Tomorrow Is Unification Day

National unification was one of the greatest achievements of the late President William V. S. Tubman (pictured).

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 14 is National Unification Day.  This Day was set aside by the National Legislature in the 1960s to commemorate the National Unification of Liberia, which was spearheaded in 1964 by President William V.S. Tubman.

National Unification was one of President Tubman’s greatest achievements.  Before he became President in January 1944 the seriously country was divided along tribal and ethnic lines, with the occurrence of frequent tribal conflicts among many of the nation’s 16 major tribes.  In addition, there was also the long-running conflict and suspicion between the nation’s indigenous tribes and the settler elite. Up to that point and for many years later, the leadership of the country was firmly dominated by the settlers and their descendants.

President Tubman saw this as a major obstacle to national peace and harmony.  He began to tackle this problem in the early 1950s by convening Executive Councils in various parts of the country, beginning with his native Maryland County, where Paramount, Clan and Tribal Chiefs from the three Provinces—Central, Western and Eastern—as well as Superintendents and other leaders of the then five counties original counties—Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Maryland and Grand Cape Mount gathered every year to discuss the urgent issue of national unification.

These Executive Councils led to the formation by President Tubman and the National Legislature in 1964 of four new counties—Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh.  These new counties were headed not by people from Monrovia, as had been the case in the Provinces, but by indigenous leaders of each respective province. For example, President Tubman appointed as the first Superintendent of Bong County, James Y. Gbarbea, who hailed from Sanoyea; Robert Kennedy, a son of Voinjama, as Superintendent of Lofa County; Gabriel Farngalo, son of Sanniquellie, as Superintendent of Nimba County; and Moses Poka Harris, son of Tchien, Superintendent of Grand Gedeh County.

Each of these four new counties immediately assumed the full political status of the five original counties—with the election of their own members of the House of Representatives, commensurate with their respective populations; and their own two Senators, as is the case with all the original five counties.

Many Liberians were disappointed when President William R. Tolbert, Jr., who succeeded President Tubman on his death on July 23, 1971, did not choose as his Vice President an indigenous son of Liberia. Instead, Tolbert chose James Greene of Sinoe County, one of the original five counties dominated by the settler elite, as Vice President.

Tolbert choose another son of Tolbert’s own county—Montserrado—as Vice President, upon the death of Vice President Greene in 1975.  Bennie Warner hailed from Lower Careysburg, a stone’s throw from Tolbert’s birthplace, Besonville (Bentol).  There are many who believe that, had Tolbert been bold and wise enough to choose instead of Greene and Warner, Jackson Doe of Nimba County as Vice President, the April 12, 1980 coup d’etat, in which Tolbert and most of his top officials lost their lives, would never have taken place.


  1. Please annul this holiday; it is moronically ironical to celebrate a holiday for its symbolic meaning. Where is the unifications now? We are divided more than ever before. People are supporting leaders based on tribal allegiance. It is a stupid holiday.

  2. One Side Up, One Side Down

    As Mr. Tubman was preaching unification in Liberia, he was serving as the ‘Monkey Wrench’ in the Pan African movement in formation of the African Union. The formation of the OAU came about when President Tubman broke from the pact and took a huge chunk of other newly independent African Nations along. He was successful in convincing them to form an organization of African unity instead of an African Union. The purpose of an African Union was to make the entire Africa one nation, one military, one parliament and so forth. The parliament will then have continental group that will serve for states and report to one body. Imagine if we have been like China or the USA.

    The Tubman Factor
    President Tubman was seen as the ‘Old Man’ in Africa and the entire movement in those days. Having been president of Liberia, and the role Liberia had played in other African countries liberation movement, he was given much respect and title-like status. On one hand, he was a Cold War hero. Most of the ‘old man’ speeches were edited in foreign missions in Monrovia. One cannot serve two masters, you have to hate one and love one. The idea of going the OAU rout was meant to weaken the African Union. It was Tubman idea to go along with the formation of the OAU, instead of the African Union. He said, let every country decide for themselves, there feature and destiny. If the Union formation had been agreed upon, the African parliament would have tooth to bite. As the saying goes: there is no strength in division. Imagine the power of 1.2 billion people. Tubman left with the Casablanca Group, which had more vote at the time. The left over had no choice but to come along.

    To my fellow Liberians Tolbert was not killed because he took a descendant of settlers as his Vice President. He was killed, because he was the opposite of Tubman. He was pan-Africanist. He was not like, by some of the outsiders.

    The Divisions

    The division amongst us today a deeply rooted in religious fundamentalism. Some Liberians think they are the only one serving true god. Anything outside that realm, is not Liberians enough. I visit Liberia and see how Liberians react when it comes to religion. We have to be very careful. One should keeps his/her beliefs to oneself and respect the constitution, and move one. Those who drafted the constitution in Gbarnga, Liberia in 1983-1984 were not Imam or Rabbi. I m sure 97% or all of them were some part Christian. The like of Amos Sawyer, Edward B. Kessely, Tuan Wreah etc. There is a good reason why there is a clause that said “Liberia is a tolerance state”.There is no one religion dominant. People have taken religion to all different level. We do not have tribal sentiments in Liberia as compare to religious sentiment. We forgetting about preparing the country for unborn generations.

    Tubman was good on unifying the country on tribal line, but he went down on the continental level. Especially at the time of the birth of other African Nations. He was up on Liberia unification and down on African Liberation.

    Credit: Surg FM,
    Mamadu Bah(N/P)

    • Mamadu, what is your religion, and what is the origin of your religion? Why bring religion into a topic of National Unification Day in Liberia? Do you think the drafters of the 1984 Constitution of Liberia were Archbishops and Bishops?

      Some wise man long ago one said “A journey of million miles begins with the first step.” Tubman put forth the idea of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) instead of African Union proposed by Kwame Nkruman of Ghana based on his broad experience as an African leader. During those days Africa was struggling to put out several political fires in and around the continent: In Congo Leopoldville, the secession of the Katanga Province from the rest of the country led by Moise Tshombe – styled the Congo War; In South Africa, Nelson Mandela was leading a struggle to liberate his people from the fangs of an inhumane Apathied System; In Mozambique, FRILIMO was leading the struggle to independence for that East African Nation.

      Later on in African History, we witnessed what was termed the “Biafra War” in our sister West African nation of Nigeria. This civil war was due to the dissatisfaction of the Ibo ethnic people of what was then the Eastern Region of Nigeria over the political order of the day. They led their drive to secede due to what they saw as the hegemony of the Nigerian leaders who hailed from the Northern Region. The OAU was still putting out fires in Ethiopia, the Sudan, Somalia, and our own homeland, Liberia!

      How could an African Union be formed and survive when the whole house was set ablaze? Unity comes about when people get together and decide to chart a common course of destiny for a defined goal and objective in order to better the lives of all concerned. The OAU was founded based on this latter premise. The African Union, as envisaged by (Osagefo) Nkruman, would have followed if all things were put in proper order. That Africa has yet not achieved the unity of one nation, one country under one constitution as “the United States of America” and “China” should not be blamed on Tubman. Many people try to blame many things on Tubman this one is not one of them.

  3. When William V.S. Tubman, the father of modern Liberia became president in 1944, he decided to address the social and political imbalance between the Amerigo-Liberian and the indigenous Liberia. Tubman introduced his national unification policy, which feature among other things an extension of the vote to women and the country’s indigenous people. To recognize the benefits that the unification and integration policy brought to the country, an act was passed in 1960, declaring May 14 as national unification throughout the country.

    From my lay man understanding the word unification is the process of being united or made into whole. Are we united or made into whole as Liberian when there is no justice for the poor? No freedom for the oppressed? No equality? What is the message for tomorrow?

  4. Two of our former presidents admitted of been unable to unite the people of Liberia ( Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) this means that this current administration needs to do more to unite the people of Liberia. Disunity is seeing everywhere in our small Liberia. We see in Universities, students are divided based on tribe and County, at Government ministry if a minister is from a specific tribe, you see lots of his tribal people. According to our Constitution the Counties were sub divided for administrative purposes but today if a person is appointed from another County by government or NGO to work there is poor cooperation because that person is not from that County, People are still calling other people by tribe not by their names: eg Mandingo man, Gio man, Krahn man etc, is this unity?

    This day is remember because of Tumbman and trust me very soon if this generation and government doesn’t design strategy to unite our people this day will not be honored and will be forgotten. My recommendation to president Weah is let his government work with the legislature to develop laws or policy against discrimination, prejudice, tribalism, sectionalism and other form of division. Stop all Union in the name of County and tribes, shift government officials across counties, create program for students exchange, vacation work, and many other program that will unite our people, especially the young generation.

  5. Let’s not be too quick to rush in judgement against Tubman for proposing OAU instead of the AU. You really think the global powers would have allowed that and give away their economic lifeline? Tubman knew that the colonialist powers had a deadly Plan B to destabilize the whole continent through coup and and civil wars using tribal order to further their exploitation, As one nation they would have a single target. As several nations, the their interests would be divided. So his idea was to build capacity before moving to the next level. Either way, the great powers had the upper hand.

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