be remiss, if as former Foreign Minister I did not point out the various Government officials' responses to the U.S. Ambassador’s observations following his tour to the South East were procedurally not in order. The appropriate modus operandi was for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to invite the Ambassador, through a “note verbale, to come to his office on the matter and explain himself.
As part of my closing, I wish to recall the radio interview in 2014 of Sister Mary Laurene Browne, when she was President of Stella Maris Polytechnic University on the subject of patriotism and as Vice Chair of the Board of Liberian Institute for “Growing” Patriotism.
Sister’s emphasis was on “Growing” Patriotism in the heart of each Liberian for the sake of all Liberians. She defined “Growing” Patriotism in word and in deed (concrete action)
“Everywhere in the world, people fall in love. As the love grows, they stay in love; Growing in love is essential to staying in love. Some people say that leaders are born, but think about leadership, especially good or excellent leadership, is learned.
A patriot will never say, “O man, I tire with this country here; nothing good here.” The patriot will say, “how can I help to make things better in my country?”
This is what “Growing” Patriotism is all about: learning to love and love dearly, in word and in deed, the country God has given you, given me, given to all Liberians.”
∙ Then, there is the example par excellence of what Liberians are made of, - nowhere better expressed than in the following quote from Dr. Roseda Marshall in the upcoming publication entitled Stepping up to the Plate: Liberia’s Untold Ebola Story. That publication documents Liberians, both on the home front and in the Diaspora, in response to the Ebola pandemic.
“In no other time in the history of Liberia has Patriotism been seen more in action than during the Ebola Pandemic”
∙ We have next the poem by Dr. Anthony Barclay, grandnephew of President Edwin Barclay, ~ A call to Liberian Patriots:
“A Call to Liberian Patriots”
Liberians patriots arise, arise!
Find ways and means to help Liberia;
Be prepared to pay the price,
And make the required sacrifice,
Not necessarily with blood
But with courage
Offer solutions to the problems,
Say not only “what” should be done
But how and why the “what” should be done.
Take a stand to promote the opportunity
Do so as best as you can in unity
For “in union strong success is sure”;
Avoid revolutions that promise everything;
Many have proven to deliver nothing,
We saw them before; they were destructive
Change your stance; be committed and constructive.
Study and work hard with dignity,
Be honest and manifest integrity,
The struggle for progress has begun.
It’s the noblest cause under the sun,
Be steadfast until this noble cause is won.
Liberians patriots arise, arise!
∙ The late Dr. Mary Antoinette Browne-Sherman words reminds us that “There is more that unites us as a people than divide us”
Hence the admonition and relevance of Africa’s foremost Pan Africanist
“Our History Must Guide Us But It Must Not Define or Divide Us”
Guinea Bissau’s Nationalist and Foremost Pan-Africanist
A recent radio interview by Ms. McDella Cooper, our only female Presidential Candidate, full of passion, averred that “we have to heal the nation”. Who can doubt that? I say to her ~ “thank you plenty”, yah! Surely that is all of our responsibility (as we all have a part to play) for the future of “Mama” Liberia? -
And of course I end this my 77 years. Patriots Cry with none other than the refrain from the nation’s foremost Patriotic hymn by President Edwin Barclay, (of the West Indian emigrants heritage), amongst those who laid the foundation of today’s R.L. He was 19 years of age when it was composed.
The lone star forever
The lone star forever
Unfurled in the currents of heaven’s pure breeze, O long may it float o’er land and o’er sea
Desert it? No! Never!
Uphold it? Forever!
O shout for the lone-starred banner, All Hail!
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About the author:
Former Minister of Commerce & Industry & former Minister of Foreign Affairs. (R.L) Retired UN system Sr. official of some 24 years – former UNDP – RR & UN Resident Coordinator of UN Secretary General for Development in several African Countries; former Deputy of UNIFEM ( today’s UN Women) and former Managing Director for regional Programs of Africa; Asia & Pacific; Latin America & Caribbean CIS and Eastern Europe; Middle East & North Africa of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)
∙ Chair of Board, Angie Brooks International Centre For Women Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace & Security.
∙ Executive Director, Liberian Institute for “Growing” Patriotism. (“Growing – development & promotion of)
∙ Prolific writer & deep commitment to the “Growing” of the continents (including Liberia) Future Leadership and a Pan Africanist.