Guest Editorial By Lekpele M. Nyamalon
Monrovia- This year marks the 174th Independence Anniversary of the Liberian Nation. But, one hundred and seventy-four years after, the raison d’etre of the founding of the nation called Liberia is far from self actualization. Liberia is a nation founded to resettle freed American Slaves and recaptured slaves from the Americas and Caribbean Islands with a goal to protect and ensure a black republic where black men and women can self govern and build a great nation. Close to two centuries after, that dream appears to be wishful thinking. To plant a nation built on black consciousness and black excellence, the forbearers enshrined in the Constitution a protectionist clause to avoid future encroachment or other influences from whisking away the black majority from power. “None but Negro, or persons of Negro descent, shall become citizens of Liberia”
This clause was meant to, amongst other things, protect, preserve and establish a nation built for the blacks, of the blacks and by the blacks. In the context of Black solidarity, every black man and woman could live, work together, build a great nation. Several years down the road, they turned the daggers on each other.
In 2019, I served as the keynote speaker of the Global Leadership Summit-Liberia annual event upon the invitation of the cleric, stateswoman and founder of the Empowerment Temple AME Church, the Rev. Katurah York-Cooper. The Summit was held under the Theme “The Liberia we want”.
I began my speech by asking the audience to rise and recite the Nation’s pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of Liberia and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Key words: “One Nation, Indivisible”.
The Liberia we want has to build itself from the mantra of a One Nation, Indivisible. Not the Vai Nation, the Kissi Nation, the Kpelleh Nation, the Mandingo Nation, the Krahn Nation, the Kru Nation, the Gio Nation, the Bassa Nation, the Congo Nation, the Country Nation, but one Nation -- a republic built for self actualization of a people fleeing from suppression everywhere with a common indivisible vision.
I told a brief story of a celebrated hunter that had gone in the forest and got a huge kill of a red deer, brought it home and dropped it in the outside kitchen. While in the forest after the capture of the deer, the hunter chopped off a small portion of the red deer, roasted it with pepper, salt and bush seasoning and brought home for his sixteen children to get a taste of the hunt. When he got home and took the roasted meat to them inside, they couldn’t agree on how to distribute the meat, so a fighting ensued amongst them that became quite deadly. The children fought for days while the deer carcass was outside in the kitchen under a downpour of rain. Meanwhile, the villagers and passersby began chopping off the meat and some started a barbeque chain, others opened pepper soup market, some opened a roasted meat joint, while the real owners were inside fighting each other for crumbs.
This is the Liberian reality. While we’re fighting each other in Monrovia; foreigners are in our bushes mining our gold, diamond and mineral resources, fishing in our rivers, some illegally, all across the country. How sad!
Unfortunately, the Liberian nation has been heavily divided into multiple layers on tribal, ethnic, sectional and other dangerously polarizing lines, unable to see the big picture. The bitterness embedded in the hearts of the people has been expressed in their voices on radio, phone conversations, social media, etc. What kind of Liberia do we want? What kind of Liberia do we intend to leave behind for posterity? What kind of Liberia do we envisage for every Liberian, not just those from our social class, tribe or region?
The Liberia we want is the Liberia we must build with honesty, hard work, love and patriotism. The Liberia we want has to be built by the right people with the right vision. The future for that Liberia is not just the youth, but the people, old and young, with the right mindset. Sometimes youth is just continuity, not necessarily the future. To paraphrase the adage, a good negotiation is one in which everyone leaves slightly disappointed. What are we willing to give up that Liberia should live on?
The vision of this Liberia has to be reflected in the value system of Politicians, Community leaders, Religious leaders, Civil Society, the Media and every Liberian citizen from ordinary people to the people in power.
The socio-economic dichotomies that exist between the so-called upper class and the lower class are contributing factors to the deep seated animosity that continues to exist between the people. These socio-economic dichotomies are often exploited by demagogues and political zealots for personal benefits. The struggle in Liberia is not between the half-naked kid selling vegetables between cars on the road versus the kid sitting in a school bus on his way to a school in an upscale neighborhood; not the family eating a balanced diet on the top of Mamba Point versus a malnourished family living on less than a dollar per day in the slums of west point. The struggle is a nation in the search for self identity, a nation struggling for a common purpose and a nation that has become a shell of itself.
During the civil war in Liberia in 1994, my family and I were locked up in the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing when remnants of the NPFL fighting force, dubbed ‘the bandits’, stormed the Hospital, killing indiscriminately. We were locked up in the record room, not sure of what our fate would turn out, when suddenly a lady looked through the holes and saw a light that was shining through a door. We opened the door and were let out of the hospital to a safe spot, away from the killing field that was taking place at the front. That door is the door to the new Liberia, the land of glorious liberty by God’s command. When we find that door and get to it, may we not shut it behind us, but pull everyone along, build each other and strengthen the next generation with the right mindset, the right tools and the right vision to take Liberia forward.
We sum this up in the political rally call of President William R. Tolbert, Jr. -- “Total Involvement for Higher Heights”. It’s time for every Liberian to get on board to get the Liberia we want for higher heights.
The AuthorLekpele M. Nyamalon is a Poet, Writer, Speaker and Author of Scary Dreams: An Anthology of the Liberian Civil War. He is an OSIWA Poetry Fellow and a Mandela Washington Fellow and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org