By Togba-Nah Tipoteh
This Commentary is about helping us to know the Truth for Making Lives Better. When we have the correct understanding about ourselves, then we will not be fighting each other. In the court trial before his imprisonment for 27 years, the Great Madiba Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela made a Path Breaking Speech in which he said: “I have dedicated my life to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Inspired by this Speech, I am writing this Commentary.
Let us begin from the Slavery Era, when greedy rulers in Africa sold African people to greedy people from the area now called the United States of America (USA) to work as slaves on cotton plantations, starting some five hundred years ago. Millions of slaves died because of the bad treatment that the slave owners gave them. Some greedy slave owners even impregnated fine-looking slave women because the children of these women were sold for higher prices.
Mother Harriet Tubman, an African woman among the slaves, led the Movement to free slaves through the underground railroad. This Movement received some inspiration from the struggle against slavery in Haiti. When the cotton gin was invented, mechanization cotton production, thereby reducing the need for slaves, some slave owners formed the American Colonization Society (ACS) to free some slaves and have them returned to Africa. The ACS former slaves began returning to the area now called Liberia in the early 1800s. This area was a Colony of the ACS until July 26, 1847 when some of the former slaves, led by Joseph Jenkins Roberts. Son of a slave owner, declared Liberia to be an “Independent State”. Roberts became the first President of Liberia. This is how Liberia will become 174 years old on July 26, 2021.
In this Commentary, the focus is on the Americo-Liberians, the former slaves who returned to the area now called Liberia, bearing in mind that other former slaves, a small group, who were rescued from the ocean near the Congo area, also came to the area now called Liberia. Many people use the word Congor to refer to both groups of former slaves.
When the former slaves returned to Africa, they treated the Natives, the Indigenous Africans, as slaves, carrying out the treatment that the former slaves had received from their slave masters in the USA. Mr. Jehudi Ashmun, the only Historian of the Battle of Fort Hill of 1822, wrote about how the former slaves took action to show that the Natives were inferior to the former slaves by inventing a Matilda Newport former slave woman who is reputed to have killed over 200 Natives by herself from the hot coal in her pipe that she used to light the nearby canon. Up to today, the State eulogizes Matilda Newport with a monument on on the Centennial Pavilion Grounds, a Matilda Newport Street and a Matilda Newport School on Matilda Newport Street, Monrovia. The December First Matilda Newport Day is still in Liberian Law but it is not celebrated because of the mass consciousness raising that put pressure on the government to stop honoring Matilda Newport. The government responded by giving the Matilda Day the silent treatment. There is no record of any Matilda Newport coming to Liberia from the USA. The only record of a Matilda Newport is of a Matilda Spencer who married to a man called Newport in the 1830s.
The 1847 Declaration of Independence refers to the heritage of the former slaves, as having been citizens of the USA, where they experienced the violation of their inalienable human rights. However, the inalienable human rights of Natives were also violated under the rule of the former slaves in Liberia. Natives were not allowed to become citizens of Liberia until after the Second World War. Let us recall the World Record in the Guinness Book of Records for unfair elections, with respect to the undemocratic and unfair election of 1927. Witness the Case against the government of Liberia, as carried to the League of Nations by leaders of Native Liberians, citing that the President of Liberia in the late 1920s was leading the sale of Natives to Fernando Po slave owners to work as slaves, while the payments from their work were given to the leadership of the Americo-Liberian-led government of Liberia. The decision of the League of Nations forced the President of Liberia to resign. The Americo-Liberian regimes of President Edwin Barclay, President William Tubman and President William Tolbert followed, respectively. Tubman died in office after a reign of 27 years. The Tolbert regime was overthrown by a military junta, led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, a Native man, as a USA Agent was observed in the yard of the Executive Mansion at 3AM when the Coup d’Etat was taking place. Tolbert was not given any due process of law, as the Tolbert regime was removed unconstitutionally.
The historical records of Liberia show that the poverty of the people of Liberia became longstanding and widespread under the Americo-Liberian and Native regimes. There continues to be widespread talk about the Native person being able to rule Liberia better than the Americo-Liberian person. Many people are saying that the Americo-Liberian regimes brought all the suffering and it is time for a Native person to rule Liberia so that the suffering can end. The historical records of Liberia show that the poverty situation became worse under Americo-Liberian rule as well as under Native rule. When the Americo-Liberian person became ruler of Liberia, the poverty situation got worse. When a Native person became ruler of Liberia, the poverty situation became worse. Therefore, the Americo-Liberian rule and the Native rule are the same just like white domination and black domination are the same. To say that they are not the same people would be wrong because it would be impossible to explain correctly the slave selling by African rulers, the slave selling by the Americo-Liberian President of Liberia in the 1920s, the killings by Samuel Doe, a Native man and the killings by Charles Taylor, an Americo-Liberian man. When the National Legislature of Liberia was composed of nearly 100 percent Americo-Liberian persons, the poverty situation in Liberia became worse. Now, the National Legislature of Liberia has over 90 percent Native men and women but the longstanding and widespread poverty in Liberia is worsening with each Legislator having access to US$1,000 a day while each poor Liberian has access to less than US$2 a day, as foreigners in the Commercial Sector alone are getting away with having access to US$50 million a month doing work and owning businesses in violation of the Constitution of Liberia.
The history of Liberia also records that Americo-Liberian people and Native people are the same because there are good and bad people on each side just like there are good and bad people on each side of the white-black divide. The challenge for the people who love Liberia remains that of bringing the good people from every side in Liberia to work together and build a better Liberia for All.
From the foregoing, it is clear to know that the illiterate but educated Women of West Point, through their Organization, Seven Sisters, are correct when they say that the Main Problem in Liberia is not the Americo-Liberian–Native Problem but the Good-Bad Problem, making it necessary to find the Management to solve this Main Problem. The way to solve this Main Problem is to use our knowledge to raise awareness to encourage at least the vast majority of the people of Liberia to take non-violent actions to get persons with good records, records that show commitment to helping the poor people to help themselves in the drive to improve their living conditions sustainably, elected, appointed, to manage and to own at least most of the Liberian economy. This Commentary is helping to spread this useful knowledge, getting people to know that Americo-Liberian rule and Native rule are the same, given the worsening of poverty on each side. Americo-Liberian people and Native people are the same, with good and bad people on each side, This knowledge can help to unify people, bring people together to work together to make lives better rather than to fight each other to make lives worse because of the wrong understanding of each other. Confidence in the use of this way of solving the Main Problem can take place when good persons are elected to get Justice for All to prevail as we sing joyously All Hail Liberia All Hail. Ka zuo ka toto diah (the Mahn language, wrongly called Mano, meaning thanks to all of you for listening). Nnangala kpor ga (the Kpelle language meaning God Bless All of you).