Dr. Sawyer Reflects on Past 70 Years

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Dr. Amos Sawyer, the man who led Liberia during one of its interim periods, yesterday, June 15, celebrated his 70th birthday. During the three score and ten years of his life, much has been accomplished.

He took the time on his birthday to appear on the Truth FM’s Truth Breakfast Show (TBS) to reflect on developments throughout his 70 years.

The last segment of Mondays’s TBS was a special one as Madam Madina Wesseh, wife of River Gee Senator Conmany Wesseh, joined the hosts, Solomon Ware and Abraham Wheon to discuss with Dr. Sawyer. The show, according to hosts, Ware and Wheon, was simulcast on the
Liberia Broadcasting System’s Super Morning Show and other radio stations.

Dr. Sawyer began his lecture by stating that he grew up as any normal Liberian child in Greenville, Sinoe County in the mid 1940s, 50s and early 60s. He partly credited his living up to the age of 70 to his family’s genes as his father, Abel, lived to be 96 and his mother, Sarah, up to 90.

Before he graduated from the University of Liberia in 1966, Sawyer stated that he got a job in broadcasting, through the help of the late G. Henry Andrews, one of Liberia’s luminaries in radio broadcasting. He did continuity announcing and read news for about five years at the Liberia
Broadcasting System (LBS) before leaving for the U.S. for further studies after graduating from the UL. One of his colleagues at the LBS was the late Jonathan Reffell, another luminary of broadcasting in Liberia.

“I got to Northwestern University ill-prepared, admitted Dr. Sawyer. UL was doing her best but there were book shortages, etc. I had to stay up all night reading and reviewing books just to catch up.” He disclosed that he had to attend summer sessions just to adequately fulfill the requirements of the university.

He further stated that at Northwestern, there was considerable support for the liberation of Africa from its colonial masters and that he became a part of some of those movements on campus.

Dr. Sawyer returned home in the early 1970s and was later appointed dean of Liberia College, the UL’s Liberal Arts College. As a Political Science teacher, he attracted one of the largest classes at the university. The administration, given the huge number of students in that class, was forced to transfer it to the UL auditorium.

It was during his days as a UL professor that he joined Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh and Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson, all of whom had returned with ideologies of liberating Africa, in founding the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA). MOJA and Baccus Matthews’ Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) became the leading political activists of the 1970s. The two groups conscientized Liberian students and youth, enhanced their political awareness and sharpened their rhetoric for change in Liberia.

Speaking further, Dr. Sawyer said their first contact was with the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, P.A.I.G.C. (Guinea Bissau). He said they were so much into the liberation of the continent that they attempted to join the forces in Bissau to fight against the Portuguese, who were the colonial masters of both nations.

Meanwhile on the home front, he and his colleagues continue to advocate for change in the governance structure of the state. In 1978, it was announced that elections for the mayor of Monrovia was coming up and he and others believed that would have been a better way to exercise true democracy. “I ran to become mayor of Monrovia but I was told to become a member of the True Whig Party (TWP). I said no.” Although he didn’t win the election, his “Sawyer for Mayor” campaign led to changes in the election law for young people to vote without any attachments.

Before that time, it was in the law that young people of voting age should own property before they could be allowed to vote. He said because of their struggle for equal rights for every Liberian, today there are at least 22 registered political parties when for more than 100 years of the nation’s existence, there was only one political party, the TWP.

Dr. Sawyer became more prominent in the nation when the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Mediation Committee, including various Liberian delegations, elected him Chairman of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) in September of 1990. The Committee was chaired by former Gambian President, Sir. Dawda K. Jawara.

He served until 1994 before handing over to another interim arrangement.

Presently, he heads the nation’s Governance Commission, which seeks to draw out policies that lead to decentralization and devolution of power from the Chief Executive.

Dr. Sawyer was born on June 15, 1945 in Greenville, Sinoe County.

He celebrated his 70th birthday on Sunday with a thanksgiving service at the St. Stephen Episcopal Church at 10th Street, Monrovia.

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