Dr. Browne: “We have moved from physically attacking each other to attacking the political interests of the other… one notch toward civility.”
Inspite of the civil crises that saw Liberians vent their angers against each other as a result of the massive inequalities that existed since the formation of the state, couple with the economic inequalities that is still being experienced since the cessation of hostilities nearly a decade and a half ago—the 170th Independence Day Orator, Rev. Dr. Herman Browne says Liberians are at the verge of being more united because they are now expressing themselves and having conversation around those things that once kept them apart.
Delivering his oration at the Centennial Pavilion in Monrovia on Wednesday, Dr. Browne said with those ‘healthy discussions around what kept Liberians apart (as Americo-Liberians vs Natives), the gaps of inequality and discrimination are gradually being bridged. He was speaking on the topic: “Sustaining the Peace.”
Since its formation in 19th century, Liberia’s history has been replete with the mark of inequality and since, the country to experience has had a turbulent and violent past when a very small portion of the population (5%) commanded political, economic and social influences over the vast majority.
“Americo-Liberians” – the descendants of freed American blacks – who established Liberia in principle as an act of emancipation, but in reality consolidated power for themselves at the expense of the indigenous population who make up bulk of the citizenry—ignoring their presence for over a century and at times engaging them in a very harsh and brutal ways, when the need for revenue generation (through taxation) arose. These and many more acts of discrimination led to the civil upheaval that engulfed the country destroying thousands of lives and millions worth of properties.
But without pretense, the Episcopalian prelate, at the Independence celebration, laid bare some fundamentals before endeavoring to reflect on what sustaining the country’s relative peace might entail.
For many years, Dr. Browne said, Liberians have avoided public discussions about the inequalities and social antipathies (gender, class, ethnicity, literacy) altogether. “Now, we are talking about them; they have entered the mainstream of public discourse, and often finding ways to address them. We no longer pretend that these are minor issues facing our society. Neither are we particularly quiet about them,” he said.
The prelate noted that such an occasion (Independence anniversary) that Liberians should seize to thank the familiar, the known and tried; whilst in good faith anxiously await to welcome the unfamiliar, the unknown, and the untested.
Dr. Browne said, “It is in our country’s cause, our national interest to secure the peace we now enjoy. And peace, not just for its own sake, but so that we might preserve our fundamental civil liberties where our freedoms of democracy can flourish, where our entitlement to justice can be more real than virtual; where our pursuit of happiness can be more easily realized; and where a wholesome, functioning, diverse society in which all of us feel we belong can be more realistically brought within our grasp.”
The eloquent young prelate said Liberians need to see and understand that, to this, “we are closer now than we have ever been. Don’t get me wrong. It certainly may not feel so, but it appears so.”
Dr. Browne, who is also the President of the Episcopalian run Cuttington University, noted that Liberians have moved a long way from fighting each other to working with each other. “We have moved from physically attacking each other to attacking the political interests of the other; undoing what matters most to the other.
“When we shift from the person to the person’s (political, social or economic) interest, we shift the terms of the engagement one notch towards civility,” he said.
“Today is also primarily a day we set aside in our national life to look beyond government and her leaders, beyond politics and tribe, beyond the arrogance of creed or gender, beyond the bread and butter issues of the day and the pathology of our daily lives to something bigger, greater and higher than our individual lives: in our country’s cause,” he said.
He noted that the independence celebration presented, in this year of national elections and amid an already raucous political contest, “a most public and rare opportunity for us all to pause and express our appreciation deep and sincere for the work of this government, led by Madam Sirleaf, whilst looking forward to that of the next.”
He indicated that the national anthem shouldn’t only be sung from the lips, “but from within our souls the stirring words of our national anthem, do we not commit ourselves to lay aside every distracting loyalty, every vow or bond and work together, even in the face of clear and present danger, to defend without pretense our Country’s cause?”
Dr. Browne noted that the conversations around the inequalities and marginalization as well as how the country should be governed, are healthier. “This is healthy; and I believe that only in maintaining this peace can solutions with any chance of permanence be found.”
“The sustainable nature of the peace will rest in the way we live, talk, walk and treat each other; and so forge the bonds of unity, that the interests of one will lie squarely and indistinguishably within the interest of the other. In this way, my self-interest is redefined less digitally, and made so connected with yours, that peace is more likely sustained.”
Meanwhile, many lauded National Orator for highlighting the struggle that country has gone through over the 170 years of its existence with the marginalization of some segment of the population; while the failures of one government after another to address the root causes of why corruption, nepotism and other vices has not only made our form of governance ineffective, but its failure to deliver any meaningful agenda that will impact the lives of most citizens.