April Again: A Month We Should Not Overlook

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The month of April has historical significance for Liberia that we should not ignore or brush aside in jest; and therefore, leaders, including the President of Liberia and the Houses of the Legislature, should watch and treat with a great deal of care.

Liberia’s eventual descent into chaos after over a century of astute leadership on the continent fell on April 14, 1979. Liberians old enough to remember that that was the fateful year when the people violently protested against the government of President William R. Tolbert’s attempt to increase the price of the regular 100 pound (lb) bag of rice. This unfortunate incident resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Liberian civilians.

A year minus two days later, when several politicians responsible for the violent demonstration were punished, then Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe and his 17 enlisted men struck on April 12, 1980 and brought to the end the century old True Whig Party (TWP) government, with its attendant execution of 13 government officials.

Sixteen years later, when Liberia had survived the violent civil-war and had put together one of the many transitional governments, it was sadly on April 6, 1996 that the combined forces of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and United Liberation Movement of Democracy (ULIMO-K) joined in their desperate attempt to have vanquished Gen. Roosevelt Johnson’s ULIMO-J. In fact it was the first time that the war, which until then had been fought in the interior, was brought to Monrovia.

It would seem that the yearly circling of the earth on its axis that returns the month of April to us has not taught us any important lesson since there are always indications that we are either unwilling to manage some difficulties, including the economic, political or other national affairs until April comes around and we, without remembering the past, walk into the month and sadly begin to resolve issues without compromise.

The economic recession that has bedeviled our country since the fall of the prices of rubber and iron ore on the international market has deepened and hurt Liberians who have to scrape the threads of their pockets to make ends meet. Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara has acknowledged the country’s economic recession and though he has stated his optimism, he nonetheless has indicated the possibility recovery through robust agriculture investment and judicious use of available resources.

However, while the negative forces that have caused the recession are clear, there is a section of the Liberian population that does not seem to understand that the increasing flight of the US dollar and the depreciating of the Liberian dollar are due to Liberia’s lack of exportable goods. In a country in which all essential commodities are imported, any student of economics will understand the current economic recession and appreciate the scope of what needs to be done.

Nonetheless, we are faced with a very troubling issue, which is the announcement by a group known as Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia, (PATEL) comprising various sub-groups of the Liberian business community who, following their successful 3-day shutdown of business activities in Monrovia recently, are planning a more severe, nationwide protest slated for April 11.

The group has gone as far as warning Liberians to make purchases of essential goods because the April 11 protest would be “long and bitter.” The Liberian government, through the Minister of Information, Eugene Nagbe, has warned PATEL about its impending protest; even the Liberia National Police has weighed in due to its role to ensure that public safety will not be undermined.

PATEL’s demands are yet to be addressed by the government, which included stopping the constant harassment of Liberian businesses, including street sellers, by local security officers, along with the reduction in high tariffs, among others. The government’s unwillingness to resolve issues with PATEL has created a condition that leaves PATEL with the only choice to stage its protests because backing down could be seen as weakness. And that would naturally force the government to take some actions.

While April 11 is several days away, the Liberian people, including the lawmakers – who have already adjourned for a two-week Easter break – would have to understand that the maintenance of peace would depend on how well we understand the cost of rancor, if the terrible results of the civil-war are not enough already. And we must also purge the devil behind the MONTH OF APRIL that seems to frequently put us on edge to do harm to ourselves.

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